Everyone reads the Bible with some basic assumptions about how the Bible best speaks. For example, these are the types of questions that people are often thinking of:
- What did this mean when it was written?
- What did the author intend for this to mean?
- How have people interpreted this passage throughout history?
- What does this passage mean for me?
Interpreting the Bible can be hard work and there are a variety of approaches to how the Bible should be read and understood (e.g., check out a review of Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views that I wrote for the Society of Vineyard Scholars). Some suggest that we should primarily be concerned with what the human author intended. Others suggest we need to look behind the human author at what God was getting at. And of course, there are many other views too.
Today I was reading some N.T. Wright as I was thinking about how to exegete being left behind. I came upon this little gem:
“Often the voice of God can be heard in scripture even in ways the original writers hadn’t imagined—though you need to retain, as the control, a clear sense of what they did mean, in case you make scripture ‘prove’ all kinds of things which it certainly doesn’t.” (Matthew for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 16-28, 126)
- How does Wright’s proposal strike you?
- Is this a “safe” way to read the Bible?
- What would you add?
- It it healthy to have a primary way to read and interpret Scripture?
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
There a definitely multiple meanings because the “authorship” of Scripture is a complex interplay of the Spirit, human authors, scribes, etc. Sometimes these are significantly overlapping, sometimes not so much. However, one can also work (to some degree) with E. D. Hirsch’s notion of one meaning, many significances (though this is, in my thinking, somewhat overly simplistic in speaking about the complexities of Scripture and enscripturation).
The meaning isn’t ‘in the text’ or ‘inside’ the person or in a particular situation. It is the meeting of these. I do agree with Mr Wright