Author Topic: Hermeneutics  (Read 19900 times)

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #15 on: December 23, 2016, 07:34:23 PM »
5. There is one clear understanding of the verse.
I find this very problematic. Not only does our Lord himself (Mark 4, for example) say that there are hidden meanings in his parables, but when the NT writers quote or allude to OT scripture, they often employ them in ways that differ from the literal meaning of the OT passage. There may be more than one legitimate meaning of a verse, including extended meanings or even obscure ones.

Peace,
Michael

Fr. Michael, the "clear understanding" is that God is not trying to trick, trap, or deceive us in His Word. Yes, Jesus says that His Word is not easy to always grasp, but that is not the fault of God's Word. Jesus in His Word will never deceive us.


The clear meaning of Isaiah 7:14 is that young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth. This is a sign to Ahaz. Before the child knows the difference between good and evil, King Rezin and King Pekah, who were attacking Judah (see Isaiah 7:1 and 16), will be destroyed. Isaiah is clearly referring to a pregnant girl living at the time of Ahaz.


The clear meaning of Matthew 1:23 is that the same words (at least from the LXX,) are now applied to Mary who will become pregnant and give birth to Jesus. There's no deception. One verse in two different contexts with two different meanings. No trickery or deception, but being honest about the words in the verses.


Someone coined the word "metagesis." When the text doesn't say what we want it to say, we change the text. Isaiah's "young girl" becomes a "virgin". "Is with child" becomes a future tense "will be with child".
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

pearson

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #16 on: December 23, 2016, 07:35:40 PM »

I think I've struggled a lot here trying to get my head around the ELCA principles.  If people can refrain from pot-shots, a discussion of those principles would be great to read and discuss.  People better understanding positions and all that.



An ELCA-related question - who speaks for the church body on matters exegetical/hermeneutical?  What role if any is played by seminary faculties?  is there a commission of some kind for theological matters?

The Missouri Synod has a commission - the Commission on Theology and Church Relations. 


I'm not sure it is possible to articulate "ELCA principles" with any specificity -- unless you are content with our Confession of Faith in the ELCA Constitution (Chapter 2) as a summary of our "principles."  The short answers to Pr. Benke's questions are:

1)  No one "speaks for" the ELCA on matters exegetical/hermeneutical.  There is no formal consensus, and the ELCA does not believe there is any need for a consensus to be formed or enforced on that issue.  My amateur and vastly oversimplified observation -- and it is just an observation -- is that there is a widespread default position in the ELCA that reading the Bible is not an exercise in which the Bible is to be "objectified," that is, treated as an external text that stands over us, against us, apart from us, in some way independent of us.  Instead, the Bible is a text that invites each reader into a mutual exploration; we speak to the Bible as much as the Bible speaks to us.  If you go to the ELCA website and check out "The Book of Faith" link, it says there that Lutherans are to "join in conversation" with Scripture and its application for our lives.  It is not typically a matter of studying "the Bible," but more often a matter of studying "the Bible and me"; reading Scripture involves a symbiotic relationship between the reader and the text.

2)  ELCA seminary faculty have no official standing within our church body.  They are involved in things in an ancillary way, as occasional members of the ELCA Teaching Theologians or the ELCA Lutheran Ethicists.  But the work of those groups has no real purchase on the deliberations or operations of the ELCA organizational structure.  In the seminaries, the faculty teach what they've been trained to teach, and that teaching travels down multiple academic and confessional trajectories, which is something celebrated in the ELCA.

3)  The ELCA has nothing directly comparable to the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations.  We do have a couple of people in the Office of the Presiding Bishop who handle those concerns.  Dr. Marcus Kunz carries the title of Executive for Discernment of Contextual and Theological Issues, and Dr. Roger Willer is Director of Theological Ethics.  Both of them engage in consultations from time to time with pastors and seminary and university faculty.  Both of them are sane, solid, confessional and orthodox Lutherans, and sometimes voices crying in the wilderness.  Both are a blessing to the ELCA (and would be in any Lutheran body).  But they don't arbitrate disputes, settle controversies, or function as any sort of magisterium.

I guess those answers weren't so short after all.

Thanks to all those who have recommended James Voelz's What Does This Mean?.  I don't know that work, but I'm going to track it down because of your endorsements.  FWIW, I'm going to be focusing on hermeneutics and interpretation theory in my Epistemology class this spring, and on legal interpretation in my Philosophy of Law class.  So I'll be soaking myself in this stuff the next several months, in hopes that I can finally figure something out on the subject.  And I have a suspicion that interpretation of the biblical text and interpretation of contemporary legal texts have something fundamental in common.  But suspicions are about all I have these days on this congested topic.

Tom Pearson       

Charles Austin

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #17 on: December 23, 2016, 07:49:07 PM »
I think Luther's emphasis on "for you" is critical. Given and shed "for you." Unto "you" is born this day...
I had occasion recently to look at and file some sermons from 10 to 15 years ago. I noticed that one of the reasons sermons can rarely be used as "re-runs" is because the "you" involves a particular time, a particular "setting" and a particular group of people.
What a text means "for you" in one setting in 2001 may not be what it meant for a different "you" in 1901 or 1915. And it may not be what it can (or should) mean for a congregation in a totally different setting in 2016.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Parishes in Iowa, Nw York and New Jersey. LCA and LWF staff. Former journalist. Now retired, living in Minneapolis.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #18 on: December 23, 2016, 07:52:55 PM »
Relying on memory, which may be faulty, I seem to remember that the principle that there is one clear understanding to each passage was meant as a corrective to the Medieval Quadriga principle where each passage, especially the Old Testament was supposed to have four meanings, a Literal, Allegorical, Moral and Anagogical and a passage wasn't properly understood or interpreted until all four meanings were ferreted out.

One can perceive double meanings intended in certain passages without assuming that all passages must have double or fourfold meanings.  Like many other general rules, the rule that there is one and only one clear understanding of the verse can be taken too literally.


Mark Allan Powell in Chasing the Eastern Star: Adventures in Biblical Reader-Response Criticism, begins with this statement: "This book is about how people read the Bible. It starts with the rather obvious observation that different people read the Bible differently and inquires why this is so" (p. 1).


He suggests that there are two general camps of biblical studies: "In an extreme rendering - which is usually a caricature - historical critics may be depicted as claiming that a text has only one correct interpretation: the meaning that was intended by the author. Or, again, in an extreme rendering - also a caricature - literary critics may be depicted as recognizing an infinite diversity of interpretations, none of which can be ruled out by any objective standard. Removing exaggeration, It is safe to say that scholars who favor authors maintain that some interpretations are right and others are clearly wrong, while scholars who favor readers think it is abusive to impose understandings that limit people's creativity or imagination." (p. 2)


He has a chapter on polyvalence, which literary theory defines as: "the multiplicity of potential meaning that seems to be present in any communication event" (p. 13).


"Polyvalence is a reality confirmed by daily experience. Most of us are quite accustomed to people responding differently to movies, jokes, stories, and songs. Sometimes we think that people respond differently than we do because 'they don't get it' - they have misunderstood something that we understand properly. But other times, we just accept the differences as natural or even predictable. People make different connections. When someone begins telling us about a book he or she read with the words, 'It really spoke to me …,' e don't assume it would speak to us in the same way. In fact, we may be glad it doesn't, yet equally glad that it speaks to the other person." (p. 14)


The reality is that there is not one clear understanding of Scriptures.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

pearson

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #19 on: December 23, 2016, 07:56:09 PM »

What is wrong with Scripture interprets Scripture?  If one believes that God can create one meaning of the text, why not use the text to interpret its own self as text.  Is my interpretive key that important that it overshadows God's meaning of the text?


Well, I tried earlier today to offer some reasons why the rubric "Scripture interprets Scripture" might need some serious amendment.  And isn't it precisely "God's meaning of the text" that needs to be determined?  Whatever "interpretation" turns out to be -- and I'm not at all sure what is meant by "interpretation" -- isn't determining "God's meaning of the text" an act of "interpretation"?  I could use some help here.


Of course this takes into consideration Formula Concord summary, rule and norm issues.


What does this mean?  Isn't the Formula of Concord itself a document that presents a complex network of "interpretations"?  Why worry about the Formula if we have "God's meaning of the text" already in hand?

Tom Pearson

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #20 on: December 23, 2016, 07:57:31 PM »
What is wrong with Scripture interprets Scripture?  If one believes that God can create one meaning of the text, why not use the text to interpret its own self as text.  Is my interpretive key that important that it overshadows God's meaning of the text?  No matter how many sermons I preach?  Why distrust what Scripture says if my own interpretation is the final one?  It isn't.  Let God's word be God's word, as it is not only it's own interpreter, but is also its own critic/judge.  Why is one's own interpretive value the only or final one which many liberal scholars take as the authoritative one to follow?  My interpretive attempt as well as any other is a prejudice.  God's word is the complete and thorough judge with no prejudice.


Of course this takes into consideration Formula Concord summary, rule and norm issues.


Scripture 2 that one uses to interpret Scripture 1 is still our interpretation of Scripture 2. I believe that it's a false assumption to believe that we can get to God's meaning of a text. We say and believe that God has given us these words - with all of the issues that we have in seeking to translate and interpret and apply them. We can ask, "What is God saying to you in this text?" We are likely to get many different answers. Are all the answers right? Is that what God is saying to that individual? Is there only one right answer, one right interpretation; and what everyone else hears God saying to them must be wrong?
« Last Edit: December 23, 2016, 08:13:39 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

exegete77

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #21 on: December 23, 2016, 08:01:31 PM »
I had hermeneutics from Kiehl at CSL, then Grothe, Brighton, etc. for NT exegetical classes.

Voelz was my final STM advisor (exegesis). I teach hermeneutics for ALTS, using Voelz's approach. He looks at presuppositions and the differences between modern approaches and post-modern approaches to the text. He notes that no one can approach the text as a neutral observer (modern: advocates that such is possible; post-modern says every thing is reader-response, i.e. you bring your own meaning to the text and read it out from the text—too simplistic at this point). His position is what he calls soft-postmodern, namely that reality is objective, but observation is not. (There is more to this, but this sufficient for now)

One clear advantage is that he espoused that "meaning" of a text is unclear. For example, he speaks about narrative, in which "meaning" is used three different ways, leading to three different responses when someone asks "What does this text mean?"

1. What does the text say?

2. What does the signify?

3. What does the text tell us about author, audience, etc.?

By exploring these separately we have a more consistent (Scripture interprets Scripture; creedal presuppositions, etc.) way of interpreting narrative.

Many other insightful approaches from others gained over the past 35 years. Voelz's approach has been the mostly helpful. In teaching it, I have found students struggle with some of what is taught but about week 4 they begin to acknowledge that it is useful. Then they move forward.

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Rich Shields (TAALC)

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Richard Johnson

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #22 on: December 23, 2016, 08:10:17 PM »

1. Let Scripture interpret Scripture.

Too simplistic. Lexicons and grammars are better helps in interpreting a passage of scriptures. As it is, there is not an agreement as to what is Scripture. There's the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant scriptures. Beyond that, we have the Gospel of Thomas that includes some of the same sayings of Jesus as the synoptics. Should James be included in letting "scripture interpret scripture"? Some of his versions of the sayings of Jesus seem more ancient than those in the synoptics.


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John_Hannah

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #23 on: December 23, 2016, 08:47:23 PM »
Father Slusser, I think I may have been unclear. You did not say those things. But the clarification I  attempted to make was what we were taught regarding that. People look for all sorts of hidden meanings when the meaning is right there. The example that immediately comes to mind is the 153 fish that were caught post-resurrection. What does this mean? Nothing, except that the number of fish caught was 153.

Jeremy

I have always been convinced that the 153 refers to the 153 questions throughout the Gospel of John. (Count them.) Thus, John says, "Now no one dared to ask him, 'Who are you?' because they know it was they Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the the fish."

Peace, JOHN
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Weedon

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #24 on: December 24, 2016, 12:29:10 AM »
I recall Dr. Hummel teaching us that a better way of saying "the literal sense is one" is "the literal sense is unified." He didn't want to deny the multilevel meanings which Scripture gives itself in places, but nor did he wish to rule out the single unified witness of those levels to the one Savior of sinners.

readselerttoo

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #25 on: December 24, 2016, 12:39:10 AM »

What is wrong with Scripture interprets Scripture?  If one believes that God can create one meaning of the text, why not use the text to interpret its own self as text.  Is my interpretive key that important that it overshadows God's meaning of the text?


Well, I tried earlier today to offer some reasons why the rubric "Scripture interprets Scripture" might need some serious amendment.  And isn't it precisely "God's meaning of the text" that needs to be determined?  Whatever "interpretation" turns out to be -- and I'm not at all sure what is meant by "interpretation" -- isn't determining "God's meaning of the text" an act of "interpretation"?  I could use some help here.


Of course this takes into consideration Formula Concord summary, rule and norm issues.


What does this mean?  Isn't the Formula of Concord itself a document that presents a complex network of "interpretations"?  Why worry about the Formula if we have "God's meaning of the text" already in hand?

Tom Pearson


Is the final interpreter God or the sinner?  I ask this to both Tom Pearson and Brian Stoffregen.

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #26 on: December 24, 2016, 12:53:21 AM »
An ELCA-related question - who speaks for the church body on matters exegetical/hermeneutical?  What role if any is played by seminary faculties?  is there a commission of some kind for theological matters?


Judges 21:25.

Pax, Steven+
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #27 on: December 24, 2016, 02:05:24 AM »

What is wrong with Scripture interprets Scripture?  If one believes that God can create one meaning of the text, why not use the text to interpret its own self as text.  Is my interpretive key that important that it overshadows God's meaning of the text?


Well, I tried earlier today to offer some reasons why the rubric "Scripture interprets Scripture" might need some serious amendment.  And isn't it precisely "God's meaning of the text" that needs to be determined?  Whatever "interpretation" turns out to be -- and I'm not at all sure what is meant by "interpretation" -- isn't determining "God's meaning of the text" an act of "interpretation"?  I could use some help here.


Of course this takes into consideration Formula Concord summary, rule and norm issues.


What does this mean?  Isn't the Formula of Concord itself a document that presents a complex network of "interpretations"?  Why worry about the Formula if we have "God's meaning of the text" already in hand?

Tom Pearson


Is the final interpreter God or the sinner?  I ask this to both Tom Pearson and Brian Stoffregen.


God speaks. We hear. In our hearing we interpret. What we hear and know is partial. Nothing is final about it.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #28 on: December 24, 2016, 02:07:51 AM »
An ELCA-related question - who speaks for the church body on matters exegetical/hermeneutical?  What role if any is played by seminary faculties?  is there a commission of some kind for theological matters?


Judges 21:25.


Were they any better with a king?
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Charles Austin

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Re: Hermeneutics
« Reply #29 on: December 24, 2016, 05:08:39 AM »
And we have one of those oddities of history and experience, Pastor Weedon. Dr. Horace Hummel taught Old Testament at the Maywood campus of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago when I matriculated there in 1963 and I remember him teaching that. Scripture is unified in teaching us about the Savior.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Parishes in Iowa, Nw York and New Jersey. LCA and LWF staff. Former journalist. Now retired, living in Minneapolis.