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Friday, March 6, 2015

The First Question

I have written elsewhere that there are four questions that we ask over and over in Bible Study.  I have in the recent past discovered that there is another application of those questions.  I have also written, echoing Prof, that if we move to the second question before we exhaust the first we will commit grave error.

To review the first question is, “What does the text say?”  The second is, “What does it mean?”

It is the case that many in the “Christian community” seem to skip the first question completely, moving directly past the first question into explaining the meaning of a text they have not determined what has been said.

A lot of this is driven by some notion that the Bible is only spiritually understood, that there is some hidden meaning that one has to have some sort of spiritual decoder ring or inside information to understand.  I hear this a lot from certain sectors.

There are several problems with approaching the Bible, or for that matter, any document in this way.  First if people cannot talk about what a document says, there is no basis for a rational, spiritual, or any other kind of conversation.  For if meaning is separated from what the text says, any meaningful dialog about meaning is impossible.  For, those in such a dialog have no rational measure of the truth of any meaning presented.  One cannot appeal to the text, for the words of the text have been, essentially, set aside.

So in that case to what does one appeal?  In my experience the one who talks louder, longer, and faster is the one who prevails.
This has led to all manner of strange beliefs and practices.

I might suggest that a lot of disagreements could be resolved by going back to the first question.  If we talk about what the text says, and 99.9% of the time it frankly means what it says, many of the controversies may be put to bed.

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