even the bible is a vulnerable text
After watching an online video posted on my Facebook feed of a well-known pastor preaching about Heaven and Hell, I thought it appropriate to post a thought or two.
This particular pastor preached from Luke 16:19-31. During the sermon they made numerous references to the fact that they are “telling the truth” and that they are simply repeating the words of Jesus (which are apparently not in need of any form of interpretation, but rather are self-evidently comprehendible, even over the temporal distance of 2000 years).
The issue here of course is that no text, regardless of where or whom they are from (even God) can simply be considered self-evidently comprehendible.
I look to Paul Ricoeur for wisdom at this point. He argues that no text speaks for itself because it is vulnerable, dependent on the interpreter to “restore its voice” (in the words of Ched Myers).
Written discourse cannot be “rescued” by all the processes by which spoken discourse supports itself in order to be understood – intonation, delivery, mimicry, gestures … Henceforth only the meaning “rescues” the meaning, without the contribution of he physical and psychological presence of the author. But to say that the meaning rescues the meaning is to say that only interpretation is the “remedy”. (Ricoeur, “The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as Text,” in Understanding and Social Enquiry, 320).
Compare this to a comment by said pastor:
My job is to tell you the truth. You can find people who disagree with me. You can find multi-million dollar, best-selling authors who disagree. You can find scholars and footnotes and debates and arguments.
But I’m telling you the truth.
Is anyone really so daring as to claim they alone hold the absolute truth, despite equally (or more) brilliant individuals disagreeing with them?
Perhaps we need more humility in the way we approach interpreting texts, especially the Bible. This is not to say there is no truth, just that none of us have all of it.
Posted on April 1, 2011, in Biblical Studies, Hermeneutics and tagged Bible, Ched Myers, Heaven, Hell, Hermeneutics, Interpretation, Luke 16:19-31, Mark Driscoll, Meaning, Paul Ricoeur. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.