5 Common Mistakes in Interpreting Scripture – Ep. 001

In this first official episode of the Theology in Progress podcast we want to jump right in and talk about 5 mistakes we often make when we are interpreting scripture.

Video

Audio Only

Resources Mentioned in this Podcast

What’s New For Theology in Progress in 2016 – Episode 000

Is Exegesis Without Presuppositions Possible?

Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes

Africa Bible Commentary

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15 Comments on "5 Common Mistakes in Interpreting Scripture – Ep. 001"

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William
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1. Presuppositions I agree that everyone has presuppositions, and wears interpretive lens. But you both make a false dichotomy between either approaching the text objectively and to find an objective meaning beyond us or approaching the text with our presuppositions. It leads you to reject any objective meaning of the text and therefore relativizes all interpretations to an individual’s or communities’ particular imagined meanings. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. One can both acknowledge their own presuppositions and use objective exegesis, rather than purely subjective eisegesis, to apprehend the objective meaning of the text. Let me remind you that the phrase “objective meaning” only means that there is a meaning of the text that is outside of the mind of the reader that the author intended… Read more »
Chris
Admin
Hey William, thanks for your comment and feedback! I really enjoy your input and dialoging with you. I will respond to your biggest criticism (on point one), because you very positive on most of the other points. We do not reject that their is an objective meaning in Scripture. We were only trying to say that we may not be able to arrive at it. We may not be able to say with 100% certainty that this is all that scripture means in a particular passage. Even if we are able to get to 99% percent of the given meaning of the text, it would technically not be a completely objective, because scientific objectivity must be 100%. Again, we are not saying that objective meaning… Read more »
William
Guest
Hi Chris, It did sound like there might be a difference of opinion between you and Josh on this. He was the one who made the false dichotomy. I’m glad you affirm the reality of objective truth and meaning of a text. And we both agree that we may not reach 100% certainty on some particular texts. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t apprehend the objective meaning of a text. It just mean we can’t be 100% certain, but what are you 100% certain about when you read anything especially in history, philosophy, or theology? No, one can still affirm a particular interpretation of a text as the objective meaning (a particular truth about the meaning of a text that is true regardless if anyone… Read more »
Chris
Admin
Yes, I certainly agree with you that we can be fairly certain about what most passages mean, even if not 100%. I did forget to mention that in my first comment. Thanks for reaffirming! I won’t speak for Josh on how he sees this working out. I’ll let him join the conversation and comment for himself. As far as subjective experiential knowledge, there are many pentecostals that acknowledge the Spirit plays an important role in how we interpret Scripture. Last year’s SPS conference was on this topic. I guess the easiest example would be regarding how we interpret passages that deal with spiritual gifts. Those whom have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues or been used to prophecy or heal, etc.,… Read more »
William
Guest
Everyone has subjective experiential knowledge of different kinds. This is the point of your whole talk on presuppositions in the video. So yeah, everyone has presuppositions (which come from a variety of sources including personal experiences). Now, of course many claim that their experiences are from God (the Holy Spirit), but how can we discern that accurately? Scripture. Which is why your video rightfully advises people to go to Scripture to discern and evaluate one’s presuppositions. Now the example you gave about continuationists vs. cessationists is not that helpful since there is no exegetical grounds for cessationism, and plenty of texts which teach us that the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to the body of Christ. Hypothetically, if there were texts which teach us cessationism is… Read more »
Josh
Admin
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the portion you’re referring to is just before the 7-minute mark. If that’s the case, I could see how what I said could give the idea I don’t believe we can do both. However, I did note we need to allow the Holy Spirit to work what’s in the text (the truth) in our lives. I definitely agree with you, there is an objective meaning; we just can’t obtain it in a purely objective way. (I think we may have an issue when we talk about the word “objective” too). When I use the word “objective,” I’m leaning more toward the scientific method approach you noted. I also agree that much scholarship focuses on trying to get… Read more »
William
Guest

I’m glad to hear you affirm the text has an objective meaning. And, I agree there is a confusion about the term “objective”. However, I’ve clearly defined what I meant by “objective” and an “objective approach to Scripture”, but your definition is still ambiguous (“scientific method”). What part of my definition or approach to scripture is erroneous in particular?

Josh
Admin
I’m not claiming you’re wrong or in error. I see a difference between objective truth (what I believe you mean when you say, “a particular truth about the meaning of a text that is true regardless if anyone believes, or imagines, or desires/wishes it to be true or not”) and approaching the text objectively (what I attempt to describe using the words, “scientific method”). The latter (which I’m trying to move people away from) refers to an approach intended to arrive at that truth AND claim the ability to see it without lenses (we see this a lot in attempts to find out what “actually happened” in history). In Chris’ example about the Nativity story, many in the West tend to believe they see the… Read more »
William
Guest
I think your qualm really isn’t against the objective meaning of the text, or objective methods to apprehend that meaning. Rather, you just want to make sure everyone acknowledges their presuppositions (informed by their worldview, experiences, etc.). The reason I say this is that the scientific methods of exegesis (history, linguistics, etc.) are tools which enhance “objectivity” (the apprehension of truths which are true whether anyone believes, desire, or imagines them to be true) and mitigates against purely subjective imagination of the interpreter, but it does not devoid the interpreter of all subjectivity (all human interpreters are subjects). For example, the authors of Scripture teach us that Jesus bodily rose from the dead. That is an objective truth based on the objective meaning of various… Read more »
Josh
Admin
That’s probably an accurate assessment of what I’m getting at 🙂 I will push the envelope a bit though and challenge the conversation. We do know (objectively) that Jesus rose from the dead. But understanding why that was recorded seems to always come with subjective interpretations. I think this could be where the real challenge comes in dealing with presuppositions. We tend to be alright with simple facts like the resurrection or Paul’s fifteen days spent with Cephas when he first returned to Jerusalem. But when we question what the record of the resurrection means and how it applies to us, we seem to have our presuppositions automatically coloring our perspective. We tried really hard to make a distinction between meaning and application (thanks for… Read more »
Michael
Guest
I’m still pushing for the actual study of material (passage, verse, book, etc.) through an “objective” process which includes, historical critical, science, textual evidence for and against (inside and out of the Bible), geography, archeological, chronology, meaning of numbers, etc. The idea is to minimize our worldview to accomplish a more accurate meaning regardless of one’s presuppositions. It takes maturity to acknowledge and accept evidence that doesn’t necessarily support what Christians as whole believe and still be able to maintain one’s faith. Take a scripture and do a study of it. This includes reviewing a source of material from each of these concentrations and then allow the viewer to decide for themselves with the information presented. I think this is the closest we can get… Read more »
Josh
Admin

Thanks for the encouragement! Yes, the book of the month will have an ebook to go with it that summarizes the book and gives some of our own thoughts. Those who sign up will get a notification as soon as the next book is up.

I want to reply to the rest of your comment, but I’m digesting it a bit first. I haven’t forgotten.

Michael
Guest
Josh, would you consider not replying to the comment? Not because I don’t want to hear it or am concerned about the response but rather I understand that there is a fundamental difference in our thinking and I know you recognize it as well. I don’t want to talk past each other for I fear there is a lack of sustenance should we go beyond this. I’m not looking to persuade you one way or the other or be malicious in my responses but I enjoy the conversation more than I do the “who’s right” of the conversation. I value your friendship and the website and I look forward to the process of revealing “answers” for me through conversation with you guys. If there is… Read more »
Josh
Admin

I would definitely consider that 🙂

I was thinking some of the same things. Thanks, Mike!

Josh
Admin
In an article on ChristianToday (not Christianity Today), I found this on the recent Methodist minister who came out, and I thought it was a good demonstration of how presuppositions are already at play in culture today: “Matt Berryman, executive director of RNM [Reconciling Ministries Network], said it’s a crucial time for the Church. “The lack of teaching on sexuality and gender that is informed, wise, and spiritual is a major obstruction to full participation of so many persons in the life of the church,” he told Christian Today. “We need a proper construal of human sexuality and gender that is not ‘already interpreted’ as is so much of Christian theology, through a white, western, male, heterosexist, and cisgender lens. So much of our trouble… Read more »
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