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May

19

2010

Reading Narratives

It is tempting when interpreting narratives to not actually read them.

For some reason there is a nasty habit we have picked up that tries to figure out everything that the text doesn't say (i.e. historical reconstruction) rather than figuring out what the text actually does say. Much time in commentaries is spent filling in details that Luke did not record. But does this really help us understand what Luke said?

I had started reading The Meaning of the Pentateuch by John Sailhamer around February, but have since put it on the back burner. I am suspicious of the thesis of the book and don't want to spend too much time on it right now, but some parts of it are simply fascinating, especially regarding his long discussion on hermeneutics as it relates to historical narratives. He argues evangelicals have largely (and unwittingly) shifted the locus of meaning to the historical event rather than placing it in the text itself. The question is this: Where is God's revelation? Is it in understanding the historical event, or in understanding the biblical text? Where is the "locus"? Is it in the "things" or is it in the words?

He has a great illustration of a Rembrandt painting. Would you understand Rembrant's point by studying his painting or by studying the object he painted? By studying his painting of course! (Do not misunderstand: he does not say the text misrepresents the historical reality; it presents it accurately, but including, excluding and arranging material so as to communicate a particular meaning.) 

You do not fill in the places Rembrandt shadowed. You understand the text through understanding what the author said, understanding things left out were left out by the author, and thus are not part of his point.

It was a very interesting discussion. It has helped me as I've been starting preaching on Luke (which has been largely the culprit for the lack of activity here lately). It is tempting to want to spend much time filling in gaps, rather than understanding what was not gapped. Luke told us what he wants us to know. What Luke didn't say is not pertinent to understanding Luke, otherwise he would have told us. Sola Scriptura!

Interpreting narratives requires reading narratives, and understanding what the narrator said, not worrying about what he didn't say. 

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Matt Hauck (郝柏昇)

A once enemy now son, forgiven and freed by Jesus' blood, adopted and called by grace for glory.   (more...)

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