Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pearl Stringing

My friend commented:
Another things, whats with stringing verses from completely different books and letters together to form a thought. I would never cut and paste ideas from you, Dan and Rich together to form a thought. Why not read it like it is.
Now, there is a very good point here. No doubt it is proper to interpret verses in their own context. In fact, it is impossible to legitimately connect one passage to another, without first interpreting each passage in its own context. If we fail to do this, then we run the serious risk of interpreting each passage in light of what we want to say, and not what Scripture actually says. In that case we are not hearing God at all, but ourselves.

That being said hoever, it is entirely appropriate to connect passages that do deal with the same ideas in order to gain a better understanding of those ideas. For example, Paul and John both have a lot to say about love. Naturally we should seek to understand each apostle's comments in the original context. But it is also natural for us to look at both 1 Corinthians 13 and 1John 4 in order to gain a fuller understanding of the biblical concept of love. If we only examine each apostle on his own we will have a Pauline, or Johanine (as the case may be) understanding of love, and one that would be scriptural, but only so far as it goes. And that's the problem; to go to only one fo the apostles would not be going far enough. A truly scriptural understanding of love involves all that Scripture has to say, meaning both Paul and John. The people of God need and deserve to know all that God has said on a topic.
My friend continued:

I think it is more powerful like that. Even with stories of Jesus. He travelled, it is may be worth assuming that the people he spoke to at any given time only heard what he said at that time.

Here again we have an excellent point. The first hearers of Jeuss may have only heard directly one or two things he ever said. Jesus spoke so as to be understood by the people he had n front of him at the moment. Now, I am ware that Jesus spoke in parables for a reason. But Jesus also spoke plainly, such as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus also gave commands that he expected to be understood and obeyed. We should assume that each saying of Jesus can be understood in its own context before we go looking for the key to understading somewhere else.

An excellent example fo this, in my opinion, is the Olivet Discourse. Many interpreters make 2Thessalonians the key to undertsnding Matthew 23. But the first hearers would surely not have had access to 2Thessalonians. We must there fore assume that Matthew 23 makes at least some sense on its own, apart from 2Thessalonians.

There is more, but that can wait until tomorrow... or the day after.

No comments: