Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Literal or Poetic

This morning our lectionary study group talked about a literal reading of scripture as opposed to a poetic reading, recognizing, of course, that there are other ways as well.  A few hours later I was reading an essay by Hauerwas in which he cited a passage from Yoder’s Royal Priesthood.  I think it is important enough to share.
If we understand deeply enough the way in which the promise of the Holy Spirit is linked to the church’s gathering to bind and loose (Matt. 18:19-20), this may provide us well with a more wholesome understanding of the use and authority of Scripture.  One of the most enduring subjects of unfruitful controversy over the centuries has been whether the words of Scripture, when looked at purely as words, isolated from the context in which certain people read them at a certain time and place, have both clear meaning and the absolute authority of revelation.
To speak of the Bible apart from people reading it and apart from the specific questions that those people reading need to answer is to do violence to the very purpose for which we have been given the Holy Scriptures.  There is no such thing as an isolated word of the Bible carrying meaning in itself.  It has meaning only when it is read by someone and then only when the reader and society in which he or she lives can understand the issue to which it speaks. (Yoder, 535)

3 comments:

Tom said...

There is no such thing as an isolated word of the Bible carrying meaning in itself. It has meaning only when it is read by someone and then only when the reader and society in which he or she lives can understand the issue to which it speaks. (Yoder, 535)

Where is "the issue" to which words of scripture speak? Don't the words have to bear the issue to which they are speaking? Not, of course, as "isolated" from what it means for them to be read. But precisely through the experience of a reader who finds him or herself read by these words in this succession that suddenly reveal "the issue" meant for him or her to right here and now see, be touched by, respond to, take up. ––But then do we let ourselves today be read by scripture? Or do we only want to read it on our terms? Or have we lost a sense for the difference between these radically different ways of understanding what it means to be a "reader"?

Dianna Woolley said...

Tom's question - "Or do we only want to read it on our terms?" ...In general, I think so. My rational mind will hopefully take over and remind me to use thoughtful measures of what a scripture means by considering who it was written to and for, who read it then, what did it mean then, who reads it now and how should I interpret it today? How does it speak to me now - NOT how do I WANT it to speak to me now and blah, blah, blah.........should I bother commenting here? I don't ever get a cup of coffee for my comments:(

Country Parson said...

Coffee with Tom available Saturday morning at the Roastery, and Dan Dunn thrown in as extra. CP also available - in person.