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BIBL 102 (Sp ‘16) T08 - Are There Different Levels of Meaning?

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Hartmut Scherer

on 26 February 2016

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Transcript of BIBL 102 (Sp ‘16) T08 - Are There Different Levels of Meaning?

Assumptions and Meaning
(Adapted from Zondervan Academic Resources for "Grasping God's Word)
Does the Bible have
multiple levels of meaning?
Looking for deep, secret, “spiritual” meanings apart from what the author communicated in the text.
Levels of Meaning
Since God used literary conventions to communicate with us, the real spiritual meaning of the Bible will be the same as the literary meaning!
Allegory – a story that uses an extensive
amount of symbolism
Allegorical Interpretation
Limited only by the fanciful imagination of the reader
Looks for deeper, “spiritual” meaning below the surface of the text
The details of the biblical text stand for many different things (e.g., tent pegs representing Jesus)
Goes far beyond comparison or symbolism
Are there
deep “spiritual” meanings
hidden in the text of the Bible that are unrelated to the historical-cultural and literary contexts?
Letters of the Hebrew
alphabet represent numbers.
Words are analyzed for their numerical value.
Equidistant Letter Sequencing (ELS)
Uses computer to string together the text of the Bible without spaces and search the string for hidden messages
- Unaware of variations in
the Hebrew text of the OT
- Consensus of biblical
scholarship that ELS
is a sham!
- Problems with probability
(e.g., Moby Dick)
Event or person in the OT that serves as a prophetic pattern or example of a NT event or person.
OT sometimes
to what is fulfilled in the NT.
foreshadows the ultimate sacrifice of Christ
Example: The Sacrifical System (OT)
part of one salvation story where we see a promise (OT) and later see its fulfillment (NT)
general connections made explicit by the NT (and therefore intended by the divine author)
Bible Codes
Does the Bible have different levels of meaning?
I don't believe it does.
There is one level of meaning—the literary meaning (intended by the divine/human author)
literary meaning
Meaning for the biblical audience
(Step 1 of The Journey)
Theological principle
(Step 3 of The Journey)
Avoid the temptation to spiritualize or allegorize.
Don’t be naïve and fall for ELS.
Affirm OT typology when it is
in the
Use the Interpretive Journey to help you discover the meaning communicated by the divine/ human author through the text.
By God’s design this meaning is very spiritual.
Dichotomy between spiritual and literary
Will we seek the literary (and truly spiritual) meaning intended by the author?
Or will we seek the “meaning”
created by our own
Are There Different Levels of Meaning?
Assumptions and Meaning
Who Controls the Meaning of a Text?
The wonderful Wizard of Oz
. . .
a simple story of good vs. evil (
or a political satire (
Reader response
reader is the one who determines the meaning
Authorial intention
stresses the author in the determination of meaning
issue: Communication
(Adapted from Zondervan Academic Resources for "Grasping God's Word)
Should we view these texts as communication?
To ignore the author’s intention in texts that should be viewed as communication can have serious negative consequences for the reader.
Central question:
Definitions and the Interpretive Journey
With reference to the Bible, the term “author” refers to both the human and divine author. God works through human authors.
This term refers to what the
author intended to communicate
when he wrote the text. Meaning will be the
same for all Christians
This is the
response of the reader
to the author’s meaning communicated in the text.
Application will vary
from Christian to Christian.
Discovering what the author meant
For proper interpretation (communication) to take place, we must discover what the author meant.
Literary Genre
Word Studies
Controlling the Meaning
If we view the text as communication between the author
and the reader, we
should follow the
authorial intention approach.
If we don’t care what the author is
trying to communicate,
we are free to follow the

reader response approach.
Is the Bible merely
inspiring literature?
Or is the Bible
inspired communication from God?
Since I believe strongly that the Bible is God’s communication of himself and his will to us,
I follow the
authorial intention approach.
In biblical interpretation, readers do
not create or control the meaning.
Rather, we seek to
discover the meaning
that has been placed there by the author.
What did the text mean to the biblical audience?
Step 2: Measuring the Width of the River
What is the theological principle in this text?
How should individual Christians today apply the theological principle(s) in their lives?
How does the theological principle fit with the rest of the Bible?
Step 1: Grasping the Text in Their Town
What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?
Step 3: Crossing the Principlizing Bridge
Step 4: Consult the Biblical Map
Step 5: Grasping the Text in Our Town
Full transcript