A network of highly cohesive details reveals the truth.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Exegesis, Bible translation, and Unity I

Eddie Arthur, of Kouya Chronicle, has an excellent post called All Together Now: Why Bible Translation is Important II. Wayne Leman points to some other posts, too. See Bible Translation and Unity for his thoughts and some comments. Also, Peter Kirk at Eddie Arthur on Bible Controversies.

In a comment on Kouya Chronicle, Eddie says:

A further comment to Rich’s, is that it is extremely hard to get theological bent out of translations.
I'd like to take that as my jumping off point.

Yes, it is extremely hard. But, I think the reasons for that have everything to do with the way we go about getting the bent out.

The Bible is always bent away from our own theological basis, so it always has a theological bent...relatively speaking.

First, let's get the right foundation in place. The Bible is the book that accurately, authoritatively, and effectively deals with questions such as, who is God?, who is the individual?, who are human beings?, what is my purpose?, what is our purpose?, how did everything begin?, how is it going to end?, and many other ... ummmmm ...theological ...questions.

So, the Bible is theology. One can't separate theology from the Bible.

So, then, where's the bent?

All together now, repeat after me: "It is me that always has the theological bent."

And that fact, the basic requirement for humility before other people, and before a holy God, starts to place us closer to a solution.

But (you might say), there are "me's" that translate the Bible. And that's a problem.

Good observation!

As Rich Rhodes has pointed out in a comment to Eddie's post,

All translation, of necessity, requires the translator to understand, i.e. interpret, the text. [Emphasis his and mine.]
He is absolutely right. There are a number of proofs as to why that is. I won't deal with those here and now. Suffice it to say that there are very common misconceptions among mono-lingual people that once dispelled show that Rich is right.

So, that means that we have absolutely no hope but to have Bible translations injected with the theological bias of the translator...right?


The common solution is to think, "Aha, I know what we'll do. We'll provide tools so that any individual will have access to the original text and therefore be able to 'get at' the original meaning for themselves."

Well, that grand experiment is not the silver bullet solution we thought it would be. We're increasing the number of "me's". On the positive side, this turns out to be a good business model and it markets well. And, more importantly, it also gets some tools in place we're going to need to complete the task of obtaining a clear, accurate, and natural Bible translation. Though, sadly, these tools span the spectrum of usefulness; some do more damage than good since they assume a wrong model of how communication works. I alluded to this above in response to Rich's comment. In any case, the better tools enable discussion. And that's a positive. However, the failure is in the fact that these tools also enable argument, and that's a negative. So these tools are not the solution. But, they are a part of it.

On the other hand, multiplying translations which synthesize exegeted meaning into modern, natural English isn't a much better solution than the analytical one. Though, like the increase in the number of tools, it is a move in the right direction. Properly synthesized meaning is inherently clear. But, ironically, that clarity makes it much easier to disagree with the rendering by those with a different theological bias. That's the benefit of clarity that the more analytically oriented translations don't have. The positive in this is that clarity enables discussion. It also enables argument, and that's a negative. So, the so-called, and often wrongly maligned, modern translations are also not the solution. They are, however, part of it.

The point is this: The common solution of getting tools into people's hands is not the solution to the theological bias problem because the theological bias problem has no procedural or methodological foundation. There, I said it. We can't put a process in place that will solve it. We can't even teach a method that will remove the issue. Having tools and a process doesn't solve the problem. It's not a method problem; it's not a process problem. Therefore: It is not a method solution; it's not a process solution. We need to grab that and hold on to that for all we're worth.

Now, there is hope. God always leaves us with hope. But, it's a hope obtained byobediencee. I did say the solution could be obvious, even though it wouldn't be easy. Right?

In solving any problem, one must first clearly define the problem. Then the solution (generally) becomes quite obvious. That is not to say the solution is easy. It's just to say it's obvious. Hopefully, I've made some head way here in this posting todispell a wrong headed definition of the problem.

So, what's the real problem?

The issue is more basic than method and/or process. The issue is the lack of spiritual maturity among those who argue about the theology in the Bible. No one wants to admit that. At least not publicly. And I'll freely admit I have much fear and trembling when I make the statement. I'm not making it because I'm mature. I'm making it because it needs to be made.

To conclude: I'd like to deal with this issue in a positive way lest it come across as a harangue. So,tomorroww I'll post what I believe to be the solution. At least the solution as seen from a fairly high level. Stay tuned.

And pray.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What's a really big Meadow For?

Over on the Better Bible Blog Rich Rhodes has posted Orthotomeo and Metaphor. In that article he mentions Lakoff and Johnson's "Metaphors We Live By." I read the first several pages (thank you Amazon) and now it is on my "wish list". Even after reading only the first few pages I must say that every exegete needs to read that book.

One question I've had for some time now is how science fiction writers can transport us to a made-up world. The world that is created on the printed page is different than our world; however, we feel with a very definite sense that we enter into their world. In a well written science fiction novel, we live their narrative. I want the Bible to do that to me. So, I view this question as if it is in the context of Bible translation, and I'll remind everyone that exegesis isn't finished until you have a translation in your own heart language. Setting that reminder aside, my science fiction question tries to get me to think about some of the exegetical and translation issues in what it takes to transport the modern reader from the here and now to the there and then.

I think I've discovered the answer to my question. Well, at least the start of an answer.

It's obviously true that science fiction writers utilize new words and concepts. At a bare minimum they conceive of new uses for the words we have. This is very similar to what is presented to us in the world of the New and Old Testaments. For example, a denarius is a new word for us, and they used a word we translate flesh but they used it in a way we don't use. But there is something greater going on. New words don't transport us; they leave us where we are at. Something larger must happen. So, what is going on?

Here's a lengthy quote from the book. What struck me (interesting metaphor) in this quote was the insight it generated (interesting metaphor) into cross-cultural ministry. That led me immediately to the impact (interesting metaphor) that metaphor has on exegesis and Bible translation since Bible translation resonates (interesting metaphor) with the cross-cultural. This is where "The Metaphors We Live By" comes in (another interesting metaphor):

"To give some idea of what it could mean for a concept to be metaphorical and for such a concept to structure an everyday activity, let us start with the concept argument and the conceptual metaphor argument is war. This metaphor is reflected in our everyday language by a wide variety of expressions:
Argument is War Your claims are indefensible. He attacked every weak point in my argument. His criticisms were right on target. I demolished his argument. I've never won an argument with him. You disagree? Okay, shoot! If you use that strategy, he'll wipe you out. He shot down all my arguments.
It is important to see that we don't just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguing with as an opponent. We attack his positions and we defend our own. We gain and lose ground. We plan and use strategies. If we find a position indefensible, we can abandon it and take a new line of attack. Many of the things we do in arguing are partially structured by the concept of war. Though there is no physical battle, there is a verbal battle, and the structure of an argument--attack, defense, counterattack, etc.--reflects this. It is in this sense that the argument is war metaphor is one that we live by in this culture; it structures the actions we perform in arguing.

Try to imagine a culture where arguments are not viewed in terms of war, where no one wins or loses, where there is no sense of attacking or defending, gaining or losing ground. Imagine a culture where an argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, experience them differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently. But we would probably not view them as arguing at all: they would simply be doing something different. It would seem strange even to call what they were doing "arguing." Perhaps the most neutral way of describing this difference between their culture and ours would be to say that we have a discourse form structured in terms of battle and they have one structured in terms of dance.

...the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another." -- George Lakoff in "Metaphors we live by" (pg 4-5)

In order for Science fiction writers to transport us, two things must happen: first they have to make it the same, and second, they have to make it different. If it were all the same, we wouldn't end up at a different place. If it were all different there would be no connecting flight (as it were) to move us from where we are at to where we end up.

So, what is the larger thing I'm saying? First, science fiction writers utilize metaphorical concepts we are comfortable with. Since we don't even know we think in terms of metaphorical concepts, the use of them is perfectly natural to us. That allows us quite naturally to walk in their world. However, in the second place, they also build up new metaphorical concepts that create a connection between there and then and here and now.

And, here is where the exegesis gets quite interesting and the implications for Bible translation become thought provoking. It takes linguistic real estate to build up a metaphorical concept when the reader is not naturally tuned to it. This has immediate implications for how the original authors would have needed to communicate a Christo-centric, monotheistic, creational world-view to a pagan world. There were metaphors that had to be built up. The large exegetical question here is what are those metaphors? Word, spirit, incarnation, flesh, love, partnership with God (ie. koinonia), body, etc. are but a few that come to my mind immediately. Would these metaphors not only give us insight into how the original authors built their arguments, but also help us to know how to take the same message to a similar pagan world?

But, it also means that the original authors used metaphors the general population was comfortable with (Mars Hill comes immediately to mind). We have to understand that the writers used metaphorical concepts from the culture. If we don't, we will (in fact, I suspect we have) create church language that takes in and owns ideas from the Hellenist world of the time. The exegetical key here is to realize that utilizing a naturally understood metaphor takes no linguistic real estate, but building up a non-natural metaphor does take linguistic real estate. (This has implications for Bible translation!)

I might add that there's homiletic insight here, too. Think about what narrative style preaching might look like when an extended metaphorical concept needs to be conveyed to an audience unaccustomed to the metaphor.

Also, more specific to exegesis, this greatly underscores the need to look for the metaphorical concepts that cohere a given text. And by text I refer to linguistic forms that are paragraph size or larger. There's a cohesion going on in a paragraph that is sometimes difficult to discover because we are not accustomed to thinking within the metaphorical concept they were natural at thinking within.

Part of good exegesis is building within our minds the metaphorical concepts the original authors used--the ones they intended to transform our minds. Another part of good exegesis is understanding that other metaphorical concepts were utilized simply to get the real message across.

Keeping these straight and separate is quite difficult because the context we bring to the text has become very encumbered by metaphors pressed upon us.

We press these onto the text. And that's eisegesis, not exegesis.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Chiasmus in Exegesis

Over at the Better Bibles Blog (BBB), Dan Sindlinger has posted Chiasmus and Bible translation. In my opinion, Bible translators should become quite thoughtful about the implications of chiasma for clear, accurate, and natural Bible translation. At the very least, the chiastic macro-structures of an original text must impact how we moderns paragraph our translations. We need to transfer the form from original to destination through some kind of transformation supportable by scholarship--we can't just ignore the form.

But, I don't want to talk about that. Go to BBB to talk about that.

What about exegesis?

Let me get your mental juices flowing by making some quick exegetical observations regarding John 6:35-40. And, before we get started, if you want some thought provoking input on chiasmus, take a pensive read through Chiasmus: An Important Structural Device Commonly Found in Biblical Literature By Brad McCoy. A thank you to davidr for commenting on BBB and pointing me to that article. It, in turn, pointed me to this Johannine text. Brad pulls together a number of observations about chiasmus that need to get into the heads of all exegetes. And he does so in a highly readable and concise way.

Now, an example--I've molded the NLT text into a chiastic form; it is as follows:

Notice that the A <--> A' elements incorporate the activity of seeing and the conceptual connection between eternal life and belief. Also, with B <--> B' notice the connection between not rejecting and not losing and the permanancy of eternal life. There's also the concept of judgment inherent in rejecting in B and last day in B'.

So, what exegetes need to learn to look for when dealing with a chiasmus is the lexical-semantic associations between various words. In other words, within the context of the original author (his cognitive framework), he expects his readers to make these kinds of connections. We (at least here in the US) make the same types of connections when we associate menu, candlelight, and waitress with atmosphere. We think of a romantic atmosphere. Using the word atmosphere in other contexts (say, a discussion of the European Space Program) will result in an entirely different sense of the word atmosphere. So, there's a particular context (or cognitive framework) within which we understand these words being associated with each other. The original author relies on those associations when building a chiasmus. And we, the readers, can rely on those associations to build our confidence that we have accurately exegeted the text.

Now, one of the key components of doing good exegesis is observing the form. At the very least, we have to see the chiasmus. However, I picked this text since it incorporates another formal element I've noticed--a paragraph heading before a chiastic form. The paragraph heading usually (perhaps always) semantically adheres to the central core of the chiasmus.

To illustrate:

In the text, we should see that there must be a connection between "the bread of life" and the fact that Jesus "[came] down from heaven". To the original audience there was an immediate connection between what is said here and the OT story of the manna in Exodus 16. John, being a skillful writer, has already placed the manna story into the mental context of his readers (see verse 31). This heading and associated chiastic core relight that mental context (it refires the same neural pathways so the reader's confidence in one specific interpretation grows). The reader should start to think that Exodus 16 is woven through this John 6 text. Getting at what the original author intends the reader to understand is what exegesis is all about.

To further strengthen that connection: observe how the OT story includes grumbling and then note that Jesus confronts the Jews in verse 43: "Stop grumbling among yourselves...".

There's a lot more to observe. However, I believe this section in John (6:25-59) is meant to convey the same message as Exodus 16; namely, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you...In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions." In that regard, note well that in John 6:63 Jesus clarifies to his disciples what had just happened between him and the Jews: "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." That is, the words are important. Many disciples turned away; however, note Peter's response: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Again, there's a direct connection between Exodus 16 with the word 'instructions' and the 'words' word in John 6. This is called intertextuality; but that must wait for another post.

Did you notice the chiasm in the second to last sentence in the previous paragraph?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Pearls, Pigs, and Good Exegesis

What does good exegesis look like?

Well, there's a rather significant element of risk in answering that question. It seems that you're either wrong or you don't live up to the model. In spite of that (to my own peril, I suppose) I'm going to take that risk and present a sermon I recently preached. I'll be thankful for any constructive criticism (though I've rather cleverly, if I may say so myself, mitigated some of the risk by preaching on Matthew 7:1-23...you know, the do not judge and do unto others... section :-) )

Now, sermons, obviously, are a result of exegesis, or at least should be. But, I think the result is a good place to start answering the question: what does good exegesis look like? You see, I'm taking a results oriented approach. Good exegesis isn't good exegesis if the end product isn't any good.

I think a good sermon should drive the audience to the text. And, once they arrive at the text, they should hear in the sermon what they see in the text. The sermon should bring the text alive. If the exegesis has been good, then the audience of the sermon should find themselves thinking through the text. They should anticipate the text; they should react to the text. Ideally, a few days later, even weeks later, the people should find themselves reflecting on the text. And this reflection should not be simply thinking about a good sermon illustration, though they are valuable, it should be about the message of the text. The audience should come away thinking the same thoughts that the original author intended the original audience to think. Of course, these thoughts should also be molded to the modern issues and culture; however, the original import should still quite obviously be there.

When I preach, my goal is to disappear. The audience should confront the text and not me. If they confront me, I'm too weak to win, so we both will lose. However, with good exegesis, the text will win.

And so will the audience.

And I'll be very thankful.

So, if you will, take a read through a sermon on Matthew 7:1-23 (PDF format) and tell me whether you think the exegesis was sound. Does this sermon cause Matthew 7:1-23—as a unit—to flow into your heart and soul like it never has before? Whether the sermon does that or not isn't my greatest concern. But, if the exegesis is done well and the sermon is done well, then Matthew 7:1-23 (NIV, NASB) will. And that result is my prayer.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Celebrating another perspective

Rick Brannan of Ricoblog recently posted "Context involves perspective". In that article he says:
It makes me realize that I need to be a bit more diligent about understanding the background and setting of the specific books of the Bible. That I need to know more about theories of authorship and circumstances of writing. And, most importantly, I need to be better about tracking who is saying what to whom in epistles, narrative and dialogue. And the relationships between those people.
My response is a hearty 'amen' and a 'let's clarify this a little'. I think one of the hardest things facing the careful exegete is to make sure he or she doesn't view the text from a foreign perspective. At least, not until an understanding from the original audience's perspective is obtained. Bringing that exegesis forward and applying it to today is very important; but reversing or inverting the process is anachronistic. So, Rick is right on.

But let me get specific, lest I be misunderstood.

First, I don't think the "theories of authorship" are all that important. At least not for exegesis. I think all that really needs to be accepted here is simply that the author had a level of authority from the perspective of the original readers. And I think this is somewhat self evident. At the very least, we wouldn't have the writings today if it weren't for the original audience thinking that the letter or sermon or writing was rather important to hold on to. So, I don't think we have to get too hung up on (say) whether the person who wrote Hebrews was male or female. It simply doesn't affect the exegesis of any sufficiently important, author intended, point.

I accept that certain issues of how the text is put together may bear some benefit, however. My caution here is that "theories of authorship" weren't really a part of the mental (or cognitive) environment of the original audience. The notion of authorial authority (gosh that's a painful alliteration) was important. Whether or not Moses penned every jot and title of the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures is not a problem that needed to be solved for the original audience. It, therefore, shouldn't be that important a topic for the exegete to worry about.

However, Rick's point about circumstances of writing is, in my opinion, right on the money. For example, we know that during the 1st CE there were quite a few claims on Messiahship by various men (interestingly, some named 'Joshua' or, to use the Greek name, 'Jesus'). Why? What was driving that level, and that focus, of activity? Getting an answer to that 'why' question generates a whole context within which to interpret all four gospels as well as Acts (and I shouldn't stop there). And may I add here somewhat tangentially to my point: why did this one Jesus, the one I call Lord, get all the notoriety? Why did he radically change the direction of the story that all these other Messiah hopefuls were hoping to write? Well, he rose from the dead! That wasn't exactly expected by anyone. And I am very thankful.

What I'm getting at is this: the people in the original audience had this life thing going on. You know, just like you and I do. They were living a story. We're living a story. We have to interact with all the stuff that goes on around us on a day-to-day basis. They were no different. And that life thing they lived was, to significant degree, within a social, political, economic, and theological situation that for many people was anything but a happy one. That was a context for change. Not to mention a context for some quite powerful writing.

You can see this in the text. Paul gets in trouble with the government officials, both Jewish and Roman. Jesus eats with "sinners". He even ate with Pharisees. Well, if you put yourself in that context, you would expect him to eat with Pharisees--Pharisees were respected people. But eating with those who failed to keep Torah? That was confronting social dogma of the time and the comfortable weren't happy about it. Then there's the money issue. There's always the money issue. And, lastly, there was Mars (god of war) and Aphrodite (god of sex), and several other important gods that formed the idols of the day. So, you see, the whole problem of money, sex and power was just as alive then as it is today. We, too, have the same idol problem, we just don't symbolize our worship with little wooden figures. These things made up the stuff that those people had to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Just like us. This was the context within which they lived. It was the story they were writing with their lives.

Or, to put it more simply, we have to understand the narrative of their lives so we know how to interpret the texts that sought to bring about changes to the story they were living. That perspective will enable us to apply that story to the story we live.

And that's really what exegesis is the foundation for. Changing our minds, and thereby changing our story, brings about a celebration (cf Rom. 12:1-2, Luke 15:7, 15:10, and 15:31-32). Let's join the celebration.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Opening Movement...

...of the grand opus number one.

Sounds spectacular, huh?

Well, I think there is something going on that's pretty big--a movement to open up the Biblical text so that one and all can engage the text. And have the text engage them. I think the bazaar has discovered the text, or might it be the other way around? (see this wiki article, the book, or Eric Raymond's own page about the Cathedral and the Bazaar. These articles are about software engineering, but the cathedral and bazaar model still applies. I also think John Forbes Nash's view of equilibrium in a competing system provides some impetus to the whole "Opening up the Text" movement. As little as we like to admit it, different denominations and churches compete--sadly, large churches swallowing up little ones. And yet, we all are focused, or like to think we're focused, on a common vision.

There's a buzz about "Opening up". For example, in no particular order:

"What we need is the time to devote to open-source scholarly productivity ... and the financial support that will motivate scholars to offer their research and written instruction outside the current print-publishing-prestige-profit complex."
Yup, true enough. I've been involved in Open Source since way before it was called such (I suppose around 1990), and the prestige of Open Source is directly correlated to the service one supplies to the community. Anyway...

Back in March I sent an email to Zack Hubert which I think was more than he wanted to think about at the time. It said the following (somewhat edited for content here):

I run across people, dedicated people who yearn to have a closer walk with God, who admit to me, "I don't understand the Bible." These people are not dumb and I feel their pain. The point I'm making is we absolutely must find a way to get the original meaning, accurately exegeted, with a high degree of public exposure and peer-review (this feeds the accuracy), into a language that people can just read. What I might call koine English--not street language, but not academic either. It simply needs to be in the vernacular. Are we there today? No. But, if I may say so, I'm a firm believer that the process is outlined in the Bible. The problem is clearly defined in 1 Cor. 14:6-12.

I've come to the conclusion that there are two different uses of a Bible Translation (BT). Think of these, if you are at all knowledgeable of computer science, in use-case terms. In other words, if we ask the question, "How does a serious Bible student use the Bible?" we get two answers (two, rather high level, cases). One is analytic. The other is synthetic.

The first is where the details of the text-- lexical, syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic--are all analyzed. This is a use-case used by the analytical and detail oriented person. And let me emphasize: it's valuable. However, it appears to me that our current educational establishments cater to this sort of person when teaching exegesis and hermeneutics and therefore the BTs are skewed toward this use-case. They don't allow, other than maybe just touching it, the benefits linguistics brings to the table. Especially the results of some cognitive linguistics, but more so the results of discourse or text linguistics. And that brings me to the other use-case.

The way language works in communication is very highly synthetic. In other words, the vast details of how a specific text works interrelate in highly cohesive ways and thereby form a coherent meaning in one's mind. What this ends up meaning is that there must be this other use-case.

This second use-case involves at least the following details:

  • Markup of a text into paragraphs and rationale for the location of these breaks.
  • A synopsis (thesis statement or precis) of each paragraph
  • Translation into a destination language. This translation is more synthetic than the typical literal translation. We need both, but the more typical literal translation directly supports the analytical use-case. This synthetic translation is somewhat more paragraph oriented. In other words, a person reading the translation of the paragraph should come to an approximation of the synopsis (mentioned immediately above) of that paragraph as determined by a paragraph level exegesis. If they don't, then there is either something wrong with the translation, or something wrong with the synopsis, or both.
  • Community involvement in the translation process (See next)
  • Full exposure of why a translation choice was made. In other words, the rationale of the choice is fully exposed to peer review where the peers exist along at least one of three dimensions: clarity, naturalness, and accuracy. In other words, we need people, all of which are viewed as peers, along each of these dimensions. And I think it is very important to understand that "the ploughboy" exists along at least one of these dimensions. One significant advantage of this full exposure is that it would end up teaching people the interpretive context. Many wrong interpretations are easily dismissed when one learns that the original hearers could not have understood the passage that way.
  • We need to the ability to keep several versions of the translation artifacts (objects that support the translation) around. Open Sourcing the data would foster people to develop their own artifacts, but a central repository would foster the community communication that is so very badly needed in order to come closer to the intent of the original author. How is that, you ask? Notice that Romans 12:1-2 has to do with getting our individual minds straightened out so we can know the will of God. OK, that's good. But note what immediately proceeds from that statement. Paul immediately launches into how the body has to work, each utilizing their own gift(s) to the benefit of the others in the body. We really do need each other. There's a coherence in the achievement of scholarship.
Furthermore, the two use-cases are mutually supportive. The "stuff" that supports the analytic case also supports the synthetic case. and, the "stuff" that supports the synthetic case, in turn, supports the analytic case. This is based on the two simple facts that the whole of a text is more than the sum of its parts and, two, that the context shapes the interpretation of the individual details. Again, a very high degree of coherence.

Sorry for the long post; but, I've been thinking about this for going on 5 years now.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Tracking the Wiley Understanding

I just installed trackback. Thank you Wayne ;-) I think it's a good thing.

As you can see from the description in the sidebar to the left, I believe "an extensively diverse community of humble people" is necessary for an accurate understanding of the Bible. So, the networking dynamic of trackback is just the type of thing that encourages such a diverse and community effect.

I get this idea from 1 Cor. 3 (NLT) or (NASB).

Briefly, Paul tells the Corinthians that people driven by their own physical or self-centered desires quarrel with each other. They even take sides by congregating behind a single person. Paul subverts that modus operandi by showing that these "leaders" (he calls them διάκονοι, generally translated 'servants'--I would translate as 'facilitators') are really cooperating in a much grander, growth plan. Paul claims that "by his resting upon the benevolent resources he's received from God" he has laid the foundation (which is Jesus Christ), but there will be all sorts of other people building on top of that. Time will tell which parts one has added to the building are precious and which ones are just rubbish. But, in either case, the building being built is God's temple. Each of us is to be very careful how we build. He finishes with a warning to "scholars" who think they have authority simply because they are scholars, picking up a primary subtheme from 1:18ff. They need the attitude of non-scholars lest God use their own twisting of the truth to grab handfuls of them. After all, scholars who aren't facilitators, aren't really scholars. And then, lastly, he reminds his readers that "all are yours."

It's that last statement that I find quite gratifying. God owns the planet; he is sovereign. So, whatever there is will serve his purposes, which are always good. There will be rubish that needs burned, of course; but a community of humble people working together to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ will, ultimately, succeed in an accurate understanding and practice of the message God has delivered to us. I pray we can track that message and even gain ground on grabbing a hold of it for ourselves.

It's "an extensively diverse community of humble people" that can make the difference.

Lastly, if you want to see how diverse crowds facilitate accurate results, you might enjoy reading "Wisdom of Crowds" by James Surowiecki. I haven't read it. Initially, I did one of those, "No way! Can't be!" sort of things. But, after reading the Wiki article called "The Wisdom of Crowds"and some reviews at Amazon, I think there's a ring of truth to it (and I think with Paul, too). Let me know if you've read it and what you think. He deals with the fact that there are many cases where the mass of people did extremely stupid things. Interstingly, it's the lack of independent action that leads to the debilitating vortex.

Let's Track the Wiley Understanding. It's got to be close. Right? We won't know unless indendently we build the temple together.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

All the Discourse's a Stage..

...And all the participants merely players.

I'm reading a borrowed copy of Eugene Nida's "Contexts in Translation". On page 39 he says:
The audience of a discourse also serves as a context to highlight the meaning. For example, the parable of the Father and the Two Sons in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 15, there are two audiences: the repentant outcasts who gladly listened to Jesus and the Pharisees who were suspicious of Jesus and had contempt for the outcasts. The differences in the audience parallel closely the experiences and behavior of the younger and older sons.

I'm happy about that.

I think the overall message of Luke 15 has everything to do with what I'll call "The Priority of the Prodigal". Even God celebrates with a party when a lost one is found. So, I was quite pleased with his observation that the audience mentioned in Luke 15:1-2, indeed, all three participants with Jesus in the center, form one of many interpretive keys to the entire chapter.

On the one side we have the "sinners" and "tax collectors". 'Tax collectors" is a poor translation but it is hard to find a better. These people had bought at an auction a tax collecting franchise from the Roman government. By the 1st century CE they were limited to a certain extent at how much they could charge, but they needed to make a return on their investment. If you figure they made about 10%, the money they plopped down at the auction meant they were considerably wealthy to begin with. Perhaps, if measured by today's American standard of living, it would be above a half a million dollars. But being wealthy was not the problem with the "tax collectors"; Pharisees were also frequently wealthy.

The issue was the money they were collecting was Israel's money. And that money was being transferred to an occupying and unwelcomed government. In fact, the government was a Gentile government. Those people had different gods, bad gods. Their god was not the one true and living God--the God of Israel. Tax collectors, therefore, were traitors.

Sinners weren't any better. We now know from archeological evidence that some Jews ate pork. We know that because pig bones have been found in otherwise obviously Jewish homes. I think it likely these people were labeled "sinners". So, it was more than just a label of disdain. "Sinners" were just that--sinners. They broke Torah.

The Pharisees were the successful people of the day. They were successful in their businesses, in their religion, in their government which was centralized in the temple system. They were respected. Though perhaps a little pompous.

The Scribes, or what I like to call, the Torah Teachers, were the experts in the Hebrew Scriptures. Today, we would call these people Theologians or perhaps Scholars. Again, society respected them.

Jesus was in the center.

And he shamed himself by eating with...those...those...those "people."

I won't develop how the participants in the discourse play out in Luke 15 further, other than to say this: Read Luke 15:11-32 and compare the participants with: the younger son, the father, and the older son. I'll give you a hint: one thing you should observe is that the younger son, when he got a hold of his part of the inheritance did not bear his responsibility of taking care of his father. He "gave" it to the Gentiles. And, O! yes, the wonderful, wonderful father--it was quite shameful for an older man to run in public.

Knowing how the participants of a discourse play out in the discourse is one of the tools of good exegesis.

Our God runs.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Exegetitor is born

Well, I think it's time to start a blog. I certainly can't get over this strange feeling I'm talking to no one. However, perhaps eventually, there will be others. Anyway, hello to the great out there.

What I want to accomplish with Exegetitor is fairly straightforward. I've felt for some time that exegesis of the New Testament text is hampered by an uninformed (or even ill-informed) understanding of how communication works. That is not to say that the baby should be thrown out with the bath water. The mechanics of exegesis as taught in books like Gordon Fee's " New Testament Exegesis" are quite good. Instead, it's to highlight that Biblical exegesis is too focused on the details. Details are important, we need to observe and understand how a genitive relates to its head noun, for example; but, I think what is missing is a clear understanding of how those details get connected within what I suppose should be called a communication event.

The audience for this blog, if it ever has one, will be the serious Bible student. However, I want it accessible to a wide variety of people. Topics, at least as they relate to exegesis, will include things like Relevance Theory, Pragmatics versus Semantics, issues related to Bible translation, and many, many others. But, I want the substance of these topics to be communicated. I very much hope to make it practical, too. That is, I want to take large texts and work through the exegesis. I'm thinking of doing James first, since I think many understand it as a somewhat loose list of proverbs. It's actually a very cohesive letter.

Lastly, and most importantly, I want the authority of the Bible to be upheld. My prayer is that God would be honored and who he really is clearly communicated.