Step 1 in Interpretation…

Start with interpreting something you are familiar with before you approach the scriptures. Helps one learn about contextualization.

I would suggest studying music lyrics. We all like certain types of music and songs by various artists. Those songs are trying to depict a story and tell us something about the writer’s thoughts…and they can carry quite a few meanings within one song. However, in order to fully understand a song it must remain in context of the whole song (can’t take one line and say it is saying something contrary to the intent of the author). It’s really great practice for understanding the process of interpretation.

Then move onto the bible – also various artists writing on similar subjects of the human experience. Then read a whole chapter in that same intent and see where and what the author is doing with their writing. Sometimes they are quoting others works and elaborating a little more on them (like Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’ does with a Skynyrd song; and Skynyrd does with Young’s ‘Southern Man’ in ‘Sweet Homa Alabama’). But if we had no context for that, we might miss some intention…and authors all use intention.

So let’s try a song.

Southern man/better keep your head
Don’t forget/what your good book said
Southern change/gonna come at last
Now your crosses/are burning fast
Southern man

I saw cotton/and I saw black
Tall white mansions/and little shacks.
Southern man/when will you pay them back?
I heard screamin’/and bullwhips cracking
How long? How long?

Lily Belle,/your hair is golden brown
I’ve seen your black man/comin’ round
Swear by God/I’m gonna cut him down!
I heard screamin’/and bullwhips cracking
How long? How long?
(Southern Man – Neil Young)


2 thoughts on “Step 1 in Interpretation…

  1. EXCELLENT point !
    I personally have started thinking about Hermeneutics even in modern literature, not to mention Ancient literature. It is complex. With the ancient stuff, you have the question of historicity to add layers to already deep complexity. It is fun, eh !
    BTW, have you read this King Arthur analogy at the Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog — I think it is very helpful.

    PS, Suggestions:

    (1) Put the “Search” widget in your right hand column. I wanted to search if you put up a “Christian Theology Declaration” (I forgot) — if you did, I wanted to add the link to your info my “Friends” tab.

    (2) BTW, what providence do you live in, in Canada? What kind of work do you do? It would be cool if you added and “Author” tab telling us about yourself.

  2. Thanks for the suggestions Sabio, I will look into that – I’ll have to figure out how to add/change both – but I like the ideas.

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