Re: historically informed interpretation (way too longish?)

David L. Moore (
Fri, 20 Dec 1996 16:56:16 -0500

At 02:49 PM 12/20/96 -0500, Randy Leedy wrote:
>A new book has come across my desk at the very moment when its
>subject matter is being discussed on this list. The book is RIGHTLY
>essays on the subject by a variety of evangelical authors, edited by
>Roy Zuck and published by Kregel, 1996. All the essays are reprinted
>from previously published material.
>One of two essays by Walter Kaiser (it was published as an article in
>Christianity Today, 5 Oct. 1979) is particularly germane. He mentions
>and critiques the views of Gadamer (cited approvingly by Edward Hobbs
>and neatly distilled by Carl Conrad, apparently held as well by Ken
>Litwak). Kaiser points out the difference between the MEANING an
>author intended as he wrote the text and the SIGNIFICANCE that
>meaning has for the reader. Notice the crucial assumption that the
>meaning IS transferable from author to reader, even though
>significance, due to factors inherent in cultural change, may not be.

Randy Leedy's post (only a paragraph of which I have quoted above)
clarifies very well many of the issues surrounding this matter vital to
biblical interpretation. I have quoted the paragraph above to volunteer an
illustration of the difference between meaning and significance. The text
of the Rosetta Stone was composed some time in the reign of the Ptolemies in
Egypt and lay hidden in the sand for many centuries. After it was
serendipitously found by Napoleon's troops, the Greek was first translated,
and then the hieroglyphics and the Demotic inscription. Its meaning - a
dedication by the priests of Upper and Lower Egypt to celebrate the first
commemoration of the accession of Ptolemy V Epiphanes - repeated in three
different languages, is the same for its original readers as it is those who
found and translated it. But its significance to those who deciphered its
inscriptions at the beginning of the 19th Century is very different from its
significance to its first readers. Such a distinction between meaning and
significance must also be made clear in our approach to the Bible if we hope
to successfully address the challenges inherent in biblical hermeneutics.

David L. Moore Director
Miami, Florida, USA Department of Education Southeastern Spanish District of the Assemblies of God