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Interpreting and Applying Old Testament Narratives.

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Presentation on theme: "Interpreting and Applying Old Testament Narratives."— Presentation transcript:

1 Interpreting and Applying Old Testament Narratives

2 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly “One verse, three different interpretations. Who’s right?”

3 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly The need for rules of interpretation – An objective standard by which to arbitrate The goal of interpretation – Double goal: 1) understanding the meaning of the text 2) applying the meaning to our life The method of interpretation – Close Reading (locus of meaning is found in the text) – The Five Commandments of Interpretation

4 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly The Five Commandments of Interpretation 1.A literal reading, according to normal rules of grammar and syntax 2.In context 3.According to authorial intent 4.According to literary genre 5.In light of the whole teaching of scripture

5 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly Commandment #1 A Literal Reading, According To Normal Rules Of Grammar And Syntax

6 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly “I have grounded my preaching upon the literal word; he that pleases may follow me, he that will not may stay.” Martin Luther, Table Talk

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8 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly A literal reading of scripture, means that we understand words and sentences in a normal way, according to normal rules of human language. This does not mean that a literal reading does not include metaphors and allegories, but rather that the text should be understood in the context of normal human communication. (Literal=Literary)

9 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly Examples – Gen 2:7 “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground…” – Ps. 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd” – Jn. 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches” – Zech. 14:4 “On that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east…”

10 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly If the plain sense makes good sense seek no other sense lest it result in nonsense (Based on the “Golden Rule of Interpretation” of Dr. Cooper)

11 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly Commandment #2 In Context

12 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly No text of Scripture should ever be interpreted in isolation, because every word, verse, paragraph, chapter and book has a context that gives it its meaning.

13 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly Examples – Hab. 1:5 “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” – 1 Cor. 13 “The Love Chapter”

14 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly The rule of context demands that we do not read, study or teach scripture in isolation, but that we develop a habit of always reading scripture in whole units.

15 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly Commandment #3 According To Authorial Intent

16 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly “It is the first business of an interpreter to let his author say what he does say, instead of attributing to him what we think he ought to say.” John Calvin, Preface to commentary of Romans

17 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly Every text has one meaning – that which the author intended. The author, under the inspiration of the Spirit intended to communicate a certain idea, and our interpretation should not contradict it. Thus, the one who determines the meaning is the author, not the reader!

18 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly One Meaning, many Applications – 1 Cor. 8 “Food sacrificed to idols” Things which are not evil in themselves, which could cause a brother or sister to stumble

19 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly Commandment #4 According To Literary Genre

20 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly A literary genre is a specific kind of writing, such as narrative, poetry, prophecy etc. When we approach a particular text in the Bible, we need to first identify the genre it belongs to, so that we can interpret it accurately. *We will focus on interpreting the Narrative genre

21 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly Commandment #5 In Light Of The Whole Teaching Of Scripture

22 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly Every text in the Bible is a part of a collection of writings that do not contradict each other. There is no place where one author teaches one thing and another author teaches the opposite. Therefore, we should always compare our interpretation with what the rest of scripture says about the topic, especially when it is difficult to understand.

23 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly Examples – Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Compare with Exodus 20:12, 1 Tim. 5:8 etc. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8)

24 Interpreting Scripture Responsibly The Five Deadly Sins of Interpretation 1.Ignoring rules of grammar and syntax according to normal human communication 2.Ignoring the context 3.Ignoring the intent of the author 4.Ignoring the literary genre 5.Ignoring the whole teaching of scripture

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26 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives What are biblical narratives? What are they trying to accomplish? – “Narratives are stories – purposeful stories retelling the historical events of the past that are intended to give meaning and direction for a given people in the present” (Fee and Stuart, 90). – “Historical narrative is the re-presentation of past events for the purpose of instruction” (Sailhamer, 25)

27 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives – “Whenever a biblical storyteller goes beyond the documentary impulse to record what happened and proceeds to describe how it happened, he thereby signals that he wishes us, the readers, to share an experience, perhaps a prolonged experience, with one or more characters” (Ryken, 34). – Old Testament Stories are life-shaping stories – The author does not see his role primarily as an Historian, but as an Educator. He seeks to persuade and educate his audience in an indirect way, through the artful retelling of events in the lives of the characters.

28 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God” (Psalm 78: 1-8)

29 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Interpretation not documentation of history – Sennacherib and Hezekiah (Is 37:5-7, 33-37) – “…and Hezekiah himself I shut up in Jerusalem, his capital city, like a bird in a cage, building towers round the city to hem him in, and raising banks of earth against the gates, so as to prevent escape... Then upon Hezekiah there fell the fear of the power of my arms, and he sent out to me the chiefs and the elders of Jerusalem with 30 talents of gold and 300 talents of silver, and diverse treasures, a rich and immense booty... All these things were brought to me at Nineveh, the seat of my government.” (From the Sennacherib Prism)

30 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives What they are not: They are not mere historical documents or journals (texts are not windows) They are not allegories, filled with hidden meanings

31 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Characteristics – Prosaic (so poetic sections are important!) – Dynamic (a developing plotline) – Historical (pertains to actual events and people in history) – Minimalistic/selective (focuses only on what has to do with the main point of the story. Thus, if the author elaborates and details something, it has great importance. For example: Creation vs. Abraham- Joseph; 400 yrs in Egypt vs. 40 yrs in the wilderness) – Literary works of art (design and purpose)

32 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Guiding Questions – If narratives interpret history, not merely document it – what should we be looking for? – If narratives are literary works of art – what should we be looking for? – If narratives are for the purpose of instruction – what should we be looking for?

33 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives What are biblical narratives about? We should look at biblical stories as making implied assertions about the three great issues of life: 1.Reality: what really exists? 2.Morality: what constitutes good and bad behavior? 3.Values: what really matters, and what matters most? (Ryken, 58) *They teach about God and Man

34 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives What are biblical narratives made of? – Scenes – Characters – Plot

35 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Scenes – A scene may be defined simply as an independent literary unit describing a particular event in time and place. Each scene will typically include a dialogue between two characters (rarely more) in a particular time and place, and could also include some kind of action. One scene ends and a new one begins when there is a change in time, place or characters. – Exercise: Binding of Isaac (Genesis 3:1-13)

36 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Characters – In every story there are characters. They are the life of the story. They are the human element in the story. As readers, we are immediately aware that some characters are at the very center of the story, and everything seems to revolve around them; while others are secondary and are more in the background. The main characters may be positive (Noah, David) or negative (Cain, Saul). They are the ones we mostly identify with; we learn from them – we learn from their heroic acts, their mistakes and failures, their relationship with God etc. when we study a story, we are in fact studying the events in the lives of these characters. Characterization of the main characters usually does not happen directly, but we learn about them indirectly, through their words and actions, and through the secondary characters. – Exercise: Binding of Isaac (Genesis 3:1-13)

37 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Plot – The plot is made up of all the individual scenes – it is the sequence of events – the progression and development of the story. – A good plotline must follow a basic path: It begins with an Exposition, it builds up to a point of Conflict, it rises to a Climax, moves towards a Resolution and ends with a Conclusion.

38 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives  “Hmm… Interesting. I wonder where this is going?”  “Wow, I didn’t see that coming! I wonder how this will end?”  “No! Don’t do it, you can’t do it, you will lose everything!” or “Do it, you must, you will win it all!”  “Yes! Thank God!” or “No! I can’t believe it!”  “Wow, that was beautiful” or “Wow, that was so sad”

39 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Exposition – An exposition (when present) introduces the reader to the main characters of the story, and sometimes clues him in on the coming conflict. “Hmm, sounds interesting….” – Example: Gen 3:1; Gen 6:9-12; 1 Sam. 2:12

40 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Conflict – The point in the story where, after a build-up of tension, everything goes wrong and a sudden turn of events takes place, which leaves the reader worried how things will turn out now. “Wow, I didn’t see that coming! I wonder how this will end?” – Example: It is when the snake suddenly appears in the garden and tempts Eve to eat the fruit, it is when Boaz tells Ruth that there is a closer relative, it is when Jesus is arrested and sentenced to death.

41 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Resolution – The resolution follows directly after the climax. It is at this point that the reader sits back in his chair and relaxes. The tension is released. It is at this point that the conflict/crisis is resolved, either for good or for bad, either everything is now lost or everything won, but a resolution of some sort occurs. “Yes! Thank God!” or “No! I can’t believe it!” – Example: It is when Eve eats of the fruit and gives it to Adam and banishments and curses follow, it is when the closer relative forgoes his duty and Boaz takes Ruth as his wife, it is when Jesus rises from the dead on the third day.

42 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Conclusion – The conclusion is the wrapping up of the entire story. After the climax reached a resolution, now it is possible to bring everything to a conclusion. “Wow, that was beautiful” or “Wow, that was so sad” – Example: It is when the story of Adam and Eve is concluded with an explanation of why they are outside the garden; it is when the story of Boaz and Ruth is concluded with their first descendant and Ruth’s acceptance into Israel, it is when the Gospel story is concluded with Jesus’ appearing to His disciples and His ascension into heaven.

43 Plotline Resolution A solution is given, whether good or bad Climax The most important moment in the story, where the conflict reaches its highest point of tension Conflict Moment of crisis, where the equilibrium is disturbed and the plot thickens Exposition Initial information: place, time, characters, hint of future events Conclusion Story comes to a full circle, the conflict is resolved and the plot comes to an end

44 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Exercise: Binding of Isaac (Genesis 3:1-13)

45 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Poetic Devices – Key words/phrases: highlighters Joseph: “The Lord was with Joseph” Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Balaam: the verb “to see”

46 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Poetic Devices – Poetic Structure: Inclusio Regular framing– Gen 4:1/16 Inclusio – 2 Chron. 2:1-2/17-18 Job 1:1-3/42:12-17 *Example from poetry: Psalm 8 *The whole book of Psalms is framed by an inclusio

47 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Poetic Devices – Allusions and Analogies: a conversation between texts Phrases and ideas from one story that appear in another Joshua 5:13-15 / Exodus 3:1-5 Judges 19 / Gen 19 Jonah / Elijah – Exercise: Binding of Isaac (Genesis 3:1-13)

48 Reading and Interpreting OT Narratives Guidelines for Interpretation 1.Read the story as a whole in order to internalize the plot and know better the characters (*in a story especially, the meaning is found in the text as a whole) 1.Divide the story into scenes, identify the characters, and analyze the plotline 2.Note poetic devices and structure 3.Summarize very briefly the essence of the story

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50 Applying OT Narratives Faithfully The challenge of applying a story – “There is an obvious indirection about the story- teller’s approach to truth. Instead of stating ideas propositionally, the storyteller presents living examples of one principle or another, one aspect of reality or another, leaving the reader to infer those themes. In other words, stories impose the obligation of interpretation on their readers in a way that sermons and essays do not.” Ryken, 59

51 Applying OT Narratives Faithfully 2 Tim 2:22 “Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace….” Gen 39 Joseph and Potiphar’s wife

52 Applying OT Narratives Faithfully James 5:11 –teaches the principle of “patience in suffering” and about God’s faithfulness, through the example of Job Hebrews 11 – The principle of faith exemplified in the lives of these characters *Does not instruct his audience to do what the characters did, but to learn from these stories the principle of faith

53 Applying OT Narratives Faithfully 1 Cor. 10:11 – Paul teaches his audience to fear God and not to rebel against Him, through the story of Israel in the wilderness. “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”

54 Applying OT Narratives Faithfully Problematic application of narrative – Reading it as an Epistle. Taking it as direct teaching to one of the characters, instead of principles that I am to infer as the reader: “God is calling me to build an ark;” “I need to sell everything I have and give to the poor;” “I must go to Nineveh”; etc.

55 Applying OT Narratives Faithfully Problematic application of narrative – Reading it as an Allegory. Spiritualizing its message, as if the whole story was symbolic: Classic example from Justin Martyr – In the story of Jacob, Leah represents the Jews, Rachel is the Church and Jacob is Christ who serves them both (Zuck, 34). Most church fathers used this method. “Allegorizing may degenerate to mere monkeygame.” “Allegories are awkward, absurd, inventive, obsolete, loose rags” (Luther, qtd in Zuck, 45).

56 Applying OT Narratives Faithfully A suggested method of application – What is the story about? Authorial intent/simple reading – What is the story teaching? What is the author emphasizing? What character/s does he want us to focus on and why? What lesson is he trying to teach about reality, morality and value through the story? What is it teaching about God and Man? – How can I apply its teaching to my life? Application of principle/s truths to my life – Exercise: The Binding of Isaac


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