Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Burden of Storytelling

Lately I have noticed an unfortunate recurrence of bad exegesis. It seems that no one takes the time to understand the orinigal meaning of biblical terminology and ideas, which is a shame, because after a couple thousand years of dutiful scholarship, it should be pretty easy. It is irritating to me when someone takes a biblical term, gives it a modern definition without looking into the original understanding and context in which the term/idea was written, and applies it to modern circumstances, whether it be cultural, political, or spiritual that may have not been circumstances remotely connected to the point the original author was trying to make at the time of writing.

L. Micheal White makes the point more elogquently than I ever

People tell stories and write them down in books [which] makes them
accessible to readers. In that sense they are a medium of communication to a
braoder audience. Communication is easier when author and audience come from a
shared cultural background and time; then it is much like hearing the story told
Here the burden is on the storyteller to commmunicate in words
and ideas that the audience will find meaningful.

But books
also preserve stories and thus make it possible for later generations of readers
to encounter not only a story of a bygone era but also the people who once told
and heard it. Here the medium of commmunication is more complex.
the reader--not the storyteller--bears the burden.

If, after buying a car from a used car lot, I said to a friend, "Oh my God! It was a hip looking car, but it turned out to be a lemon," and my freind recorded my statement in his journal. Two thousand years later, my words are found in an excavation in my friends old basement. The discoverers, no matter what language they speak in 4008, might deduce that vehicles were used in worship (Oh my God), that my car physically resembled a body part (hip), and that it was all natural (lemon).

All this to say, as a protestant I have lived by Sola Scriptura and come to LOVE scripture. I hate seeing it taken lightly and used to communicate ideas it never intended to communicate. So from this day forward, every wednesday will be exegesis day for My Friend Ivan. I will start posting my translations, starting with the book of James with my footnotes every Wednesday. Hopefully some will interact with my thoughts, and hopefully I will brush up my out-of-practice Greek skills.


Rob said...

Looking forward to it!!

Ryan said...

I enjoyed the hip car storytelling haha.