Companies typically spend a great deal of time and money trying to create a logo that works. Often these logos involve disguised images that might not be obvious upon first glance but if you look hard enough it becomes obvious that a lot more time and effort went into these logs than we might first have thought. Here are two examples, In this example what looks like an “N” is also a “W” for NW and the top left point is lined up with Northwest on the compass. Or how about this one, When we read scripture, there are things in the text that have always been there but may not be apparent for a variet of reasons:
- Culture can get in the way. The differences between Eastern and Western thinking as well as the 2000 years that separate our worlds form a filter that meaning is distilled through whether we are aware of it or not. Things that were familiar to them may not always be to us.
- Preconceived ideas: Because we were taught a certain thing or had come to previous erroneous conclusions we read the text through our preconceived ideas and can easily miss what it actually means quite easily.
- Reason for reading: The reason we come to the text shapes the meaning we glean from the tex. If you go to prove someone wrong you will read it differently than if you read to see if your view is actually supported by scripture and what the truth on the matter really is. If you are reading through the Bible in a year, you are going to get a different understanding of a text than if you spent a whole week on a few verses.
- Values: This goes along with culture. The things we value influence the way we read the text. For instance, in the West we value individual liberty and individuality. Because of that, it is easy to miss the communal language, thinking and behavior we read about in scripture.
How do we find our way through our filters, closer to the original meaning of the text?
- Recognize the filers exist: If we assume we hear the text just as they heard it we aren’t starting off on the right foot. We have to recognize the limitations of our own perspective so that we can…
- Ask the right questions: This is the key to good reading comprehension. You begin asking questions of the text and then go looking for answers. Often your answers will be rooted in…
- Historical background study: Here you attempt to get your mind closer to the mind of the people in the text by researching what their world was like, what customs they had, and how that information impacts and informs the text you are reading. A good commentary should point you to these details but it is still important to do some general background reading (see biliography below). For instance, if you are reading John 7 & 8 and you see Jesus is at the Feast of Tabernacles you would go and study that Feast and you would find out there are a lot of connections between what Jesus is saying and doing and what ceremonies they did at the feast and how the woman caught in adultery and Jesus being the “light of the world” (both found in John 8) also tie back into the Feast of Tabernacles.
- Context: This can often provide answers to our questions by letting more information from their world come to bear upon the text we are reading. The less text we have the more we have to make assumptions based on our own preconceived ideas and cultural filters. Context gives their world more room to speak, lessening (not eliminating) our chance for error.
The more we get atuned to our perceptions, culture and values and their values…the more we can weed through the discrepancies to better understand Scripture.
Bibliography for those interested in doing historical background studies
- Anchor Bible Dictionary – A little older now but still one of the best Bible dictionaries ever assembled (6 volumes)
- IVP Dictionary of Biblical Imagery – must have resources that gives historical background to hundreds of images and symbols used through the Bible
- Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible – Excellent book that highlights many of these areas. The one problem I had with it was it was full of assumptions that just weren’t really found in the text that were then treated as concrete points of truth. In other words, they made the right points often from the wrong scriptures, IMO.
- Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Basci Guide for Students and Ministers By Gorman
- How to Read the BIble as Literature By Ryken
- How to Read the BIble For All Its Worth By Fee
- Text of the Old Testament by Werthwein
- Dead Sea Scrolls Today By Vanderkam
- Biblcal History of Israel By Provan, Long and Longman
- Introduction to Early Judaism by Vanderkam
- Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible by John Walton
- What did the BIblical Writers Know and when did they know it? By Dever
- Hebrew Bible in its Social World and in Ours By Gottwald
- Art of Biblical Narrative by Alter
- Old Testament Parallels By Matthews
- Ancient Near Eastern Texts Vol 1 By Pritchard
- Ancient Near Eastern Texts Vol 2 By Pritchard
- Peoples of the Old Testament World By Hoerth
- Cracking Old Testament Codes: Guide to Interpreting Literary Genres of the Old Testament By Sandy
- New Testament Rhetorical Criticism
- New Testament Exegesis By Fee
- Moral Vision of the New Testament By Hays
- Reading the Gospels Wisely By Pennington
- Israel’s Scripture Traditions and the Synoptic Gospels: Story Shaping Story By Swartley
- New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content By Metzger
- Text of the New Testament By Metzger
- Birth of the New Testament By Moule
- IVP Dictionary of New Testament Background
- Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Ferguson
- Families in the New Tetament World By Osiel
- Library of Early Christianity (8 volume series)