Fighting prepositions

Eisegesis is poor hermeneutical practice because it reads a meaning into the text instead of drawing it out of (exegesis) the text.” (William D Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, Third Edition, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2009, page 63).

This is so whether you are reading a parking ticket, a love letter or Jane Eyre:

Brontë’s book was applauded for shattering the female stereotypes of early Victorian literature. Then, women tended to be presented as either angels or monsters; today’s cinema has extended the range to include action hero, killer and ditz. …

[Said Brontë scholar RB Martin:] “Miss Brontë asks only for the simple — or is it the most complex? — recognition that the same heart and the same spirit animate both men and women.” Both Janes [in Cary Fukunaga’s film adaptation and the novel] are essentially human beings rather than females.

For feminists, this film is therefore a rebuke rather than a rallying cry. So, it reminds us, is the text on which it’s based. Nonetheless, perhaps [screenwriter Moira] Buffini and Fukunaga have performed at least one act of female liberation. They may have helped free one of the most memorable of all fictional women from a misplaced and deceptive construal.

(from “There is no Eyre of feminism about this modern Jane” by David Cox, The Guardian, 12 September 2011)

Or the Bible. One thing that’s been drummed into me by my Old Testament survey and hermeneutics teachers is that it is disservice and presumption to use the biblical text to teach what you deem fit, be it something virtuous or necessary like leadership skill or proper parenting, because that’s not what the Bible’s about.

Think about what makes the Bible utterly unique. Leadership principles and parenting tips can be found in plenty of books. But the Bible is the only record we have of salvation history, of God’s point of view on humanity.

So, please — always, always, always and always read each and every word of the biblical text itself — not snippets from it, not your memory of it, not what friends, teachers and other books have taught you about it — and listen to it speak first of all for itself to its original audience in its original context. The word of God searches you, plumbs the very depths of who you are. And you can partake of these “things into which angels long to look”. But it’s not about you.


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