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“ What does it Mean? ” Hermeneutics: The Science of Interpretation. David Moseley, Ph.D. Also Sprach Zarathustra Richard Strauss. What does the Bible Say…?.

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“What does it Mean?”Hermeneutics:The Science of Interpretation

David Moseley, Ph.D.

Also Sprach ZarathustraRichard Strauss

What does the Bible Say…?

  • “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (II Timothy 3:16)

  • “Texts of Terror”

    • Holiness Code of Torah

    • Cultural Institutions Condoned by Scripture

    • Is the Bible “Scientific”?

  • What does Jesus say on Crucial issues?

How do we Interpret a Text?

All Dimensions of our Experience are Subject to Interpretation

Which Animal is This?


Music & Meaning

Born in the U.S.A.Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Born down in a dead man's townThe first kick I took was when I hit the groundYou end up like a dog that's been beat too muchTill you spend half your life just covering upBorn in the U.S.A.I was born in the U.S.A.I was born in the U.S.A.Born in the U.S.A.Got in a little hometown jam

So they put a rifle in my handSent me off to a foreign land

To go and kill the yellow manBorn in the U.S.A.I was born in the U.S.A.I was born in the U.S.A.Born in the U.S.A.

  • Come back home to the refineryHiring man says "Son if it was up to me"Went down to see my V.A. manHe said "Son don't you understand now"

  • I had a brother at Khe Sahn

  • fighting off the Viet CongThey're still there, he's all goneHe had a woman he loved in SaigonI got a picture of him in her arms nowDown in the shadow of the penitentiaryOut by the gas fires of the refineryI'm ten years burning down the roadNowhere to run ain't got nowhere to goBorn in the U.S.A.I was born in the U.S.A.Born in the U.S.A.I'm a long gone Daddy in the U.S.A.

Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain,Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies.Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers,That grow so incredibly high.Newspaper taxis appear on the shore,Waiting to take you away.Climb in the back with your head in the clouds,And you're gone.Lucy in the sky with diamonds…

Picture yourself on a train in a station,With plasticine porters with looking glass ties.Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile,The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

Lucy in the Sky with DiamondsThe Beatles

Picture yourself in a boat on a river,With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.Cellophane flowers of yellow and green,Towering over your head.Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes,And she's gone.Lucy in the sky with diamonds,Lucy in the sky with diamonds,Lucy in the sky with diamonds,Ah... Ah...

“Lucy - in the Sky with Diamonds”Drawing by Julian Lennon (1966)

Interpreting the Bible

Genesis 22

Interpreting the Bible

John 1

George Washington???

George Washington

The Life of Washington (1809) by Parson Weems

Apotheosis of Washington

Paul Revere???

Paul Revere

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1860)by Henry Longfellow

Israel Bissell’sFour-Day 345 Mile Ride

Medieval Epistemology

Pre-Modern Paradigm of

Imago Dei




René Descartes (1596-1650)

“Cogito, Ergo Sum”

Modern Epistemology

Modern Paradigm of

Cartesian Epistemology




The Enlightenment





Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment? (1784)

“Sapere Aude!”

Biblical Studies in the Early Nineteenth Century

  • The Challenge of Reason to Biblical Interpretation

    • Thomas Jefferson’s New Testament

  • Two Schools of Biblical Studies in the Early Nineteenth Century:

    I. Supernaturalism – Bible is Literal / Historical Truth = Fundamentalism

    II. Naturalism – Bible Stories have “Natural” Explanations = Rationalism

  • Limitations of these Two Schools of Thought


Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834)

“Hermeneutics” is the Science of Interpretation


Historical / Psychological


Wilhelm Dilthey


“Weltanschauung” - The framework of Ideas and Beliefs through which an Individual Interprets the World and Interacts in it

Principles of Hermeneutics

Text – Genre of Object of Study

Isegesis – Reading Into the Text

Pre-Text – Our Perspective

Context – Contemporary Setting of Text

Exegesis – Reading out of the Text

“Hermeneutical Circle”

I. Genre

How was the Bible Written?

Pre-Literate Culture

Oral Transmission

Reliability of Oral Tradition?

GENRE:What type of Book is the Bible?

Bible = Biblia (Books)

Different Genres of Writing

Different Genres in Scripture:


Poetry Wisdom



David Friedrich Strauss (1808-1874)

The Life of JesusCritically Examined (1835-37)

  • Strauss sought a “Third Way” in Biblical Interpretation (beyond Supernaturalism vs. Naturalism)

  • Myth = When the Historical or Literal Truth is less important than the Symbolic or Moral Truth

King Christian X of Denmark

Strauss’ Understanding of Myth

  • Human Beings are “Mythopoeic” – People like to Hear or Create Myths to Express Truth

  • “Unconscious Mythicizing Principle” at work in the Production of the Gospels

  • “DeMythologize” - All that matters is the Symbolic or Moral Truth

Have we Outgrown Myths?

Narnia Movies$2 Billion…so far…

Matrix Movies$2.5 Billion

Spiderman Movies$3 Billion and counting…

Batman Movies$4 Billion

Lord of the Rings Movies$4.5 Billion

Star Wars Movies$5 Billion

Harry Potter Movies$8.5 Billion and counting…

Biggest Movies of All Time…

Titanic$2 Billion

A True Myth!

Avatar$2.3 Billion and counting…


Pocahontas II

Who Needs Myths?

II. Isegesis

Michelangelo da Caravaggio(1571-1610)

Pre-Text - Isegesis: What do we bring to Scripture?

  • Our Lives and Experiences

  • Our Presuppositions about the Bible

  • Our Scholarship

  • Our “Ideologies” and Worldviews

    • Social

    • Political

    • Economic

    • Cultural

    • Psychological

Context: Reconstructing Contemporary Culture

  • Placing Statements in Context

  • For Example: “This is a Great Course”

The Parable of the Talents

III. Exegesis

Exegesis: Interpretation

  • Different Approaches to Scripture

    • Interpretation starts in Scripture

    • Historically

    • Conceptually

Richard Hooker’s

“Three-Legged Stool”




The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1594)

Anglican Hermeneutics


  • Swiss Theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968)

  • God is Transcendent – “Wholly Other”

  • However, “God Speaks!”

  • Threefold Communication/Revelation of the Word of God:

    I.Primary Revelation: The Self-Witness of God in History

  • Creation – Covenant – Law & Prophecy – Incarnation (Climax)

    II. Secondary Revelation: The Scriptural Witness

  • The Testaments of the Prophets and Apostles

    III. Tertiary Revelation: The Church’s Witness

  • Proclamation of Truth of God’s Self-Revelation as Witnessed to in Bible

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