I was posed the following question. Well, it was sort of a question.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be.” This verse does not have one and the same meaning to all readers.”
Bible Meanings Do NOT Change
First, the idea that the text from Psalm 46:1-2 means different things to different readers is one of the most common and fundamental misunderstandings of how to read the Bible.
There must always be two steps.
(1) What did the writer mean to communicate to his intended readers?
(2) Given that meaning, how does it apply to me (or what does it mean FOR me)?
The question of what it means TO ME as if it has different meanings for different people (ignoring what the writer meant to communicate to his intended readers) is simply nonsense and ignores the way human language works in communication.
To assert that the language of Scripture works in some way other than the way human language works is problematic in three ways:
Scripture and Human Language Work the Same
First, it is baseless theological dogma. There is no basis in scripture for concluding that the human language of scripture functions in a way different from any other human language and should be interpreted differently.
In fact there is a lot of evidence that it should be interpreted exactly as any other human language is interpreted. To assert otherwise is to allow one’s theological presupposition about biblical language to rule the day.
Hermeneutics is a Common Tool for Interpretation
Second, the dogma that biblical language should be interpreted differently from other human language eliminates the use of hermeneutics as a common tool to interpret scripture.
If scripture can mean whatever it “means” to different individuals, then it really doesn’t mean anything in its own right. The meaning of any text depends on what it “means” to any given individual.
The view that scripture does not have one intended meaning would be the end of the Bible having any universal meaning.
Bible Interpretation Follows Rules of Human Language
Third, it is a case of special pleading and forgets that the Bible being read has already undergone interpretation by the translators according to the the rules of human language.
If the translation committees of our English translations had begun with the presupposition that there was not one intended meaning of the writer, and that it was not their job to capture that one intended meaning in English, then what sort of English translations would we have?
What If Translators Didn’t Interpret for the One Intended Meaning?
- Would you buy an English translation if the translators had thrown the rules of interpreting human language out the window and had just gone with “what the text meant to them” individually?What if two translators on the team disagreed on what the biblical writer meant?
- Should they provide both translations (i.e., one in the footnotes) with the understanding that one or the other is correct?
- Or should they provide parallel translations, claiming that BOTH are correct?
Thank You Bible Translators
I suspect we are all thankful that they followed the rules of hermeneutics, gave attention to the lexicon and grammar of the original writer and the historical and literary contexts of the writer in an effort to determine his one intended meaning to his intended readers.
If we are faithful readers of scripture, why would we take a different approach?