Skip to main content

Window, Story, Mirror

Most interpretations can be summarized into three categories: those that locate meaning “behind texts,” those that locate meaning “in the texts,” and those that locate meaning “in front of the texts.” Those interpretations that fall under the first category presuppose that scripture serves a referential function, the text is a “window” to a privileged past—to Israel, to the historical Jesus, to the gospel writers and their intentions, to the early Christian communities, etc.—that could be recovered. Interpretation is therefore aimed at first establishing what the text meant in order to arrive at what it means for today. The task of the interpreter is to recover meaning from behind the text to the historical setting from which it came. Traditional historical-critical methods like form, source, redaction criticism, and contemporary Historical Jesus research would fall under this category.

The second category of interpretations employ “closed reading” focused on plot, characters, setting, discourse, structure, implied authors and implied readers in order to get at “what is in the text.” If the first category privileged the past that the text referred to as the source of meaning, the second category privileges the text itself. This category would include most literary methods like narrative, structural, and rhetorical criticism. In such cases interpreters presuppose scripture as “story,” a text that “has life all its own.” And this “living” text is able to create or conjure up communities of readers/hearers.

The third category would include readings that privilege social location. Meaning, in this category, is not located in the past or in the text, but in parts of the text that point “beyond the text” or “in front of the text”: its rhetorical features as well as all the signs of ideological tensions, whether these are socio-economic, political, cultural, religious tensions that are recognizable, despite the fact that the text seeks to suppress them, for instance by marginalizing characters, institutions, or events that would manifest these tensions. These rhetorical features and ideological tensions are textual features that point “beyond the text,” in the sense that they are recognizable by the ways in which they powerfully affect readers in situations similar to those suppressed by the text. Thus, these “in front of the text” textual features are most directly recognizable when they are activated by present-day readers. After all, interpretations are, as Mark Taylor puts it, “constructs of socially located flesh-and-blood readers.” Scripture then serves as a “mirror” that helps inform--not define--concrete life settings. Most advocacy approaches—feminist, liberationist, womanist, reader-response criticism, cultural studies, and post-colonial studies—would fall under this category.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Parables book now on Amazon!

Reading the Parables of Jesus inside a Jeepney

Thank you very much for all your generous support. Maraming salamat po!

In its first week the book was #1 in Hot New Releases in New Testament Criticism and #11 in the 100 Bestselling Books in New Testament Criticism.  After 30 days the book was #2 in Hot New Releases in New Testament Criticism. And #5 in Hot New Releases in Jesus, Gospels, and Acts.

During its Holy Week Sale last March 22-26, the book went back to #1 in New Testament Criticism, #4 in Biblical History and Culture, and #7 in Jesus, the Gospels, and Acts.

Jesus has AIDS

If I said Jesus has cancer. Or diabetes. Or asthma. No one will give a fuss. I have, in the past, argued that Jesus might have been gay, a woman, a Palestinian, and an African.

But most of us have problems when we hear that Jesus has AIDS. Because we have been socialized to identify AIDS with promiscuity, with illicit drug use, with divine punishment, with sin. And the Jesus many of us worship cannot be promiscuous, will not touch or even be in the same room with weed, and, of course, is a perpetual virgin, and sinless.

What is the international symbol for HIV AIDS prevention? When you turn the red symbol on its side, what does the symbol represent?

My dear friends, the world has AIDS. Close to 40 million of our sisters and brothers are living with HIV. About 1% of all our sisters and brothers, aged 15 to 49, are living with HIV. Since the beginning of the epidemic, 35 million of our sisters and brothers have died. One million last year.

"For God so loved the world with AIDS t…

FORGIVE US, TISOY! A Letter to Genesis. From Revelation

Tisoy, when you went out to buy load last June 15th no one expected that you won't be able to come back home. No one expected that you will land in jail. No one expected you will die a senseless, violent death shortly thereafter. Not you. Not your loved ones. No one!

No one expected you, a young man who walked 17 steps from where you lived to buy prepaid cellphone load, to be arrested for alarm and scandal. And no one expected you to be beaten to death while in the custody of those legally sworn to protect you. NO ONE!

In Genesis 22 there's this story about a father and a son. Those of us who call ourselves Christian know this story. The father was expected to offer his son. The son expected to be sacrificed. But both expectations did not come to pass. We care so much for Abraham and Isaac to let the story run as expected. It was a ram that was killed. An animal was sacrificed. And we do not care!

A culture of impunity pervades our world. Worse in our country. The present dis…