Reading

Bill Rea cctr114 at it.canterbury.ac.nz
Mon Aug 28 17:33:03 EDT 2000


b-Hebrewers,

I thought I'd wait until the dying you shall die argument cooled off
before making some observations of reading.

The passage which contains the dying you shall die phrase is part
of a story. We know how to read stories in English. We have a whole
world view which allows the writer to omit vast quantities of details
and the story is still intelligible to us. When reading stories
from an Ancient culture we are faced with the possible problem 
that we don't share the necessary world view to fully comprehend
what they are saying. This is something serious readers of the
Hebrew scriptures, such as members of this list, are usually well
aware of and hence their significantly above average effort to 
understand what the writer was trying to say. 

But some real problems were displayed.

1) Some argued that we could only use what was present in the text
   before us. Unfortunately this leads some people to a micro super
   literal reading of the text. If God says, ``Where are you?''
   they claim God doesn't know the location in physical space of
   the person addressed. Simply reading a few more sentences would
   show us that wasn't the case. The addressee (Adam) starts talking
   about how he was naked and so on. God doesn't cut in and say
   ``Oh come on Adam, stop evading the question. I can hear you but
   WHERE are you?'' If you don't beleive that people do this, listen
   to a few conversations. Find out how often people answer a question
   but don't answer the words. In fact, one form of humour to is have
   people taking questions or instructions and either acting or
   answering them according to their literal meaning.

   
2) Some people were fooled by apparent contradictions. Once I read
   that a person had done a very fine analysis of Tolkien's "Lord of
   the Rings" and found a place where the phases of the moon were wrong.
   Given that is the case, an English reader doesn't then try to work
   out a whole set of new laws of physics whereby the phase would be
   correct. Neither do they throw their hands in the air and say "The
   Lord of the Rings can't be understood." Some claimed God was a liar
   and the snake a teller of truth. But only at the micro super literal
   level. The overall story clearly shows otherwise. I would go so far
   as to say that it was the writer's clear intention. If we press our
   noses to the text so closely that we only see the letters we'll miss
   the story.

3) Some people rejected interpretations based on their source. No one
   group is uniformly right or uniformly wrong. In interpreting these
   texts we need to carefully consider past intrepretations. They 
   often have a lot to teach us even if we ultimately disagree with
   them. 


Bill Rea, Information Technology Dept., Canterbury  University  \_ 
E-Mail b dot rea at it dot canterbury dot ac dot nz             </   New 
Phone   64-3-364-2331, Fax     64-3-364-2332                   /)  Zealand 
Unix Systems Administrator                                    (/' 




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