Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Question of Interpretation

The absolutely biggest question facing us when we take a Bible in our hands is the question of interpretation. But it's also the biggest question facing us in life! How do we make sense of the things that happen to us and to others throughout life? An interesting tidbit I found (in an article from Biblical Archaeology Review) demonstrated that our ancestors in faith expected the Bible to help them interpret life. One Jewish approach to Scripture was to bring life to the Bible, matching a text to the current situation, and letting the text in its fuller setting speak to the matter at hand. The interpretation, set in writing, was called a "pesher" (interpretation). It left the biblical language in place, not replacing generic names or images with the specifics of the current situation. That way, the pesher could continue to guide people in understanding how to respond to live in a way that respects the Word and presence of God.
Pope John Paul II used this approach as Bishop of Krakow: he wrote about it in his book Gift and Mystery.
Today's O antiphon calls upon Eternal Wisdom to guide us in the way of "holy prudence." What is prudence, after all, but practical wisdom? And what better way to be guided than learning to read our own lives in the light of the Bible?

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