Hermeneutics and Colossians 3.22

By Tim Butler | Posted at 14:19

Jeff Kloha, over at Concordia Theology, offers a very good analysis of the dilemma of reading a passage like Colossians 3.22 in the modern world:

How do we read this in a way that is consistent with the text's own goals and agendas, and not our own goals and agendas? And, if we insist on our own goals and agendas, as quite clearly the people who paid for this billboard will, should we be allowed to read the Bible at all? For ironically, when we read a passage like this we are not free to read it and decide what it means. We are, perhaps ironically, in fact “slaves” who have no choice as to how we read it. Our minds have been made up for us even before we see it. We are not autonomous, rational creatures. Who will rescue us from this body of death?

One of the things a person realizes very quickly when one studies interpretive theory is just how difficult it is for us to do proper interpretation (or even figure out what proper interpretation is). We can work through the “hermeneutical spiral” and build strong support for interpretations of a text, but the process is one that calls for humility and an earnest desire to understand the text instead of merely what we want the text to say.


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This is why we should teach literature classes in our churches (and why a lit major can make such a fine teaching pastor); not because the bible is “mere literature,” but because most Americans, while technically literate in that they recognize words and sentences, have never learned to read.

Posted by Caedmon Michael - Mar 28, 2012 | 0:38

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(Aside: If anyone wants help reading Col 3 or just another take on it, I have a paper I'd be happy to share on the “household codes” section of the chapter and the necessity of reading it in the context of the larger passage and the letter as a whole.)

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