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Theology Crawl: “Biblical” Interpretation

Theology Crawl: “Biblical” Interpretation

Welcome to the Crawl

Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.  Also, remember these conversation tips: 1) Be polite, and don’t take offense, 2) Say something if you don’t understand, 3) Ask “why” and speak up if you disagree (It’s not rude, it’s just a good conversation). Now, order a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

The Big Question: How do we know if one interpretation of the Bible is better than another?

The Main Questions

  • Read the definitions of exegesis and eisegesis. While distinct theoretically, can these two forms of interpretation be easily distinguished in real life? If yes, how so? If no, how can any interpretation be seen as valid?
  • What genres of literature are present in the Bible? Should genre change how you interpret the text. If yes, give an example. If no, why not?
  • Does human authorial intent matter for interpreting the meaning of a given Biblical passage? Why or why not?
  • Does a person’s spirituality matter for the validity of their interpretation of Scripture (i.e. if someone is more holy, does their interpretation of the text matter more)? Why or why not?
  • What academic tools should interpreters utilize to understand the Bible (e.g. archaeology, literary criticism, etc.)? Are academic methods always important for Scriptural interpretation?
  • Should the historical and contemporary experience of the Church (i.e. tradition) be a factor in biblical interpretation? If yes, can biblical interpretations legitimately change over time? If no, how can any interpretation be regarded as legitimate?
  • Considering the above discussion, what would be the marks of a good interpretation of Scripture? In other words, how would you discern if a interpretation is correct?

Key Definitions

  • exegesis [ ek-si-jee-sis ] // a critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially of the Bible. // dictionary.com
  • eisegesis [ ahy-si-jee-sis ] // an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text. // dictionary.com
  • hermeneutics [ hur-muh-noo-tiks] // 1) the science of interpretation, especially of the Scriptures; 2) the branch of theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis. // dictionary.com

Important Scripture

  • Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. // 2 Peter 1:20
  • As he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. // 2 Peter 3:16
  • So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. // Isaiah 55:11
  • You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. // Matthew 5:38-39
  • All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. // 2 Timothy 3:16
  • Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. // Acts 17:11

Thoughts from Others

  • The broader problem is that a great deal of popular preaching and teaching uses the bible as a pegboard on which to hang a fair bit of Christianized pop psychology or moralizing encouragement, with very little effort to teach the faithful, from the Bible, the massive doctrines of historic confessional Christianity. // D.A. Carson
  • The truth is, it doesn’t matter what a verse means to me, to you, or to anyone else. All that matters is what the verse means! // John MacArthur, Jr.
  • Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought. // Augustine of Hippo
  • I urge not that we assume that love will provide a reliable foundation for knowledge but that we nonetheless keep the requirements of love of neighbor foremost in our interpretations of Scripture. We should consider, for example, love to be a necessary criterion (a minimum) when defending an interpretation of Scripture even if it cannot be a sufficient criterion that will guarantee ethical interpretation. // Dale B. Martin
  • The fact that our traditional method of extracting doctrine from Scripture does not work well on narrative does not mean that Bible stories do not send clear messages. Instead, it suggests that the way we apply our traditional method of interpretation is inadequate because we are ignoring too much of God’s Word. // Craig Keener
  • Although biblical religion is sexist, it is not reducible to sexism alone! It has also been dealing with human issues, such as estrangement and oppression and the hope for reconciliation and liberation. It has been doing this on male terms, failing to apply the same critique to women. Biblical feminists use these same liberating principles of the biblical tradition. But they make the principles say new things by applying them to sexism. // Rosemary Radford Ruether

Resources

Theology Crawl: “Biblical” Origins

Theology Crawl: “Biblical” Origins

Welcome to the Crawl

Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.  Also, remember these conversation tips: 1) Be polite, and don’t take offense, 2) Say something if you don’t understand, 3) Ask “why” and speak up if you disagree (It’s not rude, it’s just a good conversation). Now, order a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

The Big Question: WHERE DOES THE BIBLE COME FROM AND DOES IT MATTER?

The Main Questions

  • Discuss as a group how the Bible came into existence. Try to answer the following questions: How/when was it written down? Who wrote it down? Was it edited? Refer to the first bullet point in “Ideas and Definitions” as an aid.
  • Read the definition of the “Historical-Critical Method.” What do you think of this method for approaching the Biblical text? What are its advantages? What are its disadvantages? What theological problems could it cause?
  • Is the “original meaning” of the text actually important for doing Christian theology? If yes, what counts as the original text of the Bible when much of what we have is an edited version of earlier texts? If no, on what basis are you doing Christian theology?”
  • Read the four source hypothesis bullet point in the “Ideas and Definitions” section. Does it bother you that the historical records of Jesus are compiled from different sources and sometimes disagree? If yes, what is particularly troubling to you? If no, how do you deal with theological ideas which depend on their being historical realities (e.g. the resurrection)? 
  • While the Bible is often a valuable historical tool, there are many instances where the archaeological record does not match the Biblical narrative (e.g. the conquest of Israel as described in Joshua is not identifiable in any Israeli dig sites). How would you deal with situations like this on a theological level? Does the historical-critical method help or hinder in dealing with situations like this?
  • The Bible is also a “living document” within the life of the Church. It was first compiled by the early Church and has been continually read and interpreted as a source for communal life. Can/should the Bible’s ecclesial origins be separated from its historical origins?

Key Definitions

  • The Bible is ..
    • Made up of 66 separate books
    • Written by at least 40 separate authors
    • Written over the course of 1,600 years
    • Written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek
  • Historical-critical Method // The primary goal of historical criticism is to discover the text’s primitive or original meaning in its original historical context and its literal sense or sensus literalis historicus. The secondary goal seeks to establish a reconstruction of the historical situation of the author and recipients of the text. // Good ol’ Wikipedia
  • Form criticism // Form criticism breaks the Bible down into sections (pericopes, stories), which are analyzed and categorized by genres (prose or verse, letters, laws, court archives, war hymns, poems of lament etc.). The form critic then theorizes on the pericope’s Sitz im Leben (“setting in life”), the setting in which it was composed and, especially, used. // Good ol’ Wikipedia
  • Source criticism // Source criticism is the search for the original sources which lie behind a given biblical text. // Good ol’ Wikipedia
  • Redaction Criticism // Redaction criticism studies “the collection, arrangement, editing and modification of sources” and is frequently used to reconstruct the community and purposes of the authors of the text. // Good ol’ Wikipedia
  • Four Source Hypothesis // The three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) are unique in what they share and how they differ. Some passages appear in all three, some two, and some are unique to each Gospel. The four source hypothesis argues Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke were written using the following sources: Mark, their own unique materials (L & M), and an undiscovered compilation of the sayings of Jesus (Q).

Important Scripture

  • For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. // Matthew 5:18
  • God said to Moses: “Now write down these words, for by these words I’ve made a covenant with you and Israel.” // Exodus 34:27
  • Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. // Habakkuk 2:2
  • You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. // Isaiah 43:10
  • As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. // Isaiah 55:10-11

Thoughts from Others

  • The church has traditionally not located the site of inspiration to be in the mind of the human author but in the text of Scripture itself. The shift to concentrating on the intentions of the human author is something that only happened in the modern era, with the rise of historical criticism. // Dale B. Martin, Sex and the Single Savior
  • The application of the historical method to the Bible as a historical text was a path that had to be taken. If we believe that Christ is real history, and not myth, then the testimony concerning him has to be historically accessible as well. In this sense, the historical method has also given us many gifts. It has brought us back closer to the text and its originality, it has shown us more precisely how it grew, and much more besides. The historical-critical method will always remain one dimension of interpretation. // Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
  • The historical-critical method is “a truly dictatorial regime in theology.” It is “an uncritical and unjustified denigration of the Biblical text” and a “godless technique that eroded the Word of God itself.” // G. Maier
  • We really just want to make two basic points:
    • We want to show that not all historical-critical view-points lead to heresy (there is no satanic druid cabal slaughtering goats behind closed doors at the Society of Biblical Literature meetings!); you can be orthodox and a historical critic.
    • Since some historical critical perspectives do damage the way Christians historically have understood their faith, evangelicals should be at the forefront of the discussion, helping shape good critical scholarship rather than ceding the field to people who don’t have the same theological concerns. // Christopher M. Hays

Resources

 

Theology Crawl is Starting This Week!

Theology Crawl is Starting This Week!

This week, we are starting our annual Theology Crawl. For eight weeks, we’ll pick a different location and a different theological topic to discuss while we enjoy a drink. This summer we are going to be investigating what this idea of being “biblical” even means. This week, we’ll kick off the festivities by talking about the Bible’s origins. We’ll talk about how the Bible came to exist in its current textual form, and then promptly talk about it why that matters (if it does at all). So, if you want to learn about the Bible or just argue with people, then don’t miss this week!

 

This year, we are running two crawls, one south of the Charles on Tuesday nights and one north of the Charles on Wednesday nights.  If you look on our calendar on the website, you can find out more information on where we’ll be and what we’ll be discussing from week to week.  We hope to see you there!


Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook to RSVP to the event so we know to expect you. 

 

Matt Chin

Executive Pastor

5th Sunday Serve Day Details

5th Sunday Serve Day Details

We want to remind you that 5th Sunday is coming up at REUNION on Sunday, June 30th. Here at REUNION, we have a tradition that any month that has five Sundays in it, we use the Fifth Sunday as an opportunity to serve our community.

 

All three of our locations will be participating. We’re excited to serve our community and partner with some great causes in our city. Everyone will still be meeting at 10:30am at our usual locations!  After a few songs and sharing communion together, we’ll move into our 5th Sunday rhythm of serving our community, by working on a couple large projects.

Below are the details about the projects we’ll be working on in each location: 

 

Somerville

  • The first project is with our partner Community Cooks. We are going to write Thank You notes, on behalf of Community Cooks, to all of the organizations that they partner with, cooking teams, and donors. In all, we should have around 200 notes to write.
  • The second project will be to help out Reunion Kids and Reunion arts by cleaning out the closet. Our storage closet is long overdue for a clean up, and it makes things difficult for Bailey and Mandy to get things set up. We’ll spend some time sorting through things and throwing things out.
  • We will also be sorting and organizing supplies for games that our DR team will take to play with the kids on their trip in July. This will mainly involve sorting and prepping different supplies. 

 

 South End 

  • We will have a group cleaning up the courtyard and playground. We will provide gloves and trash bags. We’ve also been asked to power wash a few spots on the playground and building. This is an opportunity for the whole family and people of any skill level or age (team lead TBD)
  • To help the school and balet with Spring Cleaning we will clean out the closets on the stage where we store some of our stuff. We will throw out trash and organize/clean everything else. (Team leaders Michelle Fuller and Jessica Nathania)
  • PB&Js for Starlight Ministires. Like Serve Sundays in the past we will make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Starlight teams to pass out through their ministry to the homeless in and out city. 
  • The Blackstone teen center desperately needs to be painted. We’ve worked with some of the teens to determine the colors they way and will paint the foyer.  

 Quincy 

 

We’ll be partnering with a couple of organizations and will be asking people donate items.

  • With Fostering Hope, we’ll be putting together blankets for children and sorting clothes and toiletries.
  • We’ll also be writing letters of encouragement to prison inmates with Disciple of Christ Ministry.

 

Here are a list of items that we’ll be collecting for foster families. You can bring these items to our Quincy location on June 30th.

Hygiene Items…
  • baby wipes
  • diaper cream
  • lotion
  • baby shampoo/body wash
  • kid shampoo
  • soap/body wash
  • toothpaste
  • toddler toothpaste
  • floss
  • brush
  • comb
  • deodorant- gender neutral
Clothing(new or gently used)…
+ Girls & Boys Clothing +
sizes Preemie through Kids 16
  • Tops
  • Bottoms
  • Dresses
  • Pajamas
  • Formal Outfits
  • Coats
  • Winter accessories
  • Swimwear
Girls & Boys Shoes +
sizes Baby through Big Kids 6
  • Sneakers
  • Boots
  • Summer Shoes
  • Formal Shoes
Gear…
  • Strollers
  • Car Seats / Boosters
  • Pack – and – Plays
  • High Chairs / Booster Seats
  • Soft Baby Carriers
  • Exersaucers
  • Infant Tubs
  • Bed Rails / Gates
  • Backpacks & Duffle Bags
Matt Chin

Executive Pastor

Discussion Guide: Justice

Discussion Guide: Justice

For the final three weeks of this semester, we’ll be starting a discussion on Christian virtues.  During these weeks, we’ll be asking questions like: What does it mean to be a virtuous person? How does being virtuous relate to following Christ? and How does virtue help me actually live in a modern world like today. On this last week, we’ll be looking at the first of the cardinal virtues: justice.

Icebreaker

What is one of your pet-peeves?

 

Scripture Reading

Micah 6; Matthew 25:31-46

 

Discussion Questions

  1. If someone said something was “cheap justice” what do you think that would mean? Can you think of any examples when justice is technically done, but not fully expressed?

Read Micah 6.

  1. This passage is structured as if God is bringing a lawsuit against the people of Israel. He is arguing that they have broken covenant with Him due to their actions. What injustices is God accusing the people of Israel of committing?
  2. How do you see these injustices at work in your world? How do you see them at work in your life?
    Leader’s Note: It is important to help us read the passage as if it is addressed to us, not someone else. While there are grievous examples of injustice in our world, the accusations of injustice can still apply to us. We often make small unjust decisions or are caught in systems of injustice without acknowledging them
  3. The charges levied by God in Micah 6 have both personal and social dimensions. How are these two aspects of justice related?
  4. As a group, think of a common injustice that people are passionate about rectifying today. What are the common solutions bring to the table? Does the Christian message offer any different lenses for addressing this issue?

Read Micah 6:8.

  1. Verse 8 is often quoted in discussions related to discussion and faith. How do you see the concepts of justice, mercy, and humility at work in this passage?
  2. How is mercy related to justice? Can you think of any examples when these two concepts are related?

Diving Deeper: Justice as a Virtue

Matthew 25:31-46.

  1. Jesus provides this parable as a challenge to people who discuss religion, but do not do the things it requires. How is this a challenge to conceptions of justice that do not require personal action?
  2. How do you see Jesus as a representation of the kind of justice described in this passage?
  3. How is justice a virtue? Why is it important to think of justice as both a civic and a personal matter?
  4. What are some areas of injustice in which you need to personally engage? What would this look like in terms of personal cultivation? What would this look like in terms of social engagement?

Helpful Resources

The Character of Virtue: Letters to a Godson by Stanley Hauerwas

The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Faith & Hope

Discussion Guide: Faith & Hope

For the final three weeks of this semester, we’ll be starting a discussion on Christian virtues.  During these weeks, we’ll be asking questions like: What does it mean to be a virtuous person? How does being virtuous relate to following Christ? and How does virtue help me actually live in a modern world like today. This week, we’ll be looking at the second and third theological virtues: faith and hope. 

Icebreaker

What is a life goal that you have for the future? Why do you want that? (e.g. buy a house, go skydiving, learn a new language, etc.)

Scripture Reading

Hebrews 11

Discussion Questions

Read HEBREWS 11:1.

  1. This is a very dense theological sentence. In your own words, how would you define faith and hope as described in this verse?
  2. How are faith and hope related to each other?

Read HEBREWS 11:2-31

  1. How are the actions of these people a representation of faith?
  2. What challenges did these people face that made having faith in God a challenge?
  3. This weeks sermons talked about the temptation of despair. Do you think this is a common feeling for people? How do you think most people deal with the feeling of despair?
  4. What circumstances in your life or the world tempt you to despair? What would Christian faith and hope look like in the face of that despair?

Read HEBREWS 11:2-31

  1. The passage ends with saying none of the people “received what had been promised.” How does this connect faith to the concept of hope?
  2. This passage ends by saying that “God had planned something better for us,” and that this would perfect the faith of the people discussed earlier. What is this “better thing” and how can it help us live lives of faith and hope?

Diving Deeper: FAITH AND HOPE AS VIRTUES

Writing about the experience of hope among enslaved black Americans, James Cone wrote:
“In their encounter with Jesus Christ, black slaves received a “vision from on high” wherein they were given a new knowledge of their personhood, which enabled them to fight for the creation of a world defined by black affirmations. Their hope sprang from the actual presence of Jesus, breaking into their broken existence, and bestowing upon them a foretaste of God’s promised freedom. They could fight against slavery and not give up in despair, because they believed that their earthly struggle was a preparation for the time when they would “cross over Jordan” and “walk in Jerusalem just like John.” They were willing to “bear heavy burdens,” “climb high mountains,” and “stand hard trials,” because they were “trying to get home.” Home was the “not yet,” the other world that was not like this one. Jesus was the divine coming One who would take them to the “bright mansions above.”

    1. Cone talks about hope taking root through the presence of Jesus breaking into the lives of enslaved peoples, have you ever felt this in-breaking presence of Jesus? How did it affect you?
    2. Cone’s description of hope was not passive, but an active on that resisted oppression. How are hope and faith a source of energy for action?
    3. Virtues grow within us and gradually become part of our character. How do you imagine your life would be different if faith and hope were key aspects of your character?

Helpful Resources

The Reunion Team

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