Reading Scripture as Finite and Sinful Creatures

“If it is the case that we lack the ability to access Scripture perfectly because of both our inherent finitude and our sinful condition, how should we proceed in interpretation? An important initial response would be to acknowledge our creaturely status and sinful tendencies. Humility would be the order of the day, given these truths. Yet our limited perspective does not necessitate that we give up the goal of understanding the text. If God has chosen to speak through Scripture, we can trust that the capacity to understand has been built into us, however finitely and imperfectly. If the author is not obsolete or lost forever but has communicated in and through the text, then meaning is in theory attainable. What we ought always to remember, however, is that when we do access textual meaning, we do so in partial ways. This condition provides great encouragement to read carefully, with an awareness of what we bring to the hermeneutical process, and to read in community. For if my access to meaning is partial at best, then I need you to read with me. I can learn from what others see when reading Scripture. Reading with and across communities, intentionally and humbly is one way of expanding our limited horizons. Hearing from those with whom we do not initially agree enables us to perceive better our own interpretive blind spots” (90).

-Jeannine K. Brown, Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics

(bolded parts are my own)


8 thoughts on “Reading Scripture as Finite and Sinful Creatures

  1. I appreciate the thought provoking article by Jeannine K. Brown on reading and understanding Scripture. I’ve found the benefit of hearing someone read a text out loud placing emphases where I normally would not place it.

    We must also recognize that our Lord promised the Holy Spirit would be our teacher guiding us into truth.

    1. Amen Pop pop! Though she doesn’t explicitly say it, I place the Holy Spirit working under her comments about “capacity to understand has been built into us.” And I too love hearing other people read Scripture, yourself included! Thanks for a great trip last week!

  2. Whew! I must be outta shape because I had to re-read that a few times to understand it. But I was tracking with her by the end.

    I agree that reading and interpreting scripture in community is the way to go. It provides a system of checks and balances to help sift through the faulty interpretations and get closer to the true meaning. I find that I’m often guilty of interpreting scripture out of context. So, it helps to have people in the group who know what was going on historically then or in the life of the author.

    Thanks for getting my gears rolling with this…and dusting off the nether-parts of my brain! Ha ha.

    1. Haha! You’re not alone sis. This book is definitely dense and when I read it, it requires me to be on my a-game! Love reading Scripture with you, as well replacing lyrics of songs with Scripture, like Africa by Toto. Only you would do that with me! 🙂

  3. I agree, that was challenging to read at first but so good. It reminds me of the scripture on friendship: “Iron sharpens iron” which I think could also apply to reading scripture. Another reason to participate in a small group Bible Study, too!!

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