April 11, 2006

Exegetical Axioms (Part 1)

I am currently in my 2nd semester of NT Greek. We have just passed the midpoint in 1 John. Translation from actual Biblical text has been a refresher. My teacher, whom I have appreciated greatly, offered 2 exegetical axioms to us today. Here they are:

(1) If the author had no other choice (of a word/phrase) to use, it [his choice] is probably not significant.
  • The point being made is, alot of times huge emphasis is made on the word choice of a Biblical author. It behoves us to ask the question, "Is this really significant?" or "Would the original writer/readers have seen it as important as we are making it?"
  • Sometimes a writer, such as John, will use a different verb tense or a different way of addressing his readers. Sure, the words have meaning, but maybe not all the implicit significance that may be imagined.
(2) Rely on your mother tongue when answering exegetical questions.
  • This axiom is not as hard and fast as the first, but it must be a general principle. When reading, if you notice an odd difference in verb usage, preposition choice, etc. (hopefully examing the Greek), it is needful to put the idea into a contemporary English setting.
  • For instance, when telling a story, there are many ways to go about the task. You can use linear verbs to pull the reader into the situation. (So, I was walking down the hall...) You may choose to say "I walked down the hall." Here, the use of past or present tense has no significance. This is just one small example. I hope it is cleary seen how we, as readers, can imagine greater significance than what the author originally intended.

I hope to post more of these as I come across them in class. For me, I believe the Word of God, the revelation of Himself, is so precious that we should be meticulously careful in how we exegete. We must be careful that we "accurately divide the word of truth." (I Tim. 3:15) Oh yeah, I almost forgot that part about studying to show ourselves approved. Hmmm....