Monday, September 22, 2008


Every people group of different cultures brings their preunderstanding to the biblical text they are reading. But we could not help it, it just the way we are. However, we should never allow our culture to dictate the meaning of the Word of God. But if we talk to Christians from different cultures it is evident that their understanding of the scripture varies from one another. We judge the correctness (or the wrongness) of their interpretation from our own culture (more often western which more often than not is also based in our preunderstanding).

Presunderstanding like culture is not inherently bad. But it is a baggage that we bring to the text that causes us to color our interpretation and leads us to the path of misinterpretation. We could not abandon our preunderstanding and throw it into the trash when we encounter biblical passages that contradict it.

Duvall and Hays say that what we do want to do is to submit our preunderstanding, throwing all of our previous encounters with the text, placing it under the text rather than over the text. We must be able to identify our preunderstanding and then be open to changing it in accordance with a true serious study of the text. That is, after we have studied the text thoroughly, we must then evaluate our preunderstanding and modify it appropriately in the light of our current study.

However, nobody can approach bible study in a neutral manner. Total objectivity is impossible when we study the Bible. I remember being taught at the Seminary that we could only have unbiased and truthful interpretation if we approach the text with total objectivity. As Christians we serve the living God and we have the Hoy Spirit living with us. Our relationship with God is the most important aspect when we read the Bible and this relationship is what greatly impacts our interpretation of the text.

Duvall and Hays call this inherent quality among Christians as presuppositions. Presupposition is not something we want to renegotiate as we read the text. It is different from preunderstanding that need to be changed. Presuppositions should not change at all. We have several presuppositions about the Bible itself that develop out of our relationship with Christ.

Several presuppositions about Scriptures that evangelical Christians generally hold are as follows:
First, the Bible is the Word of God. Although God worked through people to produce it, it is nonetheless inspired by the Holy Spirit and is God’s Word to us.

Second, the Bible is trustworthy and true.

Third, God has entered into human history; thus the supernatural does occur.

Finally, the Bible is not contradictory; it is unified, yet diverse. Nevertheless, God is bigger that we are, and he is not always easy to comprehend. Thus the Bible has tension and mystery to it.
Though there are other presuppositions about the Bible that we Christians have. These are the most central ones. And I agree with Duvall and Hays that “these presuppositions have to do with how we view the entire Bible and serve as foundations on which to build our method of study.”

Duvall and Hays, Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, pp. 94-95.

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