Discovering Hermeneutics - The Pericope

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Information about Discovering Hermeneutics - The Pericope

Published on March 23, 2014

Author: cgarland


Discovering Hermeneutics: The Building Blocks of Meaning: The Pericope Discovering Hermeneutics Which Being Interpreted Means: Which Being Interpreted Means Here are some phrases that may require interpretation around the church: “My spirit bears witness to that.” Which being interpreted means: “I don’t have the foggiest idea what you are talking about.” “Brother, just trust the Lord.” Which being interpreted means: “Go away! I don’t have time to mess with you.” The Context of the Pericope: The Building Block of the Pericope The Context of the Pericope Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope Most people read the Bible by chapters. Chapters make convenient stopping points in every book. However, these breaks are artificial and often arbitrary. A chapter number may disconnect a complete thought of an author. For example, chapters five through seven of Matthew are all part of the Sermon on the Mount. Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope Another issue is the place to start and stop a chapter. For example, is verse one of 1 Corinthians 11 the end of Chapter 10 or the first part of Chapter 11? Is verse 31(b) of 1 Corinthians 12 the end of chapter 12 or the beginning of chapter 13? We must remember that chapter numbering was not a part of the original documents and was added to the text much later. Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope Whenever possible, we should try to read an entire book at one time to understand the complete context of the book. Reading an entire book often helps us recognize the author’s major themes. As we read, what we should try to discover is a complete train of thought. This may be a paragraph or chapter or even several chapters. Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope A complete section of thought is called a “pericope.” A pericope is a “section of Scripture that is a unit in itself.” “The word is derived from two Greek words: peri (‘around’) and kope (‘cutting’)—hence, a ‘cutting around,’ or the marking out of a section” (Kelcy 73). Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope Most recent Bible translations now denote pericopes with subheads. Looking at 1 Corinthians in the New International Version , some examples include: Scripture Subhead 1 Cor. 12:1-11 Spiritual Gifts 1 Cor. 12:12-31 One Body, Many Parts 1 Cor. 12:31-13:13 Love 1 Cor. 14:1-25 Gifts of Prophecy and Tongues 1 Cor. 14:26-39 Orderly Worship Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope However, the best indicators of a pericope are those placed in a book by the author himself. Paul inserts the phrase “now concerning” or “now about” (transliterated from the Greek – “peri de”) when he introduced different subjects in his first epistle to the Corinthians. See chapters 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1, 12. These words often introduce a new issue regarding matters of custom, worship, and doctrine that arose in the newly-fledged church at Corinth. We should note that Paul’s discussion within a pericope may stretch over several chapters. Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope Here’s an example of interpretation. A very sincere Christian was convinced that the Charismatic gifts were no longer for today. This person declared, “Doesn’t it say in 1 Corinthians 13 that tongues will cease when ‘that which is perfect is come’? Since the New Testament is perfect and His complete revelation, then we no longer need tongues. They have ceased.” Is this based on good hermeneutics? Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope If this passage is about the creation of the canon, what verse in this context speaks about it? Gordon Fee commented on this. “There is no possible way Paul could have meant that  after all, his readers did not know there was going to be a New Testament, and the Holy Spirit would not have allowed Paul to write something totally incomprehensible to them” (Fee 60). Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope Paul explains that tongues will be stilled when we “see face to face” (1 Cor. 13:13), an obvious allusion to the Second Coming. Most likely the perfection in this chapter refers to the full maturity of Christians at the Lord’s coming (cf. 1 John 3:2). This interpretation agrees with what Paul already alluded to in 1 Corinthians 1:4-8, that the charismata will remain until the Lord returns. In actuality, then, the passage says the entire opposite of what this “cessationist” believes. The Context of the Book: Putting it all together: Using The Building Blocks of the Word, the Sentence, and the Pericope Within the book The Context of the Book Which Being Interpreted Means: Which Being Interpreted Means First, here are some more phrases that may require interpretation around the church: “Sorry, pastor, I just don’t feel led to do that.” Which being interpreted means: “I just flat out don’t want to do it.” “The Lord just gave us a new car!” Which being interpreted means: “We wanted a new car like our neighbors and hocked ourselves up to our ears in debt, hoping that God will honor our presumption.” Hermeneutics: Putting it All Together: Hermeneutics: Putting it All Together Here’s another example of interpretation. A Christian was reading 1 Corinthians 14:34, and concluded that women should never speak in a church meeting. Is this conclusion based on good hermeneutics? Hermeneutics: The Verse: Hermeneutics: The Verse Note the immediate context of the verse. Verse 35 states that these women should “ask their own husbands at home.” This tells me that Paul is addressing wives —not all women in general. This limits the scope of what Paul is saying. This also tells me that Paul is not talking about women’s ministry in general—or teaching, but about how women should learn (cf. 14:31). Further, since Paul is encouraging women to learn, he is indirectly supporting something women rarely did in that day. Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope Note the Pericope. How does the meaning of this verse fit in the immediate section? What is this section talking about? Note how this falls into a pericope labeled “Orderly Worship” in the NIV. Is this an accurate label, and does this give us a clue as to what Paul is addressing? Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope Remember also that this is part of a larger pericope (chapters 12-14) offset by the phrase “now concerning” in 1 Corinthians 12:1. Overall, Paul is addressing the Gifts of the Spirit and their use/misuse in the service. In chapter 14, then, Paul is addressing types of interruptions or disorder, resulting from the use of the gifts. Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope We should note how Paul begins and ends the smaller pericope (or sub-section). He begins by saying that all can participate in the service (1 Cor. 14:24; cf. 1 Cor. 14:26; 39, etc. See also Acts 2:17-18.). This would include women. Paul concludes this pericope by reminding the Corinthians to do everything “in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor. 14:40). In other words, although we can all participate, we should do everything in an orderly way. Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope In chapter 14, Paul was simply making correctives to bring about orderly worship, which is the overall thought behind this smaller pericope. Paul addresses three problems causing disruption: Speaking in tongues at the same time or without an interpreter (1 Cor. 14:27-28). Prophets speaking all at once or out of turn and thus dominating the service (1 Cor. 14:29-32). Wives interrupting the service with questions (1 Cor. 14:34-35). Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope I personally believe that Paul addressed the problem of the chattering wives with the other two problems because the women were asking questions about what was said prophetically. In other words, all three acts of disorder were related to the Gifts of the Spirit—which is the subject of the larger pericope. Hermeneutics: The Words and Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Words and Pericope In the case of each act of disorder, Paul tells the ones causing the problem to “be silent” (transliterated from the Greek – “sigao”). Just as Paul was telling the others to be silent in each special circumstance and not cause a disruption, so he was telling the wives to be silent during the service and not cause a disruption with their questions. Paul was addressing a special circumstance and was not trying to silence wives from other ways of participating in the service. Hermeneutics: The Words and Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Words and Pericope Ben Witherington commented, “It should be recognized that what an individual says to correct an error cannot be taken as a full or definitive statement of his views on a particular subject” (Wirthington 25). Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope Let’s follow the corrections of Paul in the “Orderly Worship” pericope. First Problem – Tongues without Interpretation If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.—1 Co 14:27-28 The phrase “should be quiet” is this word to “be silent.” Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope Second Problem: Prophets Speaking All at Once Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop .—1 Co 14:29-30 The phrase “should stop” is the same word to “be silent.” Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope Third Problem: Chattering Wives “…women should remain silent in the churches…If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home…”—1 Co 14:34-35 The phrase “remain silent” is the same Greek word translated literally “be silent.” Paul is not telling each of these groups never to speak in church, but to be silent instead of causing disorder. Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope Essentially, then, Paul is saying that no one gift should dominate the meeting, don’t speak in tongues unless someone can interpret it and if you don’t understand something said, ask about it later. Each should be quiet in these circumstances. Hermeneutics: The Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Pericope To summarize, then, Paul is saying: Don’t all talk at once. Be silent. Don’t bring a tongue if there is no interpreter. Be silent. Married women shouldn’t ask questions in church. Be silent. To put it crudely, Paul is telling them it’s better to shut up than to cause a disruption. However, Paul is not silencing wives—or women—from ever speaking in a service. Hermeneutics: The Word and Pericope: Hermeneutics: The Word and Pericope To view this from the larger pericope, when we come together, it is not to show who is the most spiritual, but to edify one another (1 Cor. 14:3-5). Thus the gifts should operate in a decent and orderly way (1 Cor. 14:40) out of love for one another (1 Cor. 13). This can’t be accomplished if there are constant interruptions and distractions. Our interpretation is true to the overall thrust of the pericope. It also shows the importance of how one key word (translated “be silent”) can tie a passage together to reveal what Paul was saying. Hermeneutics: The Book: Hermeneutics: The Book What can we glean from the rest of the book that has bearing on this? 1 Corinthians 11:5 acknowledges the vocal participation of women in a service: “And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered…”—1 Cor. 11:5 If 1 Corinthians 14:34 were restricting women from ever speaking, then Paul was contradicting himself—or at least changing his mind—in the same book! Hermeneutics: In Summary: Hermeneutics: In Summary In Summary When it comes to meaning, context is everything. We should come to a passage seeking not to make it say what our preconceived ideas are, but to find out what the original author meant. Further, we should not take one verse out of context to build a doctrine. Hermeneutics: In Summary: Hermeneutics: In Summary Each of the building blocks of the context—the word, the sentence, the pericope, and the book—contributes to a correct understanding of the Bible text. Accurate interpretation demands that we use each of the building blocks to derive meaning. Bibliography: Bibliography Ben Witherington, Women in the Earliest Churches (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982). Kenneth E. Bailey, Paul though Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2011). Randy Colver, Lessons on the Charismata and the Ministry Gifts (Raleigh: Lulu, 2008). Raymond Kelcy, Identifying the Pericope and Its Context , in Furman Kearley, Edward Myers, and Timothy Hadley, editors, Biblical Interpretation: Principles and Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986). Stanley M. Horton, Decently and in Order: An Exposition of 1 Corinthians 14:29-40 ( Paraclete , 15:1, Winter 1981).

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