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Friday, July 26, 2013

Legacy 2013 Narrative Hermeneutics Notes


Our Lord taught us that we live not by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Therefore, we need to read the Bible in a way that reflects we believe that. Active reading rather than passive reading means that you prayerfully and carefully read the text to understand it well enough to accurately retell and live what it teaches. This requires that you ask interpretive questions as you are reading and that you answer those questions from within the context of what you are reading.



Narrative is a very careful selection of actual history crafted to make a theological point. Biblical narrative writers obviously were not trying to report all that happened because most biblical narratives are narrowly focused and are done so intentionally. "Historiography, as traditionally conceived, seeks to reconstruct historical events based on facts. The objective is to tell what happened. Biblical narratives aim to impact readers with what happens, that is, 'they provide a vicarious experience of the truth to be taught, and thus they move persons to identify with and live by that truth'[1]" Deuel p. 280.   

A.   Learn the historical context!  Answer your who, what, and where questions. 
B.    Find the plot/storyline. A narrative is normally comprised of linear events, meaning it is told in an order that moves forward event by event. Therefore, be able to tell the story, event by event. 
C.    Find the markers in the story. Stories have key words, phrases or changes that mark their beginning, middle and end, i.e., in Genesis, "generations." 
D.   Find the structure of the story. This is the key to interpreting narratives. Every story has a shape—a beginning, a middle and an ending. Stories begin with the setting and introduce the key characters. There is a middle. The plot develops with some challenge or problem (the conflict) and rises to a climax in tension. Stories have an ending—a resolution and moral teaching that concludes the story. The parts of the story are as follows:

1.   The Beginning (The Characters & Circumstances)[2]
(a) Setting
Stories usually begin by introducing their readers to the time and place of the story. This is called the setting. Also, at the beginning, stories must introduce their readers to the main characters of the story (such as the protagonists and antagonists). Allow the author to place you in his setting and stay within it as you read through the story trying to get to know the main characters. Active reading means that you:
·      Answer the questions when and where the story takes place.
·      Describe the setting and mood: bright, dark, mysterious, solemn, peaceful, chaotic . . .
·      Describe the characters (include their thoughts and emotions).

2.   The Middle (The Conflict, Plot, and Climax)
When reading a narrative, you must also determine the conflict and find and follow the plot. The conflict is the problem, want, or need of the main character(s)/the protagonists. The conflict is the problem or issue that the story builds around and aims to resolve. How the story progresses to resolve the conflict (what the characters say, think, do and feel) is the plot or storyline. There must be some way the story responds to the conflict. When the conflict involving the protagonist reaches its most intense point in the story, that is the climax. This is the most exciting point of the story. Active reading means that you
·      Answer the question: what is the problem, want, or need in this story (e.g., conflict)?
·      When and how does the conflict come to its peak of tension (e.g., the climax)?
·      Try to figure out what the main characters did to get to this point in the story (e.g., the plot/storyline).  

3.   The Resolution and Conclusion (The Solution)
How the conflict works out is the resolution. If the attempt to resolve the conflict ends in an unfavorable way, then the story is a tragedy. But the story must have some resolution to the conflict, and as an active reader you must find it. At this stage of the story the action and the intensity of the action falls off. Then finally the story ends with the denouement (when things move to it’s new normal or how things will be. You can think of it as the time after the storm has passed. The active reader will:
·      Answer the question how was the conflict resolved?
·      Try to figure out what the main characters did to try to resolve the conflict.
·      What did they say, do, believe, or how did they change to resolve the conflict?

4.   The Moral or Theme
The characters and readers should have learned something from the events of the story. This is the moral or theme. A moral gives the story a sense of purpose. In the Bible, narratives teach theological truth and/or theological morals. Without a theme, the reader will conclude that there was no point to the story. The active reader will:
·      Find the theocentric theme of the biblical story.
·      Look for verses that make assertions about God's involvement in the story's conflict & resolution and from them answer the question, "What does this story teach about God?" The theocentric theme is also a summary of the purpose of the narrative, answering the question, "Why was the story written?"

1.  Don't Contemporize Them. 
This is failing to explain the story in its historical and cultural context. 
2. Don't Make them Exemplary or just Illustrations.
When most people teach narratives, they focus on the example of the person. This approach fails in that it omits the theological message.  Narratives are not primarily examples of how and how not to do things. 
In others words don’t preach Genesis 37–50 as "Be Like Joseph," “Flee Immorality,” “Work Hard,” or “Forgive Others.”
3. Don't Restructure Them.
Don’t impose an artificial structure upon biblical narrative. Instead find its God-given structure (e.g, the function of the word generations/genealogy in Genesis. 
4. Don't Make Them Anthropocentric Instead of Theocentric. 
This is one of the major problems in the church today. The OT is a story from God about God, how God deals with man and His world.  He is the subject of the OT. He alone is the Hero of His Word and world and not the men whom He uses, rescues, sustains, etc.

[1]David Deuel Expository Preaching from OT Narrative, from Rediscovering Expository Preaching, (Dallas; Word, 1992) 273-282. This work also relied upon Dr. Deuel's lecture notes from his 1992 class at the Master's Seminary,"Seminar in Biblical Hebrew Narrative.” 
[2] The definitions for setting, conflict, plot, climax, resolution and theme were adapted from  Ancient History—Based Writing Lessons: in Structure, Style, Grammar & Vocabulary, Lori Verstegen.
Here's an Example:



Jesus, the Samaritan woman at the well, God, the disciples, the citizens of Samaria


Jesus’ ministry has grown beyond John the Baptist’s. Sensing that this would create a conflict with the Pharisees, Jesus leaves Judea heading to Galilee. He determines to take an unusual route for a devote Jew, and goes through Samaria. There, wearied from his travels, He meets a woman. He asks her for something to drink. She is shocked that as a Jew He would do that. He directs that conversation to expose her sin and need for the Messiah and to reveal that He is the Messiah. The disciples return from the city with food and are surprised to see Jesus speaking with a woman. She leaves her water behind to inform the men of the city that she has met the Messiah. Jesus turns His attention to the disciples to instruct them of the fact that His fulfillment in life comes from reaping souls from the harvest fields that are all around them. The men of the city meet Jesus. They believe in Him and are saved. Finally, the story ends when the city comes to Jesus and realizes that He is the Savior of the World.

SETTING:                  Jesus travels to Samaria on His way to Galilee, purposefully, rather than taking the devout Jewish route that bypassed it.
MIDDLE:                   Jesus encounters a woman at a well. The climax is when Jesus tells her that God wants true worshippers and reveals Himself to her as the Messiah. 
RESOLUTION:          Jesus instructs the disciples that His harvest is everywhere and saves many of the Samaritans, showing that He is the Savior of the world.
CONCLUSION:         Jesus stays there two days and leaves to continue his harvesting ministry. 


The conflict is suggested from verses 4, 9, and 27. The conflict seems to be found in the fact that Jesus is breaking a tradition of the Jews by evangelizing a Samaritan (with whom Jews had no dealings) and furthermore, one who is an unclean woman (whom Rabbis wouldn’t teach).  The conflict then, is how can non-Jews get saved if Jews, who have the gospel, are bound by segregation laws that prohibit them from interacting with non-Jews? 


Vs 23 The Father is seeking not a particular ethnic people, but a particular kind of worshipping people those who would worship Him in spirit and in truth. 
Vs 35, 38 The disciples are to be reapers from the harvest fields of both men and women who are all around them and not just among their own people. 


Vs 42, Jesus is the Savior of the world; therefore those who know Him must present Him to the world so that He may bring to Himself a worshipping community from all of the peoples of the earth. 


1 comment:

David Griffin said...

looks like something from the pastors bible fellowship last year