On a thread about hermeneutics, I came across this quote by D.H. Lawrence; I like it a lot:

When it comes to the meaning of anything, even the simplest word, then you must pause. Because there are two great categories of meaning, forever separate. There is mob-meaning, and there is individual meaning. Take even the word ‘bread.’ The mob-meaning is merely: stuff made with white flour into loaves that you eat. But take the individual meaning of the word bread: the white, the brown, the corn-pone, the homemade, the smell of bread just out of the oven, the crust, the crumb, the unleavened bread, the shew-bread, the staff of life, sourdough bread, cottage leaves, French bread, Viennese bread, black bread, a yesterday’s loaf, rye, Graham, barley, rolls, Bretzeln, Kringeln, scones, damper, matsen—there’s no end to it all, and the word bread will take you to the ends of time and space, and far-off down avenues of memory. But this is individual. The word bread will take the individual off on his own journey, and its meaning will be in his own meaning, based on his own genuine imaginative reactions. And when the word comes to us in its individual character, and starts in us the individual responses, it is a great pleasure to us.

A lot of theologians struggle with the tension between exegesis (that is, “reading out” of scripture what was originally intended to be written, seen as being a ‘good’ way to read and study the Bible) and eisegesis (that is, “reading into” scripture one’s own ideas, generally seen as a Bad and Wrong thing to do, given the Bible’s supposed total authority and infallibility). I’m not so convinced eisegesis is such a bad thing, really, so long as we’re aware of what we’re doing. I mean, the original writers of scripture filtered their writings through their own experiences and perceptions – what someone in ancient Israel thought of as bread is quite different to the loaf of sliced whole-grain Hovis sitting on my kitchen sideboard – so even if we do struggle to peel away our own interpretations, we’ve still got theirs to contend with anyway: and that’s assuming, of course, that there is some kind of underlying third truth after you’ve stripped away the both the reader’s context and the writer’s – but now we’re getting into issues of Platonism and that’s something to think about another time.

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