Okay, here's a silly example, but I think it'll get the point across.
If you read the sentence, "The pitcher had a ball," what would you think of?
Would you wonder why a ball was floating around inside a container of lemonade? Or, would an image of a man in a baseball uniform about to throw a strike come to your mind? Or, maybe the same guy in the same uniform joyfully busting some moves in an awesome discotech? (You know. . . having fun. . . )
The answer will probably depend on several personal factors such as your familiarity with the Great American Pastime, where you happen to be at that moment, or whether your mother ever used frozen tennis balls as non-diluting ice cubes in summertime drinks. (Note - mine did not.) Etc.
But whichever image you conceive, with no other information at your disposal you've got a decent chance of being right - and a decent chance of being wrong.
Now, if you really didn't care which was right you could stop there.
But if for some reason you actually wanted to know, you would be wise to consider the source.
- Where did you read it?
- Who wrote it, and who were they writing to?
- What is the context of the rest of the piece?
This kind of research would increase your potential tremendously.
So then, what's the point this silly example hopefully helped get across? It's just this: All communication, especially written communication, is dependent on interpretation.
Something may be easy to interpret (e.g., "My hand is big!"), but that doesn't make interpretation unnecessary - just easy.
If you do not interpret you will not understand. Period.
And if you do not interpret correctly you will misunderstand. Period.
And this leads me smoothly and naturally into my "real" topic: Exegesis.
So, what exactly is exegesis, and why do I go to such lengths to make it a topic? I'll explain more of that next week. But for now, let me leave you with this question.
What is the Bible?
Here's my answer: The Bible is God communicating with mankind. It is God taking information that He knows but we do not, and feeding it to us through written language.