In a couple of responses to the latest post, the issue of “over-interpretation,” was raised. I admit to such a possibility. But honestly do not believe it is the case here. Having stated early and clearly that I do not view myself to be a “scholar” (either Biblical or a linguist, much less a brain surgeon or nuclear physicist.), I do understand the point here. This error in Biblical study is called eisegesis (Reading into a text something which clearly isn’t there. Projecting your own prejudices and presuppositions into a body of Scripture.). Exegesis (Drawing out of a text the meaning which is inherent in it.) is the correct approach.
There are numerous places in libraries and on the internet where in depth examinations of scholarly issues are approached with much greater skill and accuracy than I can muster. And, apart from that, I’ve also taken the position of an “investigative journalist,” simply asking questions, trying to imagine what it would have been like to have “been there and done that.” I keep telling myself that the “Hebrew Heroes” (Don’t know Job’s nationality) were almost exactly like us. They didn’t wear neatly polished, correctly adjusted haloes. They failed at times. They got murderously angry. They were frightened and frustrated at times. They were stubbornly sinful and rebellious at times. . . just like I am. And like all my friends are. They were not on a constant quest for God. In Scripture, it is always God who does the seeking, the forgiving, the restoring, the using of tarnished sometimes broken, but cleansed and restored human vessels. So, I read and think about the text. Not with surgeon’s scapel or a microscope. Not with an effort to try to discover and correct errors, or even compare myself with others greater or lesser than my self. I DO make a conscious effort to enter the picture, and to identify with the characters as much as possible. At this point in my life, realizing I’ve fallen short of the goal often and will probablly do so again, I’m attempting to develop a disciple’s heart. There’s so much I can learn from them, if I just take time to read. Think. Pray. Imagine. And try to incorporate in my living what I learn.
The “eisegesis” bit is sort of roughly equivalent to our expression “going out on a limb.” “Over-analyzing.” When that happens, someone can saw the limb off and down you go, along with your pet theories which may be founded upon false information or misinterpretations. I try as honestly and conscientiously as possible not to do that, and not to become needlessly controversial or argumentative. With my mind working the way it does, I couldn’t help recalling a comment once made by Dr. Vance Havner (whom I had the privilege of knowing. I felt he was to Evangelism what Sir Winston Churchill was to statesmanship and what Will Rogers was to humor.) On the subject of going out on tangents, going “out on a limb,” or over-doing anything, I heard him once say: “Beloved, that is not our problem. Most of us haven’t even climbed the tree yet.” Wry humor. But so often on target. He also told an audience once who was asked about the size of his parish. Dr. Havner said the reply was “It’s about five miles long, six miles wide, and four inches deep!”
In my case, it is my intention to try to listen gratefully, prayerfully, and carefully to what is written down. Think as objectively as I can, while allowing my imagination to try to re-create some of the human element in the events. I make a conscious effort to treat Scripture with respect and try not to misinterpret, or over-interpret, or mis-represent it just to make a point. In the case of the study in John about supposed different use of words for human affection, I simply conferred with an interlinear version of the Gospel. (That’s a study tool which prints the Greek text and right below it prints the English interpretation.). In that respect, all of us are somewhat reliant upon the best information which has been passed along to us. And, no matter how careful you try to be, there will be points at which really good people can consider the same body of information and arrive at different conclusions or form different opinions.
It doesn’t surprise me much that one little word can generate reaction “Love.” Even when we use it in our society, it is a loaded term. When a young bachelor tells a fair maiden that he “loves” her, she takes that seriously. And thinks of commitment. Of picket fences and the pitter patter of little feet. When a foot-loose, fancy-free, fun-loving young man hears the word, he’s apt to break out in hives and run away like a scalded dog!
Even in a watered down form, this simple word (LOVE) has strong implications.
On the assertion that Jesus spoke Aramaic, that is most likely true. It may also be true that He understood or spoke at least some Latin (His country was, remember, occupied by the Roman Army) and/or Greek (which was the language of culture in that time and place.). He may, in fact, have been bi-lingual. We don’t know. When facts aren’t clear and evident, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that.
For that same reason, we weren’t “there,” so we cannot conclusively argue the point. The vocal inflections, facial expressions, gestures, etc., would have given a clearer indication of the semantic subtleties in the conversation.
While there’s room for speculation and disagreement between good people as to the exact selection of words, I don’t see any possibility for confusion about the question:
“SIMON, SON OF JONAS, DO YOU LOVE ME?”
And I cannot evade or avoid the fact that, upon responding “YES,” Jesus immediately gave Peter his assignment: “FEED MY SHEEP.”
In my opinion, we are all also forced to face the same question. For our own sakes, as well as for the Master: “DO I REALLY LOVE JESUS?”
And if my answer, and yours, is YES. . . Our restoration …our “comeback”….is complete.
AND WE ALSO HAVE OUR ASSIGNMENT.
God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student