Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reading texts like a Map-Maker

Read like a map-maker.

That's one of Stephen Dempster's suggestions for discerning the big picture of a text. He argues that one of the ways to let the big picture function as a "hermeneutical lens" for reading is "through constant exposure to the text: reading and rereading."

By engaging in this activity we become familiar with the contours of the text, its poetic detail, its texture, its wordplays and distinctive logic, its overall shape and design.

It is much the same with explorers who make a map of a new territory. They must take their bearings, surveying the plains, valleys, hills—get to know the terrain as a territory. After this initial assessment the task is far from over. That terrain must be painstakingly examined again and again—read and reread—in order to make the most accurate map.

The interpreter must understand individual passages in the light of the whole text, and the whole can be known only by repeated readings of its individual parts. 
—Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, 19-20.

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