The ever-important second phase

I confess with regret that I am not very good at (or devoted to) “application” these days.  I tend, therefore, to think and write more about interpretation than about application to life.  This tendency does not mean that I am deaf to the call to apply; it only means I don’t like to think about my weaknesses, inconsistencies, and stupidities as much as the original intentions I perceive.

This passage from a book I have never read is simultaneously illustrative and convicting.  Among other aspects, please note the phrases “true meaning” and “inspired author’s intended meaning”:  these might even be said to serve as witness to the existence of a real person—and, of course, a real Inspirer—behind the words.

… I am not going round and round a closed circle that can never detect the true meaning but am spiraling nearer and nearer to the text’s intended meaning as I refine my hypotheses and allow the text to continue to challenge and correct those alternative interpretations, then to guide my delineation of its significance for my situation today.  In this sense it is also critical to note that the spiral is a cone, not twirling upward forever with no ending in sight but moving ever narrower to the meaning of the text and its significance for today.  The sacred author’s intended meaning is the critical starting point but not an end in itself.  The task of hermeneutics must begin with exegesis but is not complete until one notes the contextual station of that meaning for today….

– Grant Osborn, The Hermeneutical Spiral


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