Categorized | AIS File Library, Theology

Hermeneutics in Everyday Life

HERMENEUTICS IN EVERYDAY LIFE!
Ted Englestrom

Suppose you’re traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you do? That depends on how you exegete (interpret) the stop sign.

1. A post modernist deconstructs the sign (knocks it over with his car), ending forever the tyranny of the north-south traffic over the east-west traffic.

2. Similarly, a Marxist refuses to stop because he sees the stop sign as an instrument of class conflict. He concludes that the bourgeois use the north-south road and obstruct the progress of the workers in the east-west road.

3. A serious and educated Catholic rolls through the intersection because he believes he cannot understand the stop sign apart from its interpretive community and tradition. Observing that the interpretive community doesn’t take it too seriously, he doesn’t feel obligated to take it too seriously either.

4. An average Catholic (or Orthodox or Coptic or Anglican or Methodist or Presbyterian or whatever) doesn’t bother to read the sign but he’ll stop the car if the car in front of him does.

5. A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and waits for it to tell him to go.

6. A seminary educated evangelical preacher might look up “STOP” in his lexicons of English and discover that it can mean: l) something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain, or a block of wood that
prevents a door from closing; 2)a location where a train or bus lets off passengers. The main point of his sermon the following Sunday on this text is: when you see a stop sign, it is a place where traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from your car.

7. An orthodox Jew does one of two things: a) Take another route to work that doesn’t have a stop sign so that he doesn’t run the risk of disobeying the Law; b) Stop at the sign, say “Blessed art thou, 0 Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast given us thy commandment to stop,” wait 3 seconds according to his watch, and then proceed. Incidentally, the Talmud has the following comments on this passage…. Rabbi Meir says: He who does not stop shall not live long. R. Hillel says: Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding. R. Simon ben Yudah says: Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, gave us the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. R. ben Isaac says: Because of the three patriarchs. R. Yehuda says: Why bless the Lord at a stop sign? Because it says, “Be still and know that I am God.

8. A scholar from the Jesus Seminar concludes that the passage “STOP” undoubtedly was never uttered by Jesus himself because being the progressive Jew that he was, He would never have wanted to stifle peoples progress. Therefore, STOP must be a textual insertion belonging entirely to stage III of the gospel tradition, when the church was first confronted by traffic in its parking lot.

9. A NT (New Testament) scholar notices that there is no stop sign on Mark street but there is one on Matthew and Luke streets, and concludes that the ones on Luke and Matthew streets are both copied from a sign on a street no one has ever seen called “Q” street. There is an excellent 300 page doctoral dissertation on the origin of these stop signs, and the differences between stop signs on Matthew and Luke
street in the scholar’s commentary on the passage. There is an unfortunate omission in the dissertation, however; it doesn’t explain the meaning of the text!

10. An OT (Old Testament) scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second half of the passage “STOP.” For example, “ST” contains no enclosed areas and five line
endings, whereas “OP” contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the author for the second part is different from the author on the first part and probably lived hundreds of years later. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic differences between the “0” and the “P.”

11. Another prominent OT scholar notes in his commentary that the stop sign would fit better into the context three streets back. (Unfortunately, he neglected to explain why in his commentary.) Clearly it was moved to its present location by a later redactor. He thus exegetes the intersection as though the sign were not there.

12. Because of the difficulties in interpretation, another OT scholar amends the text, changing the “T” to “H.” “SHOP” is much easier to understand in context than “STOP” because of the multiplicity of stores
in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because “SHOP” is so similar to “STOP” on the sign several streets back, that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a shopping area. If this is true, it could indicate that both meanings are valid, thus making the thrust of the message “STOP (AND) SHOP.”

13. A “prophetic” preacher notices that the square root of the sum of the numeric representations of the letters S-T-O-P (sigma-tau-omicron-pi in the Greek alphabet), multiplied by 40 (the number of testing),
and divided by four (the number of the world-north, south, east, and west) equals 666. Therefore, he concludes that stop signs are the dreaded “mark of the beast,” a harbinger of divine judgment upon the
world, and must be avoided at all costs.

14. The “spiritualizer of biblical text” looks at the “S” and deducts that the serpentine symbol is a clear indication that this “sign” is of the devil. He then interprets the “T” as the form of the cross, thereby
deducing that the serpent in the first place is defeated by the cross in the second place. He progresses to the “0” and instantly sees the eternal struggle (the circle) of the serpent in the first place with the cross in the second place. Moving on to the “P” his acute spiritual mind sees the former “T” now with a bulge of the serpents tail making a “P” and see the final outcome of the eternal (0) struggle final consummating in the serpent (S) defeated by the cross (T). By placing them all together he sees “S-T-O-P” and concludes that since it is all “PAST” then the sign is of no PRESENT value-it was erected only for historical value and roars through the intersection only to meet a very present MACK truck head-on… His last thoughts are …. “M-now what does that really mean?”

THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE APOSTOLIC STANDARD, PAGES 9, 10, DECEMBER 2002. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOTST ONLY.

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