The Importance of Meaning | Authorial Intent
The Importance of Meaning
The first principle we need to grasp when we approach the Bible is that it actually means something! Countless group Bible studies have happened when a passage is read aloud and then we go round the group asking “what did it mean to you?”.
Meaning is within the text, not within us! The Holy Spirit within us, will enable us to discover the meaning within the text. This is the difference between Eisegesis and Exegesis:
Eisegesis = we apply our own meaning to the text
Exegesis = we allow the meaning to come from the text
Essentially, when it comes to studying the Bible, we need to allow the Bible to speak for itself and inform our understanding instead of applying our own biased opinion and meaning to it.
This means that our Bible study needs to be objective, unbiased and honest. Obviously this is difficult because by nature we are biased and subjective creatures, but this is where we need the help of the Holy Spirit!
This doesn’t mean that our Bible reading needs to be cold and intellectual, for God’s Word is designed to move us within our souls. It just means we need to have a subjective response to our objective interpretation of the text.
What is Authorial Intent?
We must always ask of the scriptures, “what did the author originally intend to mean?” – there is only one true interpretation (& many applications) of scripture and our task is to discover that.
The Bible was written by people (under the influence of the Holy Spirit) and so there are logical themes, structures and meanings. Authorial intent applies to individual words, phrases and passages but also applies to whole books. Let’s take a look at the below examples:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.John 20:30-31
John describes the purpose of his gospel account to be so that people might believe in Jesus, and by believing they might have life in his name. That was the ultimate reason and motive behind him writing it, it is evangelistic in style. In reading John’s gospel you cannot deny that you get an awesome sense of Jesus’ divinity!
With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.Luke 1:3-4
Luke explains that he wrote his gospel account so that Theophilus (and us!) might know the certainty of the things we have been taught about Jesus. Certainly, reading Luke’s thorough account of Jesus’ ministry gives us a certainty of what he said, what he did and who he is!