I don't know if this has always been the case, but I am utterly amazed at how little effort anyone puts into understanding lately. I see it in arguments, where people make statements, and then others pose questions that ask questions that the original statements already answered. The problem is either that they do not read it properly and thoroughly, or they do not make the effort to understand what the author meant.
That brings me to the crux of the article. Whenever someone says something to you, that message has ONE meaning. Being the meaning that the author meant it to have. The intrinsic meaning. If I read the message, and a million other people read the message, there's a very big possibility that a hundred different meanings would be derived from the message. However, only ONE meaning is the true meaning of the message, which is the meaning that the author tried to convey to the original intended recipient. It doesn't matter what it means to me, what it means to you, what it means to the guy next to you. What matters is what the author meant it to mean.
I first got interested in this subject when I decided I want to understand the Bible. I am no expert or authority in the field. I am only a layman on this topic, but still find it very interesting, especially when I see how many people make the mistakes that it points out. I might use the Bible in this article, but do so as an example only. This relates to the interpretation of any text, historical and current, from the email your boss writes to you, to the Bible, to any historical text that we have discovered throughout history.
I believe that the lack of knowledge on this topic has lead to many disagreements, many fights, many wars, and many atrocities committed in the history of the world. Half of the time, I do not put the effort into understanding what my wife means when she says things. It is those half of the times that we end up having big fights.
I believe the correct term is "Hermeneutics", and you start with "Exegesis". Exegesis is a process you follow to determine what the ONE, TRUE meaning of a piece of text was, to its ORIGINAL intended recipient or audience. Once you have the true meaning to the intended recipients, you can then try and determine what it means to YOU, if you aren't the intended recipient, and how it applies to you. This is what they call Hermeneutics.
If you find this interesting, there are a lot of resources about it online.
These are just some mistakes a lot of people make when not applying the principles related to properly deriving the meaning of a message.
1. Taking portions of a text out of context.
If you quote me saying "And I just LOVE eating horse meat!", what would you think I mean? You'd think I mean I love eating horse meat. Quite a lot, actually due to the capital letters. What if my original message reads "This chicken is so tough and dry, I could just as well be eating horse meat. And I just LOVE eating horse meat!". How does that change the meaning I tried to convey? Now I mean that I HATE eating tough, dry chicken, and imagine that horse meat could be just as bad. Relatively big difference, wouldn't you say? The smallest form of text that we should look at when trying to derive the true meaning of text is a whole paragraph. Then we still need to relate it to its surrounding paragraphs, then to the whole chapter, and then to the whole book.
2. Not reading the text with the presumption that it's meant literally, unless it's obviously not literal or explicitly stated as not literal. The opposite to this is taking figurative speech as literal when it's not.
If I say to you "I came here to eat lunch." would you think I'm talking about myself and what I came here to do, or would you jump to the conclusion that I was somehow talking about you and what you should be doing? I gave NO indication to the contrary, so the only meaning you can derive from that is that I meant I am here to eat lunch. I am literally talking about myself here, and what I'm saying applies to myself alone.
If I say "My eyes are on fire." would you think my eyes are literally on fire? No. Then why should anyone be foolish enough to take that literally?
3. Reading meaning that isn't there into text.
Also related to the previous two mistakes. If you read a sentence that says "Go out and buy a pistol." what would you say it meant? I might say well, to me it means I should be able to defend myself. You might say, well to me it says I must kill everyone around me. Your own experiences, thoughts, background, etc determine the meaning you read into things. Is either of these what the text said? No. It said you must buy a pistol. Does it say ANYTHING other than that? If it does, what DOES it say? If it says nothing more than what it says, it means nothing more than what it says, and we cannot under any circumstances make it mean what we believe or want it to mean.
These are just a few examples of mistakes that I've often seen, and that are so blatantly against common sense and the priciples of language use and understanding, that I can't believe people do it to the degree that they do. People make these mistakes when communicating with each other, and end up having huge fallouts. The end result of the fight is usually and hopefully that both parties finally figure out what the other one originally meant, the meaning of which was not understood by the other part initially. People make this mistake reading comments of others, half skimming over it and then replying without actually thinking about what the other person said or meant. People make these mistakes when interpreting historical texts, including the Bible, and come to some very twisted and obscure conclusions.
To me this is the crux of correct Bible study. This article has nothing to do with that however, but with our inability to listen and our haste to speak in general. We don't give a rats ass about the meaning of another person's statements anymore, but are only concerned about our own reaction to what we THINK they mean. Next time, consider for a moment that your own meaning and understanding of a message might not be THE meaning.
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