March 16, 2010

The Hermeneutics of Childhood

I've got twin two-year-olds at home, so I'm pretty immersed in their world. One of the really fascinating things I've noticed over the past year or so is their ability to filter the world, and especially unfamiliar things, through their past experiences. I can't even count how many times it happens (it's pretty much constant), but one recent example gives the feel. They have a little Yatzee battery-powered game that they got from their beloved grandpa. But they don't treat it like a game, or even like some random object that beeps. Instead, they think of it, and use it, as a phone. Because it's roughly the same shape and size as many people's digital phones. So they faithfully walk around pushing buttons and talking on it. And that assumption on their part puts something with which they have no familiarity into their world in a familiar place. And as I said, the number of examples could multiply endlessly. But what this got me thinking about is how nicely this illustrates the need for careful hermeutical reflection when reading, especially the Bible. I'm reading Frank Thielman's Paul and the Law right now, which I'm greatly enjoying, and the need for awareness of one's own context (so we don't too quickly find a Paul that fits comfortably into our own setting), as well as an awareness of the apostle's setting, are essential to reading Paul faithfully. I think there's a more developed reflection hidden in here somewhere, but it was an idea I didn't want to loose, so you get it only partially formed, for what it's worth.

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