We have now looked at a historical approach, a practical approach, and an interpretive approach to scripture turning now to our last topic, combining them. There is value in approaching scripture from different approaches on their own, and combining them may further enrich our understanding. For example, the interpretive approach can be aided by either of the other two to help see new possibilities for what meaning scripture could be trying to convey. The following two examples look back at scripture examined in earlier newsletters but using two approaches instead of just one.
1 Corinthians 8:8-9 (NRSV)
“’Food will not bring us close to God.’ We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”
From the historical approach, this passage suggested to us that Christian converts were still participating in aspects of Roman religion which included animal sacrifices cooked and shared amongst the community. Combining this with the interpretive approach suggests an implicit theological claim, that Christians may still socialize and associate with their non-Christian neighbors as long as it does not cause one to stumble. Do you think Paul’s assent to this practice can be taken generalizable for all interactions with non-Christians? If so, do you agree?
Genesis 4:15-16 (NRSV)
Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
From the practical approach, this excerpt from the story of Cain and Abel suggested that the ancient Hebrews advised punishing kin-slayers with a mark, perhaps a brand, followed by exile. Combining this with the interpretive approach suggests something about the nature of God’s relationship with humans more generally. In the narrative, it is the Lord who declares that Cain shall specifically not be killed for committing that exact crime. This suggests that in dealing with our own faults, a Lord presumed to judge would show mercy and lenience by not punishing crimes in a mirrored, directly proportional manner.