TIP of the day: Finding the plain meaning of the text

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Sat, Jan 16 2016 9:23 PM

This is a trick I use to break student (and myself) from reading contemporary "general knowledge" into a text and concentrating totally on the text. Mind you, the general knowledge can be useful and necessary information as in, for example, the John (son of Zebedee) = John (author of Revelation) that I posted a tagging question on earlier today. The intent of this exercise is to make what we do as readers a conscious act as we normally do it so naturally we don't notice.

Matt 7:16a NRSV

Text

 You

will know

them

by

their

fruits

Sense

 

 

 

 

 

COED 2 – result of activity

Disambiguation

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deixis

Disciples
Crowd at Sermon on the Mount[1]

 

a false prophet

 

a false prophet

 

anaphoric reference

 

anaphoric reference

 

anaphoric reference

 

Figure of Speech

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Ambiguity in Faithlife tagging

1. The first step is to determine the specific meaning of words in this context. In this case, some might think that "fruit" was figurative language so I checked that it actually has a denotation that applies in this context. Sense 2 clearly applies. You may chose to include idioms here or below as figures of speech.

Note: double click in Logos can bring up the definition.

2.  In the second row, identify the precise meaning of ambiguous terms. The 30 day challenge had a fine example of temple = Herodian temple in the Temptation of Jesus. There is no example in this short text.

Note: the Context Menu often provides this information for persons, places and things.

3. In the next row, we identify the antecedents of word that have concrete meaning only within a given context ... a sub-row provides how we know that it has that meaning. (This is a non-technical explanation of deixis). See the wikipedia article on deixis for the possible values of the subrow. You'll find that this is the step where one most often catches errors especially bringing information known from one Gospel into another or adding outside knowledge which may be well founded but is not in the text.

Note: the Context Menu generally provides this information.

4. The final step is identifying figures of speech - putting the meaning above and the name of the figure below There is no example in this text as I have truncated the proverb that is tagged for figure of speech. But for Ps 5:9 the entry under "throats" would be  "words, speech" with "metonymy" below.

It's not a perfect approach, but by making the process of reading more explicit we can concentrate on what is actually in the text. It can also be useful in determining why two people have different  understanding of the "plain meaning" ... it is often a difference in the sense of the word chosen, or one taking as literal what another takes as figurative ...

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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