Faith & Reason ... a mystery

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Being a good Reader


In order to read well, you must learn to ignore yourself. You must remember that the text is not about you. That you are reading it in order to get something from it, ultimately from its writer. Who, if he/she is doing his/her job right, is working for you, for your benefit.

The next step is to become more conscious of the whole reading-writing dichotomy. Every text is produced by an actual writer (a real person), who in the act of writing automatically places in the text a version of him/herself, the implied writer (a persona or role played by the real person writing). What may not be so obvious at first is that the implied writer automatically creates a mirror image of another persona, the implied reader, which the actual reader reading the text in question is implicitly asked to play. This complex interaction between real persons playing roles both in the act of writing and in the act of reading should get a special lift in our understanding as we reflect on the fact that the Latin origin of the modern English word "person" is persona, meaning "mask," originally a hand-held mask that actors on the classical stage used to cover their faces with while playing their roles. Both writing and reading are, in fact, acts - that is, roles that writers and readers voluntarily take on. (taken from, "The Art of Reading" by Steven C. Scheer)

Every time we open a scriptural text we must understand these two rules. Consider Matthew 26:6-13. "While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked, 'This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor?”

"Aware of this, Jesus said to them, 'Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her'.”

Who is the implied author? The answer is the Apostle Matthew. There is some discussions as to if Matthew truly wrote the Gospel and what sources he used, but for our point in this short blog post, we are can be assured that Matthew is the author. Who is the implied reader? The implied reader would be Jewish Christians living in the Palestinian region while under Roman occupation. There are terms used to suggest their knowledge of the culture and surroundings was good. So, when Matthew records the above story of Jesus' being anointed, we can be the implied reader and join in their knowledge of Roman occupation, the awareness of the poor, the arrogance of the religious leadership, and that Jesus was going to die.

It is important for today's students of the scripture not to read into scripture facts or actions that are not there. Making this mistake is easy to do when we read ourselves as the implied reader. In the scriptural example above, we could read into the text a lack of compassion for the poor. Jesus is telling us that we will always have the poor. Yet, is that what Matthew is recording and teaching? Absolutely not! A good student knows that the are other texts that teach a Christ-follower is to be a servant and to serve the poor. The implied reader or the reader that text is intended for has an understanding that Jesus was going to die in just a short while and that what the woman did by pouring the perfume on Jesus was preparing him for His death. We don't typically pour perfume on our dead, yet in the culture of the text, there was not embalming or refrigeration. Perfume covered the smell of death. What the woman was doing we making a statement of faith, submission, and love. She was a sinner and she is anointing the One who would restore her and forgive her of those sins.

With careful study and appropriate dedication to the implied author and the implied reader, today's student can gain insights that are relevant and essential to the application of God's word. We study to show ourselves approved by God. We also hone our skill through committed and regular study of techniques around us.

"Almighty God, work with in us and guide us by your Spirit as we study your revealed scriptures. Help us to remain faithful to you and give us eyes to seize every opportunity to be the Christ-followers we desire to be. We make it our goal to please you...grant us the understanding to do so. In the name of the Anointed One. Amen."

For more study on "Anointed" check out: http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp129.htm

You know I love ya, Don


2 comments:

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Don Crane said...

Thank you. It is a joy to write and I truly find hope in God's Word. It is to His glory and claiming I cling. God Bless, Don