What is biblical meaning?

What does it mean to understand biblical meaning as an event that happens between text and reader? The Bible, as a great classic, is best read in the spirit of a living dialogue between the interpreter and the text itself. Like all of the classics, biblical meaning emerges in the dynamic space between reader and text; it is generated in the to-and-fro movement between the reader’s expectations and the text’s provocations. From this perspective, the Bible should not be viewed as containing an obvious, univocal message that imposes itself on the obedient reader, nor should its meaning be understood as controlled by the privileged reader whose presuppositions determine what the text can and cannot say. Making sense of the Bible should avoid the Charybdis of authoritarian biblicism and the Scylla of vulgar deconstruction. Biblical meaning is neither a timeless property of the text that subordinates the subservient reader to its predetermined message nor the product of the entitled interpreter whose learning and sophistication disallow the possibility that the biblical texts could articulate their own reader-independent voice. Biblical meaning is not in the text, nor is it foisted onto the text by the reader; rather, genuine meaning happens between text and reader in moments of sustained encounter and discernment. Neither a bank of preset ideas nor a blank page that gets filled in by the reader’s imagination, the Bible is a contested site where a living body of stories and symbols comes face-to-face with a reader who is willing to suspend her everyday assumptions and experience life-changing transformations through this encounter.

–Excerpt from Finding God in the Singing River, by Mark I. Wallace, pp. 10-11


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