The Divine Meaning Of Scripture: Explanations And Limitations -- By: W. Edward Glenny

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 38:4 (Dec 1995)
Article: The Divine Meaning Of Scripture: Explanations And Limitations
Author: W. Edward Glenny


The Divine Meaning Of Scripture:
Explanations And Limitations

W. Edward Glenny**

The task of evangelical theologians is complicated by our belief that the Bible is consistent within itself and does not contradict itself. Because of our worldview we ask questions of the text and seek to answer questions that are of little if any concern to others. While they might throw their hands in the air thinking there is no solution to a seeming contradiction, we struggle to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

We believe the Bible is God’s Word. It is diverse and was revealed progressively, and yet it is a unity. It was written by some forty human authors over some 1500 years, and yet in another sense God is the author of it all. Scripture is concurrently the words of God and the words of men. To put it another way, it is “the Word of God given in the words of men in history.” 1

Since God gave his Word in the words of the human authors of Scripture we seek his meaning through the interpretation of the meaning of the human authors. 2 But there is no consensus of opinion about the relationship between God’s meaning and the meaning of the human author. Is it correct to limit God’s meaning to the intended meaning of the human author? How do we explain the fact that Scripture often quotes itself and interprets or applies a passage of Scripture in such a manner that the meaning in the original context is expanded or focused? Is it fair to suggest that in such situations the expanded or focused meaning that differs from the meaning in the original context is part of God’s intended meaning in the original passage?

The major burden of this paper is to grapple with concepts of meaning and the divine-human authorship of Scripture. It is the thesis of this essay that while there may be a development of the divine meaning of an individual text of Scripture as the canonical context grows, in that development or further dimension of meaning the original meaning is not lost.

In an attempt to address this issue I will outline key Biblical support for the fact that God can intend more in a passage of Scripture than the human author intends. Next, I will summarize the changes in E. D. Hirsch’s theory of meaning and authorial intention. Then I will attempt to outline

* W. Edward Glenny is director of postgraduate studies at Central Baptist Seminary, 1250 West Broadway, Minneapolis, MN 55411–2587.

the current discussion of meaning among evangelicals to highlight key contributions. Finally, on the basis of...

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