I have been grading an assignment given to an advanced hermeneutics class by a professor that I assist. In this paper he asked his students whether or not the Exodus story should have different meaning for a Caucasian from the northwestern United States, an African American from the south, and a Latino from South America. Over and over most students responded in the negative. It was argued that the exodus was (1) a historical event, (2) for Israel, which (3) needed to remain in the biblical meta-narrative when we interpret it.
I agree, but only in part. I think these students are missing one very important thing. We must ask, “What does the Exodus story say about God?” Sure, it is figurative of deliverance from sin and Satan. Nevertheless, it is a story of God delivering the oppressed from the oppressor in history. It says that God hates oppression of one people against another (especially his covenant people).
I think it is inevitable that most Caucasian Americans such as myself will focus on (1) Israel’s covenant and (2) the typology related to deliverance from sin. Likewise, I do not see how most African Americans can avoid reading it throughout the course of our nation’s history as a story that gives them hope. If you look in the mirror and see yourself as the Egyptian you do not want to read Exodus any other way that figuratively about sin or historically limited. If you are the oppressed and you see God saving slaves you cannot help but seeing yourself in that same role because this story has told us all that God is for the oppressed.
Maybe these students are correct that we ought to retain the historical-grammatical hermeneutic only, but are they realistic?
They are not realistic, Brian, not in the slightest bit.
The historical-grammatical method has its value, but it denies that our experience has any influence in our interpretation, and that is just not true. It is essentially a-historical.
I agree. There is no way to read Scripture and let it speak to us if we act like it is a dead document with limited application for real human existence.
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