Monday, July 6, 2009

Four Levels of Interpretation part 1

The Jews teach that there are four basic levels of scriptural interpretation. They are:

A. Plain ­ P'shat
B. Story ­ Drash
C. Messianic Hint ­ Remez
D. Hidden ­ Sod

When we realize, for example, that each of the four Gospels was written using one of these different perspectives, it helps us to better understand why and how the author of each Gospel chose to emphasize particular aspects of Christ's mission.

A. Plain ­ P'shat
This reading gives the most obvious sense of the text, including chronology and setting, and is the first factual introduction.

When reading the story of Noah's ark at this level, we would learn facts like how many people were on the ark, their names, that the ark was made of gopher wood, and that Noah's first action upon leaving the ark was to build an altar and offer sacrifices.

It is important at this level to notice sequence. When we read scriptures that list several qualities, we can observe that the qualities often form a pattern of progression leading to ever higher levels of knowledge or purity.

(Beatitudes ­ Matthew 5-7
"Establish a house..." ­ D&C 88:119)

B. Story ­ Drash

Using this focus, we seek to draw life lessons from verses. Homiletics is the term for this kind of application.

Homiletics ­ "... for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning." (1 Nephi 19:23)

"...and thus we see..."­ mentioned at least 26 times


President Eric Shumway spoke at a BYU Devotional in March of 2002. In his talk, Pres. Shumway shares the scriptural account of raising Lazarus from the dead. After recounting the events leading up to the point when Lazarus came forth from the grave, Pres. Shumway remarked,

"Christ was commanding the people to free Lazarus, to remove the graveclothes and unbind the wrappings from around his eyes, mouth, hands, and feet-the wrappings of the grave. For he lived again! Think of the joy! But can we imagine also the hesitancy of some to reach out and remove the graveclothes? No doubt some shrank away completely.

For me the Lazarus story provides one of the most powerful metaphors of the Atonement of Christ for all humankind. We are all like Lazarus, beloved of the Lord, but wrapped about in the graveclothes of this world


1 comment:

  1. I love partaking of the fruit of knowledge, and understanding, in the midst of the Paradisical (PRDS)Garden. ;-)