Saturday, January 3, 2009

Definitions: "Plain Sense Meaning"

(If you're reading this for the first time, please come back in few days. I'm not really happy with this, and am going to rewrite it.)

One of my New Year's resolutions is to write more commentary on the Bible, especially on texts I'm studying in the mornings. Before I post here, I wanted to define a couple of terms that I think are important. The first is "plain sense meaning".

David Reagan is the first person I've heard describe "plain sense meaning". In an article about Revelation, he said:
Another key to understanding the book of Revelation, a very important key, is to accept the plain sense meaning of each passage. Even if you don't understand it, the best rule of thumb is to just accept the plain sense meaning. My "Golden Rule of Interpretation" that I use throughout the Bible from beginning to end, whether it's prophecy or not, is this "If the plain sense makes sense, don't look for any other sense, or you will end up with nonsense."
I extend this to all of the Bible. Each author has a plain sense meaning that applies to each section. Sometimes, it's an idiom. When the Hebrew Scriptures says "water of the feet", it's probably talking about urine. The Law's restrictions of meat cuts to avoid are probably a euphemism to tell people not to eat an animal's sexual organs. The plain sense meaning requires interpretation, not 100% literal translation.

Also, you can end up with a verse-level plain sense meaning that seems to contradict a second verse's plain sense meeting. In that case, we work on synthesizing the two verses. Often, we find that the two verses are complimentary.

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