Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More on Inherent Meaning

I recently read Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. At the end of the book the following passages sum up the problems with textual interpretation:

For the more I studied, the more I saw that reading a text necessarily involves interpreting a text. I suppose when I started my studies I had a rather unsophisticated view of reading: that the point of reading a text is simply to let the text "speak for itself," to uncover the meaning inherent in its words. The reality, I came to see, is that meaning is not inherent and texts do not speak for themselves. If texts could speak for themselves, then everyone honestly and openly reading a text would agree on what the text says. But interpretations of texts abound, and people in fact do not agree on what the texts mean...The only way to make sense of a text is to read it, and the only way to read it is by putting it in other words, and the only way to put it in other words is by having other words to put it into, and the only way you have other words to put it into is that you have a life, and the only way to have a life is by being filled with desires, longings, needs, wants, beliefs, perspectives, worldviews, opinions, likes, dislikes—and all the other things that make human beings human. And so to read a text is, necessarily, to change a text.


This may not appear to have much to do with music, but considering our on-again, off-again discussions of inherent meaning, there is a definite correlation at work.

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