I recently had the privilege to teach Sunday School for a whole month at All Saints Church on part of the life of David. In my teaching I thought it would be useful to the congregation to begin the series by talking about basic rules for interpreting Scripture texts (especially OT narratives). While I lectured on some of the basic principles one may find works by Gordon Fee, Douglas Stuart, Moises Silva, Richard Pratt and Vern Poythress, I articulated a broad approach to exegeting and interpreting a text of Scripture.
Micro-meaning: The immediate purpose, idea, meaning of a text. An entire book is part of the micro-meaning of a text.
Macro-meaning: This encompasses surrounding content and meaning in our interpretation of the text. This may take the reader outside a particular book or pericope. For example, part of the meaning of Joshua may need to go back to Deuronomy and Numbers, or even Exodus.
Meta-meaning: Goes across entire genres of Scripture, even across the testaments. The specific pericope/text is connected to the overarching story of the Bible from Genesis-Revelation. This meta aspect surely presupposes a sensus plenior quality to the biblical text. Some may call this the ‘redemptive-historical’ perspective to the text, and I think that is a fair label.
I assume most hermeneuticians and biblical theologians would agree in general with this formulation, though it is very basic (though more than sufficient in teaching a Sunday school class). Yet, I do think this has implications for the act of preaching in corporate worship. If faithful preaching seeks to preach the ‘center of the text’ read that Lord’s Day, then does that mean the micro-meaning is always preached? Yet, even if you want to preach the micro-meaning, the macro and meta meanings need to be placed somewhere in the sermon since it may be hard to truly see the center of the text with an ‘extreme zoom in’ perspective. Yet, only looking at the macro or the meta meanings will rob God’s people and seekers attending the service of the very specific instructions and words that God has given us for our growth in grace and holiness.
It seems to me that a preaching ministry, in general, will seek to do justice to all three m’s. This doesn’t mean every sermon is equally balanced in terms of all three perspectives. Nor should the preacher explain each meaning in some technical or wooden sense. Yet, it seems that faithful, fervent, fruitful preaching will naturally, beautifully, and artistically communicate all three levels of meaning of a text that is both committed to scriptural content and contextual in its delivery.
Any thoughts, suggestions, disagreements, compliments would be appreciated.