Topic: “hermeneutics”

Head Coverings!—An Exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11:2–16

The following paper was prepared for Dr. Steven McKinion’s Hermeneutics class, with the constraints that it be between eight and twelve pages, with at least eight academic sources, two of which had to be journals.


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First Corinthians 11:2–16 is one of the most controversial passages in modern hermeneutics. The plain meaning of the text is straightforward: Paul argues that men ought to have their heads uncovered and women ought to have their heads covered when praying or prophesying in the church. The interpretive challenge stems from three interwoven issues.

First, the interpreter must decide how to resolve a number of perplexing textual difficulties in the passage. Second, since Paul’s injunction seems to be culturally situated—no one today wears clothing remotely like that of Paul’s day, head coverings included—interpreters must decide how to respond to Paul’s instructions. It is impossible to follow his instructions as the recipients of his letter would, as it is unclear exactly what the “head covering” was. Moreover, as will be seen, Paul’s argument is complex, leaning on a combination of the creation order, and a universal sense of what is appropriate to men and women. Thus, correct interpretation must respect both the creation order and variations in cultural perceptions of propriety. Third, the interpretation of the passage’s comments on the “headship” relationship between men and women have been the subject of much controversy. These difficulties notwithstanding, Paul’s central thesis remains clear: men and women ought to dress in a way that demonstrates the differences between the genders. Read on, intrepid explorer →

A better priest

The following paper was prepared for Dr. Steven McKinion’s Hermeneutics class, with the constraint that it be between 600 and 625 words.

Hebrews 7

The meaning of the text

Jesus officiates a better priesthood under the New Covenant than the Levitical priests of the Old Covenant did. After returning to the subject of Melchizedek in verses 1–3 (from which he had turned aside throughout chapter 6), the author makes this point clear in a series of short reflections, each contrasting the various elements of the Levitical priesthood with that of Jesus Christ.

First, Read on, intrepid explorer →

No Trinity, No Dice

The following paper was prepared for Dr. Steven McKinion’s Hermeneutics class, with the constraint that it be between 600 and 625 words.1

John 5

The meaning of the text

Everything Jesus did emphasized that he was one with the Father. John demonstrates this in three distinct arcs throughout the chapter. First, to the Jews’ criticism of his healing on the Sabbath, Jesus simply answered, "My Father is working until now, and I am working" (verse 17). Second, Jesus elaborates on the claim established at the end of the first section (vv. 19–31). He draws this out so far as to emphasize that attributes that only belong to God are his as well: the power to raise the dead and the authority to judge them. Third, Jesus claims the Father’s validation of his ministry through both miracles and Scripture (vv. 32–47). Read on, intrepid explorer →

In Your Face, Satan!

The following paper was prepared for Dr. Steven McKinion’s Hermeneutics class, with the constraint that it be between 600 and 625 words.

Matthew 4:1–11

The Meaning of the Text

Jesus faced trials no less profound—indeed, many of them more profound—than any that we encounter, and he overcame them all. Beyond the ordinary trials of a life in ministry, he resisted temptations specific to his position as the God-man and new representative head of humanity. In the selfsame ways that Adam and Israel had failed when tempted, Jesus triumphed. The tempter who seduced Adam and Eve; who caused David, King of Israel, to stumble and bring ruin on God’s people; and who so often and skillfully led Israel after other gods could not turn Jesus from his divine mission. Jesus is indeed the Son of God. Read on, intrepid explorer →

Wicked Prophet, Righteous Heathens

The following paper was prepared for Dr. Steven McKinion’s Hermeneutics class, with the constraint that it be between 600 and 625 words.

Jonah 4

The meaning of the text

Jonah spends the chapter in self-inflicted misery: he hates that Yahweh relented from the promised disaster against Nineveh. He never repents; even after Yahweh provides him an illustration with a pitiable plant, Jonah holds onto his anger rather than praise God for his goodness. This refusal is all the more striking in light of Jonah’s clear knowledge of the character of Yahweh—knowledge that seems to have driven all his actions throughout the book, as he explains in verse 2: he knew that God would forgive and relent, and wanted no part of it.

Righteousness is not a matter of being an Israelite or even a prophet, but in repenting and obeying Yahweh. Read on, intrepid explorer →

In light of the Christian confession of God as creator, redeemer, and sanctifier, we may say that God is the one who communicates himself—Father, Son, and Spirit—to others. God’s self-communicative activity results in creation, Christ, and church. The triune God is communicative agent (Father/author), action (Word/text), and result (Spirit/power of reception). I propose that we take God’s trinitarian self-communication as the paradigm of what is involved in all true communication.

—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text?

Understanding for postmoderns is always contextual, never universal. Postmodernity does not mean the end of all authority, however, only of universal norms; local norms remain in force. Interpretation is always “from below,” shaped by the reader’s contextually conditioned context and regulated by the authority of community-based norms. Hence, if interpretation is indeed a form of power reading, it remains to be seen whose power it is and whether its force is liberating. For while truth has been described as a force that sets one free (John 8:32), postmoderns see truth as a rhetorical device used by the strong to justify their power over the weak. This leads us to a crucial problem for the postmodern critic: To what do we appeal when the context rather than the text is the oppressor? …

If the community’s interest and experience—the present context—provide the framework for interpreting Scripture, what happens when the framework itself is corrupt? To assign priority to the reader’s context and interest is to immunize one’s interpretive community from the very possibility of criticism by the text. Reading the text on these terms is like projecting one’s image onto the mirror of the text, a hermeneutic strategy that sentences the interpretive community to stare at its own reflection. Such a narcissistic hermeneutics stands little chance of expanding one’s self-knowledge, or for that matter, of achieving genuine liberation.

—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text?