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Presuppositions Affect Interpretation Cultural Presuppositions One Sunday a long standing missionary to Africa visited my Sunday The subject of our study for that week was Nicodemus the ruler of the School class in which I was presenting a lesson from John chapter 3 The title of the series was The people who came to Jesus and the focus was on examining the underlying needs and reasons why people were drawn to Jesus Jews who came to Jesus by night I lingered over that detail which John provides in the narrative and asked why Nicodemus came to Jesus at night I acknowledged the possibility that it could be that the detail was meaningless but in that John later repeats the phrase 19 39 in identifying Nicodemus it seemed unlikely I suggested that Nicodemus had some hesitancy if not timidity in openly identifying with this notorious prophet from Nazareth This seemed likely since in the previous verse 19 38 another religious leader Joseph of Arimathea is described as a secret believer because of his fear of the Jews However my suggestion was rejected by the missionary He offered When I objected to his interpretation he said that the African culture his own interpretation In Africa people do not come calling during the day because that is when work is being done If you want to discuss something important you go to a person s house in the evening where they can concentrate and give proper attention to your need is an eastern culture and that it is much closer to the eastern culture of the New Testament In his understanding Nicodemus came as an earnest seeker after truth Thus his sincerity was displayed by his coming to Jesus at night when he could fully engage the Rabbi in an extended conversation made for the difference in interpretation Where were we getting our particular interpretation What is the question that both of us should be asking Who was correct Does it matter Could we both be right What 1 What caused the disagreement over the interpretation of this passage 2 On what aspect did the two interpreters agree 3 Where did they disagree 4 What was their presupposition regarding the location and context of meaning for the phrase at night 5 Which interpreter was looking for the literary context for the meaning of this phrase What was the other looking at for its meaning Resolution Exegesis seeks to determine what the author John was trying to convey through his selection of words and details he gives to his reader He also expects that the reader will read his words in context Sometimes the best context is the book gospel Sometimes that context is not just a literary one but yields a theological context Consider the following First at night is repeated in a later identification of Nicodemus in 19 39 And Nicodemus came also who had first come to Him by night Nicodemus became a disciple of Jesus His timidity is paralleled by Joseph of Arimathea another secret believer 19 38 whom John says was a secret believer because of his fear of the Jews 1 The phrase at night serves the motif of light and darkness that is common to John s gospel In fact together with 3 19 21 this contrast between light and darkness forms a bracket around this story 2 In John s gospel night is symbolic of spiritual darkness the absence of God s revealed truth especially what is revealed in Christ It is entirely possible then that John is portraying Nicodemus as a seeker after truth He has yet to receive God s revelation in Christ Thus he is still walking in the darkness but he is seeking the light Though not explicitly stated it is reasonable that Nicodemus is cautious in seeking out Jesus He obviously knew that the religious leadership was less than enthusiastic about Jesus 3 Consequently Nicodemus did not want his visit to Jesus to be widely known hence the visit at night He was cautiously curious See Jn 9 4 11 10 By contrast note that light is associated with God s revealed truth and the new life that 1 it brings See Jn 1 4 9 See Craig S Keener The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament Downers Grove IL 2 InterVarsity Press 1993 p 269 See 1 13 20 2 18 20 John uses the term the Jews to refer to the Jewish leadership and often in their 3 opposition to Jesus Cf 5 10 13 16 18 6 41 52 7 1 15 8 48 52 57 59 9 22 10 19 24 31 33 11 8 13 33 18 12 14 31 36 38 19 12 14 20 31 38 20 19 and sometimes of their astonishment over him but short of belief See 7 35 8 22 10 24 At other times the Jews seem to refer to unspecified ethnic group of Jewish people without reference to hostility to Jesus 11 19 31 33 36 45 54 55 12 9 11 18 20 33 39 19 3 7 19 21 40

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EVANGEL HER 300 - Presuppositions Affect Interpretation

Course: Her 300-
Pages: 2
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