What is the Author's Intended Meaning?A.I.M. and Why It Matters
When we open our Bibles, we can go in several different directions when it comes to interpretation. We ask ourselves, “How do I feel in this moment while reading this? How do I WANT it to make me feel… Does this relate to what I learned on the flannelgraph in Sunday School? How can I relate this to my current life?”
However, the text in front of us could be interpreted as literal… figurative… narrative… prophecy… so, the odds of us landing on a similar genre across several different books are pretty slim. The problem I see across the board is when people open up their Bible to read- they immediately ask themselves after reading, “What does this mean to me?”
Honestly? I don’t care what it means to you.
And I’m not trying to be mean- and here’s why.
My major issue? You weren’t the original audience for this book. No offense.
Books are written for specific audiences. And it’s pretty slim that you fit into that original audience. I mean, there aren’t alot of us who are from first century Israel… or earlier. If we don’t understand who the author was, where they were from or who they were writing to- we won’t understand the main depth to the message. We will only glean surface level information. If we are reading something and only applying it to our lives – we are missing the point. The message- the impact- the TRUTH. That life-changing “AHA” moment or epiphany you are looking for as a reader. Not to mention, if we miss his point,one could argue that he just wasted his time trying to get his message across. What a shame.
A Quick Exercise on the Importance of A.I.M.
As readers, we need to give author’s the credit they deserve. For example, read the statement to the right.
Now, if we understand the speaker of the text to be a woman carrying out a birthday cake to the awaiting party guests in the backyard… it’s a happy scene. But, if we understand the narrator to be a man who is intent on killing a family inside the house? Awful, horrific scene. Knowing the author’s intended meaning is HUGELY important.
“I slid through the french doors, carrying what would indefinitely bring an end to the night.”
Get Rid of Preconceived Ideas
Every author has a purpose and message that they are trying to communicate. When I took a class on writing this past winter, one of the first things I learned was to ask myself, “Who is your audience? Who is the ‘person’ you’re writing to?” Without this- authors have no purpose or message to get out.
When we layer our theology or beliefs about the world upon the words in the Bible as we read, we are missing a huge part of the message. (Or most of it… if we’re being really honest with ourselves.) Since we are not from the first century, how do we go about even determining what the author was trying to communicate to his audience? What was his main message?
When we seek to find out the Author’s Intended Meaning, we must put aside our cultural, emotional, personal, historical and denominational beliefs. Read in more detail here in this post. That means, if we think we know what the author is trying to say (maybe due to something we heard from a Sunday School teacher back in the day) then we may lose his actual meaning.
Do something quick for me. Try to determine the author’s intended meaning in Matthew 19:26. It’s a verse that’s largely taken out of context by our generation… and therefore, the author’s message is lost. (Find out my thoughts in my next post, “What’s the Deal with Context?”)
At the end of the day, we need to focus on the author’s intended meaning/message above all else. If not… are we even giving him the credit? And that’s a true shame.
It’s not the same… we can’t meet together collectively. It’s not normal… we aren’t allowed to worship together in the same room anymore. It’s not even similar… we are spending church virtually instead of spending next to flesh and blood.
There wasn’t time to pause and think about it. It was constantly… GO…GO…GO.