Before Revelation II

What should I understand myself to be doing when I set about reading or interpreting a text? Well there are several things one ought to attend to, such as who is the speaker/author, who is the addressee, in what capacity does the speaker speak and for what purpose or purposes. Choices need to be made on such questions. The meanings one might get from a linguistic or textual communication might change according to different answers to such questions. These questions remain valid when one approaches a text that one is open to considering a revelation to them from their maker. There is one thing that I think changes or can change (and i think should change) in a scenario where a creature attempts to understand speech that she approaches as “potentially revelation” and that change is this:

When one interprets or understands something one takes to be written by another human author, it is typically (though not always) the case that one does (or can) see oneself expanding upon or elaborating on what the text says. When a reader talks about such a text or writes about it or some aspect of it, they can understand it as an elaboration or expansion or clarification of the meanings. With a text whose author or origin is taken or assumed to be the maker or creator of the universe and therefore not someone that would be limited in his knowledge in any conceivable way, it is theoretically reasonable to expect that when one reads (and reading is, among other things, a gathering of scattered ideas into meaningful wholes) and interprets the text and finds a meaning or a set of meanings in it, these meanings would be a sort of a limiting and narrowing of the full range of possible meanings (which may be assumed to be more numerous than any one human or even many human beings can ever conclusively discover). For something to be divine speech and hence not limited to a particular time or space or creaturely understanding is an important and reasonable initial distinction between what is taken to be human speech or speech from the maker of all things. So any meanings discovered in revelation from a creator and a source of, possibly, unlimited wisdom and knowledge should be understood as some among the many possible meanings, no matter how satisfactory and ultimately true those meanings are for a given human interpreter,. This is not so much an argument against any particular interpreter’s credibility or a license to reject, apriori, all interpretations of a text except one’s own. When I receive a truth or meaning from revelation, they are given to me to fill the holes of falsehood and meaninglessness as big as they are for me. These, I should be aware, may be too limited to fill another’s needs (and they may be too much more than what another may need).

Published by Faraz Sheikh

Faraz Sheikh

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