Reading the books as they are mean't to be read?

Aug 2015
333
Korean in Canada
#1
So I was reading a book called "Godforsaken" by Dinesh D'Souza. And it's been an interesting read on explaining God and existence of evil and all that stuff.

One thing I read that I found especially interesting was the topic on reading the Old Testament. Basically he said that since the book(s) was written by Jews for the Jews, that's how we should try to understand it as so. That means to read it not as a literal historical textbook or philosophical treatise but rather as a form of story written by Jews to be told to Jews, which means that many things in the OT will be metaphorical and non-literal, even if they seem literal.

One example he puts is when Joshua attacks Jericho. He says that archeologically Jericho might have been a small settlement, and the battle not as epic as the OT put it. Instead, it was written the way it was written because this was the first battle in which Joshua was the leader, and the writer wanted to show Joshua’s effectiveness as a leader and to show that he is a worthy successor to Moses.

I thought it was a very interesting and quite probable idea, and I think this can be applied to other religious texts.

Is it a problem that many times today we tend to read books and interpret them as however we want, and not think about the motivation behind the written text? How important do you think it is to try to understand the context/motivation behind a writing/scripture/text before judging/interpreting it? Or is it even possible to fully understand the context of a text that was written way too long ago?
 
May 2015
1,063
Sunderland
#2
<Polite snipp>
Is it a problem that many times today we tend to read books and interpret them as however we want, and not think about the motivation behind the written text? How important do you think it is to try to understand the context/motivation behind a writing/scripture/text before judging/interpreting it? Or is it even possible to fully understand the context of a text that was written way too long ago?
How should we intemperate the 'Hobbit' by J R R Tolkien.
 
Aug 2015
333
Korean in Canada
#3
How should we intemperate the 'Hobbit' by J R R Tolkien.
did you mean interpret? if so, that's a good question haha. It's meant to be a novel so I guess it's not too big a deal to read it as how one wants, but it does help to try to understand Tolkien's motivation behind writing it. It's written to be a children's book, but it does have a lot of allegories and symbolism behind it.

I've also read an article (might have posted it here before) that dwarves might be an allegory for jews, which is also an interesting way to read and think of other things for The Hobbit.
Are Tolkien's dwarves an allegory for the Jews? | The Times of Israel

so there are many ways to interpret it, that's for sure, but at least trying to find context and motivation does help in understanding it with more depth.
 
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
#4
did you mean interpret? if so, that's a good question haha. It's meant to be a novel so I guess it's not too big a deal to read it as how one wants, but it does help to try to understand Tolkien's motivation behind writing it. It's written to be a children's book, but it does have a lot of allegories and symbolism behind it.

I've also read an article (might have posted it here before) that dwarves might be an allegory for jews, which is also an interesting way to read and think of other things for The Hobbit.
Are Tolkien's dwarves an allegory for the Jews? | The Times of Israel

so there are many ways to interpret it, that's for sure, but at least trying to find context and motivation does help in understanding it with more depth.
The Hobbit is a book for children of all ages. Unfortunately people like Peter Jackson see it as a book to be interpreted in the same way as LOTR - which it isn't.
 

Moros

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
3,094
#5
Historical research using texts should be about interpretation - from the stand point of the author, the reader, later commentators, and in contrast to other information found outside of the text. It is (or should be) standard practise in history.
 

BenSt

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,565
Canada, originally Clwyd, N.Wales
#6
I think we need to understand first and foremost that not all religious traditions have books at their centre. This is a very CJudeo-Christian mold which has been transplanted onto most other traditions. Written sources and scriptures exist, but were rarely central to a people's practice...usually being reserved for the priests and sages who would then transmit the wisdom inherant to the community through multiple other means.

Accessibility to a text is only really a recent phenomenon, and I would agree that learning how to interpret a text is as important as what the text actually says. Literilists will argue that a text should be written in a such a way that it's meaning is inherant, but this becomes difficult when we think of parables and fables. Parables are not meant to be literal, they are meant to contain and transmit the meaning...but it doesn't mean the story actually happened.
 
Nov 2015
276
Yooper
#7
So I was reading a book called "Godforsaken" by Dinesh D'Souza. And it's been an interesting read on explaining God and existence of evil and all that stuff.

One thing I read that I found especially interesting was the topic on reading the Old Testament. Basically he said that since the book(s) was written by Jews for the Jews, that's how we should try to understand it as so. That means to read it not as a literal historical textbook or philosophical treatise but rather as a form of story written by Jews to be told to Jews, which means that many things in the OT will be metaphorical and non-literal, even if they seem literal.

One example he puts is when Joshua attacks Jericho. He says that archeologically Jericho might have been a small settlement, and the battle not as epic as the OT put it. Instead, it was written the way it was written because this was the first battle in which Joshua was the leader, and the writer wanted to show Joshua’s effectiveness as a leader and to show that he is a worthy successor to Moses.

I thought it was a very interesting and quite probable idea, and I think this can be applied to other religious texts.

Is it a problem that many times today we tend to read books and interpret them as however we want, and not think about the motivation behind the written text? How important do you think it is to try to understand the context/motivation behind a writing/scripture/text before judging/interpreting it? Or is it even possible to fully understand the context of a text that was written way too long ago?
I found that this book, The Study of Religion by Morris Jastrow, Jr. 1902, to be a great help with reading religious texts. Religion is a mind set that can be very hard to understand and yes one should *try* to read it as in its age if your reading it as it should be read. I found myself switching back and forth as I was intentionally observing it from its future, but in certain areas I would fall into the past. Novels should be read like watching a film to me, one should fall into the story and believe it for the moment. Sometimes in film that can be hard to do with the same ole actors and incredulous aspects of the story plus someone interjecting that in real life one of the actors has three kids and is a vegan.
 
Aug 2015
333
Korean in Canada
#8
The Hobbit is a book for children of all ages. Unfortunately people like Peter Jackson see it as a book to be interpreted in the same way as LOTR - which it isn't.
haha man, the hobbit trilogy was so bad. i could've been so good. loved the book.

Historical research using texts should be about interpretation - from the stand point of the author, the reader, later commentators, and in contrast to other information found outside of the text. It is (or should be) standard practise in history.
that is a good point. it is important to have multiple perspective of interpretation and adding them together to see if they all work together.

I think we need to understand first and foremost that not all religious traditions have books at their centre. This is a very CJudeo-Christian mold which has been transplanted onto most other traditions. Written sources and scriptures exist, but were rarely central to a people's practice...usually being reserved for the priests and sages who would then transmit the wisdom inherant to the community through multiple other means.

Accessibility to a text is only really a recent phenomenon, and I would agree that learning how to interpret a text is as important as what the text actually says. Literilists will argue that a text should be written in a such a way that it's meaning is inherant, but this becomes difficult when we think of parables and fables. Parables are not meant to be literal, they are meant to contain and transmit the meaning...but it doesn't mean the story actually happened.
Ah yeah. Catholic Church used to have bible read as Latin and not accessible to others. That might have caused some of the misinterpretations that seem to happen today.
And yeah parables are definitely something to read with care.

I found that this book, The Study of Religion by Morris Jastrow, Jr. 1902, to be a great help with reading religious texts. Religion is a mind set that can be very hard to understand and yes one should *try* to read it as in its age if your reading it as it should be read. I found myself switching back and forth as I was intentionally observing it from its future, but in certain areas I would fall into the past. Novels should be read like watching a film to me, one should fall into the story and believe it for the moment. Sometimes in film that can be hard to do with the same ole actors and incredulous aspects of the story plus someone interjecting that in real life one of the actors has three kids and is a vegan.
That sounds like an interesting book, I'll check it out. Making books into films definitely is difficult. I always think about how to make these novels I'm reading into a TV show or a movie, and it gets very confusing haha.
 

BenSt

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,565
Canada, originally Clwyd, N.Wales
#9
Ah yeah. Catholic Church used to have bible read as Latin and not accessible to others. That might have caused some of the misinterpretations that seem to happen today.
And yeah parables are definitely something to read with care.
.
I think it's a situation we must be cautious about because texts are intrinsically static. Wheeras religion, it could be argued, is living. If we base a religion entirely upon a static text, we ignore innovation. Some religions are built around texts because they were the most mobile and convenient way to propogate the religion. Religions where texts were secondary and were more tools for continuation and not propogation (Any state religion that evolved from an ethnic religion, such as Egyptian or Sumerian), we tend to see initiatory and lineage based priest hoods or teachings. Therefore, I think the OP can only really be applicable to a handful of religions where texts are focus: Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Christianity, and to some degree Buddhism. Shinto, to some degree Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Daoism, Tengrism/Shamanism, NeoPaganism etc,... do not need their followers to read texts inorder for the religion to fully function.
 
Apr 2011
1,087
Finland
#10
I think it's a situation we must be cautious about because texts are intrinsically static. Wheeras religion, it could be argued, is living. If we base a religion entirely upon a static text, we ignore innovation. Some religions are built around texts because they were the most mobile and convenient way to propogate the religion. Religions where texts were secondary and were more tools for continuation and not propogation (Any state religion that evolved from an ethnic religion, such as Egyptian or Sumerian), we tend to see initiatory and lineage based priest hoods or teachings. Therefore, I think the OP can only really be applicable to a handful of religions where texts are focus: Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Christianity, and to some degree Buddhism. Shinto, to some degree Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Daoism, Tengrism/Shamanism, NeoPaganism etc,... do not need their followers to read texts inorder for the religion to fully function.
True. There is also the fact that some religions do not mix their texts and dogma with historical events. So there is no need to prove that something happened to keep the faith or to try to think different interpretations.

On the other hand, book like Tao Te Ching (spelling?) is often dealing with things that are very hard or impossible to describe in words so interpretations are inevitable.
 

Similar History Discussions