The role of pathos in understanding authorial intent in biblical narratives: a homiletical study
This study employs Osmer’s (2008:4–12) methodology for investigating and interpreting practical-theological problems. By using Osmer’s four tasks, namely the descriptive-empirical task, interpretive task, normative task, and pragmatic task, the problem at hand is studied in an organically interrelated and inter-influential manner. Chapter 1 provides the background to this study by discussing the importance of pathos in interpreting biblical narratives and in sermon delivery. The discussion also questions why the role of pathos is not considered during exegesis and biblical interpretation, especially with regard to biblical narratives. The following questions arise when considering pathos: 1. How can a descriptive-empirical study on the pattern of interpretation in narrative passages help preachers realize the role of pathos in understanding authorial intent? 2. What interpretive study is needed to understand why preachers realize or neglect the influence of pathos in narrative passages? 3. How can a normative study help preachers discern paths appropriately in characters and plot progression in narrative passages? 4. What pragmatic study insights can be attained by realizing the role of pathos in relation to communicating the message? These questions are addressed by following Osmer’s methodology. Chapter 2, in answer to Osmer’s descriptive-empirical task, seeks to identify the pattern of interpretation of narrative passages by providing a cursory overview of the literature on pathos and interpretation. This literature overview explores how influential pathos is for authorial intent, cognition, imagination, persuasion, and narrative. In pursuit of the aim of the task, empirical data and information were gathered by means of questionnaires with open-ended question. The empirical research involved 25 pastors from the Bethel Bible College in Lesotho. Participants had to meet the requirements of having a basic biblical understanding of the whole Bible. Their personal and ministerial information were also collected. They were given a questionnaire with four narrative passages for interpretation. The questionnaire asked them to reveal their primary tool of interpretation and the effect of pathos on their determination of the authorial intent. Chapter 3, as the interpretive task, seeks reasons for the phenomena identified from the empirical data by means of qualitative literary research into neighbouring disciplinary fields such as philosophy, psychology, anthropology and hermeneutics on the role of emotion. This literary research reveals the reasons why the influence of pathos in narrative passages has come to be neglected. The Greek philosophers emphasized intellectual activity over intuition, and this emphasis has been transferred to the process of hermeneutics. This has resulted in a reluctance to emphasize the emotional dimensions in communication. There is a perception of ethical issues such as manipulating emotion and distorting authorial intent during preaching. However, rhetoric uses emotional effect. Rhetoric is primarily concerned with persuasion and the effect of emotion in this process cannot be denied. According to some philosophical and anthropological perspectives, language is the primary medium through which to ignite an emotional response, so metaphors or images are useful for stirring emotions. As the main purpose of preaching is also persuasion, it is important to use emotions to awaken listeners’ minds and to guide their responses. Chapter 4, as the normative task, illustrates the phenomena with theological discernment. The chapter analyses four biblical passages (Genesis 29:15–30, Numbers 13:26–33, Luke 5:1–11, John 2:1–11) to identify the narrative progression and character development. This analysis shows the importance of the emotional aspects and the hermeneutical guidelines that may be used to look at biblical narratives (plot, character, point of view, setting, and imagination). The chapter explains the importance of pathos as the narrative and exegetical components of the four passages are examined. Chapter 5, as the pragmatic task, formulates strategies for considering pathos during exegesis and employing it in communication. Such strategies can help preachers re-imagine what the author of the Bible intended and to encourage people to understand the Word more clearly. By using imagination, thinking like characters, and music, both preachers and listeners can understand and experience the intent of the Word. The strategies are suggested in the context of practical worship, not only with reference to the intellectual process of hermeneutics. Chapter 6, as the last chapter of the study, summarizes the gist of the study and acknowledge the limitations of the study. The chapter offers some recommendations for further study and practice for use by preachers, congregations, and biblical institutes.
- Theology