Exegesis (i.e. biblical interpretation) has never been about “possibility.” It has always been about “probability.”
I frequently come across interpretive conclusions where the language of “possibility” is invoked, by both those who read Greek and Hebrew, and those who don’t. I have noticed that some use this ploy when they approach a text with a preconceived conclusion in order to fit their pet theory.
Recently, I read a discussion among some individuals who do not know Hebrew from Adam about what “the Hebrew means” in a particular text. They were imposing their English categories upon the Semitic language and concluding that “it is possible that the Hebrew could mean X”; consequently, the probable meaning was deflated, minimized, and equalized. In other words, doubt was cast upon the probable meaning because another meaning was “possible.” Pragmatically, the authority of Scripture was neutralized with the tactic of citing “possibility,” because someone did not like the probable meaning—it undermined their theory.
“Possibility” is irrelevant in interpretative conclusions; what matters is what is probable. One can never come to a confident conclusion if we allow the “possibility.” The clarity of God’s Word ends up being hazy and out of reach.
It is possible a two-headed, pink elephant is outside my door, but why should I amuse this possibility?
Tags: exegesis hermeneutics