Thursday, November 5, 2009

Scripture Illustrations and Urban Legends

A good friend of mine is currently teaching a Bible Study class on the topic of shepherds and sheep. While researching the subject, he came across a pastor’s sermon posted on the internet that included some interesting illustrations which he suspected might not be historically correct. He emailed a request that I check it out and this post is a result of my findings and thoughts on the subject.

I read the pastor’s sermon on the 23rd Psalms which included several illustrations on shepherds and sheep during the OT period of King David. In Psalms 23, we have two beautiful images picturing God caring for His people. We see God as a Shepherd caring for His sheep (v 1-4) and God as a banquet Host caring for His guest (v 5-6). The pastor had interpreted the entire chapter picturing God as a shepherd, and included illustrations pertaining to verse 5 involving the "cup overflowing" as a sheep basin and the "table" as an area of grass around a wounded sheep. In technical terms, he was practicing eisegesis (reading his own interpretation back into the text) rather than exegesis (drawing out the original intent of the author and letting the text speak for itself).

In this particular case, perhaps no serious damage is done since both images (God as shepherd and host) refer to the same subject, God caring for His people. I began however, pondering the question: How concerned should pastors, teachers and students of the Word be regarding the use of manufactured stories or urban legends in the illustration of Scripture?

Read the entire Urban Legends article, including examples and proper use of fictional stories.

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