Monday, February 16, 2009

Stop Sign Hermeneutics

Suppose you're traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you do? That depends on how you exegete the stop sign.

1. A post modernist deconstructs the sign (knocks it over with his car), ending forever the tyranny of the north-south traffic over the east-west traffic.

2. Similarly, a Marxist refuses to stop because he sees the stop sign as an instrument of class conflict. He concludes that the bourgeois use the north-south road and obstruct the progress of the workers in the east-west road.

3. A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and waits for it to tell him to go.

4. A highly educated Catholic rolls through the intersection because he believes he cannot understand the stop sign apart from its interpretative community and tradition. In the absence of an interpretative community, he passes through in peace.

5. An average Christian doesn't bother to read the sign but he'll stop the car if the car in front of him does.

6. An educated evangelical preacher might look up 'STOP' in his lexicon of English and discover that it can mean:

(a) something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain;

(b) a location where a train or bus lets off passengers.

The main point of his sermon the following Sunday on this text is: when you see a stop sign, it is a place where the traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from your car.

7. An Orthodox Jew does one of two things:
(a) take another route to work that doesn't have a stop sign so that he doesn't run the risk of disobeying the Law; or
(b) stop at the sign, say 'Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast given us thy commandment to stop,' wait three seconds according to his watch, and then proceed.

Incidentally, the Talmud has the following comments on this passage:
Rabbi Meir says: 'He who does not stop shall not live long.'

R. Hillel says: 'Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding.'

R. Simon ben Yudah says: 'Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, gave us the Law, the Prophets, and
the Writings.'

R. ben Isaac says: 'Because of the three patriarchs.'

R.Yehuda says: 'Why bless the Lord at a stop sign? Because it says, "Be still and know that I am God."'

8. A scholar from the Jesus Seminar concludes that the passage 'STOP' undoubtedly was never uttered by Jesus himself because being the progressive Jew that he was, he would never have wanted to stifle people's progress. Therefore 'STOP' must be a textual insertion belonging entirely to stage III of the gospel tradition, when the church was first confronted by traffic in its parking lot.

9. An Old Testament scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second half of the expression 'STOP'. For example, 'ST' contains no enclosed areas and five line endings, whereas 'OP' contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the author for the second part is different from the author of the first
part and probably lived hundreds of years later. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic differences between the 'O' and the 'P'.

10. Because of the difficulties in interpretation, another OT scholar amends the text, changing the 'T' to 'H'. 'SHOP' is much easier to understand in context than 'STOP' because of the multiplicity of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because 'SHOP' is so similar to 'STOP' on the sign several streets back, that it is a natural mistake for a scribe
to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a shopping area. If this is true, it could indicate that both meanings are valid, thus making the thrust of the message 'STOP (AND) SHOP'.

11. A 'prophetic' preacher notices that the square root of the sum of the numeric representations of the letters S-T-O-P (sigma-tau-omicron-pi, in the Greek alphabet), multiplied by 40 (the number of testing), and divided by four (the number of the world: north, south, east, and west) equals 666. Therefore, he concludes that stop signs are the dreaded 'mark of the
beast', a harbinger of divine judgment upon the world, and must be avoided at all costs.

A professor shared this email with the class today and it gave me my laugh for the day. I hope it does the same for you.



Marty said...

I have had that "Hermeneutics" lesson before... an officer of the "law" gave me a citation for my interpretation and I had to put some money in the basket when it was passed around.

fragilewisdom said...

LOL, I have had a similar experience.

jadedj said...

Glad you found a way to "connect" because this gave me major chuckle...thanks :)

Joan said...

Good one!

fragilewisdom said...

Hello J and Joan. I am glad you both enjoyed it.