the weblog of Alan Knox

But, will you "STOP"?

Posted by on Aug 22, 2007 in blog links, discipleship, scripture | 5 comments

John at “Jesus the Radical Pastor” shares a post called “The Meaning of ‘Stop’” which was originally written by Tim Perry from Durham University. He uses caricatures of modern hermeneutical methods to examine the meaning of the word “STOP” on a stop sign. Here are some of my favorites (although there are many hilarious examples):

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

6. A seminary-educated evangelical preacher might look up “STOP” in his lexicons of English and discover that it can mean: 1) something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain, or a block of wood that prevents a door from closing; 2) 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 traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from your car.

10. A NT scholar notices that there is no stop sign on Mark street but there is one on Matthew and Luke streets, and concludes that the ones on Luke and Matthew streets are both copied from a sign on a street no one has ever seen called “Q” Street. There is an excellent 300 page doctoral dissertation on the origin of these stop signs and the differences between stop signs on Matthew and Luke street in the scholar’s commentary on the passage. There is an unfortunate omission in the dissertation, however; it doesn’t explain the meaning of the text!

Yes, these are funny and very close to reality. But, I wonder: how many people who study the stop sign would actually stop?

I enjoy a good scholarly study of a biblical passage. But, if you want to teach, start by living out what you are teaching. You can study and outline and explain and exhort, but if your life does not match what you say, then you are not teaching (in the NT pattern of teaching). Consider this passage from Jesus:

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you- but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. (Matthew 23:2-3 ESV)

And this passage from Jesus:

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. (John 14:23-24 ESV)

And this passage from Paul:

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me- practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9 ESV)

And this passage from James:

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13 ESV)

So, study the stop sign. Examine the stop sign. Analyze the stop sign. Read what others say about the stop sign. Discuss the stop sign. But, most of all, STOP!


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-22-2007

    Seems to me the point of the original post was that at a stop sign, we stop. And then we go.

  2. 8-22-2007


    I think that’s the point too. But, obedience is not always the point of the various hermeneutical methods.


  3. 8-22-2007


    Thanks for this reminder. Head knowledge is important, but how we live out our lives as redeemed people is much more critical.


  4. 8-22-2007

    Here’s what I mean.

    Sometimes we read the word “STOP” and, as the fundamentalist did, take that as the word for all time because of the literalist interpretation, sola scriptura. But there is an assumption on that sign that once we stop, look right and left for other traffic, we will proceed safely.

    Now, that’s not said anywhere on the stop sign. It must be understood. It must have been passed along somewhere else, or by someone else. You can read it in your driver’s manual, but that’s not the first place you learned it. If your dad taught you to drive, he probably told you that. Actually, you probably noticed it from observing him and all the other drivers on the road well before you ever attempted to drive.

    In other words, our (necessary) obedience to the stop sign is not finished when we stop. We must not stay stopped. Our (necessary) obedience to the explicit negative command of scripture (Thou shalt not. . .) is not finished when we resist that particular sin. Our call is then to go and to do as God has called us.

  5. 8-22-2007


    I agree! If our lives are not being transformed and conformed into the life of Christ, then we are not living as the redeemed.


    I agree completely! Unfortunately, many are quite happy with reading “Stop”, then explaining that it actually means “Stop, then go when the road is clear”. However, they never actually get around to obeying the stop sign (or Scripture, in our case). I am not suggesting that we should give up our hermeneutical methods. Instead, I am suggesting that any hermeneutical method is useless if it is not accompanied with obedience.



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