Herewith the hermeneutics of a STOP sign
Suppose you're traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you do?
That depends on how you exegete (interpret) the stop sign.
- 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
- 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
- A serious and educated Catholic rolls through the intersection because he
believes he cannot understand the stop sign apart from its interpretive
community and tradition. Observing that the interpretive
community doesn't take it too seriously, he doesn't feel obligated to take it
too seriously either.
- An average Catholic (or Orthodox or Coptic or Anglican or Methodist or
Presbyterian or whatever) doesn't bother to read the sign but he'll stop the
car if the car in front of him does.
- A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign
and waits for it to tell him to go.
- 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) 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
traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from
- 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;
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 3 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?
Becauseit says, "Be still and know that I am
- 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
peoples 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.
- A NT (New Testament) 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
- An OT (Old Testament) scholar points out that there are a number of
stylistic differences between the first and second half of the passage
"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 on 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
- Another prominent OT scholar notes in his commentary that the stop sign
would fit better into the context three streets back. (Unfortunately, he
neglected to explain why in his commentary.) Clearly it was moved
to its present location by a later redactor. He thus exegetes the intersection
as though the sign were not there.
- 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."
- 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.