Exegesis of My Earlier Statement

I proposed an interpretive exercise earlier today in which I posted the full content of a text message I sent a friend not so long ago.  I asked people to weigh in and offer their interpretation of the text.  A few have done so and some were closer than others.  First the text:

Yo!  I think I found my wisdom.
I just saw my wife pumping gas at Wawa.
Word is bond if she asked me for my truck she could keep it!

Now the interpretations:

Diglot:

  • Your “wife” that you saw was an attractive woman that you saw pumping gas who is not actually your wife, but that you would like to be.
  • And the last clause is talking about a different woman from the “wife” that you saw. This woman is probably related to the recipient of the message.
  • I am unsure what your “wisdom” refers to. Perhaps it is a very old wooden ship of the civil war era that you had lost but now have found.

JJMonde:

  • Yo! familiar way of salutation between teenager. The author is writing to someone familiar to him.
  • The author seems to think that he find something he lost ie his wisdom (quality of being wise – Oxford dictionary)
  • Interpretation of the first verse, the author tells his friend that he do or think something stupid and he get over it.
  • WaWa is a gaz station in NJ where the author sees his wife pumping gaz. (The author being Nick, Nick is not married, Nick saw a beautiful girl pumping gaz).
  • Word is bond, means that if the girl in question ask to pump the gaz for Nick’s truck, by fear of commitment Nick will ran away (wife) leaving his car behind

Darryl:

  • Yo! = Greeting
  • I think I found my wisdom. = Found what you think you’ve always wanted (in the look of a girl, see more below)
  • I just saw my wife pumping gas at Wawa. = You just saw your “ideal” look in a girl that you would want in a wife pumping gas at the gas station.
  • Word is bond = You’re telling the truth (Bible speak equivalent would be “Verily, Verily” or “Truly, truly”)
  • if she asked me for my truck she could keep it! = [She was so beautiful that] you would do almost anything for her if she asked.

My exegesis:

  • “Yo!” is an exclamation introducing what follows.
  • “Wisdom” = Wife according to Five Percenters (Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding = Father/Husband, Mother/Wife, Child).
  • “Wife” = An attractive woman suitable for marriage based on physical features alone.
  • “Word is bond” = Seriously.
  • “If she asked me for my truck I swear she could keep it” = a reference to the Erick Sermon song “Female Species” meaning that the woman is very attractive.
  • “Wisdom, “wife,” and the two uses of “she” all refer to the same woman.

Translation: “Listen up!  I just saw a beautiful woman who works at Wawa pumping gas.”

Two of the interpreters took “Yo!” as a greeting although it was meant as an exclamation, i.e., a sudden outcry calling attention to what I was about to say.  All three interpreters knew that I wasn’t married so they knew not to interpret “wife” literally.  They all rightly discerned that “wife” carried connotations of physical beauty.  They all rightly interpreted that this woman was actually pumping gas and this was not a metaphor of some sort.  None of the interpreters caught the parallelism between “wisdom” and “wife” due most likely to their unfamiliarity with Fiver Percenter jargon.  One interpreter rightly discerned the meaning of the final clause without catching the reference to the Erick Sermon song. One interpreter, plus Bryan whose comment I didn’t reproduce, thought that I actually drive a truck.  In point of fact I drive a car but had the reference to the song been caught then they would have been led to interpret that differently.

Interestingly enough, every interpret read more into the text then was actually intended.  This is to be expected though since they’re not familiar with the inside jokes between me and my friend and the way that we appropriate rap references to say (a) things other than what the song originally intended, and (b) things that could be stated in much plainer terms.  Aside from these factors, my friend and I also knew quite a few Five Percenters when we were growing up (I even toyed with becoming one in my mid-teens), so we’re privy to things such as the “Supreme Mathematics” and “Supreme Alphabet” where numbers and letters stand for words and concepts.  Lastly, it appears that all of the interpreters took the woman to be pumping her own gas.  This leads me to believe that none of them are native New Jersians.  My friend is a native New Jersian and immediately recognized that the woman worked at Wawa as a gas attendant since in New Jersey we don’t pump our own gas.

So what was the point of this interpretive exercise?  Humility if nothing else.  The Bible is way more foreign to modern Western interpreters than my text message is, so how much more careful should we be when approaching the Biblical text?

B”H

29 thoughts on “Exegesis of My Earlier Statement

  1. I love it. Did you do that for your teaching time at your church? Im sure that would be revealing for sure. I will be sure to quote you in the future!

  2. Justin: No, it’s just something that I thought to do today after reading a comment someone left. I remembered Moisés Silva’s example in God, Language, and Scripture but didn’t want to type it out, plus I thought the point could be made with a real example rather than a made-up one. BTW, don’t I owe you some notes from my classes? Email me to remind me and I’ll send you what I have taught so far.

    Diglot: A Five Percenter is a member of the Nations of Gods and Earths. The Nation of Gods and Earths is basically an offshoot of the Nation of Islam which as you probably already know is a heretical Muslim sect. They refer to themselves as Five Percenters because of the belief that humanity is divided into three groups:

    The 85% = the masses who are dumb, deaf, and blind.

    The 10% = the snakes who know the truth but suppress it in order to keep the masses deceived.

    The 5% = the poor righteous teachers whose mission is to resurrect the masses by bringing them the knowledge of self.

  3. It is my considered opinion that the most significant bit of exegesis here is that “I saw my wife pumping gas at Wawa” means that this attractive woman works there pumping gas, and not that the was there pumping gas for herself — a fact that would be lost on those who don’t know that self-service at gas pumps is not allowed in New Jersey.

  4. Steph: I did nothing but admire from afar.

    Esteban: I should be surprised that you caught that, but I’m not, since I know that you, sir, are a world class exegete! ;-)

  5. Well, I must admit that I was not able to identify the hymnic reference in the last line since I have not yet acquainted myself with all of the relevant epigraphic evidence. However, I will dedicate my next sabbatical to the interpretation of this important text, and my detailed exegetical commentary will appear shortly thereafter, in two installments, in the Harvard Theological Review. ;-)

  6. Esteban: In researching the reference you will note that mine was a loose paraphrase. The relevant material in “Female Species” goes something like this:

    I was wide open, man I couldn’t believe it
    If the girl asked me for my truck, I swear she can keep it

    Let me know when that issue of HTR is published.

    Jason: Because we have people to do it for us. ;-)

  7. Nick: I figured as much, but why? Is it an actual law? I haven’t seen someone other than the customer pump gas since I was a kid–a strange land New Jersey! ;-)

  8. Jason: I’m pretty sure there is an actual law but I don’t know what it is exactly or why it was ever put into effect. All I can tell you is that we don’t want to pump our own gas so we don’t. ;-)

  9. this is terrible. i find myself beginning conversations at work with ‘yo! i think i found my wisdom!’

  10. you can’t pump your own gas in Oregon either. Yes, it’s the law. but I don’t unerstand it either. I have always pumped my own gas.

  11. Brian: Looks like Oregon knows what’s up! I thought we were the only ones. I’ve only pumped my own gas when out of state and I much prefer for people to do it for me.

  12. I think that Oregon and New Jersey were once in the majority. When I first started driving, Illinois did not allow self-service.

    As far as your exercise goes, I often see exegetical arguments that draw inferences from the fact that a particular word is used rather than another in a particular context. While I have no doubt that there are some situations where Paul chooses a unique word in order to make a unique theological point. On the other hand, might he not sometimes have used a different word purely for stylistic reasons, like you did with “wisdom for wife, without intending a different meaning? Might he have used different phrases in different letters simply because people spoke differently in Corinth than in Phillipi?

  13. a post-colonial, feminist interpretation:

    Yo! I think I found my wisdom.
    I just saw my wife pumping gas at Wawa.

    The juxtaposition of “wisdom” and “wife” obviously points to an authoritarian, male-dominated interpretation of “dame wisdom” / “wife of noble character” as seen in Proverbs 8 and 31.

    Wawa” is a Native American (Lenni Lenape) term, meaning “Canadian goose”.

    The author has found his “wisdom” / “wife” in a subservient position of pumping gas, at a station related to the oppression of Native Americans (by virtue of its intertextual reference to the formerly-endangered bird species).

    Word is bond if she asked me for my truck she could keep it!

    Hiding under a mask of supposed integrity and generosity, the agent of domination expresses his pleasure upon seeing his prey. The supposed integrity is obvious in his swearing an oath (“Word is bond”) and his generosity is falsely portrayed in his promise giving her a truck.

    Puzzling, however, is his choice of “truck” as the subject of his generosity. “Truck” – being an obvious symbol of masculinity in a phallocentric culture – is enigmatic. The author perhaps intimates a guilt-ridden willingness to castrate himself for the sake of gaining his wisdom/wife.

  14. Vinny: That’s interesting. I’ve always thought NJ was the only state that had full service gas for everyone.

    As for your other point, I do think that there are times when all of the Biblical writers (not just Paul) chose one word over another purely for stylistic reasons. A good example is John 21:15-17 where John where two different words for love are used that are most likely to be taken synonymously yet are invested with meaning past a plain sense reading of the passage (i.e., Jesus asks about a ‘God kind of love’ and Peter responds with a ‘brotherly love’). The passage is just talking about ‘love’ without all the added baggage.

    Jim: That’s hilarious! It’s also quite close to the intended meaning. ;-)

  15. Its clearly a simple ABA chiasmus designed to highlight the phrase “Word is Bond”, with a wisdom prologue. The layout being:

    Prologue: Yo! I think I found my wisdom.

    A – she pumps gas
    B – WORD IS BOND
    A – she takes truck

    The parts that don’t fit were obviously added by the editor (we’ll call him the Norellionomist) at a later date, roughly around the same time as the composition of the prologue.

  16. he’s gonna send her flowers anonymously and keep doing it until he meets her and then they’re going to have a whirlwind romance and the first we’ll know is when they’re married. But it’s all going to be very secret and we’re not going to know until the wedding.

  17. Esteban: Yes, mine too!

    Nancy: I’ll probably refrain from sending flowers, but if I see her again I’ll make sure to let her know that she’s been the subject of some discussion. ;-)

    Steph: It’s doubtful, but thanks for the wishful thinking. :-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s