Chapter 2: SYMBOLS, PERCEPTION AND MEANING
On the completion of this chapter the reader should be competent to:
· evaluate the influence of various epistemological positions on inter-cultural
· describe the influence of our perceptions on interpretation of messages;
· explain the rationale for varying degrees of association between forms (symbols) and
their associated meanings;
· recognise and differentiate between various levels of meaning associated with
1. Apply one of the most appropriate epistemological positions reflected or expressed
in each of the following statements.
a. Marshall Singer: Since there is no way that we can know what we
don’t perceive, we assume that we perceive ‘correctly’ even if we
b. Creation Science research disproves the theory of Evolution.
c. Polynesian people engage in a religious quest for ‘mana’ - power.
They are not concerned with the question of truth, but with what
d. Mochtar (speaking to a foreign government): Evaluate what
Indonesia does on its own terms not on yours.
e. McGavran: The plain meaning of the Bible is the true meaning.
2. If commentators, historians, and ordinary Bible readers derive meaning from the
New Testament, the question we might put to them is whether such meaning
comes from their cultural story or the cultural story of the people who produce the
text.’ Quoted from Bruce Malina in The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural
Anthropology, (London, SCM, 1981), 10.
3. Think of examples where you have discovered that the meaning you had applied
to the text was deriving from your own cultural experience rather than the text?
4. Famous people are sometimes referred to as icons of their country. Using Peirce’s
typology, are they icons, indexes or symbols or none of these?
5. Matt. 5:40-41 (NIV) And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, hand over
your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles. What is the
formal meaning? What do you think is the referential meaning?
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