Interpretation of Meaning: Authorial Intent versus Reader Response in Contextualizing Meaning




Interpretation of Meaning:

Authorial Intent versus Reader Response in Contextualizing Meaning

















Special Topic Question 1

Authorial Intent versus Reader Response

The difference between authorial intent and reader response is own the basis of interpretation of meaning of the respective text. Meaning in this context is the conveyance of the message communicated by the text. The essence of writing is to share information and that it will be well understood by its recipients. Authorial intent implies staying true to the author’s meaning. The reader tries to decipher the purpose of the book through analyzing clues intentionally left behind by the author through the manipulation of language (Gibbs 2001, 73-80). The meaning of the text thus has a standard message and not custom made for particular readers. This liberates it from potential subjectivity during interpretation by the reader. The reader should aspire to preserve the sanctity of the author’s intent. In scripture, authorial intent becomes more complex as there are two authors, the human author and the divine author. As human author may have slightly altered the pure message, the reader has to decipher the deeper meaning of the scripture (Smith 1963). Taking the word at face value may misguide the reader.

Conversely, reader response is the subjective interpretation of said text according to the readers’ understanding. The meaning is derived from how the reader identifies to the message. The author’s intent is hardly taken into consideration. The original message is subject to distortion by the reader’s attitudes and biases. The reader interprets the text selective according to what they consider useful and ignoring the rest either consciously or inadvertently (Harkin 2005, 410-425). By incorporating the text into their own reality, the readers often extrapolate definitions from their own circumstances and unsubstantiated opinions. The importance of understanding the author’s message especially in the scripture cannot be trivialized. The reader’s personal interpretation is inconsequential if it is based on the wrong concept.

Communication is at the center of authorial intent. It is from her e that the author derives satisfaction. In the case of scripture, readers tend to manipulate the text to fit into their objectives. A reader may quote a verse in isolation to justify his/her actions but when read in context the words’ meaning may be different from the ones proposed by the reader (Sandora et al. 1999, 177-212). In contemporary literature, both the author and reader influence the meaning of the text. The aim is make the readers to be more engaged by sharing their viewpoints. However, in scriptures the author holds the monopoly over the meaning of the text. Of the three pillars of meaning, that is, author, text and reader, text is the main constant. It follows that the specifics of the text like language should be sought rather than trying to uncover the author’s mood at the time of writing (Lundberg 2014). The greatest impediment to uncovering the authorial intent is the lack of speaker presence. In absentia, the reader cannot consult them on controversial terms that demand clarification. Unchecked the terms become open to multiple interpretations. In Christianity, asking God for revelation on contentious scriptures is the main way to stabilize the meaning of the texts, as the human authors are all dead (Besecke 2001, 365-381). Another challenge that arises in determining meaning is language problems. Since many terms in the original language of the text may not have corresponding words in another language, meaning may be lost during translation (Shuttleworth, Mark and Cowie 2014). The ambiguity of the translated version may mislead the reader. The importance of a one goal post for meaning is to prevent every reader from assuming a personal benchmark upon which to interpret the scripture. In line with the false doctrines based on alleged revelations will be stopped, as readers will apply the meaning directly from the scriptures.


Special Topic Question Two

Meaning and Application

In order to apply a certain message one must first fully understand its meaning. Meaning implies the process of interpreting the message sent. An in depth analysis of the author’s purpose of writing is made considering all the relevant factors from culture to the period in time in order to understand the context. Afterward the reader uses the findings to obey the dictates of the message (Vanhoozer 2009). Application may reveal deeper understanding of the meaning of the text. In scriptures, the meaning is standardized across the board. On the other hand, application varies from one Christian to another according to their individual diligence. It should not be forced but an act of obedience done voluntarily (Vanhoozer 2001, 1-49). Application must resonate with the intended meaning and done within its confines. The application process starts from the interpretation stage. First, examine the adequacy of the tenets utilized in the text to handle the original circumstances. Second, relate these findings with a similar situation in modern times. Ensure the application is not general.

How to Apply Meaning

1 Timothy 6; 10

“10 For the love of money is the root of all evil; and while some have coveted after it, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”


  1. Find the context of the verse and its biblical audience.

Paul in a letter to Timothy encourages the congregation at Ephesus to desist from preoccupation with material possessions especially gold as it only leads to death. The congregation is advised to be content with what they have in Timothy chapter 6 from verses six through to ten.

  1. Establish the difference that exists between the circumstance in the scripture and its parallel in contemporary society.

The readers may not be leaders like Timothy. The readers do not exist in the first century rather in the 21st century. The readers do not belong to the congregation of the church of Ephesus. The economic circumstances and by extension challenges are not similar.

  1. Establish the theological tenets used in the text.

Greed leads to death a person should rather engage in activities that glorify God. Desiring money gives impetus to evil to reign in a person life. A person should translate that zeal used in pursuit of earthly possessions in seeking God (Keener 2014). Contentment with what a person has is critical. Wealth without wisdom will be the undoing of the owner.

  1. Understand the relevance of the text to the contemporary society.
  2. How are the tenets employed to the believers walk in Christ?

Believers should abstain from pursuing achievements, careers or any particular agenda with the sole aim of gaining wealth. Believers should desire to engage is godly activities with the same vigor they invest in endeavors that bring them financial profit.




Besecke, Kelly. “Speaking of meaning in modernity: Reflexive spirituality as a cultural resource.” Sociology of Religion 62, no. 3 (2001): 365-381.

Gibbs Jr, Raymond W. “Authorial intentions in text understanding.” Discourse Processes 32, no. 1 (2001): 73-80.

Harkin, Patricia. “The reception of reader-response theory.” College Composition and Communication (2005): 410-425.

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. InterVarsity Press, 2014.

Lundberg, Margaret L. “A Community of Two: Along the Boundary between Author and Reader.” (2014).

Sandora, Cheryl, Isabel Beck, and Margaret Mckeown. “A COMPARISON OF TWO DISCUSSION STRATEGIES ON STUDENTS’COMPREHENSION AND INTERPRETATION OF COMPLEX LITERATURE.” Reading Psychology 20, no. 3 (1999): 177-212.

Shuttleworth, Mark, and Moira Cowie. Dictionary of translation studies. Routledge, 2014.

Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. The meaning and end of religion. Fortress Press, 1963.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. “From speech acts to scripture acts.” After Pentecost: language and biblical interpretation 2 (2001): 1-49.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. Is there a meaning in this text?: the Bible, the reader, and the morality of literary knowledge. Zondervan, 2009.

Calculate your order
275 words
Total price: $0.00

Top-quality papers guaranteed


100% original papers

We sell only unique pieces of writing completed according to your demands.


Confidential service

We use security encryption to keep your personal data protected.


Money-back guarantee

We can give your money back if something goes wrong with your order.

Enjoy the free features we offer to everyone

  1. Title page

    Get a free title page formatted according to the specifics of your particular style.

  2. Custom formatting

    Request us to use APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, or any other style for your essay.

  3. Bibliography page

    Don’t pay extra for a list of references that perfectly fits your academic needs.

  4. 24/7 support assistance

    Ask us a question anytime you need to—we don’t charge extra for supporting you!

Calculate how much your essay costs

Type of paper
Academic level
550 words

How to place an order

  • Choose the number of pages, your academic level, and deadline
  • Push the orange button
  • Give instructions for your paper
  • Pay with PayPal or a credit card
  • Track the progress of your order
  • Approve and enjoy your custom paper

Ask experts to write you a cheap essay of excellent quality

Place an order