Exegeting Stop Signs


	Suppose you're traveling to work and you see a stop sign.  What do you
	do?  That depends on how you exegete the stop sign.

	1. A postmodernist deconstructs the sign with his bumper, ending forever
		the tyranny of the north-south traffic over the east-west traffic.

	2. Similarly, a Marxist sees a stop sign as an instrument of class 
		conflict.  He concludes that the bourgeoisie use the north-south 
		road and obstruct the progress of the workers on the east-west 	
		road.

	3. A serious and educated Catholic believes that he cannot understand the 
		stop sign apart from its interpretive community and their 
		tradition.  Observing that the interpretive community doesn't take 
		it too seriously, he doesn't feel obligated to take it too 
		seriously either.

	4. An average Catholic doesn't bother to read the sign, but he'll stop if 
		the car in front of him does.

	5. A fundamentalist, allowing the text to interpret itself, stops at the
		stop sign and waits for it to tell him to go.

	6. A suburban preacher looks up "STOP" in his lexicons of English and
		discovers 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 your car.

	7. An orthodox Jew does one of two things:
	   1) 	Take another route to work that doesn't have a stop sign so that he
		doesn't run the risk of disobeying the Law.
	   2) 	Stop at the stop sign, say "Blessed art thou, O Lord our G-d, 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:  
		R[abbi] 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? Because it 
		says:  "Be still, and know that I am God."  R. Hezekiel says:  When 
		Jephthah returned from defeating the Ammonites, the Holy One, 
		Blessed be He, knew that a donkey would run out of the house and
		overtake his daughter; but Jephthah did not stop at the stop sign, 
		and the donkey did not have time to come out.  For this reason he 
		saw his daughter first and lost her.  Thus he was judged for his 
		transgression at the stop sign.  R. Gamaliel says:  R. Hillel, when 
		he was a baby, never spoke a word, though his parents tried to 
		teach him by speaking and showing him the words on a scroll.  One 
		day his father was driving through town and did not stop at the 
		sign.  Young Hillel called out: "Stop, father!"  In this way, he 
		began reading and speaking at the same time.  Thus it is written:  
		"Out of the mouth of babes."  R. ben Jacob says:  Where did the 
		stop sign come from?  Out of the sky, for it is written:  "Forever, 
		O Lord, your word is fixed in the heavens."  R. ben Nathan says:  
		When were stop signs created?  On the fourth day, for it is written: 
 		"Let them serve as signs."  R. Yeshuah says: ... [continues for 
		three more pages]

	8. A Karaite does the same thing as an Orthodox Jew, except that he waits 
		10 seconds instead of 3. He also replaces his brake lights with
		1000 watt searchlights and connects his horn so that it is 
		activated whenever he touches the brake pedal.

	9. A Unitarian concludes that the passage "STOP" undoubtedly was never
		uttered by Jesus himself, but belongs entirely to stage III of the
		gospel tradition, when the church was first confronted by traffic in 
		its parking lot.

	10. A divinity professor notices that there is no stop sign on Mark St. 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
		completely hypothetical street called "Q".  There is an excellent 
		300 page discussion of speculations on the origin of these stop 
		signs and the differences between the stop signs on Matthew and 
		Luke Street in the scholar's commentary on the passage.  There is 
		an unfortunately omission in the commentary, however; the author 
		apparently forgot to explain what the text means.

	11. A tenured divinity professor 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 
		5 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 for 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 "P".

	12.  A rival scholar notes in his commentary that the stop sign would fit 
		better into the context three streets back.  (Unfortunately, he
		neglects 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 stop sign were not there.

	13. Because of the difficulties in interpretation, a later scholar ammends 
		the text, changing "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.






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