STOP Sign Hermeneutics STOP Sign Hermeneutics
Suppose you're traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What you do depends on your implicit hermeneutics.


  1. A postmodernist deconstructs the sign (i.e., he knocks it over with his car), thus 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 Christian doesn't bother to read the sign but he'll stop if the car in front of him does.
  5. A Fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and then waits for it to tell him to go.
  6. A traffic apologist looks up "STOP" in his lexicon of English and discovers that it can mean either: 1) something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain, or a block of wood that prevents a door from closing; or 2) a location where a train or bus lets off passengers. The main point of his argument on the Traffic Debate Forum on this issue is his conclusion: 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. A scholar from the Jesus Seminar 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.
  8. A NT 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 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 unfortunate omission in the commentary, however: the author apparently forgot to explain what the text means.
  9. An OT scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second half of the passage "STOP". For ample, "ST" contains no enclosed areas and 5 line endings, whereas "OP" contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes at 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".
  10. Another prominent OT scholar notes in his commentary that the stop sign would fit better into the context three streets back. 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.
  11. Because of the difficulties in interpretation, another OT scholar amends 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.
  12. An Orthodox Jew does one of two things: Takes another route to work that doesn't have a stop sign so that he doesn't run the risk of disobeying the halachah (Jewish Law); or stops at the stop sign, says "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast given us thy commandment to stop," waits 3 seconds according to his watch, and then proceeds
  13. A Lubovitcher Hasidic Jew stops at the sign and reads it very carefully in the light of the Rebbe's teachings. (In former times he would have used his cell phone to call Brooklyn and speak to the Rebbe personally for advice, but this is no longer possible, may the Rebbe rest in peace.) Next, he gets out of the car and sets up a roadside mitzvah mobile [outreach booth], taking this opportunity to ask other Jewish drivers who stop at the sign whether or not they have put on tefillin today [male ritual] or whether they light Shabbos candles [female ritual]. Having now settled there, he steadfastly refuses to give up a single inch of the land he occupies until Moschiach [the Jewish Messiah] comes.
  14. A Reform Jew sees the stop sign, and coasts up to it while contemplating the question "Do I personally feel commanded to stop?" During this internal process he edges into the intersection and is hit from behind by a car driven by a secular Jew who ignored the sign completely.
  15. A Conservative Republican reacts by calling his lawyer and asking him whether stopping at this sign is required by unanimous ruling of the SEC. While waiting for the answer he is ticketed by a policeman for obstructing traffic. He blames activist judges for overturning years of common sense traffic laws.
  16. A Liberal Democrat stops at the sign, but feels that the community would be better served if this was a through street, and the cross street had the stop. He hires a lobbyist to ensure this change is adopted. A month later, when driving on the cross street, he stops for the new stop sign and blames the Republicans for subsidizing the stop sign industry and making him late for an interview.
  17. The Zodiac-aware Jesus Freak meditates on whether the STOP sign applies in all Four Worlds [Mental-Emotional-Physical-Energy] or only in some of them, and if so which ones? Is her sun sign in the Stop house? While fumbling out her Tarot cards for a quick reading, a Southern Baptist behind her takes personal offense at about ten of her thirty two bumper stickers, and gets out to scream the word of God at her until she rolls up her windows and drives off.
  18. An atheist examines the legality of the stop sign in reference to his personal standards of morals and acceptable social dogmas, determines that there are sufficient justifications to stop in view of enlightened self interest, and halts his vehicle.
  19. A militant atheist feels that the civic official that determined the stop sign arrangement at this intersection was probably working to inflict his personal standards of traffic onto the population in general and blows the stopsign in an act of civil disobedience. But he tells the paramedics, as they cut him out of the wreckage, that he never saw the sign.
  20. An agnostic stops, but only to examine the validity of the stop sign with reference to the traffic laws that apply to all the streets that travel through this intersection. Is it a four way stop? A three way? How can anyone not think that traffic is designed? But how can anyone think a system this fucked up is the result of intelligence?
  21. A libertarian drives past the sign, but stops around the corner. He gets out, and starts telling everyone that does stop that there are no stop signs in the constitution, and the Supreme Court has never had a chance to uphold the free-motion rights of the individual.
  22. An NRA member points out to his friend where he drilled three shots out of five inside the O on the sign.

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