Recently I was curious about the word, harbinger. So I dug a bit into the etymology of the word. Interesting – it hails from an old French word herbergier which had the idea of “providing lodging for.” Further back it has roots in an old Saxon word, heriberga, which means “shelter for an army,” and even further back its origin is in a Germanic base meaning “fortified place.” The word is related to harbor, and was used to denote a person who went ahead to find lodging and a safe place for an army or a nobleman. This harbinger person was not only the finder of a safe place of lodging for his “employer,” but also a kind of herald as to the entourage that was coming.
That all got me to thinking – and yes (having studied enough Hebrew and Greek to be dangerous) I’m aware of the hazards of just going with the etymology of a word. But the truth is we all interpret things (books, texts, movies, cartoons, language, experiences, relationships, events, indeed all things) from our own “place of lodging, safe shelter, harbor, fortified place.” That place is the harbinger of how we do hermeneutics. It’s the “world” we live in – our cultural, overarching story.