Almost every week someone will correct my grammar or spelling in my blog. I appreciate it because I want to get better at writing and grammar and spelling is a key part of communicating accurately to others. I wish that I could remember each week what I am corrected on so I didn’t have to keep learning it.
Hermeneutics is the system that we use to determine what someone meant by what they wrote. It isn’t easy with the Bible because of the time difference, of almost several thousand years at the shortest to approximately 3500 years to the longest between us who read today and those who wrote the various books in the Bible. That means many things are different, way different between the writers and the readers culture and understanding of words and their meanings. We understand that the writers were “inspired” by God through the Holy Spirit leading and prompting the various writers, and that today the Holy Spirit helps us to understand the supernatural book of the Bible, but that doesn’t negate good scholarship, study, and thought in arriving at our theology and doctrine. Our system of hermeneutics acknowledges that the authors of the various books of the Bible didn’t write in a vacuum, but that they had a history and a culture, and wrote out of that experience from the past and present.
One of my favorite verses when it comes to interpreting the Bible is Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”
In a conversation in writing with a person they asked, “where does Jesus teach about this particular topic?” and I answered, “He doesn’t“. “Well, how can it be true then?” I responded by writing, “Where does Moses teach on that subject?” They accurately responded, “I don’t think he does”. I wrote, “You are right, he doesn’t, so how can it be true then?” Their response was right on, “I don’t think Moses had to have written about a topic for it to be true”. And my response was, “ So if Moses didn’t need to teach about a topic for it to be true, why did Jesus?” I went on to write, “If you study the teaching of Jesus you will find most of it already written somewhere in the Old Testament, He was teaching what He had been taught as He grew up, an example being Jesus telling a parable in Luke 14 about not picking out a seat of honor at a banquet, which is very close to the proverb in chapter 25 of Proverbs. But did Jesus teach some brand new, never before revealed truth? Sure he did! lots of it! How about the Apostle Paul, did he teach some stuff that he had learned as a student of the Old Testament, yes he did, a lot. But did he teach some brand new, never before revealed truth as well, yes he did. You see, the Bible was written progressively, and you have to interpret it in the direction it was written.
So now we have a simple rule of hermeneutics that gets violated all of the time, “Use scripture to interpret scripture, but don’t do it backwards”, which simply means, Genesis was written before Revelations, interpret it that way.
I am teaching a class this Fall on Theology, Doctrine, and How to Rightly interpret the Bible. It starts on October 27th, will meet at 8:00 am on Sunday morning at JBC in the Discipleship Center, upstairs in room 201. You all are invited.