Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Thirst for Hermeneutics
07/28/2005 - James WhiteI mentioned to some friends that I would be open for them to provide me with some assistance in blogging between now and the Crossan debate, less than a month off, and the first one to submit something was my friend pastor John Samson, aka "SillyBrit2," a former subject of the British Crown, now a true Yank (he has given up on the Empire ever getting the Colonies back). Here's his submission:
We would be horrified to hear of a surgeon who had just two weeks of training operating on someone's brain. As important as brain surgery is, I believe the job of the Gospel preacher is far more important. Eternal souls hang in the balance, and great care and attention is needed to ensure that a teaching is sound, healthy and accurate. A teacher of the Bible needs rigorous training in the science of biblical interpretation (hermeneutics). But that's not just true for the preacher; everyone of us needs to know how to gain an accurate knowledge of the Word of God.
Some people think that if God wants you to know something about the Bible, He will just reveal it to you supernaturally. Unfortunately, that's how a lot of cults get started. 1 Tim 5:17 says, "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine." Correct interpretation requires work; sometimes, a great deal of hard work.
We are also told to "be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Tim. 2:15). Without diligent study, it is easy to wrongly divide the word; to believe and to teach error. The main way this takes place is because we draw illegitimate inferences from the text - when we read into the text things that are not actually said by the text, and draw out of the text things that are actually not there (known as eisegesis). Sadly, this happens all too frequently.
Though there may be many applications of a text or passage of Scripture, there is only ONE correct interpretation. In other words, it doesn't mean one thing and the exact opposite thing at the same time. Scripture is consistent. Scripture was written down by men, but in reality, there is only one Author, God Himself. God does not contradict Himself; He is not the author of confusion. Though, at times, we may be confused about what a passage means, God is never confused, and it is precisely because the Bible has a God inspired consistency that we can study it to find out what it means.
Because Scripture has only one correct interpretation, we can learn to be consistent in our interpretation of biblical texts by following some basic rules. These include reading any text in its context, finding out the meaning of the original words and grammar, and following the basic rules of English - verbs always stay as verbs, nouns as nouns, etc,.
Let us dispense with our traditions whenever we encounter them. What matters is not what we have assumed that a text says, but what it actually says. When the plain meaning of the text says something that challenges our traditional assumptions, we have a choice. We can say "it can't mean that because of" (and we immediately take refuge in our traditional assumptions about what Scripture says), or we can be willing to bow the knee to God and His Word. Obviously, we should do the latter. The Word of God is right, when our traditional assumptions about it are wrong.
The law in this country gives us the right to interpret the Bible anyway we want to, without fear of prosecution. Thank God that we don't have to go to jail or be burnt at the stake if our interpretation is wrong (as in former eras). Yet we should always remember that God never gives us the right to interpret His word incorrectly.
We must allow the Word of God to sit in judgment on us, rather than for us to sit in judgment on the Word of God. When the Judge comes into the courtroom, don't be found sitting in his chair!