Jesus Hermenutics

Interpreting and teaching God’s Word is a great privilege and responsibility. For me it also takes time, hard work and a commitment to the text.

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After my previous posts on the Gospel of Matthew I thought it would be helpful to lay out my interpretive methodology and why I chose it in hopes of helping others gain confidence in approaching and understanding God’s Word.

MY INTERPRETATION METHOD

I try and approach the Scriptures in the same way I believe Jesus did: with the expectation and conviction that they are actually true (Matt. 22:29, Matt. 4:4-10) .

Dr. Dan Wallace has a helpful post that under girds a Jesus centered view of Scripture.  I’m not going to engage the post-modern literary theorists that essentially says “we can never ‘really’ know what the authors meant” because I find this position unsustainable in reality.

I’m simply going to hold to the position that the biblical writers had real reasons why they were writing. I want to figure them out so I can better understand what they mean so that I can understand what God is saying through them.

This methodology is often called the historical-grammatical hermeneutic (method of interpretation). It looks for the cultural and historical elements surrounding the text as well as the lexical and syntactical elements contained in the original languages.

For example in our article on Matthew we looked at the tenths of verbs (passive/active) and the significance it had in foreshadowing the virgin birth of Jesus. We also saw how the entire history of Israel placed in the genealogies set the stage for the fulfillment of God’s plans for His people through Jesus. These syntactical and historical elements play a huge role in helping us gain deeper insight into the biblical text.

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WHAT ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT?

The above methodology is not divorced from the Holy Spirit’s work but in unison with it. The biblical text is clear that the Holy Spirit is who is teaching us God’s ways:

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)

Ephesians 6:17-18 also illustrates this and shows how prayer and God’s Word go hand and hand:

“ and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,  praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication…”

IS SCRIPTURE ONLY FOR SCHOLARS?

Why would God make Scripture in such a way that requires us to dig in and to study it and not just fed it to us like cotton candy? I like Dr. Walt Russell’s answer to this question.

He says, “…Jesus Christ will not do for His followers what He has deemed them capable of doing for themselves. The friends of Lazarus were unable to call him forth from the dead as they stood around his tomb. Only Jesus the Messiah could do that (John 11:43). However, once Lazarus was raised, Jesus expected these dumbfounded folks to unwrap all the burial wrappings binding Lazarus so that he could be free (john 11:44). It was not that Jesus was too lazy or proud to do this. Rather He would not do what He deemed humans capable of doing because He respected their dignity.”[1]

But can non-scholars really understand the Bible in a true and meaningful way?

Absolutely.

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Wayne Grudem has read an extremely detailed article outlining the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture that is well worth the read. I am only going to high light a couple aspects of Grudem’s article to show that God has designed Scripture to be useful to all men and women in teaching
them about God and living righteousness (2nd Tim. 3:16).

1)   Scripture was designed to be taught (and understandable) to children (Deut. 6:6-7)

2)     Paul wrote to various churches composed of both non-educated and educated people and those of all ages and backgrounds (1 Cor. 1:2, Gal 1:2, Phil 1:1, etc.)

3)   Those who search to understand the Scriptures are commended for doing so (Acts 17:11)

These scriptural realities should give us confidence in God’s providence for His Word and encourage us to dig deeper into it.

God has given us His Word according to His eternal purpose and plan and it never fails (Isa. 55:11).

As we continue in our study of Matthew and as you do your own personal Bible study let us seek God prayerfully together in understanding what His Word tells us. Let us not lose heart with difficult or confusing passages but trust that God has a purpose and meaning even if we can’t understand it yet. And let us find confidence in the fact that God is the perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2) and the one who is directing us on our journey with Jesus!

 


[1] Walt Russell, Playing With Fire, pg 22

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~ by simplesage on December 10, 2013.

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