Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Seriously — Hermeneutics

Here's another piece that my husband wrote:

Hermeneutics is a Greek word meaning “I’m smarter than you.”

Seriously, it’s from the Greek word for “expert in interpretation,” which, in turn, is from the Greek word for “interpret.” It is primarily used to define different methods of interpreting Scripture.

There are two basic ways to interpret Scripture.

1. The wrong way
2. The right way

I have no idea how many ways there are to interpret Scripture, but the only way that makes sense to me is the literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic.

In short, I believe the Bible means what it says. The writers sometimes use types, symbols and figures of speech, but it’s usually obvious when they’re doing this. To insist that these devises somehow open the door to a non-literal interpretation is ridiculous because every one of us uses symbols and figures of speech every day …

“My headache is so bad I think my skull is about to explode.”

“Their serving sizes are so large, they come on a plate the size of Kansas.”

“If he makes that noise again, I’m going to shoot him.”

… and yet we expect to be taken literally.

All the Bible prophecies that have already been fulfilled have been fulfilled literally.

Isaiah 7:14 prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. In Matthew 1:22-25, we read that the Messiah was born of a literal virgin.

Zechariah 9:9 prophesied that the King would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. In Luke 19:30-35, we read that the King entered Jerusalem riding on a literal donkey.

Psalm 22:18 prophesied that the Lord’s clothing would be divided by casting lots. In John 19:23-24, we read that literal soldiers cast literal lots for the Lord’s literal clothing.

So it only makes sense that prophecies that haven’t yet been fulfilled will also have a literal fulfillment — especially since, as I wrote in my previous post, the Lord wants us to understand Scripture.

I think the biggest issue I have with a symbolic, spiritualized (call it what you will) interpretation of Scripture is this: If it doesn’t mean what it says, who gets to decide what it does mean?

Take, for example, Paul’s clear statement in Romans 11:25-30 that Israel will be saved.

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins." Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

If that doesn’t mean that God will keep all His Old Testament promises to Israel and restore the nation to His favor, what does it mean? If it doesn’t mean what it says, who gets to decide?

Each of us as individuals? What if we don’t all agree?

Theologians? Pastors? Which theologians and pastors?

There isn’t anything approaching a consensus out there. If we can’t find the truth by taking Scripture literally, then the only way to find truth is to pick which among the many voices has the correct answer. And we’re left with no basis for doing this because any support from Scripture for this view or that view, for this theologian or that theologian, can’t be taken literally.

Again, the Holy Spirit makes it clear that we are to study Scripture until we understand, so it only makes sense that the meaning of Scripture can be found. And that can only happen if Scripture means what it says.

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