My Issues with Hermeneutics


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Introduction

        It is not mi intention, through this post, to dismiss the importance of Hermeneutics. Klein states that we are “in an era of increasing biblical illiteracy…”[1] and I can’t agree with him more. Furthermore, the Bible tells us “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 – NASB) I want to make it clear that I am not against any system that assists in giving us organized, structured and disciplined methods when studying and interpreting the Scripture. However, as I attempt to answer a few basic questions for this post, I will also, with great humility, present issues that deeply concerned me.

A Definition of Hermeneutics

           Hermeneutics describes the task of explaining the meaning of Scripture. The word              derives from the Greek verb hermeneuo “to explain or to translate,” while the                                    noun hermeneia means “interpretation” or “translations.”[2]

         Klein simplified the term hermeneutic by describing it as “The art and science of interpretation.”[3] Klein list several reasons to justify the need for hermeneutics. I do agree with Klein when he states, “the interpreter’s personal freedom has come with considerable risk of bias and distortion.”[4] However, bias and distortion has been around from the very beginning, when Satan tempted and deceived Eve in the Garden. Personal agendas have caused a lot of physical and theological murders through the pages of church history. Taking Bible verses out of context to conveniently fit a particular mindset continues to be a problem today and will continue to be so until the return of our Lord. It comes with the territory! In this regard I see the usefulness of Hermeneutics to be able to quickly disregard obvious atrocities when dealing with Bible interpretation. However, Klein gives other reasons to justify the need for hermeneutics that left me, either standing for the truth or, in need of a great deal of clarification.

         Klein stated, “The Bible is God’s Word, yet it has come to us through human means.”[5] This is a great talking point for an atheist or humanist who stand against the divine nature of Scripture. It implies imperfection in the way God delivered his Word to us. Klein added even more talking points to the atheist and humanist by stating, “The divine message must be clear, yet many passages seem all too ambiguous.”[6] Lastly, and this seems to be a theme through this initial reading, Klein stated that, “We acknowledge the crucial role of the Holy Spirit, yet scholarship is surely necessary to understand what the Spirit has inspired.”[7] It implies that even as the Holy Spirit plays a “crucial role”, He is not powerful enough to help us with the understanding of the Scripture that HE HIMSELF inspired. (2 Timothy 3:16 / 2 Peter 1:21) Later, Klein made his point crystal clear regarding this topic as he describes how the illumination of the Holy Spirit helps believers understand Scripture by giving us “the ability to apprehend, not comprehend, the meaning.”[8] What an amazing arrogant point of view! It is the Holy Ghost who guide us into the truth according to John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (NASB) Have we forgotten that God has given us the ability to know His voice and to follow him? (John 10:27) Professor Hanko stole the words out of my mouth when he states,

    From a certain point of view, the child of God needs no instruction in         Hermeneutics. If Hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation, it follows            from the very nature of Scripture itself that no formal instruction is necessary for a regenerated saint to be able to understand what God is saying in His Word.    Countless saints over the centuries have read the Word of God without ever           knowing the first thing about Hermeneutics, without even having heard the word. They have read Scripture, understood what God was saying to them with stark     clarity, and have taken that Word into their hearts.

      It is true that we teach Hermeneutics in Seminary as a required course for prospective ministers of the gospel. Students are obligated to learn the principles of biblical interpretation and to apply them to Scripture. But if they, with their  acquired learning, think that by these studies they have gained an edge on God’s  people, they are sadly mistaken.[9]

The importance of the following components as we search for effective ways to properly interpret Scripture

        If I focus on 1) the role of the writters of the text, I find myself handicap as, obviously, all of the writers of Scripture are long-gone. If I focus on, 2) the role of the original readers of the text, I run into two problems, a) they are also long-gone and b) I can be a victim of their own bias and personal agendas. Lastly, if I focus on, 3) the role of the interpreter then the focus is on me and that can’t be good either. I find it intellectually useful to study the cultures[10] of the day, to dig deep into the language differences[11] and so on, but at the end of the day what is the ultimate purpose of Scripture? Whose ultimate responsibility is to show us that purpose? And who will truly help us to live out that purpose?

What kind of impact does this particular participant provide on an attempt to discover the meaning of a text?

        For the sake of this post I will focus on the author of the text. At first, the Theological Interpretation of Scripture (TIS) gave me a great deal of hope. TIC is an attempt to look at Scripture in its context, the corporate and personal view of the Scripture by what was establish in the past and even what is established as truth in the present.[12] However, as Klein points out, “The danger is that TIS puts the authority of a text of the Bible not in the divine text itself but in how the church father’s, or creed, or some church community understands the meaning of the text.”[13] Therefor I see, in this initial reading of Klein, a lot of Catholic influences; the need for a “priest” to tells us what the Scripture means.

        The Bible is very clear about our need to deny ourselves. That is dying to our ideas, to our culture, to the way we are raise, to what is popular and even to what we like and everything that is against the culture of the Bible. The more we put ourselves in Scripture the more bad theology and bad interpretations will occur. The idea is for us to die to self, to come to the Lord naked, without any ideas or agendas and to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.

How important is this component?

        To know about the author has an intellectual value; who is he, his time, the culture that surrounded him, the political atmosphere, some interesting contemporaries, etc. I suppose, in a minuscular way, knowing these things, could help us understand the Scripture a little better. However, I can’t place my hope in hermeneutics as a way to properly interpret Scripture. If that is so, then any unbeliever with the ability to read will be able to use hermeneutical tools in order to be able to understand Scripture and, we know, that is biblically inaccurate. The lost cannot see the reality of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is the power of the Holy Ghost that is able to navigate through all the geographical distance, cultural distance, language distance, bias and selfish agendas through the ages, etc. etc. etc.

Conclusion

      Lastly and in conclusion, I refuse to subscribe to the central idea of what the following quote is trying to communicate regarding the Bible; that it “was originally written to somebody else…”[14] Klein expanded by stating that, “Though the Bible originates through human agents in the normal circumstances of life, it is fundamentally God’s word to his people, it has an “eternal relevance.” The Bible DOES NOT ORIGINATE through human agents. John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NASB). 2 Peter 1:20-21 explained this truth even further as he states, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (NASB)

         Human agents were not the authors of Scripture, God is. Human agents simply wrote what the Spirit of God uttered. When it comes down to interpretations, human agents can definitely assist, God has indeed given us teachers (Ephesians 4:11), but it is only God who is able to transform, to give us revelation of Scripture and cause us to grow (1 Corinthians 3:7). Through God and only through HIM we are able to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord. (2 Peter 3:18)

Bibliography

Klein, W.W., C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition. Zondervan, 2017.

Richards, Randolph E., O’Brien, Brandon J. Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes.       Inter Varsity Press, 2012.

Hanko, Herman C. Issues in Hermeneutics. Protestant Reformed Theological Journals: 1990.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submit your threads by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Thursday and your replies by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Sunday.

 

[1] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition (Zondervan, 2017), 33

[2] Ibid. 39, 40

       [3] Ibid. 42

[4] Ibid. 39

[5] Ibid. 39

[6] Ibid. 39

[7] Ibid. 39

[8] Ibid. 41

[9] Herman C. Hanko, Issues in Hermeneutics, (Protestant Reformed Theological Journals: 1990), 2.

[10] E. Randolph Richards, Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes. (Downer’s Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2012), 15.

[11] Ibid. 70 – 72

[12] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. 50

[13] Ibid. 50, 51

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