Five Qualifications to Interpret Scripture


hermeneutic

Introduction

         We know that God does not make mistakes; we know that his Word is without error. We know that even as the prophets and apostles God chose to write His Word, were not perfect themselves, every word they wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was. So neither God nor the original writers are the problem. The problem was, the problem is and, the problem will continue to be found in, the interpreter; that is… us!

         It is of fundamental importance that we develop a relationship with God, that we learn to hear from Him[1], that we study the Scriptures, that we grow in our knowledge of good theology and sound doctrine and, that we get a hold of hermeneutics as a tool to properly interpret Scripture. This post is designed to help us do just that.

Offer a list and description of the qualifications needed for an interpreter to offer a proper reading of Scripture.

     Klein offers five qualifications for the interpreter of Scripture. Klein adds that the following set of qualifications “put the interpreter in the best position to obtain valid interpretation of the biblical text.”[2] Those are,

  1. A reasoned faith in the God who reveals.
  2. Willingness to obey the message.
  3. Illumination of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Membership in the church.
  5. Willingness to employ appropriate methods.

Give the importance of each qualification for understanding Scripture.

A Reasoned Faith in the God who reveals

     Klein states, “all understanding requires a framework or context within which to interpret.”[3] As it refers to us as believers it is essential, as Klein also points out, “that we have a relationship with God in order to fully understand the book God has authored.”[4] Klein also includes faith as “foundational for a full comprehension of Scripture. It is not the only qualification, nor does it guaranty correct interpretation.”[5]

         As I read this portion of our reading assignment I am reminded of First Peter 3:15, “ but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (New American Standard Bible)

         No doubts that we should be ready, able and willing to give a reasonable account for why we believe what we believe. However, I believe we must also keep in mind that ultimately, the gospel is foolishness to the world (First Corinthians 1:18). I am not saying that we can’t apply reason to our faith, but without scientific evidence how can we be considered reasonable to the world when giving the story of Eve speaking to a serpent, or Jesus born out of a virgin or demons, miracles, etc.?

Willingness to Obey the Message

         This is the “willingness to put oneself “under” the text, to submit one’s will to hear and respond to the text in a faithful manner. The truly faithful reader seeks to obey what God reveals in Scripture.”[6] This is true humility before God, refusing to be wise in our own opinons (Proverbs 3:7), dying to self (1 Corinthians 15:31), personal agendas, ideas culture, etc. and a willingness to submit ourselves to the truth of the Bible.

Illumination of the Holy Spirit

     Klein connects this third qualification with the first two already mentioned; “…is to allow the Holy Spirit to complement the process of exegesis. For this part, God provides the resources for an obedient understanding of his truth: the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.”[7] The Holy Spirit gets the job done; if the goal is to show the true principle and application of the text, that is Holy Ghost territory.

Membership in the Church

   We are indeed a family… a big family. There is nothing in Scripture that promotes or support individualism; no Rambo Christians. The church should be the primary place where the family of God is able to learn about God and these tools of Bible interpretation. If anything, it should be the place where we can humbly listen to what other believers have to say and as Klein adds, “Likewise, our conclusions, if they are correct, have importance for the other.”[8]

Willingness to Employ Appropriate Methods

     If we are Born Again believers, if we love God and if we love others, there will be willingness in our hearts to study and understand the Scripture. How can we love anybody and have no interest in listening to what he or she has to say? Impossible. However, I am at peace with the fact that, as Klein explains, there are different levels of proficiency from the uneducated Christian to the scholar,[9] I believe that God is able to reveal the necessary truth to each believer according to their call.

Which of these qualifications are most important?

     In my opinion, they are all important; if I have to place them in order of importance it will go something like this: 1) A Reasoned faith in the God who reveals, particularly because here Klein speaks about the vital importance of having a relationship with God. Everything starts there. 2) Illumination of the Holy Spirit. The ultimate goal of Scripture is to show us the way of God, his righteousness, the way he wants us to live this life, etc. Only the Holy Spirit is able to do that. 3) Willingness to obey the message. The flesh in us, we know is weak, but the spirit of a born again believer is willing (Matthew 26:41). That willingness to follow God is the fruit of the Spirit in the believers; it is Christianity becoming real in the life of a believer. 4) Willingness to employ appropriate methods. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (NASB) I believe that this kind of hunger and thirst for righteousness creates a willingness in a child of God to employ any method that will assist them in knowing God and his Word in a more intimate way. 5) Lastly, Membership in the church. Without implementing the first four qualifications when interpreting Scripture in our lives, I don’t think the church experience will be as rich and, worst of all, we may be unaware or desensitize to heresy, bad theology and false doctrines.

Which do you think are not as necessary?

     They are all necessary, in my opinion.

Give reasons for your choices.

     I chose “A reasoned faith in the God who reveals” with emphasis on cultivating a relationship with God. Jesus die, not only to save our souls, but to give us the precious gift of being able to have a direct relationship with the Father. We don’t need a priest to go to God in our behalf; we can go to God ourselves. That does not mean that we throw out the teachers, the need for pastors, the need to study and utilize these diverse tools such as hermeneutics, but we are aware of first things first, we are called to love God above all things.

What role does the Holy Spirit play in interpretation?

     I feel very uncomfortable with limiting the Holy Spirit in anything. As far as I know, the only thing God cannot do is lie. The role of the Holy Spirit is central and is vital in interpreting Scripture. The cultural, social, economical and languages spoken at the time the Scripture was written are of secondary importance.

     The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals the meaning and he reveals that meaning to whomever he wants; to children (Matthew 21-15-16), to uneducated men such as the original apostles, the humble man in the church that does not speak much and the old lady who prays a lot. We can’t forget that God choses the foolish and the weak to shame the strong (I Corinthians 1:27).

How do we determine the impact of the Spirit on an individual’s interpretation?

     The whole law of the prophets was summarized in two commandments, to love God above all things and to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). I believe that Augustine answers this question perfectly as he states, “the first principle of Bible interpretation is that it leads readers to love God and to love others.”[10] Furthermore, Professor Roy B. Zuck offer fourteen powerful points concerning the Holy Spirit and interpretation of Scripture, for the sake of space I will only quote one,

The role of the Spirit in interpreting the Bible does not mean that one’s interpretations are infallible. Inerrancy and hence infallibility are characteristics of the Bible’s original manuscripts, but not of the Bible’s interpreters. The manuscripts were inerrant because of the Holy Spirit’s guarding and guiding the writers to record what He wanted recorded, word for word. But such a superintending work cannot be claimed for interpreters of the Word. In inspiration the Holy Spirit superintended the authors in order to override any human error. In interpretation the Holy Spirit guides but He does not guard against infallibility. To elevate one’s interpretations to the level of infallibility would blur the distinctions between inspiration (a past, now completed work of the Spirit in the recording of Scripture) and interpretation (a present, ongoing work of the Spirit in helping interpreters in the comprehending of Scripture). Also it would ascribe to Protestants a level of infallibility for human leaders which evangelicals reject in Roman Catholicism.[11]

Conclusion

         I have no doubt that a non believer will be able to look at the Scripture and apply certain aspects of hermeneutics, perhaps better than some of us. Some of them perhaps would be able to explain the culture of the time or even understand the language in better detail that some Christians that are not trained in those matters. Nevertheless, unless the Holy Ghost reveals to them the principle, they will not be able to see it nor accept it; they are blind to the things of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Klein brings this point home when he states, “…full understanding comes only to the sincere follower of the God who revealed – the follower who diligently seeks to practice the message of the text studied.”[12]

         Klein is very cleaver in describing the arrogance of those that totally reject hermeneutics, exegesis or any other tool[13] and I agree with him. That arrogance also exists in the academic world. So the problem is not necessarily refusing to use those tools or using them diligently… the problem is pride! Not everybody is able to afford classes at Liberty University and not everybody is bless with a pastor that actually understands and takes the time to teach hermeneutics, but everybody has access to the Holy Ghost!

         Humility is indeed the key; when our opinions do not lineup with Scripture we must let it go; when we insist in doing things our way, then we are operating in pride and we know that “…God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 NASB)

Bibliography

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

Zuck, Roy B. The Role of the Holy Spirit in Hermeneutics, Biblioteca Sacra: 1984.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition (Zondervan, 2017), 202

 

[2] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 202

[3] Ibid. 202

[4] Ibid, 202

[5] Ibid. 203

[6] Ibid. 205

[7] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 206

 

[8] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 208

[9] Ibid. 210

[10] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 87

[11] Roy B. Zuck, The Role of the Holy Spirit in Hermeneutics, (Biblioteca Sacra: 1984) 122

[12] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 206

[13] Ibid. 206 – 208

Sticking to the Bible


Old Bible With Sword

Introduction

      The older I get the more peace I find in sticking to the Bible, to the orthodoxy of the Old and New Testament, the direct commands of Christ and to the divine call of the apostles to make sense of it all. We may struggle to find the truth, to navigate through the many OPINIONS of man, bad teachings, cultural differences, Bible verses taken out of context, the challenges of languages, diverse Bible versions and many other challenges; however, we were not left alone to depend on our own opinions. We were given the blessing of the Holy Spirit and Godly examples to follow. There is no need to reinvent the wheel or to guess; we must stay focus on the divine. That is, 1) the divine Word of God, 2) the greatest teacher of all, the Holy Ghost and, 3) I go as far as saying, the divine methodology for biblical interpretation given by the original apostles.

A time period and a person whose method offers the most promise for attaining a clear interpretation of Scripture today

      The apostles were not perfect men, but they were the only men in the history of the world, outside of the Old Testament prophets, to receive perfect doctrine. I go as far as saying that they gave us also, the proper method of interpretation. Klein refers to the original apostles as “the first Christian interpreters.”[1]

      The Apostles left us with a very simple and yet, powerful hermeneutical system. Klein identify several such as, 1) they regarded Jesus as Israel’s promised Messiah; they acknowledge Jesus as the fulfillment of Judaism’s hope. 2) They appeal to the Old Testament to support their beliefs. Is important to point out that Jesus validated the Old Testament by quoting it and referring to it as Scripture. They interpreted the OT from radically new perspective – in light of the Messiahship of Jesus. When interpreting the Old Testament Klein points out that they a) applied Literal interpretation: The fundamental hermeneutic principle was viewing Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of OT prophecy. The focus here was the application of typology interpretation; the idea that the Old Testament pointed at Jesus and at events to come. b) Literal-contextual Interpretation: this is the application of the Old Testament as it is; and c) Principle/application Interpretation: This is the utilization of getting a hold of examples of principles in he OT that could be applicable in current situations. 3) They revered Jesus as superior than Moses and the law.[2]

      The closer we keep these principles in minds the closer we will be to walking in truth. The Jewish Interpretation’s greatest flaw is that they miss the Messiah. With the Patristic Period we see the beginning stages of the church disregarding the Holy Spirit and the orthodoxy of the Apostles for that of these apostolic fathers. However, Augustine approach and contribution to hermeneutics can’t be ignored.

      To guard against the subjective excesses of allegory, he offered three interpretative             principles for finding the figurative meaning of difficult texts. 1) One consults what            other, clearer passages of Scripture say on the subject. 2) One consults the “rule of faith” or the apostolic interpretation of the major doctrines of Scripture. 3) If conflicting views      meet both criteria, one should consult the context to see which best commends itself.[3]

      I look at Augustine method with great respect, as it is an attempt to go back to the apostles’ way. In that regard I also respect Luther and Calvin; their high view of Scripture was a refreshing return to what truly works when attempting to interpret Scripture.

How that method aids a modern interpreter in understanding Scripture?

            It is the only way; Christ centered and Holy Ghost dependent. That system was good then, is good now and will forever be good. At the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2003, McCartney states,

            Hence there is a sense in which we must emulate the exegetical practice of the        New Testament writers. If we do not adopt the viewpoint of Jesus and the apostles            that Christ’s death and resurrection is the key focus of the Old Testament, thatChrist is himself the centerpiece of all God’s promises, that Christ is the true Israel, true Son of God, that the meaning of the biblical texts for the present-day people of God has to do with our relation to God in Christ, then how can our interpretation be deemed in any sense Christian?[4]

Conclusion

            As long as we have humans involve, there will always be problems. Lets face it, we are carnal folks with souls in need of restoration; we will mess up. Bias, ambitions, personal agendas and the pride of man will always get on the way of truth. However, if we keep our eyes on Jesus and stop placing ourselves at the center, if we are “…diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” we will be ok (Ephesians 4:3 NASB). If we embrace humility and find satisfaction in being the echo of the voices of the Old and New Testament writers and don’t try to speak over them… we will be ok!

Bibliography

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

McCartney, Dan G. “Should We Employ the Hermeneutics of the New Testament Writers?”, (2003)

 

 

 

 

 

[1] [1] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition (Zondervan, 2017), 77

[2] Ibid. 77 – 79

[3] Ibid. 87

[4] Dan G. McCartney, “Should We Employ the Hermeneutics of the New Testament Writers?”, (2003)

My Issues with Hermeneutics


hermenuetics-730x430

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