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Biblical hermeneutics: How to focus on God’s Truth —

Biblical hermeneutics: How to focus on God’s Truth
Biblical hermeneutics is the interpretation of God’s Word. We take it as Jesus did, literally as presented bowing before absolute truth.

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Biblical hermeneutics: How to Focus on God’s Truth;

“Hermeneutics” is a big word for “interpretation.”

It comes from the Greek word ἑρμηνεία (hermeneia, “interpretation, explanation”). Aristotle used it in 360 BC in his work “On Interpretation” which dealt with the relationship between language and logic.

Our subject is “Biblical hermeneutics,” which focuses exclusively on God’s Word as we have it in the Holy Bible. We will be on solid ground if we recognize that the Bible is God’s Word and God’s truth.

We believe that every word is inspired by God and is without error.

Guidance from the Bible on finding God’s truth

Jesus* was clear on this when He did interpretation. A good example is His treatment of the bad hermeneutics of the scribes and Pharisees. (* means this person is one of the 200 short bios in my book SPIRITUAL LIVES.)

The Ten Commandments say, “Honor your father and mother.” The commandment is clear, but the religious leaders had a way to get around that for their own profit:

But you teach that if people have something they could use to help their father or mother, but say, ‘This belongs to God,’ they do not need to honor their father. In this way you disregard God’s command, in order to follow your own teaching.

You hypocrites! How right Isaiah was when he prophesied about you!

‘These people, says God, honor me with their words, but their heart is really far away from me.

It is no use for them to worship me, because they teach human rules as though they were my laws!’ Matthew 15:5-9

This goes on today in a big way. Jesus plainly tells us to call no one “Father,” (Matthew 23:9) and Paul commands, “forbid not to speak with tongues,” (1 Corinthians 14:39) but human traditions overrule God’s truth in our churches, one half calling their ministers "Father" and the other half forbidding to speak with tongues.

What methods should we use to interpret God’s Truth?

First, we need to pray and look for guidance from the Holy Spirit to teach us what He want us to know.

But as for you, Christ has poured out his Spirit on you. As long as his Spirit remains in you, you do not need anyone to teach you.

For his Spirit teaches you about everything, and what he teaches is true, not false. Obey the Spirit’s teaching, then, and remain in union with Christ. – 1 John 2:27

Secondly, use a good translation. I use the Authorized Version (King James*) because the fifty-four translators were not only good scholars but good Christians. They were aware that they were dealing with the Word of God and did their best to be faithful to it and God’s truth.

We should read as we would normally read, that is, taking things literally as they are presented. This is the most important technique we can use to focus on God’s truth.

What methods of hermeneutics (interpretation)are used in theological studies?

Jerome* used literal interpretation*(fourth century), so did Thomas Aquinas* (13th century), Martin Luther* (15/16th century), and John Calvin* (16th century).

This approach interprets the text according to its plain or literal meaning according to grammatical construction, historical context, and the intention of the author.

The other types of interpretation have narrowed and restrictive applications and are outside the interest of evangelical Christians. They look for God’s truth through these lenses:

  • Moral interpretation. This strives to derive ethical lessons from distinct parts of the Bible.

  • Allegorical interpretation. This interprets the Bible as having a second level of meaning beyond the actual people, places, and events mentioned

  • Anagogical or mystical interpretation. Looking at the text from a heavenly standpoint.

Literal interpretation continues to be the main hermeneutic evangelical Christians use to interpret the Bible. In insisting on this, we are simply following Jesus’ approach as did all Christians until the Enlightenment.

What are the criteria for God’s truth?

The Bible is accepted by all Christians as God’s truth. The difference lies in our hermeneutics, the way we interpret the Scriptures.

Most Christians believe in the “plenary inspiration” of the Bible, i.e., every word is true:

God’s inspiration for the text of Scripture extends to the very words themselves and to all parts of Scripture and all subject matters of Scripture.

The doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration stands in contrast to the belief that only parts of the Bible are inspired or that only the thoughts or concepts that deal with religion are inspired.

Impact of the Enlightenment (18th century)

During the 18th century, new theories in the sciences and Bible study questioned the Bible as God’s truth as to the age of the earth, the creation of man, and the historical accounts of the Flood and the Exodus.

There was no new evidence to suggest that what everyone accepted as fact was false, but some theologians began to doubt that God’s truth was historically true.

Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768 – 1834) is known as the “Father of Modern Liberal Theology“.

He wrote his father, “I cannot believe that he who called himself the Son of Man was the true, eternal God; I cannot believe that his death was a vicarious atonement.”

He developed a hermeneutic that moved beyond the Bible and became “the father of modern hermeneutics as a general study.”

Modern liberals and evangelical Christians see God’s truth differently

From the 19th century on, there has been a sharp division between Modern Liberalism and evangelical Christianity. God’s truth is seen using different hermeneutics by each group, the one focusing on the Bible as the historical and eternal truth, the other stepping beyond the Bible entirely and looking to broader areas of philosophy, psychology, and language studies to articulate modernism.

The Roman Catholic Church has not been divided in this way and still sees God’s truth in the Bible.

It has developed its own hermeneutics focusing on the Holy Scriptures in the tradition of the Church Fathers and the teachings of Jerome*, Augustine, and Aquinas*.

Evangelical Christians remain strong in their faith in the truth of the Bible and continue using the traditional, historic interpretations used from the time of the Church Fathers on. Particularly useful are these recommended by Martin Luther*.

Luther’s principles for learning God’s truth

The great Reformer laid out five hermeneutical principles.

1. the authority of Scripture, this was the crux of the Reformation and the point upon which Luther famously said, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

He, of course, said this in defiance of the Pope and the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, but the point still holds. We must resist the ever-present influence of denominations and traditions that run counter to God’s truth in the Bible.

2. the clarity of Scripture, this Luther and we find in context, what comes before and after, who the speaker is, and the circumstances surrounding its utterance.

3. the Christ-centered focus of Scripture, is an interpretation Jesus used Himself:

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. – Luke 24:27

I believe He can be found on every page.

4. the literality of Scripture, was certainly something he accepted, never questioning the veracity of material presented as God’s truth. But he also meant we can accept the words to mean what they say, rejecting the medieval allegorical method of interpretation.

5. and the practical impact of Scripture. “Not understanding, reading, or speculation, but living, no, dying and being damned, make a theologian.” – Luther, 1519

God’s truth is meant to make us holy, like Jesus, not aloof and detached, “being so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good.”

Four more recent tips on hermeneutics on learning God’s truth

I have gleaned some excellent tips from Dr. Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton) is a Presbyterian pastor in Illinois.

First, read with the assumption that Scripture is coherent.

If it is inspired by God and inerrant, then there are no defects. Thus, if something does not make sense or seems contradictory, it is due to faulty understanding or lack of context, not a biblical error, and requires more research.

Second, read any text with an awareness of where it fits within the broader biblical story. Dr. Ortlund compares reading a passage out of context to suddenly picking up a novel in the middle.

Third, Ortlund advises reading the Bible through the lens of Jesus. Jesus said that the Old Testament all points to Him.

The Gospels are obviously about Jesus, and the rest of the New Testament points back to Him. Thus, the entire Bible points to Jesus and should be understood through the coming, arrival, redemption, and restoration of Christ.

Finally, Ortlund urges readers to approach the Bible prayerfully, asking God for wisdom.

How I Look for God’s Truth in My Bible Reading

All my life I have been engaged in reading the Bible Genesis to Revelation. This is my diet, and although I supplement it with special topic studies, I know I am connected to Jesus through His Word on an ongoing basis. This connection is life-giving.

I pray before I read, asking the Lord to reveal Himself to me and teach me what I need for the day.

The King James Bible has been my daily companion for 70 years, and it is dependable. Choose another reliable translation that is a translation, not a paraphrase.

As I read, I look for a verse or text that engages me and go online to check it out. I use, which has everything I need to interpret the text. A wide array of Bibles is there to download, and an equally wide array of commentaries from well-known Christian scholars.

Then I post the text I have chosen on Facebook and send it via messenger to a few loved ones. Each day I add a verse or chorus of a hymn or Sunday school song and an image from Google illustrating the text.

I pray that the Lord will make it and me a blessing and go on with the day, the text being an ongoing reminder of God’s truth for me for that day.

Often, I get responses and/or comments that keep the truth going, always teaching me that Jesus is near and at work in our lives.

Each night I thank Him for being so good to me and for His goodness and strength. One part of His infinite goodness is revealing Himself to me in new ways every day. I have been reading the Bible for 70+ years, and each time I read shows me new things and draws me closer to Himself. Open my eyes, Lord. listen/view here:

Open My Eyes, That I May See

Open my eyes, that I may see

glimpses of truth thou hast for me;

place in my hands the wonderful key

that shall unclasp and set me free.

Silently now I wait for thee,

ready, my God, thy will to see.

Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear

voices of truth thou sendest clear;

and while the wavenotes fall on my ear,

everything false will disappear.

Silently now I wait for thee,

ready, my God, thy will to see.

Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, and let me bear

gladly the warm truth everywhere;

open my heart and let me prepare

love with thy children thus to share.

Silently now I wait for thee,

ready, my God, thy will to see.

Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!

–Clara H. Scott, 1841-1897

Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. Psalm 119:18

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Acts 26:18

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