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Author Topic: Hermeneutic... What is it and why is it important?  (Read 6180 times)
Pete
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"..so shall the coming of the Son of Man be..."


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« on: April 04, 2008, 08:31:52 PM »

Hermeneutic...  What is it and why is it important?

A brief definition, as gleaned from answers.com' states: The theory and methodology of interpretation, especially of scriptural text.

The term and application can be applied to many other disciplines such as philosophy, textual criticism of ancient literature to even how we understand humor...  For this little snippet, we'll look at how it applies to Bible study.

For us, as a group who enjoy especially looking at prophecy and admittedly difficult passages, our hermeneutic (methodology of study) becomes even more important. 

Typically, all of Scriptural study is affected by one's set of rules for understanding Scripture...

Here are the five basic ones and then I'll explain a little more of each...

  • Face Value
  • Scripture NEVER contradicts Scripture
  • Figures of Speech
  • Context is KING!
  • Scripture defines Scripture

Let's take a look at each of those with an explanation..

Face Value

1. The natural and customary way to read is literal face value (except obvious figures of speech)

Most people read the newspaper and never give a second thought to a face value acceptance of what the print says...  If there is a figure of speech they understand it as such and keep right on rolling with perfect clarity.  Those same people often open their Bibles, read and then argue against the literal face value because “God can't actually mean that!”...  In doing so, they are in error and have failed the first and most basic rule of hermeneutics...  They've tried to superimpose some specialized understanding instead of taking it at face value.

2. Major hermeneutical mistakes of the Face Value' variety include spiritualizing, allegorizing and/or culturalizing a text.

In the study of eschatology (end times things, from the Greek: eschatos), people are especially prone to errors of this variety.  For more than 1800 years nation Israel did not exist and so scholars of every stripe who delved into Revelation fell into this trap simply because they could not foresee or imagine a literal (face value) nation Israel in existence.  The result is that almost ALL eschatology from more than 100 years ago has to be carefully watched to insure these haven't crept in...

A word on culturalizing...  We should always seek to understand God's Word within the Jewish culture, not define Scripture based on our culture.  A great example of this that comes to mind is "pastor" Wright of Obama's church defining Jesus as a black man under white Roman oppression...  He views Scripture through the glasses of his culture and not that of the first century Jews....

3. If the plain sense makes sense, you probably have the right sense.

It amazes me that some students of Scripture can read a verse, see clearly what it says, then choose some other understanding than the plain literal sense.  God enlightens by His Holy Spirit, but He never wrote the Scriptures with an eye toward special knowledge or special understanding/training.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  Most Scripture is so simply written that the plain sense is obvious.  (Though, occasionally we have to balance with other passages to get the final full picture.  More on that in a minute.)


Scripture never contradicts Scripture      

Ps. 119:160 “The sum of thy word is truth.” 

Passages will not contradict each other.
  • 6 passages on the same topic will have a common denominator
  • Anything less than the common denominator is confusion
  • Therefore, related passages can not be ignored

This can best be explained this way.  If we had six passages about a particular topic numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 then they should all agree.  Sometimes we may see a situation where the common denominator of 1, 3 and 5 says seems to be 15, while the common denominator of what passages 2, 4, and 6 equals is clearly 12.  Well, 12 does not equal 15 so the passages on the same topic do not appear to agree.  We know the sum of God's word is truth, therefore, if these passages do not add up, we have to keep looking to solve the impasse, because Scripture will not contradict Scripture.  For these six verses, the actual point at which they all converge would be 60.  The meaning of each passage would be a facet to the final sum of truth as taught/prophesied, on that topic...  Hope that makes sense.     


More to follow.....

Peace,

Pete
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Rev. 13:10  If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed.  Here is the perseverance and faith of the saints.

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Pete
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"..so shall the coming of the Son of Man be..."


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« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2008, 08:34:38 PM »

Figures of Speech

Figures of speech are the most difficult to handle properly...  There are three major varieties and I'll give an example or two of each...

1. Comparison
  • Similies
   Use the words like' or as' in a direct comparison.  Rev. 1:14 says, “His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.”  The color of His hair and eyes are compared directly to known elements the reader can relate to.

  • Metaphors
   Metaphors are an implied comparison, generally defined elsewhere. Rev. 12:4 speaks of a dragon!!  Then in vs. 9 we are clearly told who that dragon of old is...  satan.  Other metaphors we are familiar with include “Lion of Judah,”and  “Good Shepherd” for Jesus Christ.  We also see Christians called “the elect”, “saints,” “body of Christ,” “brethren”, “bondservants,” etc...  You get the idea on metaphors.

  • Idioms
   An idiom is a cultural saying that has to be defined by the cultural vernacular...  A common sports idiom would be team A and team B will meet on the gridiron.'  If we used that phrase in Africa, they might look at us screwy...  But as a cultural idiom referring to football, we have no lack of understanding.  2 Cor. 12:7 is a great example.  Now, we may debate what the thorn in the flesh' is, but I've never heard anyone try to assert or defend the idea that Paul had a literal thorn in his flesh.  We naturally recognize this one as an idiom.  Acts 26:14 is another: “kick against the goads.”  Well, we need to do a little research to find that goads' were boards with nails protruding from them that are used to place behind the oxen to prevent them from kicking the plow or wagon they are dragging.  One kick should teach a painful lesson not to do that! In our culture, most are not raised on a farm and never worked a team of oxen...  Therefore, we have to research the idiom and why it is used...  Then, we have to understand Paul was not literally kicking goads...  Rather it is the figurative point that fighting God is a bad/painful idea.


2. Substitution or Metonymy
   Ps. 23:5 is a good example of a substituted word that means something else...  Thou preparest a table before me...'  The word table' is substituted for feast' not a literal four legged flat topped wooden thingy... 

3.  Amplification: Parallelism
   Amplification is used often in the Psalms 1:6 and 2:4 are good close examples of contrast in the first verse and parallel in the second where each uses amplification as a figure of speech to bring greater clarity to the reader.


Context is King

Beware prooftexting!!  This is the act of building a case on a superficial application of a Biblical text taken out of context. A good example: How often do we hear “Money is the root of all evil.”  We could truthfully claim the Bible actually says that!!  The error, and a gross one, is that the those words are preceded by a very important modifier the quoter left off...  Perhaps conveniently since it might hurt their argument.  The verse actually says, “the LOVE of money is the root of all evil...”  MAJOR difference and the misquoter was dishonest and a prooftexter.

Ther is another verse in Isaiah where God says, “Ye are Gods...”  But the context, rightly divided means something much different than what the Mormons would have you believe...


 This is a tactic often used in other venues like the media using a sound byte to make a person seem to say the opposite of what they really said, or an author being taken out of context to make a case against him/her.

We have to guard against prooftexting in Scripture and in this information age...  We do that by getting our hands on original text, especially Scripture to see the surrounding verses, chapter or if necessary, book, to understand what the true meaning of the word is' is... Wink


More to follow...

Peace,

Pete
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Rev. 13:10  If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed.  Here is the perseverance and faith of the saints.

Frustrate the devil! Support Chinese missionaries through Asia Harvest
Pete
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"..so shall the coming of the Son of Man be..."


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« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2008, 08:40:33 PM »


Scripture Defines Scripture

Let the Bible be your dictionary...  In descending order, use local text first, the book, the author, the Testament and then the whole Bible to define a particular word.  The goal is to define/understand the word the way the author intended it to be understood.

A good study in this particular point is how John uses the words church,' saint,' beloved,' etc.,  when referring to believers.  Some would argue that because he never uses the word church' in the book of Revelation after about the 4th chapter, they must be absent...  The fact is, if you study the way he uses the words interchangeably in his other letters, one could easily argue, letting the Scripture define itself, that the church is clearly there in Revelation til the end, though he refers to them as the saints, beloved and and other terms...  (If I am recalling from memory correctly...  )



We here love studying and grappling with prophecy.  Generally, this board has a terrific hermeneutic when it comes to Scripture, but maybe you've never thought of it as a particular set of rules you use to define Scripture.  Of importance is consistency in your set of rules...  An inconsistent hermeneutic leads to a confused understanding of Scripture and a bizarre eschatology.

As regards prophecy, literal is always the safest approach (and the right one!!) But it is amazing how many great preachers are very literal until they hit an apocalyptic passage and they shift into allegory or spiritualizing mode...

Good examples to see a literal fulfilment of prophecy are Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.  Hindsight is 20/20, but can you imagine what the teachers thought of those passages in the centuries prior to Christ??  Allegory!!  Spiritualize!!  (Would we have thought any differently?)  In fact, the Jews layed down centuries of their own studies that blinded them from truth when the prophecies happened before their very eyes!!  The lesson for us is that if the plain sense makes sense...  Even if implausible we just need to give it time to come to fruition....

   
Well, this is a real quick 'down and dirt' look at 'hermeneutics.'  I hope from this you can get a quick idea as to how one's hermeneutic affects how they interpret Scripture and the resulting application.  It also explains in short why so many otherwise good preachers/teachers have a messed up eschatology.  (They use a different/inconsistent hermeneutic to interpret prophecy than they use on other Scripture...)

Let the thoughts and discussion begin...

Peace, guys, (and gals...  your hermeneutic should tell you that in this context 'guys' is gender NON specific...   Grin)

Pete
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Rev. 13:10  If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed.  Here is the perseverance and faith of the saints.

Frustrate the devil! Support Chinese missionaries through Asia Harvest
SoftTouch
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« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2008, 09:29:53 PM »

Wow, this was really good Bro, thanks  thumb up

I have always wondered if the following statements by Jesus were meant to be taken 'Literally,' or if it was because of a cultural tendency for the early Jews to over-emphasize (exaggerate - which actually many still do to this day) a statment for impact?

Matthew 5:29And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

 30And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

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Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.   Luke 21:36
Pete
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"..so shall the coming of the Son of Man be..."


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« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2008, 06:19:13 AM »

Wow, this was really good Bro, thanks  thumb up

I have always wondered if the following statements by Jesus were meant to be taken 'Literally,' or if it was because of a cultural tendency for the early Jews to over-emphasize (exaggerate - which actually many still do to this day) a statment for impact?

Thanks for the compliment....  I kept thinking of other things I could add to further illustrate...  but it is long enough as an introduction to hermen..   Wink

I think you are right on your assessment of those verses.  Jesus stated hyperbole, a major exaggeration, to illustrate the gravity of sin and the lengths to which we must be willing to go to be perfect.  (Isn't that about where He says, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.")  Well, we can't be perfect so in the end He was wounded for our transgressions and by His stripes we are healed.  It is HIS perfection that is the answer to the equation even as we struggle, by the Holy Spirit's enabling, to walk in righteousness.

If we were to take those two verses literally, we'd be a bloody mess by the end of the day...  never mind trying to last a week or a lifetime!!  So, yes, I think it is exaggeration to make an important point and demonstrate the lengths we must be willing to go to for righteousness.  And, it was the length He DID go to for us.

Peace,

Pete
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Rev. 13:10  If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed.  Here is the perseverance and faith of the saints.

Frustrate the devil! Support Chinese missionaries through Asia Harvest
Daisy
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the Kingdom of Heaven is like...


« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2008, 10:22:13 AM »

Brother Pete,

Thank you for this teaching which is a blessing to us all! In reflection I can see how I have used these "rules" when studying scripture naturally and also times when I have missed the beat and became confused. Also I can understand by these rules why I have not always found agreement with other interpretations.
Truly a wonderful guide to use in Bible Study.

To take sis ST's verses as an example:

Matthew 5:29And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

The words right eye, whole body, would describe "metonymy". 
"Right eye" could be substituted for sin, "whole body" substitute for self. 
"Pluck it out" literal meaning pick it out (identify and remove) the sin from your self.
"Cast it from thee" would be taken literally as to throw away(the sin from you).
"For it is profitable" literal to mean to benefit for.
"That one of thy members should perish". "Members" literal meaning part of thy self.   "Perish" literal for lose.
Put the sentence together using metonymy and it could be read Throw this sin away from your self and you will benefit from the act. Best to throw away this sin from your self than to let it cause you to lose your life to be thrown into hell.
("Whole body cast in hell"...literal effect of holding on to a sin causing the self to be thrown into hell. Of course hell being a literal factual place for all sin and sinners.)
I don't think amplification applies to this verse nor idiom and metaphor.
The greater context of this passage shows the results of sin


I will not tire you with my dissection of ST's next verse as it is an amplification aka as parallelism of the first.
OK...I'm off to find some examples of idioms and metaphors being careful to keep context as king and Scripture defining Scripture.

 read Praise God amen
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Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty
Looking for that blessed hope,
                            and the glorious appearing of the great God
                                                             and our Saviour Jesus Christ Tit 2:13
SoftTouch
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« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2008, 11:17:24 AM »

Sister bygrace' turned me onto this book several years ago and we started posting some of the Scripture explained in it.  I decided to merge all the posts I could find together and put it into it's own thread here:  Strange Scriptures That Perplex The Western Mind

These explain some of the Cultural idoms' (is that the right term?) of some of the Scripture that twists our mellons' here in the West Wink
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Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.   Luke 21:36
Daisy
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the Kingdom of Heaven is like...


« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2008, 11:38:00 AM »

Oh joy joy! A great bump that will delight me in the days ahead. Smiley Kiss
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Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty
Looking for that blessed hope,
                            and the glorious appearing of the great God
                                                             and our Saviour Jesus Christ Tit 2:13
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Acts 13:39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.