Friday, September 24, 2010

The Jesus Hermeneutic: What can we learn from Jesus' view and use of Scripture?

 How did Jesus interpret the Bible? Was he a liberal? A neo-orthodox? Or a fundamentalist?

When Jesus quoted scripture, he seems to presuppose:
1) That the residents of the palestine area were familiar with and not ignorant of the Hebrew Scriptures
2) That said scriptures were able to be understood clearly without confusion i.e., count the number of times in the gospel wherein Jesus says "As it is written...", "Does it not say...", "You have heard it said" etc.

That being said, Jesus wholeheartedly believed in :

- The Genesis account of creation

4  He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5  and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’? 6  So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 
Matthew 19:4-6

- The historicity of Cain and Abel

49  Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50  so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51  from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 
Luke 11:49-51

- The historicity of Noah and the Flood

37  As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39  and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 
Matthew 24:37-39

- The historicity of Abraham

51  Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52  The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54  Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55  But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 
John 8:51-56

- The historicity of Sodom and Gomorrah

23  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24  But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” 
Matthew 11:23-24

- The historicity of the account in which Israel was given manna from heaven

49  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52  The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53  So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 
John 6:49-58

- The Davidic authorship of [some of] the Psalms

41  Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42  saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43  He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
44  “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’?
45  If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46  And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. 
Matthew 22:41-46

- The historicity of the account of Jonah having been swallowed by a whale

39  But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40  For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41  The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 
Matthew 12:39-41

- The unity and single authorship of the book of Isaiah

38  so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39  Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
40  “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”
41  Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 
John 12:38-41

- The authorship of the book of Daniel

15  “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16  then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17  Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18  and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19  And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 
Matthew 24:15-19

- The canonicity of the entire Old Testament

49  Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50  so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51  from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 
Luke 11:49-51

- His own place in the Old Testament

25  And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27

- The verbal-plenary inspiration of Scripture and it’s preservation throughout the ages

17  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 
Matthew 5:17-18

- The vital importance of studying and knowing Scripture

37  And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38  and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39  You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40  yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 
John 5:37-40

- The judgment of all mankind by God

47  If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48  The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. John 12:47-48

Ergo, it would be incorrect to suggest using Jesus as a model for interpreting the Bible in a non-literal manner. If anything, Jesus openly challenges the religious leaders of Israel who while putting on a façade of having great knowledge and wisdom of the Scriptures, in actual fact did not really have a very high view of it:

52  Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering. 
Luke 11:52

23  The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24  saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ 25  Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother. 26  So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27  After them all, the woman died. 28  In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
29  But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30  For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31  And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32  ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 
Matthew 22:23-32

23  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24  You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
25  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26  You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
27  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30  saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31  Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32  Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34  Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35  so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36  Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Matthew 23:23-36

All to often, the “You’re a Pharisee!” label is used in a derogatory manner to denounce anyone who is perceived to have too high a view of scripture, but as we can clearly see, those who wish to characterize the Pharisees and religious leaders of Israel as hard-hitting fundamentalists in contrast to Jesus as a free-spirited liberal would be hard-pressed to be able to make a case from Scripture alone. If anything, the testimony of scripture screams vice-versa.

   I remember having a conversation with a pastoral leader about the importance sound theological instruction is personal discipleship. This particular individual tried to justify not emphasizing theology on the grounds that supposedly “All Scripture may be God-breathed, but not all scripture is useful.”
   I asked this individual to explain their position. In response he said that when examining theology, there are three essential criteria:
1) Scripture – Does it measure up to the Bible?
2) Philosophical – What are the logical implications of such a view?

3) Phenomenological – How do we as believers experience it personally?

   I replied: “What do you do when it comes to concepts that although being 100% scriptural, do not actually have immediate phenomenological application for the believer? Two good examples would be the virgin birth of Jesus and the creation account in Genesis. How does one experience the truth of the virgin birth? Or creation? Furthermore, if you discount such things as being unimportant to Christian living due to the apparent lack of experiential support, why bother defending them by way of apologetics during evangelism?”
   This person’s answer: “But we don’t see Jesus defending creation – however you want to interpret it – so we shouldn’t be too caught up either.”
   I gently pointed out that not only was this individual committing the fallacy of reading an attempted argument from Silence into the teachings of Jesus, but such reasoning would have simply been illogical. If, based on what we can see, Jesus’ views and interpretation of Scripture was consistent, he too would have accepted the literal 6-day creation account of Genesis – just as the author of the Torah would have originally intended it to be read.

   Given Jesus' own view and interpretation of Scripture, why then is it that so many who claim to be his followers do not have the same view as He did? Can one truly be a true disciple if they do not believe the entirety of scripture?

   To put it simply, it is just not Christ-like at all to reject the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of Scripture.

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