Presentation on theme: "The Science of Interpretation. People cringe at the word “theology.” They think that theology is for the seminary trained, and not for your average Joe."— Presentation transcript:
The Science of Interpretation
People cringe at the word “theology.” They think that theology is for the seminary trained, and not for your average Joe. Some here may even think this. However, every Christian is a theologian. Theology comes from the Greek words theos (God) and logos (word). Thus theology means the study of “God’s word.” God’s Word (the Bible) informs us on what to believe and practice. Every Christian should be studying their Bible, and every Christian has ideas on what they think it says. Thus, they are all theologians. The difference is whether or not you’re a poor theologian or a good theologian.
There are various approaches people take when it comes to reading, interpreting, and applying the Bible. They are engaged in what is known as hermeneutics, the science of interpretation. As soon as you open your Bible and begin reading, you are engaged in the art of interpretation. And to be fair, one act of interpretation has transpired even before you picked up your English Bible. That’s right. You picked up a translation of the Bible. It isn’t hard to see how radically different the modern world is when compared with the ancient Biblical era.
The writers of the Bible are kings, peasants, slaves, free, fishermen, doctors, lawyers, philosophers, generals, artists, poets, rich, poor, and so on. It has multiple genres: law, prophets, poetry, gospels, history, letters, and apocalyptic. The Bible is composed of 66 books written by approximately 40 authors and we even have a few books that we don’t know for certain who wrote! These genres contain information about geography, authors, audiences, population, genealogies, and much more.
To widen the gap a bit more between the “then of writing” and the “now of reading”, consider that the Bible was written from 1400 BC-93 AD, spanning the entire Roman world, using 3 languages. This is an incredibly complex book or, rather library of books, and really does take some rigorous intellectual engagement to begin to get your head around what you hold in your hands. However, anyone who puts forth the time, effort, and diligence can rightly come to a full and adequate understanding of the Bible.
How we approach the Bible.
The Bible is old and you are new. There’s no way we can come to the Bible unbiased. We all approach Scripture with a worldview, preconceived ideas (presuppositions), theological persuasions, political stances, personal baggage, and so forth. And that’s not always a bad thing! However, when it comes to actually interpreting the Scriptures, there’s basically two ways of going at it and the two methods are what theologians refer to as exegesis and eisegesis.
Exegesis Exegesis means “to lead out” or “extract from.” “Ex-odus” This is our approach to the Bible at Bells Run. We want to extract from the original meaning of the text, understand it in the world in which it was originally penned, and then make the hermeneutical jump over into the 21st century. Eisegesis means to “read into.” This happens when someone imposes their own personal or cultural beliefs upon the Bible. This can be an attempt to make the Bible less offensive or more palatable to suit one's way of life and avoid being conformed to the image of Jesus. This can be done in ignorance. It ultimately undermines the authority of Scripture. Eisegesis
1. Who’s Word is this, actually? 2. Am I out to exegete or eisegete the Bible? 3. Do my culture and personal desires trump the authority of Scripture in my life, or am I willing to obey, love, and proclaim Scripture regardless of whether I am accepted or rejected?
The Infallible Rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself.
We adhere to the principle of interpretation known as the “analogy of faith.” In other words, the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself. In the place or occurrence where there is a question about the true or full sense of a particular passage of Scripture, it must be searched by other places in the Bible that speak more clearly on the same topic, without disregarding the original text in dispute.
Never read one verse.
When reading the Bible, we often make the mistake of reading and interpreting a verse while isolating it from the verses surrounding it. We fail to take into account the authors audience, the time it was written, and the issues being addressed. This often leads to eisegesis, and we fail to see the authors flow of thought and intended purpose of the passage. When we detach a verse from its context, it becomes very easy to subject it to our prejudices, biases, and cultural assumptions.
We’ve all heard it before. Some of us have said it, and others have used it against us. Because eisegesis is so prevalent in our culture and thinking, we come to the conclusion that any given passage can have multiple meanings and interpretations. This is simply UNTRUE. When the Holy Spirit lead men to write the Bible, God had an intended purpose, meaning, and application for a particular people in a particular setting.
“…knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Men did not invent the Scriptures. If the Holy Spirit is the author, then God gets to determine its interpretation and meaning; not men. Our challenge is this: Be good theologians and try to discern God’s singular intention for any given passage, and then make the jump to the 21 st century in our application.
Take the principles you’ve learned and put them to practice. We will start easy and each example will get more difficult as we go along.
“There is no God.”
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
Begin challenging every thought, bias, presupposition, and interpretation you have using sound hermeneutics to begin “rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)