The Problem with Interpretive (Hermeneutic) Frameworks

Introduction

The question of “By what means do I correctly understand the Bible?” is a very old one. It is one that must be asked by all true Christians: after all, there is no other source of Truth apart from the Bible. As those “born from above”, the true Christian longs for truth; it is a permanent part of his/her nature.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews compares the Bible to the sustenance needed to develop and sustain physical life. In a well-known passage dealing with the historical figure Melchizedek, the author says this:

Heb 5.11-14
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Just as we need food to maintain life, so the author of this epistle maintains that all true Christians need the “oracles of God” to maintain their spiritual lives as Christians. But there is also a sobering warning: the necessary intake of the Word of God is a personal responsibility. If we become careless, our growth as Christians is stunted and, in the author’s metaphor, we remain children who are unable to receive and process truth. It is the mature who are able to partake fully of the Word of God; lazy and immature “children” are essentially useless as Christians because they are “dull of hearing”.

And, following the author’s reasoning, those who partake “only of milk” will never mature.

[Often I have observed the contradiction of the 30+ year old “child” (usually male!) portrayed in the media as a blathering idiot, a veritable child, prone only to the most ridiculous of personal habits. It is a sad commentary on our times that such people exist—in stunning abundance. The text above tells us the same problem exists for those who call themselves “Christians”. And, they are as likely to be among those who stand behind the pulpit as well as those who sit in the pew…]

This series is for those who believe that they are truly “born from above” Christians, ”by grace through faith”. (Eph 2.8) It is for those who do care—deeply—about the Scripture and desire genuinely to grow in and through it. By design, the immature will miss the point of this series.

The foundation for this series is this pair of texts:

Joh 14.26
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

1 Cor 2.9-16
but just as it is written,
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

While the Lord Christ walked with His disciples, the work of the Holy Spirit was not needed; the Lord taught His truth to them directly. After the Lord’s ascension the Holy Spirit’s work began and continues through our present day.

The title to this series includes the phrase “Interpretive Frameworks”; this is usually termed “hermeneutics”. A reasonably accurate and general working definition of hermeneutics, as found in Wikipedia, is:

“Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_hermeneutics

And, yes, I now present a spoiler alert: there is a very serious problem with the “study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible.”

What’s the problem? Simple: the definition presupposes that it is a “good idea” to establish “principles of interpretation”! This series will show that this is a very, very bad idea.

I think that I can hear the collective “Gasp!” from some of my readers: “What do you mean by saying that establishing principles of biblical interpretation is a problem!?!? That’s what the Christian is supposed to do!”

The purpose of this series is to challenge this very common—and very, very humanistic and wrong-headed—thinking and show that genuine understanding of the Bible does not depend on any humanly-defined hermeneutic.

This series is presented in three chapters:

  1. The complete lack of direct Bible support for hermeneutics.
  2. How the Lord Christ used the Scriptures (the Tanakh).
  3. Summary thoughts on other literary techniques used in the Bible.

 

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