The Problem with Interpretive (Hermeneutic) Frameworks

How the Lord Christ handled the Scriptures

A good place to begin is to show how the Lord Christ handled the Word of God. (After all, since He was its Author, He should know how to understand it and present it to men!) Just as importantly, if there was an explicit/implicit set of “principles of interpretation”, we’d see those established as well.

What we find is that the Lord Christ treated the Word of God “as written” without any system of “principles of interpretation”.

The analogy I like to apply is the equivalent of describing a conversation between two people. In an “ordinary” conversation there is the implicit assumption that each says what he/she means and expects to be understood in the same way. This is simple, effective, efficient, clear, direct…

[If this is not the case, then we have either the attempt at active and deliberate deception or the typical obfuscation of the politician, lawyer, the "journalist" or conman. Both methods—deception and obfuscation—are reprehensible and neither is used by the Holy One.]

As you review the texts below, you’ll find the following very noteworthy elements:

  1. The Lord Christ quoted—and believed—the text “as written”: He clearly demonstrated His conviction that the LORD said what He meant and meant what He said.
  2. The Lord Christ’s use of the text was simple and direct (see #1 above).
  3. The Lord Christ did not try, nor find it necessary, to “explain” the text (see #1 above).
  4. The Lord Christ did not use anything even approaching the modern, irresponsible notion of “principles of interpretation” (hermeneutics): (see #1 above).

 

The Temptation of the Lord Christ: Mat 4.1-11; Mar 1.12-13; Luk 4.1-13
The Lord Christ handled each of the temptations by means of the direct Word of the LORD without any “interpretation”. Following the order in Matthew’s account, we observe:

  1. The LORD said that man lives not merely by physical sustenance but by every Word of the LORD (Deu 8.3). Therefore, since this was a time of prayer and fasting for the Lord Christ, the intake of physical bread would occur when the LORD was pleased to provide it.
  2. Since the Lord Christ responded with Scripture to the first temptation, the devil changes tactics and accurately quotes from Psa 91 in the attempt to justify reckless and foolish behavior. The Lord Christ saw through the ruse and countered—again—with Scripture. Foolish behavior is nothing less than tempting the LORD, something forbidden by Scripture.
  3. The devil then tried a direct assault on the first commandment. Note that the Lord Christ did not challenge the devil’s claim of authority over these human systems and governments. Instead, He saw the direct attempt to ignore the First Commandment and countered with it instead.

 

Fulfilling Isa 61.1-2a: Luk 4.16-21
The Lord Christ knew who He was and that He was the fulfillment of numerous prophecies in the Tanakh. Here, He announces in that synagogue in Nazareth that He is the One upon whom the Lord’s Spirit is.

 

Fulfilling Isa 9.1-2: Mat 4.14-16
Note the active, deliberate, literal fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the Messiah by the Lord Christ.

 

Healing of disease: Mat 4.23 (8.14-17, and many, many other examples!)
The prophecy of Isa 53.5 (“… by His scourging we are healed.”) was fulfilled.

 

The Sermon on the Mount

The Word of the Law and Prophets: Mat 5.17-18
The Lord Christ noted the permanence, sufficiency and intrinsic authority of the Law and Prophets without any mention of “principles of interpretation”. His statement that “all is accomplished” would be meaningless if the Tanakh could not be accurately understood as written!

Teaching the Word of the Law and Prophets: Mat 5.19
Likewise, the condemnation of setting aside the Word of the Law and Prophets would also be meaningless if implicit “principles of interpretation” are required (but not supplied by the LORD).

Fulfilling the Law from the heart: Mat 5:21-22;27-28; 31-32; 38-39
The Lord Christ reasons from the literal commands to challenge the mere “letter of the Law” thinking for which the Jews of His day were well known. Don’t miss the obvious: the Lord Christ’s could not reason “from the lesser to the greater” unless the basic, literal sense of the Law was accepted.

Concerning vows: Mat 5.33-35
The Lord Christ begins by citing from Lev 19.12, Num 30.2 and Deu 23.21-23 that it is important to fulfill all vows which a person may make before the LORD. However, He condemns the superfluous additions of swearing by heaven, earth, or Jerusalem because these elements have significance in the Scriptures and are beyond the legitimate authority of man.

 

Example of Solomon: Mat 6.29
The Lord Christ reasoned from the factual history of Solomon without interpretation.

 

The judgment when the Lord returns: Psa 110.1-3; Mat 7.23; Mat 25.31-32
The Lord Christ uses a literal quote from David which He applies in the same way to Himself regarding that point in time when He will sit to judge the nations.

 

The healing of the leper: Mat 8.1-4
The Lord Christ regarded the regulations specified in Lev 14 to be literal and applied them (in this case) to the leper He healed.

 

The consequences of publicly confessing the Christ as Lord: Mat 10.34-36
The Lord Christ demonstrates that He literally fulfills a prophecy from Mic 7.6: He brings division, not peace.

 

The inquiry of John the Baptist: Mat 11.2-6; Luk 7.18-23
John the Baptizer sent his disciples to the Lord Christ; he wanted them to understand who this One really was. The manner in which the Lord responded was to appeal to the Tanakh: from Isa 35 the “blind receive sight” and from Isa 61 the “poor have the gospel preached to them”. The LORD meant exactly what He clearly said.

 

The testimony of John the Baptizer: Mat 11.7-10; 11.14; Luk 7.24-28
John also perfectly fulfilled the simple, clear prophecy of Mal 3; no “interpretation” was necessary. Moreover, John was also the fulfillment of the prophecy of Mal 4.
[One of the elements found throughout Scripture is the idea of “near” and “far” fulfillment of prophecy. Here, the Lord Christ quotes from Mal 4.5, a text that deals with the “great and terrible day of the LORD”—a day still future for us in the current day. So, what did He mean? Was the Lord Christ misinterpreting this OT text? No! Since the Lord Christ is Lord of All and the coming Judge, He shared with us a revelation by declaring a correlation between Elijah and John. That is, in ways that may or may not be clear to us in the present day, the Lord Christ told us that when that great day of judgment comes, we will see in John the Baptizer the fulfillment of the prophecy of Mal 4.5. (

[This reasoning may lead to the proper understanding of the two witnesses of Rev 11.3-13.]]

 

The example of Sodom: Mat 11.20-24
The Lord Christ understood the account of the destruction of Sodom literally, and used it to prove the increased culpability of Chorazin and Capernaum because those cities had seen the greater light of the Lord Christ.

 

The example of David: Mat 12.3-8; Mar 2.23-28; Luk 6.1-6
The Lord Christ used the historical account of when David fled from Saul and stopped in Nob for food to show the utter lack of compassion and obedience to the true intent of the Law by the Pharisees when they complained about the disciples picking and eating grain on the Sabbath. The Lord Christ also shares the truth that He is the Lord of the Sabbath.

 

The fulfillment of the prophecy of Isa 42: Mat 12.15-21
In order to fulfill the prophecy of Isa 42, the Lord Christ frequently warned those He healed to not reveal who He was. He treated the prophecy literally.

 

The example of Jonah and the three days and three nights: Mat 12.38-41 [Joh 2.18-22]
The Lord Christ treated the account of Jonah as historical, indisputable fact: just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the great fish, so He would be in the “heart of the earth”.
[In spite of the clearness and simplicity of this text, many Christians of the current day still think that the Lord Christ was crucified on Friday and raised on Sunday morning—in spite of the fact that such a period does not span three days and three nights.

A later article on SolaScripturaToday.org will detail from the Scripture that the Lord was crucified on Wednesday.

EDIT Oct 2020: That article is complete: "The Myth of the Friday Crucifixion of the Lord Christ"]

 

The reason the Lord Christ taught in parables: Mat 13.10-15; Mar 4.10-12; Luk 8.9-10
The Lord Christ treated the prophecies of Isa 6.8-10 literally: truth given to the Jews would be divinely hidden in order to make it impossible for them to understand it and be saved.
[It is amazing how frequently misguided and wrong-headed teachers at Bible colleges use the Lord’s parables as examples of the Lord using “homey” illustrations of Bible truths (and is, therefore, suitable for preachers and Bible teachers to do the same). If they had bothered to actually read with understanding the texts cited above they would have realized that they have it backward: the Lord used parables to obfuscate the truth, not illustrate it.

These teachers become unwitting examples of those from whom the truth is hidden.]

 

The Lord Christ’s declaration of the privilege of His disciples: Mat 13.16-17
The Jews of the Lord’s day would not be exposed to the revealed truth as His disciples sometimes were. But notice the presentation: it is based on the premise that the Tanakh was reliable, authoritative and clear without admixture of “principles of interpretation”.

 

The use of parables reiterated: Mat 13.34-35
The Lord Christ quotes from Psa 78.1-3 as another proof of why He taught the way He did.

 

The controversy of unwashed hands: Mat 15.1-2; Mar 7.1-8
The Lord Christ regarded the argument of the Pharisees and Scribes to be without merit because their “tradition” was not grounded in Law.

 

The contempt the Pharisees and Scribes showed to parents: Mat 15.3-9; Mar 7.9-13
The tradition of the Pharisees and Scribes was an attempt to overrule and ignore the clear commandment of the LORD to honor one’s parents. Their condemnation is based on the Lord’s presupposition that the fourth commandment and the prohibition of cursing one’s parents (Exo 21) to be authoritative Scripture without implicit or explicit “principles of interpretation”. The Lord completes His condemnation by appealing to Isa 29.13.

 

The cost of being a disciple of the Lord Christ: Mat 16.24.27
After stating the consequences of being one of His true disciples, the Lord Christ applies a prophecy in Psa 62 to Himself when He returns.

 

The coming of Elijah: Mat 17.9; Mar 9.9-13
While the disciples may not have been familiar with the prophecy of Mal 4.5, the Lord Christ takes it literally: Elijah will appear again—and had already appeared in the person of John the Baptizer.

 

The confirmation of facts: Mat 18.15-16
In the well-known passage concerning the disciple of a careless believer, the Lord cites Deu 19.15 exactly as it was written.

 

Concerning marriage and divorce: Mat 19.3-9; Mar 10.2-9
The Lord Christ regarded the account of the creation of Adam and Eve to be accurate, historical and authoritative. Moreover, the union which the LORD designed for marriage was equally binding. When the Pharisees attempted to counter with the fact that the Law allowed for divorce, the Lord Christ did not challenge that fact, but turned it on them instead (again, treating it as written): divorce was permitted because of the great obstinance of the Jews.

 

The rich young man: Mat 19.16-22; Mar 10.17-22; Luk 18.18-23
When the rich young man who approached the Lord Christ concerning eternal life, the Lord’s answer was based on Scripture (namely, some of the commandments). When the Lord pointed out the commandment the young man had not kept—do not covet—he went away grieved, unwilling to give up his sin. The entire conversation was based on the literal understanding of the commandments.

 

The manner in which the Lord Christ entered Jerusalem: Mat 21.4-5; Mar 11.1-10
The Lord Christ knew the prophecy of Zec 9.9 and fulfilled it.

 

The Lord Christ ejected the money changers from the temple: Mat 21.12-13; Mar 11.15-18; Luk 19.45-46; Joh 2.13-16
The Lord was motivated by the truth of Isa 56.7, in which the holy mountain (and the temple, by association) were to be regarded as a house of prayer.

 

The objections of the chief priests and scribes: Mat 21.15-16
The Lord Christ condemned the objections of the chief priests and scribes by His use of the truth of Psa 8.2.

 

The Lord Christ exposes the hypocrisy of the chief priests and the elders: Mat 21.42
The chief priests and the elders would never admit anything complementary regarding the Lord Christ. When he trapped them with the parable of the Landowner, He summarized His disdain for them by the simple quote from Pas 118: He may be rejected by men, but the LORD made the Lord Christ the chief cornerstone.

 

The Lord Christ refutes the Sadducees: Mat 22.23-33; Mar 12.24-27; Luk 20.27-38
The Sadducees rejected the truth of the resurrection. The Lord Christ refutes their unbelief by means of a simple, clear historical text: Exo 3.6. The LORD is the God of the living, not the dead.

 

The greatest commandment: Mat 22.36; Mar 12.28-34; Luk 10.25-27
When a lawyer asked the question regarding which was the greatest commandment, the Lord’s answer came from Deu 6.5.

 

The demonstration of the Lord’s deity: Mat 22.41-46; Mar 12.35-37; Luk 20.41-44
The Lord Christ illuminates Psa 110 by applying it to Himself: He is both the son of ancient King David and King David’s LORD.

 

Blessed is the He who comes in the name of the LORD: Mat 23.39; Mar 12.10-11; Luk 19.29-38; 20.17
The Lord Christ quotes from Psa 118, in which the coming One is the stone rejected by the builders but who becomes the cornerstone; that One will have the blessing of the LORD. This took place just as the Psalmist declared and the Lord Christ believed.

 

Abomination of Desolation: Mat 24.15; Mar 13.14-23
The Lord Christ cites Dan 11.31 as a portion of the answer to the disciples’ questions regarding future events. His answer presumes the truth of Daniel’s prophecy, with the attendant admonitions that when that great event comes, it is vital to flee.

 

Darkness in the sun and moon: Mat 24.29; Mar 13.24-27; 14.61-62; Luk 21.25-28
The Lord Christ aggregates a number of prophetical texts which detail a time during which the sun, moon and stars will be darkened. These events will be followed by His appearance (the Son of Man of Dan 7) and the sound of a great trumpet (Zec 9). He treats each of these prophecies in a literal sense without any artificial “interpretation”.

 

The betrayal of Judas: Mat 26.20-24; Joh 13.18-19
The Lord appears to cite Psa 41.9: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

 

Numbered with transgressors: Luk 22.35-38
During the Last Supper, the Lord Christ applied the prophecy of Isa 53.12 to Himself, providing the reason that the disciples should take with them the swords they found in the upper room.

 

The scattering of the disciples in the garden: Mat 26.31; Mar 14.27
The Lord Christ cites Zec 13.7 to warn the disciples that they will, in fact, run from Him that very night.

 

The coming pervasiveness of the Kingdom of God: Mar 4.30-32; Luk 13.18-19
The Lord Christ cites Eze 17.22-24 to declare the truth that the Kingdom of God will become the sole power on the earth in a time yet future.

 

The leaven of the Pharisees: Mar 8.14-18
After the stunning miracle of the Lord Christ’s feeding of the four thousand, the disciples (once again!) completely missed the obvious. When the Lord scolded them, He cited the combined texts of Jer 5.18-31 and Eze 12.1-2 to illuminate their foolishness and dullness.

 

The coming distress: Luk 23.27-31
The Lord Christ combines a pair of prophecies, Hos 10.8 and Isa 2.19-20, to warn the Jews of His day that a time will come when men desire to be buried beneath the mountains because of the global trials that will engulf the earth.

 

From the cross: Luk 23.44-46
In the last recorded quote (in Luke) of the Tanakh by the Lord Christ, He applies to Himself David’s prayer from Psa 31.5.

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