The Problem with Interpretive (Hermeneutic) Frameworks:

What about symbolism, metaphors and other literary instruments?

If you’ve stayed with this series, I anticipate that some will object with something similar to the following:

“Your approach is too simple. There are many examples in the Bible of symbolism, metaphors, sarcasm, hyperbole, allusion, simile, and so on. What about these? You certainly can’t blindly apply a ‘God meant what He said and said what He meant’ rule.”

If this is your objection, you’ve made my point for me: how did you know that what was written was actually “symbolism, metaphors, sarcasm, hyperbole, allusion, simile, and so on” except to take those expressions “as written”?

As I stated in the first chapter, one typically “picks up on” verbal expressions which are not literal, but nonetheless the true meaning is very clear. And, of course, the mode of expression becomes a part of the meaning as well.

This realization is very different—and a completely valid one—than applying an “interpretive principle” such as Dispensationalism or Covenant Theology, for example. That is, to recognize a metaphor is to simply perceive what is in the text without any preconceived rule.

 

There are two important principles which need to be mentioned at this point:

  1. The purpose of the Bible, which is to present the Lord Christ to a lost and rebellious mankind, along with the full and attendant details of the Triune work of redemption of that same mankind.
  2. The LORD alone chooses when to open—or obfuscate—His truth.

 


The purpose of the Bible.

The purpose of the Bible—the LORD’s written Word preserved for mankind—is to reveal the LORD as the planner, the Lord Christ as the implementer, and the Holy Spirit as the applier of work of redemption to lost mankind.

There are many, many texts which could be used here; I’ve chosen just a few to make the point. As you read them, consider the foolishness of attempting to apply an over-arching “principle of interpretation” to their powerful truths. To do so would be to strip them of their authority and sufficiency:

Psa 119.89
Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.

Isa 40.8
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.

Isa 55.11
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Mat 24.35
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

Luk 24.25-27
And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

Luk 24.44
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Rom 15.4
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Heb 1.1-2
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.

Are any of these texts not absolutely clear? Essentially anyone with basic reading skills and vocabulary would be able to read and understand them just as the Lord Christ did with the texts cited in the second chapter of this series: simply, directly, effectively, correctly.

 


The LORD alone chooses when to open or obfuscate His truth.

There is, however, this biblical truth established in Isa 6, namely that sometimes truth will be given without the necessary Divinely-given understanding:

Isa 6.6-10
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

The Jews to whom the LORD spoke through the prophet were obstinate and disobedient beyond imagination and as a result were subject to this just judgment: truth would be spoken to them, but the attendant capacity to receive and understand that truth would not be granted.

The Lord Christ applied this judgment to the Jews of His day and thereby told them parables. Here, He told His disciples why He did so when they questioned Him:

Mat 13.10-14
And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, …

This principle is seen in other places in the Scripture; disbelief has real and dire consequences. Conversely, faith also has real consequences (all of them good):

Heb 11.6
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

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