The Abandonement of Hermenuetics, Part 1.

The study of Hermeneutics or better said the way in which we read and study biblical text is a dying art in the evangelical, let alone the liberal, world. There used to be a very serious set of principles that a person would employ when they came to the Biblical text that was nearly as sacrosanct as the text itself. For those of us in the Reformed circles this was done in the guise of reading the Scriptures in the framework of the Covenants between God and man. In other words when a Reformed pastor or theologian would come to a biblical text he would read it first with the idea that the Bible was constructed with a certain organizing principle, constructed by the Holy Spirit so that we could both understand the larger picture and how the little things work for the overall Glory of God in history. We all come to the text with presuppositions about the nature of the text, the way we understand God to work in his creation, etc. Through all this we take things like God’s covenant with Noah and Abraham through different eyes than Talmudic or Dispensational scholars. The Talmudic scholar will read the promises to Noah in relation to the modern Jewish milieu. The Dispensationalist will see the Noahic Covenant as the beginning of a new dispensation that is different than the one given to Adam or Moses. Once we come to this understanding the question that comes before us is why do we think we can read Scripture in such a way that it does not inform on itself? For example in the arguments between those who support Women in Ordained ministry and those who do not the defenders of the egalitarian position often posit the observation that Jesus employed women to bring the news of his resurrection to his Male disciples as one fact supporting ordained female clergy. In other words Jesus uses women to bring the Good News to the disciples, therefore women can be messengers of the Gospel, ergo Women can be preachers of the Gospel and enter ordained ministry. Understand the argument? Ok. This argument sounds pretty good on the surface and looks secure in its logic, which if taken by itself it is logical.

Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees in Matthew 12:38-41 is a good place for us to start in working with a Biblical hermeneutic. What are the details in this text? Pharisees and Scribes are asking Jesus for a sign after the crowds call him the “Son of David” for healing the blind and mute man possessed with a demonic force. The Pharisees want him to prove that he is this person whom the crowd claims him to be. So after Jesus and the Pharisees exchange pleasantries Jesus reminds them of Jonah (whom Jesus recognizes as both real and verifiable, which is another issue for another day) and what it was that happened to Jonah. He also reminds them of Nineveh and Nineveh’s repentance and applies this text not only to himself but to the recompense that is coming. All in order to show them that the signs have already been given to them in the Law and the Prophets (cf: The Rich Man and Lazarus) and that they have no need of new signs because why? Because there is nothing new in what Christ is teaching and what he is coming to do in their time. Jesus understands (and so does Zacharias) that the Law and the Prophets not only speak of him but are about him. This is all to say that a proper Biblical hermeneutic takes into account more than just what is in front of us on the page, more than the bare logic of a pericope.

Which brings us back to Matthew 28:1-10 (also Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-10) and the reporting of the Resurrection. Now as we saw before the argument brought forward by egalitarians makes perfect sense, in isolation. Now how does the story look in context? We’ll answer that in the next post. But for now I want you to think about it and come up with your own explanation using a Covenant hermeneutic.


8 thoughts on “The Abandonement of Hermenuetics, Part 1.

  1. The resurrection news is but >a piece< of the ordination argument from Scripture. Any Biblical argument must consist of data from the whole witness of God’s Word.

    Just as those who bang the Timothy and Titus verses for the other side, we must avoid using one or two particular instances from one or two books to make our case.

    The people whom I respect, on BOTH sides of the ordination debate, are drawing on biblical data from the whole counsel of God, from Genesis to Revelation. No text can be handled in a vacuum from the other witnesses in God’s unfolding narrative.

    There are no simple answers here. Otherwise, even Piper and Grudem would not need a whole book to answer the question!

  2. BTW, Piper has an excellent set of sermons on the Romans issue of the ‘weaker brother’ and each being convinced in his own mind. Look at the Desiring God site and you’ll find them.

  3. Quick question (s)- Covenantal Theology as a system did not come onto the scene until the 17th century so why do scholars from the reformed camp assume it is the only way to read scripture? Should one foist an artificial system onto a text that does not come to light naturally from an inductive study of scripture? Should our hermenuetics reflect that of Jesus and the Apostles who are Jews who spoke Hebrew and Aramic and thought with a Middle Eastern mindset? Should we abandon the CT system altogether since its theology is influneced by pagan Greek philosophy and anti-semitism? Should our theology be influenced by the theology of the bible? If one must hold to Covenant Theology, should it use the actual covenants that exist in the bible? In addition, should we use the literal historical grammitical method throughout all of scripture? Where does it say that we must switch our method when we come to prophecy ( I see prophecy fulfilled in a literal way and I always see God keep his promises in a literal way…I guess the God of CT is too small and a liar) In the technical sense of “literal” it accounts for symbols and figures found in the text and let the context determine the meaning instead of an arbitrary decision of the interpreter. I know CT folks love Origen, Augustine, and the reformers…they did wonderful things for Christendom and we all owe huge debt to these folks but we should not be a respector of persons because of their stature in history. Most Tragically, Origen (Greek Philosophy was his guide not the H.S. in interpretating Scripture) and Augustine (remember 19 comes before 20 in Rev) done much harm in the field of hermenuetics with the allegorizing principle. I love allegories and metaphors when naturally found in the text i.e. Galatians 4: Hagar and Sarah. Questions I always wanted to ask a covenant theologian. If I misrepresented you guys in any way forgive me and point out my mistakes for I hate it when the dispys get misrepresented.

  4. You all are deep, and that’s a POSITIVE. When I come to scripture I come to a text that is written in a specific language, time and culture and to a specific audience addressing a situation.

    I also come to that text with, what you outlined above, a sense and firm belief that the Canon has been overseen by the Holy Spirit in such a way as to bring a unity to what it teaches.

    The work comes in translating, interpreting the text, as written, preserved, and inspired into 21st Century issues and situations. Not sure if that qualifies as Reformed or not but then again as a member of the PC(USA) reformed has such a b r o a d definition…. LOL


  5. Demetrius,

    I don’t think that Augustine held to allegorizing. That was Origen.

    The principles of Covenant Theology come right from Scripture itself. Calvin was careful to find not only early church support, but he went back to the apostles themselves.

    Dispensationalism is the new kid on the block. Darby and Scofield were innovators, unlike Calvin.

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