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.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

I was reading the Book of Jonah for an Adult Bible Study that I lead on Wednesday nights. We all know what happens in the first two chapters but what struck me the most was what happens in Chapter 4 and its relation to our current situation. Jonah when called a second-time goes forth to Ninevah so that they who are wicked and evil may REPENT and submit to the mercy and power of the Lord of Israel. If they do not then God will destroy them. Jonah being a good Israelite looks forward to their destruction at the hands of his Lord. What happens? A befuddled Jonah sits on a hill looking on as the Ninevites REPENT even their king commands them to bow down at the foot of the Israelite God. God then relents and grants mercy to the Ninevites and allows them to live. Jonah is beside himself with anger. He cries to the Lord that he knew the Lord was a lord of mercy and it angers him that God chose to show mercy to the gentile Ninevites. Look at what God says:

4The LORD said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”5Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. 6 So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. 7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered.8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.”9Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” 10 Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight.11“Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

What really strikes me is that are anyone of us willing to go to Louisville and preach the word of God or will we like Jonah and run off to Tarshish? I believe that we are being called by the Lord our God to stand up and say to Louisville the same words that Jonah preached to the Ninevites so that they may REPENT of their evilness and wickedness. Who among us will go and be a prophet to the Ninevites, who will be the Jonah of our time? Who shall lead the wicked to Christ? Who shall go and preach the Word of Mercy upon those that REPENT? For we all know the fate of the cities that denied the cries of the man of God Lot. We know of other cities that have had the same fate befall them. Ultimately it is up to the Lord our God to decide on whom he will show mercy. But for their sake let us hope and pray Louisville takes the path of the Ninevites and learns from the death of the twin cities Sodom and Gomorrah so that the Lord may show mercy upon them. Amen.