Hermeneutic Tools for Exegetes and Problem Solvers
What is 'Hermeneutics' | Classic Mental Tools | The Quadrilateral | The Quintilateral | New and Daring Tools
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Part A, Hermeneutics Defined bookmark no podcast at this time.
yourself these questions and expect answers:
what does Paraclete speak to your heart?
what does Scripture(s) say?
what makes sense, is logical or reasonable?
what does history and tradition add to the mix?
what do you feel or have you previously experienced?
Abstract "Mental Tools for Hermeneutics"
Noetic Science & Healing / Noology / The Mind
The Anglican Three-legged Stool
History (Economy / Anthropology / Tradition)
Henry the Eighth v. Pope Leo X
The Evangelical Creed
Probability and the Jesus Family Tomb
The Problem - Polygyny
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral
The Wesleyan Way
Moravian Brethren / Ian Hus
Experience and Revelation
Both are subjective, they come through you
Misunderstandings of Scripture
Trust and mistrust in prayer
New and Daring tools of Hermeneutics
Tabula Rasa or Blank Slate State
Distinguishing Literalism from Symbolism
Context of Time & Culture
Head coverings, "Women! Be Quiet!
The commitment to time, journaling & practice
Ezra among the ruins
OWN what you've learned
Ask the higher power for clarity
and keep it simple.
Part C - Discursus - The Rebirth of Yisraelite Marriage
The Shofar, Teruah
Discussion of Strong's Concordance
Discussion of Koniuchowsky's The Rebirth of Yisraelite Marriage
Discussion of his "Whole Wheat Loaf Book"
Discussion on the Heresy of Docetism
Progeny, Poligyny, Poliandry, Peligesh
Torah Observance and Secular Marriage
A Mention of the film Braveheart:
The Lords, The Larth, The Exploitation of Serfs
The Beauty of the Yahad (the 'together')
The Shofar, Teruah
Acts 14:11,12. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, because he was the chief speaker, they called Hermes.
The word “hermeneutics” originates in (Gr.) hermeneuō, I interpret, and is personified in the name of the messenger god Hermes. (Mercury in the Roman pantheon.) “Neutics” is from “nous” - “mind” - which gives us an idea of and mental tools for interpreting whatever needs to be conveyed to others.
The general purpose of hermeneutics in group study is so all who participate will understand and therefore believe alike. Groups, particularly religious groups, depend on hermeneutic methods or interpreters to keep members in orthodoxy.
In some measure, different sets of hermeneutic principles are behind the differences in religious groups' beliefs, beliefs that depend on biblical literature for insight.
For instance, consider these three simplistic and distinct hermeneutics:
New Testament must be interpreted through the Old
Testament, the Old being the primary revelation.
(The assumption is that the two are distinct and different.)
(The assumption is that the two are distinct and different.)
(2) The Old Testament must be interpreted through the New Testament, the New being the primary revelation.
(3) The Old and New Testaments have equal weight in interpreting a passage in either.
I wonder if the reader can think through these three methods – each of which are widely used today by bona fide teachers of Scripture.
Hermeneutic (3) leads to “proof-texting”; i.e. taking a particular passage out of Scripture and allowing it to stand alone. Classic, extreme example include:
“Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12)
“If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (Exodus 21:23-25)
Hermeneutic (2) leads to anachronism: Luke’s writing,
“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread …” (Acts 20:7)
has greater weight than the commandment,
“the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation . . . ” (Leviticus 23:3).
In the minds of followers, these texts decide which day is the day of meeting. If Acts has the greater weight, it supersedes the earlier text. For many interpreters, this is indeed the case.
Long before the status of Paul's letters was established, he insists on Hermeneutic (2):
Romans 16:25. Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Y'shua the Anointed One, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages
2 Timothy 2:8. Remember Y'shua the Anointed One, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel, the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal.
All is to be interpreted through Paul's gospel. The only way we may use this hermeneutic is if we know exactly what his gospel consists in. The assumption is that his gospel is contained within his surviving letters.
Hermeneutic (1): We must be proponents of (1) primarily because we find the keys to unlocking the mysteries of the New Testament in the Old. Yahshua is a proponent of Hermeneutic (1):
“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
He makes it clear when he supersedes the earlier texts:
“You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…” (Matthew 5:21,22)
We have also
recently realized that archaeological finds and other texts written earlier or at the same time of the New Testament may be
required to unlock some New Testament mysteries. For instance, let's look
We have also recently realized that
archaeological finds and
other texts written earlier or at the same time of the New Testament may be required to unlock some New Testament mysteries. For instance, let's look atMatthew 5:22 again:
“whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council . . .”
Translating “raka” as “insults” is but a guess, for no one actually knew what the word meant until it was found in context in the Dead Sea Scrolls Manual of Discipline. There “raka” has to do with spitting; it was a punishable infraction to spit on the floor of the assembly of the Scrolls Sect as written in their Manual. For the New Testament, there is a great deal of difference between insulting someone and spitting on him.
Many translations maintain a grievous error by publishing Matthew 5:22 as
“Whoever says, You fool! will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Behind this incorrect translation is “eis tén geennan tou puros” correctly translated as “to the gehenna of the fire.” It seems unlikely that even the most inexperienced translator would offer hell for gehenna when there is a clear reference to the word gehenna in Joshua 15:8:
The boundary goes up by the valley (ge) of the son of Hinnom (henna) at the southern shoulder of the Jebusite (that is, Jerusalem).
The objective interpreter who checks the Old Testament closely will have to decide whether hell is the same as Gehenna, located on the southern boundary of Jerusalem (the place know still today as the Valley of Hinnom's Son), or correctly render the passage as “will be liable to the fires of Gehenna.” With a little more research, the interpreter will find that in the time of Yahshua's sojourn, Gehenna was the Jerusalem dump, with smoke and burning trash fouling the air. But was it Hell? No. And the objective interpreter, teacher or scholar, must be willing to contradict every source that gives us the false interpretation.
Hermeneutics is a vast subject that deals with various critical methods for analyzing texts and meaning. A very good introductory book is Raymond E. Collins’ Introduction to the New Testament. (The principles in the book may be applied to any text. The book is out of print but available on Ebay for a few dollars.)
Students have at their disposal several mental tools that are useful in interpreting texts and situations with the intention of believing or acting. Three of these are the classic “Anglican Theological Method” or “The Three-legged Stool”:
Leg 1: Scripture: (We do not start with a personal notion, an internet article, or an established doctrine. We allow Scripture to interpret itself.) What is actually written? Are there other, parallel Scriptures? Other Scriptural or archaeological references? Which carry the weight? If analyzing a situation: What does Scripture say about it? If indeed the Evangelical Creed concerning Scripture is accounted for, that:
The Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired Word of God (sic), without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men and the Divine and final authority for Christian faith and life.
then what better or more authoritative word can we find on a text or situation?
Leg 2: History / Probability / Tradition: Originally, “tradition” meant “What does the
Church say?” However, the Church has made and
is making wrong, absurd choices, disregarding Scripture (Leg 1) entirely. So as we attempt to resolve our textual
mystery or dilemma, we may consider questions like, “What does history tell me
about this subject?” “What is the probability
of such and such an outcome?” “What has been understood about this in within
the various religious or scholarly traditions?” Or, “What has been understood in that tradition about it?”
Then, s what I'm
s what I'm finding reasonable?”
Leg 3: Reason: We are intelligent creatures able to think logically (cause and effect) and reasonably. “Does this interpretation, does this solution make sense?” “What are the ramifications for the future?” “Is it likely?” “Is it contextual?” Others may also be brought in – logical thinkers – the subject shared – multiple reasonable opinions polled and applied.
Now we move from the classical 3-legged stool to the more balanced four-legged variety developed by Albert Outler as a result of studying the works of the Wesleys.
Leg 4: Experience: “Have I wrestled with the text or situation before?” “What was the outcome then?” “What are the chances of the same outcome?” “How does your experience help you examine, understand and apply what is new?”
These following passages describe unique experiences that helped these men form their religious opinions.
John 3:12,13. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.
2 Corinthians 12:3. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, Elohim knows –and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.
Testimony of John Wesley, Anglican Priest: In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
Don't forget that experiential discoveries are completely subjective, not objective. And though your experience may open greater truth for you, it will not be a reliable leg without the others.
I have added fifth leg to the stool – one that has been deliberately overlooked, perhaps because this leg can lead, in extremes, to rebellion – or to higher understanding.
Leg 5: Revelation: “What is the Holy Spirit telling me about this?” “What answers have I received from prayer and fasting?” “Have I been to the mountain top and returned to tell what I have seen?”
2 Peter 1:21. No (true) prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from Elohim.
Jude 20. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit.
The following passage is a major part of Yahshua the Anointed One's hermeneutic, and not unlike Paul's demand that the Galatians follow his gospel exclusively.
John 3:11. “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. 12. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13. No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man. 14. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15. that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
In regards to keeping commandments, Yahshua said,
15. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you” (John 14:15-17).
It is our fervent belief that
diligent, faithful and obedient students of the Scriptures may receive new
revelation; even such that opens doors of truth and solves difficult problems.
But again, the fifth leg is used in addition to the other four, else the
interpreter, though true to herself, may be false to others.
But again, the fifth leg is used in addition to the other four, else the interpreter, though true to herself, may be false to others.
New and Daring Tools to Consider
If we are serious and diligent, we will naturally depend upon some of the legs of the stool just described. But suppose we could take a completely different tact that disregarded all these reasonable tools? Consider the following states of mind useful for study and decision making. They will take some discipline to achieve, and the outcomes are unpredictable; however, they may lead to more objective truth and even revelation.
Tabula Rasa – scraped
tablet – blank slate: Intentionally
clear your mind of all preconceived notions or beliefs. Do not allow the “Anglican Theological
Method” (or your own religious traditions) to cloud or influence your study at all. Look at all
thinks as new things – all text as
new text – all situations –
Matthew 7:11. If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 18:3,4. “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of the heavens. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens.”
Leg B: Critical Thinking: believe nothing; question everything; expect objective answers. If you will be a teacher, document what you learn. If you can't do that, learn to - one cannot be a worthy teazcher unless there is left behind a pathway where one has been and an idea of where one is going. Go back and criticize your earlier work. If you are on the right track, you will probably want to throw out your first 50 pages.
Here is a good place to start thinking critically:
Genesis 5:24. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (The pagan name is purposely left in the passage.) (What does this mean?)
Leg C: Distinguish literal from symbolic.
The following is an excerpt from a passage used to prove the existence of hell and eternal torment. Expand the passage and sort out the figurative from the literal, then figure out whether it does prove hell or something entirely different.
Luke 16:22-23. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom.
Leg D: Consider the differences in culture and time. Here’s a challenge that requires knowing about culture, place, time and religion:
1 Timothy 2:12. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.
1 Corinthians 11:4. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5. but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head--it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. 7. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.
Leg E: Study in this manner requires a strong commitment of time, effort, journaling & practice.
Ezra 7:10. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Yahweh's Torah, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and ordinances in Israel. ... 13. On the second day the heads of fathers' houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the law.
John 5:39. You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me.
2 Timothy 2:15. Do your best to present yourself to Elohim as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
Leg F: When study aids are necessary, look first to earlier passages in Scripture on the same subject, look to primary sources, look to scholarly secondary sources (not denominational- or church-produced study aids). Scholarly sources are produced by major universities and are available in book form. I would suggest studying the works of the younger scholars (up to 60) in the bigger universities. (A bible school is not a university.)
Leg G: Finally, ask “the highest power” (El Elyon) for guidance in any such speculative endeavor.
Testimonial. I used the first method for a long time in diligent study. Now I use, insofar as I can, the second – as I have for about a decade. I can only tell you how I feel about the difference. (Leg 4 feeling . . . .) My confidence has greatly increased as has my faith and knowledge – and like never before I am able to point to currents of truth (rather than proof-texts) that run entirely through Scripture and reliable religious literature.
I would suggest you write your own prayer of invocation, use it every time until it is memorized. And as your understanding begins to mature, change your prayer to match your understanding.
WARNING - If you teach from copyrighted sources, from internet articles, videos or podcasts, from magazines or devotionals, especially if you treat these as your own work, or confess to your students how much Bible study you have done when you really have just read web articles, you will one day get caught and you will be humiliated. Avoid the shortcut and always start with the text.
Orthodox means, 1| of, pertaining to, or conforming to the approved form of any doctrine, philosophy, ideology, etc.2| of, pertaining to, or conforming to beliefs, attitudes, or modes of conduct that are generally approved. 3| customary or conventional, as a means or method; established. (Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved May 13, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/orthodox) back