Unseen Hands

Yesterday, about 2:45 am I set out for Georgia from West Nebraska.  My family and I will be moving back to Georgia for jobs that my wife and I have been offered.  My entire trip was mapped out, planned, and all the details decided.  My family and I said our prayers, goodbyes, and shared hugs the night before and I was on my way early.  I travelled through the night without any issues, through long stretches of nothing and towns miles apart.  About 11:30 yesterday morning, while going through Kansas City, MO, I exited the interstate to get gas.  I noticed something that smelled like it was burning and then noticed smoke coming out from my driver side FRONT tire!  Sure enough, my front brakes had locked up on me.  My first reaction was helplessness.  Here I am in an enormous town compared to my 3,600 population back in Nebraska – who do I call?  My wife and I had discussed AAA just a couple of months earlier.  I pulled out my membership card and started the process.  With that initial work done, my focus then became one of anxiety quite honestly.  Why did I have to break down here????  I think I honestly had to get that question out to be able to appreciate the answer.  Why?  Because God ordained it!  I could have been stranded on the side of a road somewhere in the barren lands of Nebraska and Kansas at 4am, but God allowed me to make it to a safe place where help would be readily available.  God also allowed me to be stopped at a gas station and not going down the road at 65 mph while pulling my enclosed trailer.  For every anxious excuse I might have, God has an answer.  I am suppose to start my new job tomorrow, yet I am still over 17 hours away from home- but the friend I will be working for is a Christian who simply said to “drive safe and get here when you can”.

So, this morning I sit in a hotel room.  I am thankful for the unseen hands of God’s protection, His direction, His mercy, and His love.  I did find out that both REAR seals had blown out of the rear of my jeep.  Wow… and I just noticed smoke on the FRONT tire and never knew anything was wrong with the back.  The mechanic told me everything looked good on the front and that the brake had just temporarily locked up.  I’m not a mechanic, but I know my front from my back!  Had God used the temporary lock up to get my attention so that the rear issues could be found and repaired to prevent an accident later down the road?  All I know is that God is good – all the time.  Sure, I have spent quite a little fortune here in repairs, hotels, meals, etc. but I am safe.

Later this afternoon, I will hopefully, by God’s grace and providence, be able to get back on the road.  I don’t know what else is in store for me on this trip.  I have a LONG way still to go.  I do know that God is good – all the time.  We have a way of just uttering that without much thought as we go through life unaffected for weeks or months sometimes without major obstacles, worries, or financial problems.  Sometimes it takes a wrecker service, mechanic shop, and nice warm shower in the safety of a hotel room to allow us to experience that.  It is then up to us as to how we will realize and appreciate that thought in the coming days.  Thank you Lord, for your blessings and unseen hands at work in our lives.

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New Seasons

Today I am a man without a job.  Not permanently- but it’s a weird feeling.  Yesterday was my last day at a job I have been blessed to have for the last 8 years.  I have met great people and had an excellent boss.  The Lord opened the doors for me to return with my family to my hometown of Southwest GA and a wonderful job opportunity there.  I will miss my family and friends here in Nebraska, but so look forward to new challenges that await back home.  Our life has gotten so hectic over the last year that I have been unable to really focus on my Biblical training or just life in general.  I look forward to new opportunities and returning to a church home where sound fundamental Bible preaching exists without the ever present ecumenical push by Pastors unwilling to stand strong on God’s Word and a clear cut plan of Salvation.  No – we are not all the same, No – we are not all in some pie in the sky church if we just “believe in God”, No – we are not all God’s children and just have different ways we come to Him.  My Bible plainly states by my Father that the ONLY way to Him is through His Son Jesus Christ and through the process of recognizing I am a sinner, asking for His forgiveness, turning from that sin, and asking His Son to be my Lord, Savior, and Propitiation for that sin and stand in my place!  It is not based on anything I have done, can do, or will do in the future to merit or to retain that Salvation.

As I see our Country continue to unravel and decline in moral and spiritual matters, I am saddened to know that we are most likely seeing a nation who is coming under judgment by a Holy God.  While it is so easy to get upset about Satan and his crowd ruining the spiritual fabric of this nation, I think we must realize that sadly much of this problem can be traced back to the spiritual cancer and decay within the walls of what once were fundamental Bible preaching and believing churches and institutions.  A revival of God’s people is greatly needed throughout the land if we would desire to once again see homes, churches, communities, and country following the old path and standing on God’s Word.  Until then, each one of us has the responsibility to do our part to lead our families in the way that pleases the Lord and seeks to fulfill His will in our own lives.

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The History of Biblical Interpretation

 When did Biblical interpretation come into use?  Why did it come into use?  Is there a correct or incorrect way to interpret Scripture; and, if so, are there consequences to its misuse and misapplication?  This paper will attempt to trace the early beginnings of Biblical interpretation through the post reformation era and the consequences on human history with each method. The majority basis for this discussion will be drawn from the work of Pentecost (Pentecost, 1958).  

 The topic of interpretation can be summed up in two schools:  Literal (also known as historical-grammatical) and Allegorical.  Both of these schools are very different in their approach to Scripture as will be shown.  The beginning of Interpretation as presented by Pentecost is generally held to be during the time of Ezra and the return of Israel from exile (Pentecost, 1958, p. 16).  Nehemiah, chapter 8, records that the people gathered together to hear the Scriptures read after being lost and neglected for many years.  Scripture records that, “they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8, KJV).  The need existed, due to the ignorance and neglect of Israel, to have the once familiar Scripture not only read to them, but also explained to them in detail.  The job called for a dissection of the Scripture and a presentation to the people in language they could understand and relate to as they had exchanged their native language with Aramaic while in exile (Pentecost, 1958, p. 16).  The job of Ezra would have been to read to them Scripture in the native tongue and translate its truth into the language of the people.  This task no doubt was a literal translation and explanation of Scripture as supported by Pentecost (Pentecost, 1958, p. 16).  It is clear that the method which Ezra executed, the Literal Interpretation, was indeed used by God to reach the people as Scripture records that the people understood what was read to them and became very sorrowful for their lack of respect and place of God’s Holy Word in their lives.  So much so, that Ezra, the Levites, and Nehemiah had to encourage the people to remain joyful in that the Scriptures had been found and had been declared unto them once again so that they could understand and obey God’s Word (Nehemiah 8:10-13, KJV).  Ezra’s approach to Scripture in a straight forward, literal rendering of interpretation gave the people God’s message as well as rendered results in God’s people.  The Literal Interpretation approach enabled God’s people to understand God’s Word in a straightforward sense by taking God at His word for what was required to have a relationship with Him.

The Literal Interpretation “gives to every word the same meaning it would have in normal usage, whether used in writing, speaking, or thinking” (Issues in Theology, 2012).  Unlike today where so many different types of commentaries, textbooks, and other study helps are available for review, Ezra would have had only the pure Scripture in front of him.  There was the absence of the huge volumes of literature that exist today that have perverted and twisted Scripture to make it conform and reach a goal or idea within a denomination’s belief system.  Ezra relied on Scripture and nothing but Scripture.  He read, believed, and presented the Scripture in the Literal method of hermeneutical practice.  Because of this, the people under Ezra had a clear and understandable Word of God.

Not only did Ezra practice a Literal interpretation of Scripture, but it can also be shown that the process of Old Testament Interpretation as a whole involved a Literal Hermeneutical approach.  While Rabbinism had flaws that would cause its end result to be incorrect, the method of its approach to Scripture was Literal. This fact is further supported by the Catholic Theologian Jerome who confirmed the Literal approach to Scripture as being Jewish (Pentecost, 1974). The problem, as stated by Pentecost, in their arrival of wrong Spiritual doctrine was not due to Literal interpretation of Scripture, but was indeed in their misapplication of that information (Pentecost, 1974).  Rabbinical interpretation of Scripture was completed under thirteen rules which were further amplifications of the previous seven rules of Hillel (Killian, n.d.).  These rules promoted a literal interpretation of Scripture and to this discussion there is no other conclusion.  The weakness to this system, however, was the practice of Letterism, which involved the strong held beliefs by the Rabbinical schools that every single item within the Scripture, including grammatical and numerical inferences, were there for a purpose and that from a text many meanings could be drawn out (Ramm, 1970).  These fallacies, along with the strongly respected existence of tradition laid a snare in which many interpreters of this time fell into thereby causing false application of Scripture (Ramm, 1970).

During the time of Christ, Literalism appears to have been the majority hermeneutical practice among the Jews (Pentecost, 1974).  This was also the case with the Apostles and New Testament writers (Pentecost, 1974).  In fact, during the first century, it is the Egyptian Jews who are first seen using allegorical application to hermeneutical principles in attempt to be more like the Greeks (Pentecost, 1974).  It is Philo who begins using the Allegorical approach to Scripture in hopes of marrying the Greek and Jewish belief systems together so that it would be accepted by what he considered to be a more advanced Greek society (Pentecost, 1974)..  The rise of Allegorism could be, in part, the result of a period of time in the first century in which many problems existed for Biblical interpreters during that time.  Included in these were the fact that there was no established cannon of neither the Old or New Testament texts; work was being built upon previously false translations of Scripture; rules previously employed by Rabbinical schools were wrongly applied to the texts; and there was abundant pagan and Jewish practices within society thereby further causing confusion and roadblocks to an honest attempt at interpreting Scripture (Pentecost, 1974).

The Patristic period saw the emergence of three different hermeneutical schools of thought late in that era that arose out of the chaos of differing philosophical, cultural, and religious beliefs (Pentecost, 1974). These schools were known as the Literal and Realistic; the Allegorical; and the Historical and Grammatical (Pentecost, 1974).  This period is generally held to be from the death of the Apostle John to the middle ages, 100-450 A.D. (McMahon, 2013).  It is during this time that the church underwent persecution from Roman emperors yet still became a legal religion under Constantine is 321 A.D. (McMahon, 2013).  Two cities that were of importance during this time in the teaching of hermeneutical processes were that of Alexandria and Antioch.

Aristobulus was part of the foundation of the Allegorical school of which beliefs Philo would eventually adopt and expand on false conclusions from poor exegesis of the Scriptures.  The goal of Philo, as already discussed, was to create an environment of perceived harmony among both Jew and Greek philosophy so that the educated Greek society would welcome the antiquated Jewish Mosaic law.  To accomplish this, Philo accepted and promoted earlier concepts of Aristobulus that Greek Philosophy arose from Old Testament teachings and that Greek philosophers, including Aristotle, were simply using tenets of philosophy already put in place by Moses and the Prophets earlier in time (Pentecost, 1974).  Philo had great influence with these teachings within the school of Alexandria and relied on the Allegorical method to mesh the two society’s religious and philosophical beliefs together (Pentecost, 1974).  This school of thought was further moved forward through the teachings of Pantaenus and Clement of Alexandria, who believed in divine origin of Greek philosophy and therefore the only way that Scriptures could be understood was through the Allegorical lens of interpretation (Pentecost, 1974).  Origen would later develop, at the school of Alexandria, the formal allegorical method by which Scripture would be exegeted.  His approach included a three point approach that acknowledged that:  (1) Scripture had a literal meaning but hid a higher idea; (2) Scripture had a moral meaning that could be used to edify the people; and (3) Scripture had a mystical sense for those of higher intellect who could draw from the deeper knowledge (Pentecost, 1974).

The sad reality of the heretical use of the Allegorical method during this time was that it was the answer for two other false approaches to Scripture.  The first was ecclesiasticism, which placed the church as the supreme authority of Scriptural interpretation (Pentecost, 1974).  Augustine was the first to use this approach which made Scripture conform to the church and its perceived interpretation of its content rather than the opposite (Pentecost, 1974).  The second false approach, as already discussed, was that of Jewish Letterism.  This was also a belief that the people desired to be emancipated from as well as other philosophical heresies of the time (Pentecost, 1974).  The dilemma seen with any of these approaches is that those seeking to know the reality and truth of Scripture are bound to the teachings of mortal men as divine proclamation.  The Allegorical method, in its attempt to fuse Greek Philosophy and Jewish Law, was a colossal compromise by early scholars which did great harm to Scriptural integrity and further deprived the people of this period from a plain and truthful view of Scripture.

The School of Antioch stood in stark contrast to that of Alexandria in that it rejected the Allegorical method and stood firmly for the use of a Literal interpretation of Scripture (Pentecost, 1974).  Diodorus of Tarsus is credited as the founder of the School at Antioch with a strong emphasis placed on the literal exposition of Scripture (Pentecost, 1974).  It was his student, Theodore of Mopsuestia, however, that was the true star pupil of the day with the ability to best represent this system to the world.  His study of Scripture was guided by  three steps:  (1)the sequence of thought of the writer; (2)the phraseology and separate clauses that are being used in the passage; and (3)an arrival of a properly exegeted passage that is capable of being understood and applied (Pentecost, 1974).  In the end, it was the Allegorical method of interpretation that prevailed due out of necessity for ecclesiasticism which Augustine presented that required the engine of Allegorical interpretation to make Scripture fit beliefs and practices of the church and ensure that the church would continue to maintain power and control over the people.  Had it not been for this political agenda, the School of Antioch could have changed history had it prevailed and possibly prevented centuries of heretical teaching and misfortune among all of humanity.

Following this period, and as the result of the School of Antioch being dismissed as heretical practice, a spiritual darkness from the seventh to sixteenth centuries ensued which produced nine centuries of silence from practically any fundamentally sound literal interpretation of Scripture (Pentecost, 1974).  During this period, there was no solid attempt to draw a correct view of Scripture, but rather a continued heretical practice of twisting the Word to fit the needs of the governmental church and its corrupted leaders.  There was, no doubt, a remnant of believers during these dark years who held a literal view and belief in Scripture, but the vast majority of subjects were trapped in the quagmire of misapplied and abused Scripture.

Thankfully, these long dark years of spiritual ignorance and corruption began to turn around during the time known as the Reformation Period (Pentecost, 1974).  It is during this time that people such as Valla rightfully concluded that Scripture, to be rightfully interpreted, must be viewed through the lens of the laws of grammar and language (Pentecost, 1974).  This would call for a literal interpretation hermeneutic, and thus popularity of this approach slowly began to gain traction.  Erasmus was another key person during this time who laid strong importance on the grammatical interpretation of Scripture, and thereby also shining light on the practice of a literalistic approach (Pentecost, 1974).  This Reformation Period was indeed the catalyst that caused the return to a literal approach to the interpretation of God’s Word.

It is also during this time in history that, as allegorical interpretation began to lose its grip on the world, that a new doctrine began to emerge among the reformers.  This doctrine would later be known as the Perspicuity of Scripture (Breshears, nd).  Simply defined, Perspicuity of Scripture implies that anyone of any intellect is able to read the Word of God and draw from it the means of Salvation and how to live a life pleasing to God (Breshears, nd).  With this idea came the growing desire to put Scriptures into the language of the common people, as well as a growing revelation among the people that the Governmental Church was not the voice of God.  With the new found freedom in private religious study came a growing public consensus that God’s Word is for every person – not just a select few who are said to speak on His behalf.

One of the key figures during this time was Martin Luther.  Luther believed strongly in the practice of a literal interpretation of Scripture, but also on the importance of using correct grammatical principles in this process (Pentecost, 1974).  Luther was very dedicated to seeing that the common person would have not only the Word of God, but the hermeneutical mechanics whereby to correctly discern and interpret its message (Pentecost, 1974).  Luther’s belief included the idea that traditions of the church were not necessary to understand the pure Gospel, but rather the Gospel could be understood by any person as it was God’s desire for every person to know Him and had written His Word in such a way that this could be accomplished by anyone desiring to know the truth (Breshears, nd).  Perhaps the greatest gift that Luther gave to the Reformation Period was his work of putting the Word of God into the German language – the language of the common people – in his own land and for the first time in history, allowing every man, woman, child, family, and community the ability to read and understand God’s message (Breshears, nd).  This act would be greatly rejected by the church, so much that it was viewed as an act of incompetence and danger placing Scripture into the hands of the unlearned laity.  In contrast, however, it would finally provide the people with the Spiritual freedom they had needed (Breshears, nd).

Martin Luther’s rules for interpretation were quite simple, yet very foundational to the Christian faith and practice.  Luther believed that the final authority of any interpretive measure rested in Scripture alone, and that Holy Scripture was all sufficient and without need for any further clarification or addition from the church, government, or mankind (Pentecost, 1974).  This also extended to each individual passage, whereby Luther rightly contended that every passage has but one very clear and definite meaning, and that other ideas or applications drawn from that intended meaning is simply man’s opinion (Pentecost, 1974).  This belief upheld the doctrine known as perspicuity of Scripture and in doing so, thereby greatly rejected allegorical interpretation as a valid tool and proclaimed it as heretical practice (Breshears, nd).  Finally, Luther was perhaps one of the first to maintain the ability, privilege, and right of believers to make private judgment in line with doctrine of spiritual priesthood of all believers and apart from the need of oversight or explanation of the church (Pentecost, 1974).  Martin Luther provided much fuel to the fires of the Reformation and helped bring a world out of Spiritual darkness.

John Calvin was also very instrumental in the Reformation.  Calvin’s defense against allegorical interpretation was so strong that it was said that no one had produced such a  stance in Philo’s method in over a thousand years (Pentecost, 1974).  While Calvin, like Luther, believed in the Perspicuity of Scripture, he also maintained that such knowledge came with a deliberate and consistent attempt to study and draw from God’s Word that which God desired for mankind to know.  He maintained that it was through the illumination by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer that helped to bring about this understanding, and that the church was to be used as a nurturing element of every believer through its use of sound biblical teachers (Breshears, nd).  Calvin introduced the new exegesis known as grammatico-historical during this period which gave more credence to the Literal interpretation of Scripture.  His method reaffirmed the thought that the original Bible authors indeed had one concise thought for a passage, which could be literal or figurative, but not both at the same time (Pentecost, 1974).  He further stated that explanation of Scripture and application of Scripture are two separate actions, but the application of Scripture must always be in line with the explanation of the text (Pentecost, 1974).  Calvin’s work would continue to be used to help influence a new generation of scholars and preachers over the next two centuries, of which the truth of Scripture and need for Literal interpretation would continue to grow and gain popularity.

The Reformers held a critical and most crucial place in history in relation to turning a world of darkness back towards proper interpretation of Scripture.  Their work enabled the masses to once again begin viewing God’s Word as the supreme authority and without need of any additional aid or revision by the church, tradition, or other written works (Pentecost, 1974).  The Roman Church would attack this progress in 1545 with the Council of Trent (Breshears, nd).  The purpose of this council was to reaffirm the church and its sole authority of the interpretation and administration of Scripture.  Those who wish to continue to promote interpretations outside of the church were deemed to be heretical and punishable under law (Breshears, nd). Well into the 17th century, Protestants and Catholics continued to debate this position.  The foundational issues of the debate continued to be:  Who has the supreme authority to interpret Scripture? What method should be used to interpret? And how does one handle the unresolved unclear portions of God’s Word (Breshears, nd)?  Progress in the battle for religious freedom came very slow and with great assault from the opposing side.

Post-Reformation would continue to be a time of growing and establishing, once again, the literal interpretation of Scripture.  Even the church and its attempt to silence the masses of their right to individual interpretation through laws and punishment was not enough to quench the desire for a man to know his God on a personal level through studying the written Word.  There were great men during this period who also stepped forward to drive the continued success of this method.  One of these men was John Augustus Ernesti, who proclaimed that the Bible must be interpreted with the same process and principles as any other book (Pentecost, 1974).  His school taught based on these principles which did much to strengthen the stand for a literal method of interpretation.  Ernesti also produced a work on New Testament interpretation wherein four principles were introduced that would become invaluable to the student: (1) only the literal sense of Scripture should be maintained; (2) allegorical and typological interpretations should be rejected except only in those cases where it is clear that the author intended for the passage to be interpreted in that light; (3) the Bible should always be interpreted just as any other literary piece would be; and (4) dogma cannot be used to arrive at a literal sense (Pentecost, 1974).  Ernesti’s work would be a beacon of truth in the interpretation of Scripture in whose reach would extend into modern times (Ramm, 1970).

The Post-Reformation period did much to continue to return the people to a literal sense of exegesis that was began by the work of the Reformers such as Lutheran and Calvin.  It must not be forgotten, however, that the origin of the literalistic approach to interpretation of Scripture began with Ezra many centuries before, but due to greed and a desire to control the people, the allegorical interpretive method was allowed to take traction and derail proper exegesis of Scripture for centuries.  It is therefore necessary – if not absolutely mandatory – that the student of the Bible today maintains the strong literal hermeneutical approach to Scripture.  The student of the Bible must guard against any attempt to be led down the road to allegorical interpretation that desires to spiritualize Scripture and bring people back into the bonds of having Scripture and doctrine mandated to them by heretical systems and teachers.  Truth – absolute truth – is to be found within the pages of Holy Scripture and is available for all who wish to partake.  God’s Word is not a spiritual gift that is hid for the few to know and understand, but rather a proclamation to the world to proclaim to every person how to have a personal relationship with Him.  Scripture is not relegated to mystical sayings and hidden meanings that must be defined by scholars and those in power, but rather is simple enough that a young child can draw from its waters without fear of drowning and the old saint can dive into its depths and never reach its end.  God’s Word is the source of life, redemption, and eternal abode.  The message of Scripture should be understood and interpreted in the same light as its true Author- literally.

References

Issues in Theology. (2012). Retrieved October 20, 2012, from Ezra Ministries: http://www.ezraministries.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Literal-vs-Allegorical-Interpretation_08_21_2011.pdf

Breshears, G. (nd). The Perspicuity of Scripture. Retrieved October 22, 2013, from Western Seminary: http://westernseminary.edu/papers/faculty/breshears/perspicuity.doc

Killian, G. (n.d.). The thirteen rules of Rabbi Ishmael. Retrieved September 2, 2013, from Betemunah: http://www.betemunah.org/rules.html

McMahon, M. (2013). Introduction to historical theology- The Patristic period. Retrieved September 2, 2013, from A Puritan Mind: http://www.apuritansmind.com/historical-theology/introduction-to-historical-theology-the-patristic-period-c-100-450/

Pentecost, D. J. (1974). Things To Come. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Ramm, B. (1970). Protestant Biblical Interpretation. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Cushing-Malloy, Inc.

 

 

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The Literal Method of Interpretation

The Literal Method of Interpretation

            The Literal method of interpretation stands in direct opposition of the Allegorical method discussed in the previous study.  The Literal method of interpretation is defined by Pentecost as “that method that gives to each word the same exact basic meaning it would have in a normal, ordinary, customary usage, whether employed in writing, speaking, or thinking.” (Pentecost, 1974)  In short, this could be stated in the more simple idea that God meant exactly what He wrote.  There is no need for trying to decipher words or phrases in search of some “deeper meaning”.  The Literal method also employs using both the grammatical and historical considerations of the passage, which helps to bring writing from antiquity into a more understandable meaning today as it also accounts for customs and practices of that time period. (Pentecost, 1974)

It is noted by Ramm that Ezra is considered to be the first of the Jewish Interpreters and therefore the first instance of using Biblical hermeneutics. (Ramm, 1970)  As this method moves throughout history, the key component of its practice is that the interpreters continue to use the Word of God as the Authority for interpretation and that interpretation is based in a literal rendering of the passage.  Some of the key rules developed during these periods in history are still in use today.  Ramm points out that these include:  (i)Words must be understood in terms of the sentence , and a sentence in terms of its context. (ii) Scriptures dealing with similar topics should be compared to relieve apparent contradictions. (iii) Clear passages should be given preference over one less evident if both are dealing with the same subject matter. (iv) Very close attention should be paid to spelling, grammar, and figures of speech.  (v) Logic can be used to determine the application of Scripture to problems in life not specifically treated, and (vi) God has chosen to speak in the tongue of man so that he can understand it.  (Ramm, 1970)

There would continue to be schools of Allegorists to emerge during this same time and would be in direct opposition to the Literal approach but much support can be given for the Literal method.  Some of these included by Pentecost are:  (i) The literal meaning of sentences if used as the normal approach for all languages. (ii) Any secondary meanings found in the passage are dependent upon the previous literal meaning of the terms. (iii) The majority of Scripture makes adequate sense when interpreted literally.  (iv) The literal approach maintains room for figures of speech, symbols, allegories, and types when the nature of the passage demands so.  (v) The literal approach is the only approach that offers a way to check and confirm the interpretation. (vi) This approach clearly fits with the nature of Inspiration of Scripture. (Pentecost, 1974)  One point to re-emphasize is the fact that the Literal method does allow for figurative speech.  When figurative speech occurs in the Scripture, the Bible student realizes that the purpose of the figurative speech is to reveal a literal truth but never at the cost of destroying the literal truth that is intended in the Scripture. (Pentecost, 1974)

The Literal approach is certainly not without its objectors.  Three objections are brought out by Pentecost concerning this approach:  (i) The Bible contains figures of speech. (ii) God is a spirit and therefore the teachings of Scripture are Spiritual in nature and are taught with earthly objects and human relationships. (iii) The Old Testament holds deeper meaning in its words than what they appear to literally contain. (Pentecost, 1974)  How is the Bible student to answer the critics on these objections?  Is there merit for these complaints of the Literal method?  In answer to the appearance of the figures of speech found in Scripture, it has already been shown that both the literal method and figures of speech can easily co-exist within the boundaries of sound hermeneutical practice as long as the Bible student realizes that the figures of speech are there to reveal a literal truth.  The student must remember that the Literal method includes the historical characteristics as well, which include figures of speech possibly found and known to the people of the period.  For example, all throughout Scripture the Lord is referred to as the “Shepherd”.  The Bible student clearly understands that the Lord is not a physical Shepherd in the sense of having sheep, a sheepfold, pasture, etc.  The figure of speech however is used to express the great and marvelous fact that the Lord very much has the duties and characteristics of a Shepherd towards His people.  No harm is done with the fact that this “picture” is used to teach the literal truth of God’s provision and protection for His children.  Literal methods of interpretation and figures of speech can be used in harmony.

The second attack on the Literal method employs the idea that, because God is a Spirit, there is no “tangible” teaching of literal things to be drawn out of Scripture.  There is merely “ideas” and “life mottos” that one can take and use to commune with God on a Spiritual plane.  God simply used earthly objects and human relationships understandable by carnal man to present Spiritual teaching.  This idea would be used to support the heretical Allegorical approach.  Things such as the Garden of Eden, The Flood, even Satan himself are “stories” to present a humanistic lesson to mankind.  This could not be further from the truth!  God, though existing in Spirit, very much longs for His creation to know Him and to know His Word.  It is not a Book of suggestions and ideas, but is a Living Book that is overflowing with literal truth for the Christian.  It is the Literal accounts of Biblical lives of God’s people and truths given to mankind inspired by the Spirit.  Sin is real.  The penalty for sin is real.  A real Hell awaits for all those who die without Christ.  What a sad account it would be if that is where it ended!  There is also the fact that Christ and His Sacrifice is real!  Salvation through His shed blood is real!  Heaven and the future Kingdom and new Heavens and Earth are real!  The idea of “spiritual” ideas and philosophies without tangible truths is totally unfounded.

           The last argument deals with the idea that there is more in the Old Testament that meets the eye.  Lessons and truths brought forth in the Old Testament and discussed in the New Testament seem to perhaps go deeper than realized at first glance.  Interpreters then use this idea to allegorize Scripture.  When the Bible student truly studies this relationship, however, the conclusion is arrived that shows the New Testament truths of the Old Testament are brought about through literal fulfillment.  Types are many times used in the New Testament to refer back to the Old Testament, yet this is not allegorization.  Just as with figures of speech, types are used to represent and teach a literal truth that can be used by the believer.  God has perfectly chosen the components of Scripture for mankind.  Its truths are real.  The Literal interpretive approach is the only vehicle through which the Bible student can arrive confidently at the intent and teaching of Scripture.

Bibliography

Pentecost, D. J. (1974). Things To Come. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Ramm, B. (1970). Protestant Biblical Interpretation. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Cushing-Malloy, Inc.

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The Dangers of Misusing Allegorical Interpretation

The Dangers of Misusing Allegorical Interpretation

            The proper interpretation of Scripture is crucial to the Bible student if he wishes to correctly know and apply Biblical knowledge to his life.  It is no different than attempting to read a road map with a distorted view or complete misunderstanding of which highways lead to the destination one needs.  If the wrong highway is chosen, then the destination could be missed by blocks or by thousands of miles.  In either case, the person fails to reach the destination.  It doesn’t matter how much they trusted in the map because, although the information was placed there correctly by the original writer, misuse and ignorance of proper utilization by the map user negated the true facts and caused him to err in his travel.  Such is a simple example of Biblical Interpretation.  When one fails to use the Literal Interpretation of Scripture and trusts in Allegorical “suggestions”, there is no end to the number of destinations one will arrive at.  One thing remains certain, however:  among all the many directions Allegorical Interpretation can take the Bible student, it will never deliver them to the true destination of correct Biblical Exegesis of Scripture.

Allegorical Interpretation can be defined as “the method of interpreting a literary text that regards the literary sense as the vehicle for a secondary, more spiritual and more profound sense.” (Ramm, 1970)  A simple paraphrase of this definition could be stated:  “read between the lines”.  Its belief is that the words are simply the method of delivery to the reader and its underlying tones and unwritten meaning must be gleaned by “experienced scholars” and delivered to the layman.  This lie has been propagated for thousands of years by Roman Catholicism who have taught its people that only the “church” can truly read and understand what Holy Scripture says and therefore must be the “voice of God” and the only one to distribute “knowledge” to the people.  This has created untold wars throughout history, but sadder is the fact that it has sent untold millions to an eternity of damnation.

The Bible student would do well to understand that, according to Pentecost, there are three real dangers associated with Allegorical Interpretation of Scripture. (Pentecost, 1974)  These are not mere “grey areas” of argument and debate but are indeed core problems with the very root of this Interpretive System.   The first danger associated with Allegorical Interpretation is that it does not interpret Scripture.  This makes it very easy for the interpreter to make very broad and even abominable uses of God’s Word.  It leaves the area of passage interpretation open to much speculation.  An account such as the Creation Story found in Genesis 1 is held by true Bible Students of the Literal Interpretative method as the documentation of the actual events involving actual people in history past.  Because of this, the student realizes the origin of sin in mankind, the reason for the depravity of man up until this time in history, and the future judgment as well as redemption that awaits different groups of people.  Not so with the Allegorical approach.  Much speculation and “fairy tale” characteristics are attributed to this account under that system.  God’s powerful and mighty Word is reduced to nothing more than a “bedtime story” for children that speaks of “make believe” events that help the reader to understand good and evil on earth, thereby rendering the transforming power of the Word as “none effect” in the heart of the unregenerate.

The second danger seen in the Allegorical Interpretative approach to Scripture is that it moves the Authority of Scriptures from the Word itself to mankind.  This is perhaps the most dangerous error of the three in that it takes God’s Sovereign and Omniscient power as Creator and delegates it to a product of His creation:  man.  There is the absence of the believer being “illuminated” by the Spirit as he reads the Scriptures in humble and authentic thirst for the Word and is replaced by total dependence upon a man and his view of the passage.  Intense study and prayer in search of Biblical meaning has been replaced by “soaking up” another man’s unfounded beliefs and opinions.  The student is easily led down the path of heresy because of the lack of personal diligence and labor in the pages of God’s Word.  His sword is “dull” so to speak, and he is simply unable to rightly divide the Word of Truth in this setting.  This has been seen throughout history with the endless number of Cults who have mislead countless numbers of people away from God’s true Word to that of manmade religion and idolatry.

The third danger of using Allegorical approach to Interpreting Scripture is simply that there is no way to test the conclusions of the Interpreter.  Without solid Literal Interpretation and a clear “black and white” approach to the passage, there is no way for the Bible student to reproduce the same meaning or message of the text in question.  It is opinion.  Just as in Science, if there is no way to repeatedly glean the same meaning from the experiment, then there is no way to fully rest in the satisfaction and security of its contents.  Allegorical Interpretation stands guilty of this practice time and time again.  Once again, its unfounded beliefs and practices have been used throughout history to twist and pervert God’s Word offering alternate views of the Gospel and of even sin itself.

The Allegorical approach to Scripture is a very dangerous practice.  Its conclusions are the attempts of man to create a Utopia on Earth and be “co-laborers” with God in the Redemptive process of mankind.  Its teachings lead people in spiritual darkness and in the end can deliver their souls to an eternity of hell and damnation.  The Allegorical approach to Scripture must at all costs be avoided by the Bible student seeking to know the truth.

Bibliography

Pentecost, D. J. (1974). Things To Come. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Ramm, B. (1970). Protestant Biblical Interpretation. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Cushing-Malloy, Inc.

 

 

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Hermeneutics and Its Critical Role to Biblical Interpretation

Hermeneutics and Its Critical Role To Biblical Interpretation

            The task of interpreting what the world views as the “antiquated literature” of Scripture has been one of special challenges down through the centuries.  Unlike other written works, however, man’s eternal soul and fate rests on its correct translation and application.  For this reason, a thorough understanding and working knowledge of Hermeneutics is an absolutely necessary tool for the Bible student.  Hermeneutics is simply defined as the science and art of Biblical interpretation.  While its definition may be simple, it correct use and application is something of a weightier matter.

The study of Hermeneutics accomplishes many things for the Bible student, of which the most important is without question to rightly understand what God has said to mankind in His Holy Word.  An improper or absent use of a hermeneutical principle can yield something as small as an ignorant idea to as something as serious as an occult teaching.  Another useful benefit of correct hermeneutical practice is that it helps the Bible student to better understand what the Biblical writers actually penned.  Whether it be a language, culture, geographical, or religious barrier, Hermeneutics helps to clear the picture of the past and translate the true meaning into the “thought” or “language” of today.

There are two basic approaches to the interpretation of Scripture:  Literal and Allegorical.  It is how one views these approaches that ultimately shapes his Biblical doctrine and Eschatological beliefs.  For example, if one approaches Scripture with the Literal approach, he would expect the Book of Revelation to describe events yet still in the future- including a thousand year reign on Earth by Christ Himself upon the throne of David.  The Literal approach takes God literally when it is possible to do so.  Literal interpretation takes God’s message delivered to the Writers and trusts exactly what has been penned down to have occurred or to occur exactly as it has been recorded.  There is little room for compromise or alternative definitions when the Bible student takes this approach.  The logical conclusion of Literal interpretation, therefore, is that the Bible student will come away from the study of the Scripture with a very definite and clearly defined view of the passage.  When the Bible student taking a Literal interpretative approach reads:  “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire,” it is with clear understanding that it is realized that a devastating and physical future judgment awaits those who reject Christ.  (Revelation 20:15, KJV) 1

In sharp contrast to the Literal interpretation of Scripture, the Allegorical interpretation leaves much room for misinterpretation and even gross misuse of Scripture.  The Allegorical method would move away from a “statement” that the Scripture is teaching to more of a global “idea” of the passage.  Literal words and sayings become nothing more than “pictures” and “symbols” used to support the view of the one doing the Interpretation.  Because of this, the logical conclusion of using this method of interpretation of Scripture can be summed up in one word:  chaos.  The Bible student who employs this approach to his studies does nothing more than put his faith in what or whom he is learning from.  Sadly this approach has been used to condone homosexuality, polygamy, drinking, and other Sociological problems of today.  It has also robbed the Bible student of the “blessed hope” of the future Rapture and Millennial Kingdom as this approach commonly denies the two events.  This approach commonly takes the Bible student from relying on the Holy Spirit for illumination of Scripture in personal study to a dependency upon “scholars” who claim to know how to interpret the sayings of old.  It is a means of Interpretation best left in the waste can of liberal teachers from which it originated.

Endnotes

1All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Bible version, Royal, 1971.

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God’s Future Kingdom: The Best Is Yet To Come!

God’s Future Kingdom:  The Best Is Yet To Come

            God is a God of order.  Throughout over 6,000 years of human history, God has always fulfilled His word just as He promised.  These facts should bring comfort to the believer while issuing a cold warning to the unregenerate at heart.  The same God that sent His Son in millennium past to offer Salvation to His creation will soon judge in righteousness those who have neglected the call.  Included in this righteous judgment will not only be those unsaved peoples and multitudes throughout the ages, but also the architect of evil and immorality himself:  Satan, and his fallen band of angels.  Throughout the present time, Satan has been allowed dominion of this world, and “walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8, KJV).¹  There is coming a time soon when this domination will finally end.  That time will begin with the Millennial reign of Christ upon this Earth.  Daniel records that Christ will indeed be the ruler of this Kingdom, and that, while the period will last for one thousand years, the Kingdom itself will last for all eternity (Daniel 2:44; 7:18, KJV).

The future Kingdom will be one in which Righteousness will reign.  Isaiah records that it will be a time of peace without end, as Christ rules from the earthly throne of David to “establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever” (Isaiah 9:7, KJV).  Unlike today where sin abounds and evil appears to prevail, the future Kingdom will be a government which operates as God intended.  This will also be accomplished by Satan being bound by God in the bottomless pit for the entire 1,000 year period (Revelation 20:1-2, KJV).  This will be the first time in history where Satan is bound!  With the “accuser of the brethren” being subdued, Righteousness will flourish during this time, and sin will quickly be punished and put down.

Isaiah further records that the Kingdom period will be a time when “they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.  They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat…” (Isaiah 65:21-22, KJV).  It indeed will be a peaceful, joyous time when God will allow His people to enjoy the long awaited reign of her Messiah.  It will once again be a time in which man will work the land and enjoy the fruits thereof.  Even nature itself will respect its Creator as “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock:  and dust shall be the serpent’s meat”  (Isaiah 65:25, KJV).  Both the human and animal kingdom will recognize and give honor to the Creator and Lord of all.

The inhabitants of this future Kingdom will be comprised of two groups of people alive at the end of the Great Tribulation.  First, those believers who are alive at the end of the Great Tribulation period will enter into the New Kingdom in their physical bodies.  These Gentiles will have accepted Christ as their Savior during the Tribulation period.  The Second group will be those Jews who have also accepted Christ as their Messiah during this period of time.  The Book of Matthew records these events (Matthew 25, KJV).  People will continue to procreate during this one thousand year reign, and those born during this age must accept Christ as their Savior just as has been the case throughout history.  This will, in essence, create a third group of people during this period, which will indeed be those who are unregenerate and in need of a Savior.

At the end of this one thousand year reign, Satan will be loosed for an amount of time in a final attempt to be like God.  Revelation records that Satan will be utterly and totally put down at this time and will be cast into the Lake of Fire for all of eternity (Revelation 20:7-10,KJV).  It is also at this time the new heaven and the new earth will be presented by God, along with the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21, KJV).  What a glorious time this will be as once and for all, God will have completed His restorative work of His creation!  The Jewish people will finally realize the promise of their physical land for all of eternity with Christ reigning from the throne of David on this new earth.  The church will inhabit the New Jerusalem, and will enjoy a city which needs no sun nor moon for light, “for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Revelation 21:23, KJV).  Every saint will have access to each place, and will forever be with their Savior and Messiah.  The relationship of the Kingdom to the new Heavens, Earth, and the New Jerusalem will be in complete harmony, as believers will travel to and from these locations throughout eternity in the worship and service of the Lord and Savior. 

These events still await in the portals of eternity future.  There has not been such a Kingdom set up at this time in history and cannot be established until all of God’s Word is fulfilled in the order of His timing.  God is a God of truth.  His Word does not return void.  As He has written, so shall it be.  Truly, the best is yet to come.

Endnotes

1All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Bible version, Royal, 1971.

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