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Archive for the ‘Hermeneutics’ Category


A recent theology exam included questions about the teolology and methodology of the Apostles’ use of the Old Testament in the New Testament.  The candidate agreed with their Christological  goal, but had some criticisms for their methodology.  This issue is part of the controversy over Peter Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation.  His srgument in the book created quite the stir, resulting in his leaving Westminster Theological Seminary.  Enns and Bruce Waltke state their respective cases on the matter in the lastest issue of WTJ.

Good for us, Dr. Roger Nicole’s 1958 article New Testament Use of the Old Testament is now available online.  He addresses the range, authority and accuracy of the New Testament usage of the Old Testament. Dr. Nicole helps us to understand that we should not hold the New Testament authors to the standards of a doctrinal thesis.

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with criticism of how the Apostles used the Old Testament.  That is because I affirm the dual authorship of Scripture.  It is divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16), and God used real people in a way that they wrote in accordance with their personality, culture and circumstances.    This means that one cannot criticize the human authors without also criticizing the Spirit of Christ who inspired them.  That same Spirit inspired the original OT Scriptures which had an original meaning and a greater fulfillment in Christ.  The OT, in addition to having an original meaning, often has a typological function.  This explains why some verses seem to be taken out of context.

But who cares what the Cavman thinks- read Dr. Nicole!

HT: Between Two Worlds

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I’ll be preaching some of the parables in Luke to illustrate grace in the coming weeks.  Here are the resources I will be using:

  • The Parables: Understanding the Stories Jesus Told by Simon Kistemaker.  Dr. K arrived at the Orlando campus after my graduation.  So, I never had him for a course.  But this should be good.
  • The Parables of the Kingdom by Robert Farrar Capon.
  • The Parables of Grace by Robert Farrar Capon.
  • Turning Your World Upside Down: Kingdom Priorities in the Parables of Jesus by Richard Phillips.  I can’t remember when I got this- I think it was like 75% off but looked interesting.  Finally, I get to use it.

Some resources I wish I had:

Hmmm.  Kind of lacking, don’t you think.  I thought there would be more books on the parables.

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Non-sermon related reading has fallen off the grid the last few months.  I feel like I’ve been reading this book for the better part of 6 months.  Not quite, but I have finally finished Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation.  I already reviewed the first 2 sections which dealt with the basics of interpretation and his argument for a gospel-centered hermeneutic, and how various methods of Bible interpretation have eclipsed the gospel throughout church history.

The final section, Reconstructing Evangelical Hermeneutics, was the most difficult for me to read.  At times he covered areas of philosophy with which I was unfamilar.  So, I was occasionally thinking ‘huh?” (particularly speech-act theory).  But it was still profitable at times, just not as profitable as the previous 2 sections.

Among the areas that were helpful were his discussion of typology, and Dr. John Currid’s criteria for true typology.  This criteria is affirmed by Keller & Clowney in the DMin course available through RTS on I-Tunes.  He was also helpful in discussion contexting (his simpler term for contextualization).  The missionary mandate, as he argues, mandates this.  He also includes a chapter on the interaction and relationship between biblical and systematic theology.  He talks a great deal about how both Calvin and Luther viewed Bible interpretation, and the role of the Spirit (particularly Calvin on this front)

His Epilogue contains a few good quotes to sum all this up:

Hermeneutics is about reading God’s word with understanding so taht we might be conformed more and more to the image of Christ.

The purpose of God’s word is to bring us to God through the salvation that is in Christ.  It does this by revealing his plan and purpose, by conforming us more and more to the image of Christ, and by providing the shape of the presence of God with his people through the Spirit of Christ.

So, pastors and those who regularly teach God’s people should find Goldsworthy’s book helpful as we seek to fulfill our calling.  As the ancient children’s song says, “take up and read.”

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The second section of Graeme Goldworthy’s book Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics focuses on Challenges to Evangelical Hermeneutics.  In this section he is essentially tracing the history of biblical interpretation with an eye to the way the gospel has been eclipsed in various times and methods.

This is no easy matter to accomplish since we are talking 2,000 years here.  Some of the issues involved are very heady (intellectual) as well.  As a result, some things may have gotten generalized or flatted.  But, who wants to read a 900 page on hermeneutics (okay, there are 3 of you out there).  It was adapted from his class on the subject, so summarization is a key thing to keep in mind.

The early church wrestled with allegory and typology.  There are proper, and improper, ways to deal with them.  Many a heresy has been developed through the use of allegory.  What he says here is helpful:

  • While typology looked for historical patterns in the Old Testament to which Christ corresponded, allegory was based on the accidental similarities in language and concepts.
  • Typology was dependent on the historical interpretation, while allegory was not.

While discussing the medieval church, he mentions Peter Lombard whose interpretative method sounds very similar to that used by many dispensationalists today “The promises in the two Testaments also differ in that those of the Old Testament are earthly and those of the New Testament are heavenly.”   Goldsworthy also traces Aquinas’ grace-nature dualism which became the standard Roman Catholic hermeneutic after the Reformation.  It is semi-pelagian at best.

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Hermeneutics is one of those words that people shut down upon hearing.  It is just the science of interpretation.

Here are some of the best books I’ve read about how to interpret the Bible:

  • Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation by Graeme Goldsworthy.  I’m just about done with Part 2 of the book.  The second section is very technical.  But the book is great in explaining why and how we are to look at every text through the lens of the gospel.
  • He Gave Us Stories by Richard Pratt.  One of my seminary professors wrote this, and made us read it.  It was great.  It takes a literary approach that balances author, text and audience.  Too bad more people haven’t read this- it is great.  I still utilize his approach.
  • Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul.  Another of my professors wrote this laymen’s guide to interpreting Scripture.  In typical Sproul style, he’s able to put the cookies on the counter for all to enjoy.  Not long either, so it’s manageable for a SS class.
  • Paying by the Rules by Robert Stein is similar to Sproul’s book in that it is geared for lay people, not scholars.  I don’t agree with everything he says, but it is a very good book.  Also easily adaptable to SS.
  • God-Centered Biblicial Interpretation by Vern Poythress.  Not for the intellectually queasy.  It is a great book, but slow reading to digest what he’s saying.  It is not overly technical, but some of the subject matter is quite heady.  He does a good job addressing our subjectivism in approaching Scripture such that he opens us up to the fuller meaning of the text.

Here are some titles I might read some day:

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I started to see this book pop up on people’s blogs a few years ago.  The title, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation by Graeme Goldsworthy, intrigued me.  So, using a gift certificate, I bought the book.  Recently, excited to begin reading, a friend wondered aloud why we need to read another book on hermeneutics.

I’m glad I didn’t listen.  I have not yet finished the book, but I’ve found it quite stimulating, understandable and grappling with an important topic: how should we, as evangelical Christians, interpret the Scriptures?

Here we will cover Part 1 of the book: Evangelical Prolegomena to Hermeneutics.   Goldsworthy introduces the idea of presuppositions into the question of hermeneutics: will we assume the supreme authority of God or assume human autonomy?  This is the question upon which so much hinges in biblical interpretation.  Our assumptions or presuppositions, in addition to this one, greatly affect the effectiveness of our attempts to understand, explain and apply the text of Scripture.

“The function of hermeneutics could be stated as the attempt to bridge the gap between the text inside its world and the readers/hearers inside their world.”

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One of the key passages in the discussion over women deacons is 1 Timothy 3:11.  For many people, this clearly shows that women are not to be deacons.  The Greek in this sentence is very interesting, and as a result, many translations necessarily interpret it.  The question is, do they interpret it correctly?

11 In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. (NIV)

11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.  (NKJV)

11 In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not speak evil of others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do. (NLT)

11 In the same way, women must be respected by others. They must not speak evil of others. They must be self-controlled and trustworthy in everything. (NCV)

Many of these translations include a footnote indicating that the Greek word “guna” can mean either woman or wife depending on the context.  I can’t get the Greek text in here so it is legible, so forgive me.  Here are the problems:

  • There is no subject for this sentence.  It is assumed (as in verse 8).
  • There is no verb for this sentence.  It, too, is assumed (as in verse 8).
  • The word for women/wives is in the accusative, indicating that it is the direct object.  It is first in the sentence to put stress, or emphasis, on it.  Though “in the same way” something very different is being said than in verse 8.  It has to do with women.  Deacon/servant in verse 8 is also in the accusative.
  • There is no possessive pronoun, which would clearly indicate that it means “wives” rather than “women.”  Most translations add this (“their”) to the text.
  • The rest of the sentence is largely made up of adjectives modifying women/wives.

So, the sentence reads like this:  “In the same way [or likewise] (assumed subject & verb) honorable women/wives, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all (things).”

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