“But perhaps someone will say that the word ‘adoption’ is not actually found in Holy Scripture [in Luke 3, part of Augustine’s argument that Joseph was adopted and thus had two fathers, thereby explaining the discrepancy in genealogies]. As though it were of any importance what word is used for it, when the thing itself is there…” -Augustine, Christmas and Epiphany Sermons
Tag Archives: hermeneutics
The Difficulty with Reading the Old Testament
“Sandra Richter, in The Epic of Eden, describes what she calls the “dysfunctional closet syndrome,” in which she compares the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, to a closet jam-packed with all kinds of stuff— clothes, shoes, books, games— but so disorganized you don’t know where to put things or how to find things when you need them. So we shut the door and tell ourselves that we’ll sort it all out someday. Sound familiar?” -Rankin Wilbourne
Misusing the Word
“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)…” -Calpurnia to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird
Why We Look for ‘Application’ in the Text of Scripture
“God wants to deal with us in our situation of time and place, as he dealt with the biblical characters in theirs. So to understand his ways with us, we must understand his ways with them.” -John Stott, Understanding the Bible
What Scripture is Not For
In Chapter 1 of Understanding the Bible, John Stott says that Scripture is not written to satisfy scientific, philosophical, or literary curiosities, but to teach us salvation.
Not Curiosity but Faith
“Scripture bears witness to Christ not in order to satisfy our curiosity but in order to draw from us a response of faith.” -John Stott, Understanding the Bible
Why Bother with the ‘Structure’ of a Book?
“once we see structure we see meaning and intention.” -Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament
“Cumulative Revelation?” Nah, Stick with “Progressive Revelation”
“My personal preference is to speak of ‘cumulative’ revelation. It would be possible to see the word ‘progressive’ as registering an advance from a ‘primitive’ to a ‘mature’ understanding, leaving the ‘primitive’ behind. This is not what happens in the Bible: hence the word ‘cumulative’ is preferable. Truth is built up layer upon layer, so that nothing is lost. The earlier statement is not primitive but partial— part of the complete whole that is yet to be.” -Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament
BTW NOTE: I don’t think Motyer is correct here. It’s not merely that layer is added to layer, nor that there is a cumulative build up of truth across Scripture. That overstates the unity of revelation. There is an age of types and shadows and there is an age of fulfillment. With the age of fulfillment, it’s not just that layers are added, but some things are taken away and replaced by other ideas.
‘Law’ is Broader than ‘Commandments’ in the OT
“We must be very careful over that word because in our common use it means regulations, prescriptions, bits and bobs to be obeyed. ‘Law’ suggests a narrow focus on rules, legislation, even on restrictions and prohibitions, but, in the Bible, ‘law’ means ‘teaching’. It has its regulatory, legalistic component, but basically it means an imparting of the truth that the Lord wishes to share with His people. Proverbs 4: 1– 2 is a good illustration: ‘Hear, my children (lit., sons), the instruction of a father… Do not forsake my law.’” -Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament
Hermeneutical Hiccups of Westerners
“The very existence of these problems [related to date, location, etc of the Exodus] in our minds only shows that we are scientifically-minded Westerners. Indeed, in one sense, we are importing our own problems into the Scriptures, and then blaming the Scriptures because we do not find answers there. Assuredly, to the original writers, these were no problems, or they would have framed their accounts differently. We are not to blame for being ‘scientific man,’ any more than the Hebrews are to blame for being ‘prescientific man,’ but we must learn not to ask of Scripture the answers which it is not written to give. If we must ask these questions, then we can only guess at the answers.” -R. Alan Cole, Exodus, p. 16