Category Archives: Hermeneutics

Follow up to Joel Watts Last Blog

I believe it is time for us to begin to think about these things! Period! Joel Watts last blog in this blog is excellent if one take seriously what he really believes about the Bible! I was going to publish this in there as a reply, but I decided to make my reply into a blog. It may be better for readers to understand what is my point on that, something that, before God I have been struggling since my pastoral days, and, after which, when I came to a firm position, not only I find peace and comfort in God, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of God, His Word and what His Word may represent to us. So, here it goes:

Admittedly, even as a proponent of Sola Scriptura, I cringe when I read tenets of faith that use the words you mentioned. I fail in accepting that the people who chose those words really have any sense of their meaning. In the other hand there are traditions that are in and of itself biblical traditions and should be respected and used authoritatively simply because they originated in Scripture; but there is also what I have called for many years “tr-addiction”; these are “traditions” that became “tr-additions” and later turned into “tr-addictions”, or, they are inventions that become additions to the faith, that later culminate with being so “ingrown” and ingrained that they are hard to dispel as an addiction to a drug. Maybe we (Joel and me) should start a “tr-addiction rehab!”.

Interestingly enough, most of these “tr-addictions” originated not from more moderate biblical thinkers, but from the very same people who claim that the Bible is what the Pure Life says it is! Oh, need examples? Easy: Organizations who say what Pure Life says about the Bible add to the Salvation “condition” (there is no condition for Salvation by the way, other than being not saved), to believe what they say about the Bible! Yes! This simple, and… this ridiculous! It is no longer the Cross alone, but also, the 66 Canon, word by word, letter by letter! I propose that the belief that believing the 66 Canon word by word is a good thing, but it turns into a bad thing when it is made into a condition for Salvation! Then it is an addition that becomes a tr-addition, that later turns into a tr-addiction! This is where flawed logic leads us: the place at which we wanted to avoid being…

BTW, this is not the purely fundamentalist and Pentecostal or even the Primitive Baptists fault alone! I have been shunned by Presbyterians (who unlike the Vegetarians who eat vegetables, they eat Presbyters) because I have some Lutheran views about the Canon; some of them don’t think I can be saved if I hold to Lutheran views about the Canon… I have to subscribe fully with the Westminster Confession of Faith (which I do in 98% at least) which says that the Bible is a 66 books Canon! Then they accuse Roman Catholics for elevating traditions to the level or over the Bible! Isn’t that something?

Even Jesus on his way to Emmaus (Luke 24) said that “Moses (the Law) The Prophets and the Psalms speak of Him…” So, allow me a bit of fun here, but even Jesus may not have been a 66 books Canon believer, huh? Well, I know that the N.T. had not been written yet… but, I hope you get my drift… even Jesus was Christocentric in His view of Scripture!

The idea of a Tr-addiction Rehab Center is growing…

(Oh, brother, there goes my opportunity to blog here exclusively as a “conservative”… unless it is added “non-conformist” to that)

Melito of Sardis: Mystery of the Passover

This is a series of repost for Easter from Melito of Sardis.

What more can I add here?

Components of the Mystery of the Passover (46-71)

1. The Passover (46-47a)

46. Now that you have heard the explanation of the type and of that which corresponds to it, hear also what goes into making up the mystery. What is the passover? Indeed its name is derived from that event–”to celebrate the passover” (to paschein) is derived from “to suffer” (tou pathein). Therefore, learn who the sufferer is and who he is who suffers along with the sufferer.

47. Why indeed was the Lord present upon the earth? In order that having clothed himself with the one who suffers, he might lift him up to the heights of heaven .

2. The Creation and Fall of Man (47b-48)

In the beginning, when God made heaven and earth, and everything in them through his word, he himself formed man from the earth and shared with that form his own breath, he himself placed him in paradise, which was eastward in Eden, and there they lived most luxuriously.

Then by way of command God gave them this law: For your food you may eat from any tree, but you are not to eat from the tree of the one who knows good and evil. For on the day you eat from it, you most certainly will die.

48. But man, who is by nature capable of receiving good and evil as soil of the earth is capable of receiving seeds from both sides, welcomed the hostile and greedy counselor, and by having touched that tree transgressed the command, and disobeyed God. As a consequence, he was cast out into this world as a condemned man is cast into prison.

3. Consequences of the Fall (49-56)

49. And when he had fathered many children, and had grown very old, and had returned to the earth through having tasted of the tree, an inheritance was left behind by him for his children. Indeed, he left his children an inheritance–not of chastity but of unchastity, not of immortality but of corruptibility, not of honor but of dishonor, not of freedom but of slavery, not of sovereignty but of tyranny, not of life but of death, not of salvation but of destruction.

50. Extraordinary and terrifying indeed was the destruction of men upon the earth. For the following things happened to them: They were carried off as slaves by sin, the tyrant, and were led away into the regions of desire where they were totally engulfed by insatiable sensual pleasures–by adultery, by unchastity, by debauchery, by inordinate desires, by avarice, by murders, by bloodshed, by the tyranny of wickedness, by the tyranny of lawlessness.

51. For even a father of his own accord lifted up a dagger against his son; and a son used his hands against his father; and the impious person smote the breasts that nourished him; and brother murdered brother; and host wronged his guest; and friend assassinated friend; and one man cut the throat of another with his tyrannous right hand.

52. Therefore all men on the earth became either murderers, or parricides, or killers of their children. And yet a thing still more dreadful and extraordinary was to be found: A mother attacked the flesh which she gave birth to, a mother attacked those whom her breasts had nourished; and she buried in her belly the fruit of her belly. Indeed, the ill-starred mother became a dreadful tomb, when she devoured the child which she bore in her womb.

53. But in addition to this there were to be found among men many things still more monstrous and terrifying and brutal: father cohabits with his child, and son and with his mother, and brother with sister, and male with male, and each man lusting after the wife of his neighbor.

54. Because of these things sin exulted, which, because it was death’s collaborator, entered first into the souls of men, and prepared as food for him the bodies of the dead. In every soul sin left its mark, and those in whom it placed its mark were destined to die.

55. Therefore, all flesh fell under the power of sin, and every body under the dominion of death, for every soul was driven out from its house of flesh. Indeed, that which had been taken from the earth was dissolved again into earth, and that which had been given from God was locked up in Hades. And that beautiful ordered arrangement was dissolved, when the beautiful body was separated (from the soul).

56. Yes, man was divided up into parts by death. Yes, an extraordinary misfortune and captivity enveloped him: he was dragged away captive under the shadow of death, and the image of the Father remained there desolate. For this reason, therefore, the mystery of the passover has been completed in the body of the Lord.

Melito of Sardis: The Old Testament and the New Testament

I am reposting Melito for Easter.

I have posted on Melito some before, and find myself returning to him for a bit especially his homily on the Passover. He provides us with an accurate manner in using the Old Testament, and it is an example that is well served for the past few millenia. He does not create something that is not there, no drench the Prophets with our Hope, but stands in the good Tradition of using the New Testament to read the Old. For a New Testament example of this, we need to turn no further, dig no deeper than the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Note, if you will, the powerful images that Melito presents us with.

Continue reading Melito of Sardis: The Old Testament and the New Testament

Easter with Melito – Typology in the Old Testament concerning Christ

This week, I am going back through my old posts on Melito of Sardis. So, here we go, a bit more from his Passover Homily.

Continue reading Easter with Melito — Typology in the Old Testament concerning Christ

Why the Bible Shouldn’t Have to be “Applied”

After a brief hiatus, I’ve jump-started my search for a well-defined, workable Christocentric hermeneutic. We’re not quite there yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This most recent post summarizes where the project is so far and explores why Narrative Theology has become such an important part of the paradigm.

More importantly, this installment challenges the almost universally-held belief that the most important part of any Bible Study is “application:”

It seems to me that if one accepts the idea that the Bible is God’s story, and begins to read it as such, it begins to deconstruct—and then rebuild— a believer’s worldview. When that happens, the idea of “application” becomes redundant—and shallow—in comparison. If someone has truly internalized the post-resurrection, new creation worldview of what it means to live on this side of Easter, attempting to find some superficial “application” in a single Bible story is a step backward—and just the teeniest bit self-centered.

Read the full article here and let me know what you think.

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Why It’s NOT all about Me…or You

I’m not saying anything surprising when I say that Americans are a self-absorbed lot. This may also be true about people in other developed countries like Canada and Europe, but I can only speak from experience about the country in which I’ve lived my whole life. Since birth, we Yanks have been trained to believe that everything revolves around our needs. (They wouldn’t be called “needs” if we didn’t “need” them, would they?)

If there is one place you’d think the emphasis would be on something other than ourselves, it would be church. But even there, the emphasis is often not on the person’s need for Jesus, but on their need to get out of debt, fix their marriage, or manage their generalized anxiety disorder. There’s a big difference between a preacher who talks passionately about how following Jesus can totally transform a person’s entire existence and one who assumes that the only way to keep the audience’s attention is to address their “felt needs” by providing a “practical application.” One is preaching the gospel, the other is listening to marketers.

This unconscious self-absorption is reinforced in the way many evangelicals have been taught to read the Bible. I once wrote a post detailing the reasons why calling the Bible an “instruction manual” is the worst metaphor in the history of the world, suggesting that reading the Bible this way completely reverses the focus of the book. What should be an earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting story about God and his plan of redemption becomes,  conversely, a kind of self-help guide for people who want to model their lives on an episode of “Father Knows Best.”

Recently, while working on my current research project/obsession, I was thinking through how narrative theology might be helpful in constructing a christocentric hermeneutic. Suddenly, it dawned on me that one of the benefits of reading the Bible primarily as a narrative is that it automatically reduces the self-centeredness inherent in the “instruction manual” metaphor. If the Bible is God’s story, then the purpose of reading it is to become intimate with God and how He works, not how He can fix my life. No longer does every passage have to have a “practical” application that I can “use.”  If the Bible is a story about God, it is not all about me.

And as an added bonus, reading the Bible as a narrative should greatly reduce the probability that someone will read the account of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 and ask, as someone in one of my Bible studies once did, “why put it in the Bible if it doesn’t apply to me?”

Self-absorbed, indeed.

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The End of Cowardice, or, Do you have the faith of the Centurion?

Tropeum Traiani Metope
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Originally, I was going to play the role of the coward on this post, but after this week I don’t think I should. It is easy for me, behind the closed doors of the internet, to say and to think and to write what I want. I didn’t post this one, like I have done before. Why? Oh, you know why. No one likes to be bad to read the bible differently than that which they have been taught. Put this view out there, and you’ll get accursed of a lot of things. Some of them….. are pretty hurtful, if I must say so myself. This is the assignment this week, to take a hermeneutic which is wholly different than my view and explore that they have to say. Call it what you want, but it may be one of the most pastoral things that we are doing – to wrestle with another view point, wholly different than ours.

I would like your honest opinions, based on real scholarship and not what makes you afraid to read the text as such.

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I am using the interpretations offered here and here for this paper.

I am against purposely abusing Scripture and twisting it to fit our own viewpoints; however, if one can show  that a passage’s interpretation should be changed using sound scholarship, then I must submit. One of those passages is Luke 7.1-10 with the parallel in Mathew 8. I value the unsaid alongside that which is said, and what is unsaid here seems to be very loud, although not as loud as Queer Hermeneutics would have us believe. If we value the very words of Scripture themselves, then we must understand that words, even individually, will have some meaning. To that end, I agree that this passage may be hiding something, although I wouldn’t go as far as some might.

The Centurion moves between calling the sick person doulos and pais, which scholarship has shown to have been used to refer to the younger partner of a male-male relationship. These types of relationships were common, especially as scholarship shows, with the implantation of the marriage ban for Roman soldiers. The key theme here is scholarship. Where I cease following Queer Hermeneutics, however, is the interpretation of this passage to affirm that Christ Himself affirmed gay partnerships, and of course for today, gay marriages. My first thought here is that the ancient cultures wouldn’t necessarily identify their lifestyles with ‘gay’ and ‘homosexual’ as we do today. There is little doubt in my mind that Christ through the Gospel writers detected the change between doulos and pais, especially since both Matthew and Luke record the use of pais while Luke records the change of terminology, without emendation to the change. Yet, I would be hard pressed to see it as a divine seal of gay marriage, especially since the questions which are also unanswered would have been against Christ’s other teachings. For example, the Centurion’s pais may have been younger than adulthood which would go against the (rabbinical) interpretation of Mark 9.42-50. Further, since it was a master-slave issue, we would have to assume that if Christ was affirming gay relationships by His silence, then He must have been equally affirming slavery of the worse kind. But, is there anything of value in seeing the text as alluding to a love between a man and a man which was unquestioned by Christ?

Yes, as I believe that it shows that Christians today may not have all of the answers to the inner workings of the Divine Mind and what we assume to be love. While Christ neither affirmed nor denied the Centurion’s relationship which his pais although we may be able to say that being silent to the man’s situation, if such existed, Christ affirmed the Centurion and the pais’ love. Christ praised the man’s faith and was able to cast it against what should have been the believing Israel. Like Amos, who from outside of the Kingdom became a prophet to the Kingdom, the Centurion stands as a testament to what real Faith is supposed to be. But, what does this do for the interpretation of Scripture? It beckons us to always being willing to reform our views and theological assessments with scholarship without going completely overboard and allowing our desires to replace the soundness of a Scriptural viewpoint. Finally, it reminds that in Scripture, the story is not just about what is said, but often times what is unsaid.

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Now, for the kicker – here are my expressed view from a post a few years ago.

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