Hermeneutics 5.0

Hermeneutics 5.0

Wow. You actually clicked through to this page.

Gavriel would be proud.

Okay, first things first.

Why is hermeneutics important?

Because Sola Scriptura.

(Latin for Scripture Alone.)

Check out these few examples of OPPOSING doctrines whose adherents all claim Sola Scriptura:
  • Young Earth Creationism vs Old Earth Creationism
  • Penal Substitution vs Christus Victor
  • Infant Baptism vs Repentance Baptism Only
  • Baptism Required vs Baptism not a requirement
  • Grace-Only vs Lordship Salvation
  • Annihilation vs Eternal Torment
  • Pre-Trib Rapture vs Mid-Trib Rapture vs Post-Trib Rapture
  • Free Will vs Predestination
  • Premillennialism vs Amillennialism
It reminds me of the following scene from Fiddler on the Roof.

Assuming the Holy Spirit is not schizophrenic, the Bible is not as contradictory as we finite mortals make it out to be. So really, the answer to which opposing doctrine is the right one is not the one based on "Sola Scriptura"; it's the one where the scripture was interpreted correctly.

That's why hermeneutics is important.

So how does one decide whose doctrinal interpretation is correct?

The following are my personal guidelines for determining accurate interpretation:
  • No interpretation can contradict the CLEAR meaning of any other verse
  • No New Testament verse can contradict the Old Testament.
  • All passages must be interpreted through the lens of Judaism* NOT the lens of Greek philosophy (after all, it was written by Jews not Greek philosophers).
  • All verses and passages must be interpreted through the lens of the culture in which it was written (i.e. Eastern/Jewish culture, not Western/American culture) 
  • The original intent of the author (and the original interpretation of the hearers) takes priority over later doctrinal biases
  • No interpretation should be based on a verse(s) or passage(s) taken out-of-context
  • The interpretation does not require New Revelation (in other words, the correct interpretation was not hidden from the early church fathers and "revealed" in the 1800's or any other time)
  • The interpretation does not impose a modern or English definition onto the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek language.
There are very few verses (if any) where a clear interpretation does not emerge when applying these criteria.

In Hermeneutics 1.0, I gave examples of Exegesis and Eisegesis, but didn't give a definition.

Good Hermeneutics: Exegesis (ex-ih-Jesus): The interpretation of the Bible by way of the intended meaning of both the author and the original readers.

Bad Hermeneutics: Eisegesis (eyes-ih-Jesus): The interpretation of the Bible by way of doctrinal presuppositions, life experiences, anecdotal testimony, and unconscious biases and prejudices of the present-day reader.


EVERYONE recognizes that Eisegesis is bad methodology (even if they don’t know the term).

And EVERYONE believes they are right, therefore they MUST be using Exegesis.

Thus, eisegesis is usually relegated to those TV evangelists trying to get your money while they sail away on their yacht.In other words, we are usually taught that those using eisegesis are doing it on purpose. And motivated by greed. Or sex. Or both.

So you'll see a lot of definitions of eisegesis such as this (sic):

But that doesn’t explain our list of opposing doctrines, does it?Your average Methodist (who believes in free-will) and your average Calvinist (who believes in pre-destination) can't both be right. But neither one is making the scripture say "what he wants it to say."He's making it say what he honest-to-God believes it says.


It's much more fair to explain it like this (sic):

Let me give you an example that might just blow your mind.

Before we go any further, let it be clearly stated that I believe that Jesus is 100% divine and 100% human, so don't go burning me at the stake.

So with that understood, let’s look at the titles Son of God and Son of Man in the context of both a first century Jewish and a Greek culture.

You may have heard it preached a million times that the Son of God title speaks of Jesus’ divinity,and the Son of Man title speaks of Jesus' humanity.

But…Son of God in Judaism is NOT a divine title. In the Old Testament, Son of God is a title for Adam, the angels, David, and then every king after him (son, grandson, and great-grandson, etc of David) until the coming of the Messiah.

So as a first century Jewish Christian you know Son of God is a messianic title for the Messiah in his role as king.

However, Son of God is a divine title in Greek and Roman mythology.

Let’s take Ares, god of war, son of Zeus.

As a first century Jewish Christian, you live in a world where Zeus and Ares aren't Percy Jackson characters—they were just as real as Jesus and God the Father are to the modern Christian.

If Ares appeared to a Roman general and said, “Hear me, I am Ares, Son of God: fight with me in this war,” the Roman general would understand Ares was claiming to be divine by use of the title Son of God.

So naturally, when Jesus calls himself Son of God, a Greek or Roman convert reading* the New Testament would assume he was claiming divinity. Note that the Greek or Roman Christian is not making the text say what he wants it to say for any personal gain or to justify sin – he is simply unconsciously bringing his beliefs (subjective to his culture) to the text. 

This brings us to the Son of Man title?

In first century Jewish culture, the Son of Man was a messianic title for the Messiah in his role of judge on Judgement Day.

Its first mention is in the book of Danial, as a phrase describing the Messiah in his role of judge. During inter-testament times (the four hundred years between the Old Testament and the New Testament), it was used as a title for the Messiah as judge all throughout the Book of Enoch.

(The Book of Enoch was a very popular book during Second Temple Judaism, and is even quoted by Jesus’ brother in the biblical book of Jude—the last book before Revelation).

So in Jewish culture, Son of God is a royal title for the Messiah as King, and Son of Man is judicial title for the Messiah as Judge.

But hang on, if Jesus was 100% divine and 100% human why does it matter if pastors’ preach it wrong and claim Son of God is a title of divinity and Son of Man is a title of humanity???

Who cares if that’s eisegesis, it’s harmless?!?!


But you'd miss out on the true meaning of a REALLY kick butt scene:

Shortly before his execution, Jesus stood trial fro treason and blasphemy. The judge, Caiaphas the High Priest, head of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish high court), is desperate to "legally" pronounce a guilty verdict.

Caiaphas: “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?”

Jesus: “I am. And you will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds.”

 That’s a really cool scene?


Because now let's read that bit of dialogue again as though we were a first century Jewish Christian.

(By the way, as we'll see in a different post, "coming on the clouds" is a Jewish phrase for God’s judgement.)

Caiaphas: “Are you the Messiah, who will one day rule over me as King?”

Jesus: “I am. And you will see me again, when I am the judge at your trial.”

If you’re not well-grounded in first century Jewish culture, you miss out on Jesus biotch-slapping Caiaphas. In front of the entire Sanhedrin.I don’t know about you, but I think that’s kick-butt cool.

*Until the invention of the printing press, the Bible was heard rather than read. One went to synagogue (or church) and the scripture was read and then expounded upon by clergy. It is only post-printing press that the Bible has been read and interpreted by laymen—laymen who have not been taught (or self-taught) proper methods of interpretation). And while I am not saying it is bad that individuals have free access to the Bible, it's being explained by the learned is a biblical principal (see Acts 8:31). The word of God is not something to be trifled with; if we are to take on the responsibility of owning it, we should take on the responsibility of knowing how to properly read it, especially if we are going to teach it (James 3:1). Remember the opposing list of doctrines?

Photo Credit:  Bible Scrabble / Bible Man / Fiddler on the Roof / Eisegesis vs Exegesis / Agnus Nutter / Greek gods public domain / Jesus Text / Jesus Trial Painting Public Domain / Jesus Movie Still