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Biblical Hermeneutics

Biblical Hermeneutics is the science and art of interpreting the Holy Scriptures.

Any Biblical passage can be easily misunderstood or misinterpreted. For example, in Psalm 14:1, it was clearly written: "There is no God." As plain as it can be, our minds will begin to wonder and wander if this is really true until we know what the rest of the verse said:

The fool has said in his heart,
"There is no God."
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.

This is called the context of the verse. Unless we know its context, we are clueless in trying to figure out what the Scriptures actually said.

Many people like to take one portion of a verse, and throw away the other portion. Some good examples are:

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. (John 15:7)

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (1 John 5:14)

Many promises of God are conditional. Many Christians have interpreted the Scriptures out of their contexts by taking some words and throwing away others. Some even used the Scriptures to claim their BMWs and Mercedes, or even their life partners, while others used the Scriptures to predict the winners of some national elections or the dates of some upcoming earthquakes or wars. The list is fascinating.

Some even claimed that they are the only ones who have the right revelations, interpretations and prophetic insights. Others are doing wrong, and they are always right.

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. Nobody can claim exclusive and special interpretations to any Bible prophecy. In fact, no prophecy can be fully understood till it is fully fulfilled. Many prophets have boasted that their insights and teachings are hot from the oven of heaven - fresh and new insights. The Bible plainly declares in Ecclesiastes 1:8-10:

All things are full of labor;
Man cannot express it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which it may be said,
"See, this is new"?
It has already been in ancient times before us.

The PARDES Approach

Jesus and the apostles used the Hebraic PARDES approach to interpret the Scriptures.

PARDES is the combination of four methods:

  • Pashat Method
  • Remez Method
  • Derash Method
  • Sod Method

Pashat Method

This is known as the Literal Grammatical-Historical method:

1. Scripture says what it means and means what it says.

2. Scripture interprets Scripture. This is known as the Hermeneutical circle.

  • Individual passage interprets the whole of the Scriptures.
  • The whole of the Scriptures interprets individual passages.
  • There is a harmonious comparison among parallel passages.
  • Words in one passage define words in another passage.

3. Context of Scripture interprets text.

  • It includes the scope of the book.
  • Its historical settings must be considered.
  • The intent of the author must be respected.
  • The rules of grammar must apply.
  • The obvious takes precedence over the obscure.
  • Text without context is a pretext.

A pretext is an ostensible motive or reason put forward to conceal the real one. It is a disguised deception.

No Scripture should contradict other Scriptures in the Word of God. God does not change (Malachi 3:6). It is foremost and fundamental!

Remez Method

This is the Typological Method. This approach seeks to discover a correspondence between people or events of the past and people or events of the present or future.

Jesus compared His own death with the experience of Jonah in the fish's belly. But Jonah's rebellious attitude is not a type or shadow of Christ's character. Moses was a type of Christ, who brought the people out of bondage. But not everything about Moses is a type or shadow of Christ. Moses killed an Egyptian, and Jesus did not.

The Book of Hebrews told us that the various prerequisites of worship in the tabernacle were types and shadows of the Messiah and His Church.

This Typological method often wanders off to the Allegorical Method of interpretation, which we will discuss later.

Derash Method

This is a Homiletical Method, which extends the literal meaning of the text to one's own life and/or times.

1. Personal Homiletics applies scriptural principles to one's own life and circumstances, such as how to obey the commandments of God and how to live a godly life.

2. Prophetic Homiletics applies the prophetic message to their times of fulfillment such as Messianic and End time Bible prophecies. No prophecy can be fully understood till it is fully fulfilled.

3. Allegoric Homiletics is the allegorical concept behind a literal event that was carried forward and applied to the New Testament believers as a whole. For example, in Galatians 4:22-31, Abraham had two sons, one by a bondwoman and another by a freewoman through promise. This was used to allegorize that the New Testament believers were not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

Sod Method

This method is exegetical. It suggests that the prophetic writings contain hidden eschatological significance or divine mystery. The prophetic mysteries contained within the Old Testament were revealed by Jesus and His Apostles and Prophets in (Ephesians 3:1-5):

"For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles-- if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:"

Prophetic mysteries include:

  • Mystery of the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11)
  • Mystery of Israel's blindness (Rom. 11:25)
  • Mystery of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:51)
  • Mystery of the Gospel (Eph. 6:19)
  • Mystery of the Church (Col. 1:25-27)
  • Mystery of lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:7)
  • Mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16)
  • Mystery of God (Rev. 10:7)

The Allegorical Approach

This method is not a part of PARDES. This approach assumes the text has a meaning other than what the literal words say. It was practised initially by Philo of Alexandria, who tried to mix Greek philosophy and Judaism. This approach is easily abused and misused. Everything can be allegorized. There is a mystical meaning behind every word and letter.

The allegorical misapplications crept into the Church during the second century AD. The popes and bishops started interpreting the Scriptures according to their church traditions. By putting church traditions above the Scriptures, the whole Church went into the Dark Ages for more than 1000 years. They would allegorize the Scriptures to mean or say whatever they wanted the Scriptures to mean or say. They would simply bend the Light of the Gospel to suit their sermons and programs. In doing so, they lived in great darkness, bringing their followers along.

They would forgo any literal historical meaning of each Scriptural verse. They declared that each verse had a secret meaning that only the super spiritual could understand. This led to multiple interpretations of the same verse that even the interpreters themselves could not affirm which interpretation was correct. Most of their allegories were very mystical and humanistic in nature.

During the Dark Ages, the Bible was banned from the common people. Only those qualified in the Church leadership had access to the Scriptures. They became the only ones who had the informed intelligence, and therefore were authorised to interpret the Scriptures to the people. The illiterate and the uninitiated were deemed to have difficulty in understanding the Bible. What nonsense! Even the little children could understand the simple message of the Gospel of Christ!

Many of the disciples of Jesus were simple unlearned fishermen. They eventually became apostles. Some even wrote portions of the New Testament. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, breathing and inspiring men to write the Scriptures. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit, teaching men to understand the Scriptures.

Paul already warned us of these peddlers of God's Word in 2 Corinthians 2:17:

For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God;
but as of sincerity, but as from God,
we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

We must always preserve the integrity and authenticity of God's Word. To safeguard against the misapplication of the Scriptures, some general rules must be observed when using the Allegorical Method:

  • Any spiritual truth when carried to extremes will only result in heresies.
  • All allegories must conform to those that Jesus and the Apostles used..
  • The allegorical interpretation must not introduce a concept or an idea that would contradict the same or other passages of the Scriptures.
  • All allegories must have the centrality of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of the kingdom of God. Not the centrality of an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, a teacher, a minister, a local church, a teaching, a revelation, a ministry, a society, a company, a community, an enterprise, a project, a program, a strategy, a vision, a dream, a mission statement, a prophetic insight etc.. It is Christ alone.
  • All allegories must convey truths in such a way that they bring about scriptural, spiritual, and moral maturity in the lives of the believers.
  • All allegories must not be personally exclusive or strictly private.

One cautionary word about interpreting the Book of Revelation:

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

Session 2 In The Torah Series By Rev. Norm Franz

Written on:
3 December 2004