Hermeneutics

I want to take a few seconds to talk about hermeneutics. The term means a method or a theory of interpretation. When interpreting the Bible, we all (regardless of our education and background) employ methods of interpretation a.k.a. Hermeneutics. The question is, are all our methods sound? And even if they are are employing the right method for the task at hand? Inconsistency within our interpretation method can and often will lead to misinterpretation.

Hopefully, none of us are so set on arriving at a particular outcome that we ignore proper hermeneutics. This is a form of confirmation bias. Having a bias and doing whatever it takes to confirm that bias. This is why it's so problematic when people pull passages of scripture out of context to prove their point. Another term for this is proof-texting.

So let's look at hermeneutics when it comes to terminology in the scripture. There are several sound hermeneutic principles.

The first is to look at lexical definitions — a dictionary of terms that gives us commonly understood meaning(s). However, lexicons provide us with several meanings of a given word, and if we stop with a lexicon, we would say that a particular passage can have any meaning per the varying definitions given. But this is untrue. This is why I do not like the Amplified Bible translation. There may be several meanings to a word, but all are not valid.

The second hermeneutical principle is how a particular word has been used over time. I'll give you an example from the King James Bible; the word in question is "evil." There is a passage that says that God causes evil. (Isaiah 45:7) Culturally, the interpreters of the King James Bible understood evil through the lens of calamity. And in that respect, God caused calamity or judgment to come on those who were disobedient. But to view the word here as 'moral evil' would be unfaithful to the text and more importantly the character of God.

Lastly, we have the hermeneutic of context. I mention this last, but it is by no means least significant. If a term contains many meanings, the only way I'm going to be able to filter out the unintended meanings is to observe the context of how the word is used within a particular body of writing. If I can see that a term has multiple meanings, but its usage confirms only one interpretation, then it would be unfaithful to arbitrarily pick or even suggest that another definition can be equally valid.

By way of example, I want to offer the word foreknown in the New Testament. It is essential to understand that according to the Septuagint (the Greek rendering of the Hebrew Old Testament) that there is no equivalent for this term in Hebrew. Thus our meaning is derived from NT usage only.

The word 'foreknow' is pronounced proginosko and it can mean 'to know before' but it also means 'to know before in a personal sense.' E.g. 'I knew you from our past or our history together.'

As you will see in the diagram below the word foreknow appears only five times in the New Testament. Every time the term is used it means to foreknow someone personally. Romans 8:29 talks about "those whom he foreknew" an honest rendering according to a proper hermeneutic taking into account every other usage of the word would read this as "the Israelites whom God knew in the past." Romans 11:2 confirms this. The only other time the Apostle Paul uses the term in all of his writings (writing 13 of the New Testament Epistles) he says "God has not rejected his people (Israel) whom he foreknew."

Moving On from Paul's writings we have Peter in 1 Peter 1:24 saying "He (Jesus) was foreknown before the foundation of the world." This too is the same understanding of the word. Why? Because Jesus was known before by the Father. How or why? Because He is eternal. God has always known Jesus from the "past."

There is no justification to render this term as God foreordained or foreknew someone in the sense that he made a sovereign decree of a thing. Why? Because if we are allowed to change our hermeneutic arbitrarily, it would then have to be applied to 1 Peter 1:20 which presents a philosophical problem. Jesus has to be for ordained by the father. He is not foreordained in His existence as the Son. He is coeternal with God.

And then we have 2 Peter 3:17 another rendering of the term which is evident when we read it. "You therefore beloved knowing this beforehand be on your guard." Peter is clearly saying, because of previous knowledge, you are to act accordingly.

When Paul says in Romans 8:29 that those God foreknew He predestined to become conformed to the image of the Son, He is talking about Israel. This is also backed up by the evidence in verse 30 when Paul says "Those whom He foreknew, He predestined. Those whom He predestined, He called. Those whom He called, He justified and those whom He justified, He glorified." Every term in the aorist or past tense. This is not to be construed as something that was so sure that Paul decided to write it in the past tense. Again, unfaithful renderings of the term by an arbitrary hermeneutic backed reveal an agenda — confirmation bias.

We have a desperate need in the church to leave our agenda at the door and deal with the words on the page. When we do that, it will lead us to honest and acceptable renderings of a text.

#hermeneutics #interpretation #definitions #words #foreknow #foreknew #approved #ppcc #piercepoint #piercepointcommunitychurch #NathanFranckhauser

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