Herman Who?

Hermeneutics. This refers to the methodology or procedure by which one interprets communication of any kind; whether it is a TV news report, a newspaper  editorial, a Sunday morning sermon, or a Facebook post. Biblical hermeneutics is the process by which one interprets the text of Scripture.

Now  when we encounter communication of any kind, we have an automatic, instinctive way of processing that information. You could say we have a default hermeneutic, but this is done unconsciously. We don’t mentally and deliberately go through a process to determine the meaning of what we have heard or read. This default hermeneutic is the result of all the things that have influenced us as we were growing up. Our experiences and education have shaped our beliefs and attitude about the world. The culture in which we live has conditioned us to see things a certain way. By the time we reach a certain age this default hermeneutic is pretty much locked in place, and will remain with us unless we make a conscious decision to  think differently.

Now, when we read Scripture we encounter a mental block; we are instinctively processing the biblical data through our default hermeneutic, and the result is either not being able to understand what we are reading, or worse, we are misunderstanding it. This is because of the gaps which exist between us, as 21st century evangelicals, and the Bible. The first gap is the language gap. Before we can interpret a text we must know what it actually says. Each language has its own peculiar expressions, idioms, and figures of speech, as well as grammatical or structural forms. Have you ever read some saying of Jesus in the Gospels, in an English translation, and then just sit there scratching your head, wondering what in the world could that mean? Your default hermeneutic has no way to process the information. This might be because what Jesus said was an idiom which would have been completely understood by the original hearers but not by us. The Scriptures were written in Hebrew(OT) and Greek(NT). These languages are quite different from English, and though translators try to do their best, the nuances of the original languages often get lost in the translation.

The second gap is the historical gap. The Bible was written over a period of hundreds of years. The earliest biblical writing was  penned about 3500yrs. ago; the latest about 2000yrs. ago. The historical setting and circumstances in which they were written vary from each other as well as from our own time. The historical milieu in which each book was written must surely have a bearing on its proper interpretation.

The third gap is the cultural gap. The ancient culture of the Hebrew people is as much different from our 21st century American culture as night is from day. Culture involves the peculiar customs, religious practices, social norms, and philosophy of life of a people. How a people view human life, marriage and family, death, work, religion, etc. is all part of their culture.

Because of these gaps we must not simply rely on our default hermeneutic  in our quest to understand Scripture. We must deliberately choose a different hermeneutic which takes into account the linguistic, historical, and cultural contexts of the biblical writings. Yes , this takes a little work, but the serious student of Scripture will consider it a worthwhile effort. Today there are abundant resources available online, much of it  free of charge, so avail yourselves of these tools.

One final thing to consider. There is another aspect of our default hermeneutic which can be a hindrance to accurate biblical interpretation —– our theological presuppositions. Whatever theological system we have been indoctrinated into, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, becomes the overriding factor in how we interpret Scripture. For example: A person who has been raised in the Mormon religion, when he reads the Bible, he believes he sees the peculiar doctrines of Mormonism in it’s pages. He sees them there because he believes  a.) Mormonism is true and b.) the Bible is true. Therefore a.) + b.) = c.) the Bible must be teaching Mormonism’s doctrines. The same could be said of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Having fully accepted the theology of the system to which they adhere, and having accepted the Bible as revelation from God, they must find  the beliefs of that system in the pages of the Bible. Therefore in both of these cases the doctrines of the respective systems are read into the words of Scripture. When they come across something in Scripture which seems to contradict their belief system they do not change their belief to fit the truth of Scripture, but they twist and distort the Scripture to fit their belief.

Now while this may seem obvious to a evangelical Protestant, regarding Mormons and JW’s, it is not quite as obvious regarding themselves. Take a Calvinist for example. Having bought into that system he truly believes he sees its doctrines on every page of Scripture. But this is not because the Bible really teaches it, but because the belief system must be upheld. Like the Mormon and the JW, the Calvinist is locked into a certain hermeneutic that prevents him from ascertaining the true meaning of the words of Scripture. When he encounters the word ‘elect’ or ‘predestined’ in the Bible he just assumes these concepts mean what his belief system tells him they mean. No attempt is made to discover what  these concepts mean in the historical, cultural, and linguistic context of the ancient Hebrew people. No, they simply must mean what a late 4th century Latin Church father said they mean.

So, what can be done? Can we really break free from our theological presuppositions and study Scripture with unbiased minds? I believe we can and I believe we must. But how? First of all, our overriding commitment must be to truth rather than to any system of theology, any tradition, any favorite teacher or church father, any creed or council. Truth must be paramount. Next, we must seek God’s help. Some years ago I began to seek God, asking Him to show me if anything that I was believing as true was in fact a man -made tradition. I honestly wanted to know and was willing to abandon any belief that I could not substantiate by Scripture. I began to examine all the “orthodox” doctrines of Christianity to see if they could hold up under close scrutiny. One by one they began to fall and the truth that I had previously been blind to became clear to me. My hope is that I may encourage others to do the same. Study Scripture with a deep commitment to truth, wherever it might lead. Examine all that you have been taught. Seek God’s guidance. Be willing to go with the truth He shows you, no matter what the cost, “for you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

 

 

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Purpose of this blog

                   On this blog I will be discussing the mythology that has crept into the faith of  Jesus and the apostles. This process of mythicizing began early on, even in the early 2nd century. According to the Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary the definition of myth, under 2a is ” a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone”, and under 2b ” an unfounded or false notion”. These are the definitions of  myth that I am working from.

                    The Christian religion is replete with popular beliefs and traditions that have grown up around the faith which was once delivered to the saints. These unfounded and false notions, once imbibed into the thinking of the church, have suppressed the truth of Scripture and blinded the minds of believers ever since their inception. My goal in the weeks to come is to unmask these myths,exposing them to both the light of Scripture and of history.

Once someone begins to speak this way the objection is usually raised as to the impossibility that God would have allowed the church to go off track into myths and fables and that so soon in its history, after all did not Jesus say, ” the gates of hell shall not prevail against (the church) “. Besides the completely faulty interpretation of Matt.16:18, upon which this objection is based, let us consider for a moment the nation of Israel. Did not our God choose Israel, call her His own, put His spirit upon her, prepare a glorious destiny for her, care for her, entrust her with the very word of God, put His dwelling place among her, and make a covenant with her. How is it then that He allowed Israel to so thoroughly apostatize resulting in the destruction of her temple and land and in her dispersion among the nations. And even after He brought a remnant back to the land and the city and temple of God were rebuilt, by the time our Lord Jesus appeared on the scene, had they not again become so far from their God that they could not even     recognize their promised Messiah. Only the second time it was not a matter of idolatry but of cold, dead, heartless religion based on their own myths i.e. their own traditions which grew up around their law.( Matt.15:1-9 ) Also consider this — even in the days of the apostles we already see the introduction of false ideas based on man’s wisdom creeping into the simple faith of the apostles and the early believers. Does not the apostle Paul warn the believers in Colosse, ” See to it that no one enslaves you through philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition, … not according to Messiah.”( Col. 2:8 ) Paul also warned the Ephesian elders that after his departure ” even from {their} own number men {would} arise and distort the truth…” (Acts 20:30). I could go on citing the many NT warnings of the then present and the coming apostacy from the faith once entrusted to the saints. Even Jesus himself lamented, ” when the Son of Man  comes will he find the faith on the earth?”

By now many of you will be asking, ” What are these supposed myths that you are talking about?” Here are some of the dogmas of the orthodox Christian religion that we will examine in the weeks to come to determine if they are the truth or are merely myths based on philosophy and human tradition:

  • the Trinity
  • the deity of Jesus
  • the dual natures of Jesus
  • the incarnation of God
  • the immortality of the soul
  • the eternal sonship of Christ
  • the present reality of the kingdom of God in the church

These are some of the popular beliefs and traditions that are found in the major branches of  “Christianity” —– Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox and Protestantism. These are the main subjects we will be exploring on this blog, though we may look at some myths that are peculiar to Protestant Christianity for example:

  • the immediate entrance into heaven upon a believers death
  • heaven as the ultimate hope of the believer
  • the predestination of individuals, in eternity past, to either salvation or damnation

I want to be clear, my purpose is not to denigrate the biblical faith of Christ and the Apostles, but to expose these myths which have obscured the biblical faith. Let me give you a little background info on myself. I was raised in the Roman Catholic church, went to Catholic grade-school; attended weekly mass pretty regularly through my teen-age years. When I was 19 I heard the Gospel for the first time and after resisting for a few months eventually came to faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. I attended a Baptist church for about 6 months before becoming ensnared in the Positive Confession/ Word of faith movement for about 7 yrs. The Lord brought me out of that mess through my study of Scripture and my wife and I attended a semi-charismatic nondenominational church for the next 12-13 yrs. We moved to another state where we visited a number of churches of the same type but never found one we were comfortable in, for various reasons. Not being in church for some time led me to a deeper study of Scripture than I had ever experienced  before. I came to gain a new understanding and perspective on how to interpret the New Testament(NT) i.e. through a Hebraic lens. Long story short, these popular beliefs and traditions which I had wholeheartedly believed, defended, and taught to others began to fall one at a time. It is important for you to understand that I have not abandoned the biblical faith but only the “Christian” religion, and these two are not synonymous. My faith in God the Creator is stronger than ever in my 36yrs. as a believer. I acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah promised by God in the Scripture, that He is the Son of God, the one mediator between God and man, in whom alone is salvation. I believe that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead and highly exalted him and that he shall come again to rule this world for God his Father.

If you are a Christian I ask that you would not simply dismiss what I have to say  but that you would stay with me  as we examine both history and Scripture to see if the things we have believed  are truth or myth.