Archives For Hermeneutics

2 point 0Here’s an idea if you ever decide to play a sadistic but entertaining prank to humble your precocious young nephew. I’m not saying I’ve done it (my sister might read this), but if I did, this is how I would:

Start by supplying him with an innocuous “spot the difference” challenge that he can easily conquer. The two pictures should have several obvious differences. Then you hand him one where the differences are more subtle, and take longer to notice. Then, once his confidence is primed, you raise the stakes with an incentive of a sugary reward, say, one M&M per difference he spots. When he greedily accepts, you hand him two pictures that unbeknown to him are actually identical, and then leave him to stew in his frustration.

Just be sure the photocopy you use is of high quality. In my experience estimation, a determined enough youngster will exploit the minutest discrepancies in the print-quality to garnish his chocolaty bounty.

It doesn’t take a preternatural eye for detail to spot the differences between Israel and the Church. And yet, many Christians ignore the clear distinction in favor of an emphasis on a vague similitude.

Perhaps you’ve heard it phrased this way: “The Church has replaced Israel as the recipient of God’s covenants,” or more bluntly “The Church is the New Israel.”

What I am arguing is that the Church has not replaced Israel and is not the modern day recipient of the blessings made to Israel. Promises made to Israel (e.g. land, cursing such as exile for disobedience, and restoration after repentance), are not now promises to the Church because Israel 1.0 has been replaced by a new Israel 2.0 like an old operating system that gets deleted to make room for a new one.

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baconBefore I travel to a new country I investigate if there are any peculiar laws I need to observe. Luckily I have never had to verify any of these for myself – but they are on the internet so they must be true, right?

In Thailand it is illegal to leave your house without wearing any underwear. In Israel it is illegal to bring bears to the beach. Ireland has prohibited its citizens from pretending to perform any type of witchcraft, enchantment, or occultic practices. It’s not against the law to actually perform them, just to pretend to perform them.

In Canada you may not pay for an item that costs 50c using only 1c coins, you may not water your garden if it is raining, and citizens may not remove bandages in public.

The local law in Chelsea, UK prohibits impersonating an elderly person. (That’s not preventing rude youth from mocking old people, it’s because pensioners are entitled to a housing subsidy, so pretending to be one is considered fraud.)

There’s much confusion among Christians as to which laws in the Bible apply to us. When we decry homosexuality (which was condemned in the Mosaic Law) but still eat bacon (which was also condemned in the Mosaic Law), are we just being arbitrarily selective?

THREE QUESTIONS TO UNDERSTAND LAW CODES & HOW THEY APPLY TO US…

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I started this month with an experiment: listen to 12 sermons from Revelation 6, from 12 well-known pastors; half amillennialists, and half premillennialists.  I ended this month with a new (to me) argument for premillennialism. Let me explain:  Continue Reading…

Much of “biblical theology” has a glaring weakness: it misses one of the major themes of the Bible.

Biblical theology is the study of how to read the Bible as a whole, or how to trace a theme as it progresses from Genesis to Revelation. While systematic theology systematizes the teaching of the Bible (what the Bible says about God’s attributes, the person of Christ, salvation, etc.), biblical theology traces the major themes of the Bible chronologically (how the Passover lamb was instituted, celebrated, neglected, and finally fulfilled).

The study of biblical theology often focuses on themes, types, figures, symbols and motifs that develop canonically in an attempt to show the unity of scripture and the power of progressive revelation.   Continue Reading…

It takes more thought than you’d think to figure out which years are leap. Years divisible by 4 are leap, except for the century, i.e. years ending in -00 are not leap years, unless the first 2 digits are also divisible by four. Got it?

So 1700 is not a leap year, but 1600 is. That’s why the year 1900 was not, but 2000 was. Don’t stress, you won’t have to worry about getting it wrong until 2100 (which is not leap).

When Pope Gregory XIII declared the first leap year to be 1588, the Protestants were ruling England and they rejected the law, saying it was too Catholic. The problem was that on the day after the 28th of February the rest of the world had calendars that acknowledged the 29th. So Protestant Brits just ignored the day, as if the law and custom didn’t apply to them. So a superstition arose that the other laws and customs didn’t apply either. Hence the name ‘leap year’ as it was the day that ‘leapt over the law.’ Sometimes non-conformity can be taken too far.

One such custom which was leapt over was that of marriage proposal etiquette. It was customary for a gentleman to propose by sending a glove to his true love. If she was seen wearing it at church the following Sunday, she had accepted the proposal.

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Don't Miss the Forest for the TreesSome time ago I wrote an as-condensed-as-possible version of the great story of redemption, tracing God’s gracious promise to provide the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent through the Old Testament. I examined how that promise narrowed from the seed of the woman, to the seed of Abraham, to the nation of Israel, and to the line of David. We saw how Israel’s repeated failure to be faithful to the covenants Yahweh established with them all pointed to the One who would exemplify covenant faithfulness and fulfill all righteousness on behalf of His people. To put it another way, contrary to what some believe about dispensationalists and the Old Testament, we observed how the whole of the Old Testament finds its climax and fulfillment in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the Israelite par-excellence, and the Son of David. If you’ve not read that post, I’d encourage you to do so.

I mentioned in that post that a great help for interpreting the Bible properly consists in keeping that big picture in the front of our mind so that we can interpret the parts in light of the whole. We don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. This is especially helpful in the Old Testament, where the increased historical, cultural, geographical, literary, and even covenantal gaps can make us raise our eyebrows at not a few passages, which just seem wholly unfamiliar.

Now, we need to be sure that we interpret each passage on its own terms, according to its context, always in search of the intent of the original author. But keeping this grand narrative of redemptive history in mind and locating at what point in the story of redemption that a particular passage finds itself, can often help us understand why some more obscure (or at least, seemingly-removed) passages are in the Bible. Passages that look like road blocks or obstacles in our Bible-reading plans can be transformed (at least in our perception, anyway) by relating them to the larger story of redemptive history.

Today I’d like to just share a few examples.

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snoozeI relish a heavenly nap as much as the next guy, but not at the expense of actually getting to Heaven. There persists in some evangelical circles a pertinacious little misunderstanding known as “soul sleep” or, to the more erudite, “psychopannychism.”

It’s the view that when you die your spirit goes into an unconscious, uncomprehending state until the final resurrection.

The reasoning is that since every human being is a body-soul composite (or for our pedantic tripartite readers: body-soul-mind), when your body dies your soul cannot function until it is reunited with your resurrected corpus.

This argument isn’t merely a logical one, but putatively a biblical one. Proponents point out that the writers of Scripture routinely referred to the dearly departed as those who had “fallen asleep.”

For example,

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It used to be easy for Christians to formulate an opinion about tattoos. Sailors had them. And some prisoners. Other than corpsmen and convicts the only ink you saw in church was on the page.

This is not a pointed tirade against tattoos, nor a defense of them; it’s a jab at bad hermeneutics. I have found that some like to decorate their arguments with Bible verses that have no place in the debate.

These are the three usual suspects…

1. Thou shalt not tattoo thyself.

Leviticus 19:28 “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.”

This one is the biggie. It is literally the only verse in the Bible to actually employ the word ‘tattoo.’ So if you can’t get this one to play for your team, you don’t have a team.

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moon over jerusalemThe reason a bevy of justifiably smug journalists was camping on Harold Camping’s front lawn on May 21, 2011 is because yet another of the preacher-cum-radio-broadcaster’s predictions of rapture had misfired.

One would think that after his failed prediction of 1988 Camping’s popularity as an authority on date-setting would have waned. If not then, perhaps after his 1989 repeat performance. Incredibly, his credulous followers remained obdurate about Camping’s abilities to pinpoint an event the Bible says is impossible to predict. When he suddenly appeared to the salivating pack of reporters on his lawn Camping explained that his prophecy must have been fulfilled in a “spiritual” way (preterist much?) but that he foresaw the literal coming of Christ happening on October 21, the same year.

Anyhoo… The reason for this trip down memorable mishap lane, is that it’s about that time of the millennium again, so we are faced with a new date-setting phenomenon at which to furrow our brows. This time the mania for rapture takes on slightly more of a lunatic hue. I mean that fairly literally.

The “blood moon tetrad” is the latest prophecy to make the rounds on social media.

Admittedly, I can’t wax eloquent on its finer details, but as I understand it the prediction is elastically derived from the prophet Joel’s words that reoccur on Peter’s lips in his Pentecost sermon of Acts 2:20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.

Obviously that verse must be referring to the blood moon tetrad. What’s that, you ask? It’s only the most rare event in the history of history. Kinda.

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November 18, 2014

Peter the Apostate?

by Dave Farnell

Peters_DenialsToday’s article is adapted from Dave’s larger article entitled: “Robert Gundry, Gaining Renewed Support from ETS, Declares Peter an Apostate in Matthew’s Gospel.” To read the entire article, click here.

On October 6, 2014, Robert Gundry delivered an address at Westmont College in which he made the shocking claim that the apostle Peter was actually “Peter the apostate and false disciple according to St. Matthew.” According to Gundry, Matthew’s gospel depicts Peter, after his denials — not as a forgiven apostle — but as an apostatizing false prophet. (To see the video, click here. To read the press release from Westmont, click here).

In essence, Gundry puts Peter on equal footing with Judas Iscariot.

Gundry’s claims are astounding — especially when one considers that never in church history has anyone suggested that Matthew’s gospel depicts Peter as an apostate. But that fact does not faze Gundry, who apparently sees no problem with his novel interpretations. Continue Reading…