Tag Archives: Bible

The Theological Interpretation of Scripture: A Very Brief Introduction

The Theological Interpretation of Scripture (TIS) has become a topic of discussion among academic authors like, Francis Watson, Daniel Treier, Kevin Van Hoozer, and Stephen Fowl. Right from the beginning the name itself sounds like something we shouldn’t be doing. It is as if we are allowing our beliefs to determine what scripture says. While that does happen in many quarters, it’s not the case with TIS. Actually those who are involved in TIS see it more as a recovery of premodern hermeneutics (Bible interpretation). The argument is that modernist hermeneutics, like the Grammatical Historical (GH) method, have not lived up to their promise in providing a method of a truly unified reading of scripture. Some have suggested that the GH method leaves us with interpretive pluralities where each interpreter has the final say on what Scripture says.

So as you can probably imagine this would create a few challenges. If Scripture is the means by which God speaks then It ought to be read as a whole. This first came to my mind many years ago when I suggested that what we were looking for in our interpretation of Scripture was author intentionality in the text. That is to say we wanted to know what the human authors were trying to say. I can remember the conversation because a friend of mine returned and asked if I saw any ambiguity in this. That was when I started to look at other sources like John Calvin. At that point in my life I had only become familiar with Calvin through the Institutes of the Christian Religion which was helpful. However, reading through his commentaries I realized how different his hermeneutic and the hermeneutic of the Patristic homilies were compared to what I had seen in contemporary authors.

So just a recap on what has just been said. TIS places emphasis on the claim that God is the author of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16) and therefore should be understood in light of the whole. Obviously there is much to say on this and I will have to discuss this in more detail as I work through it myself. But because the subject matter of the Old and New Testament is the Messiah or Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27, John 5:39) we have an essential unity that plays a big role in our exegesis (or what we come away with from the text). This is not to say that GH should be eradicated from our exegetical practice. But TIS does bring unity to the particulars left behind by GH.

What of the human authors of Scripture? I knew you were going to ask that. As I stated above on the ambiguity of author intentionality, the challenge is our inability to definitively map out what the writers intention actually is. TIS seeks to clarify that the author’s intention is what is found in the text. It is God who is the author of Scripture who can make His intention known through the centuries to His people. This last move makes the church the primary context of Biblical interpretation.

I know this was brief but I hope it has prompted you to ask questions about your own method of interpretation. Maybe you can share with me some of your conclusions as I don’t have too many of my own yet. If you are interested I have listed some literature that has contributed to the discussion of TIS below.


Treir, Daniel J. Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering a Christian Practice. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.

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Filed under Bible, Hermeneutics, New Testament, Old Testament

Book Review: A Syntax Guide For Readers Of The Greek New Testament

Lee Irons has recently published a new Syntax Guide For Readers Of The Greek New Testament (SG). The purpose for this guide is to give readers of New Testament Greek a jump start in to the discipline of reading the New Testament in its original language. Typically studies of the Greek tend to either get overlooked or focus on individual word studies. What Irons would like to see is students of New Testament Greek take up the practice of reading whole sections of the Greek text and eventually the entire New Testament. However, anyone who has taken up that task has recognized immediately the difficulty before them in being able to readily interpret as you read. SG provides the syntactical information (i.e. idioms, syntactical categories, etc. )to help aid in understanding Greek phrases and sentences  in order to “streamline” the reading experience.

While this is a helpful volume it requires some prior familiarity of the Koine Greek. I would say this volume was ideally written for any one with at least two years of Greek. In fact the volume assumes it’s reader’s understanding of Greek. My only reservation is the Iron’s does not sight the sources he has used for his content. Then again this isn’t that kind of tool, which is fine with me as I have always known Irons to be competent with his Greek.

This volume has several appealing features. First it follows the Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th and 28th editions. To me it even looks like the maroon hardback UBS Greek New Testament. There is also a subject index that allows the reader to look up verses by grammatical form. This is a very helpful volume. I have attempted to use it as Irons had intended and I found personally I come away with a better understanding of the text since my tendency is to skip over phrases or sentences that I didn’t understand.  Definitely a must for any Greek reader’s reference library.

Rating 4 out of 5

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Bible Reading 101

As Christians, Bible reading is an important aspect to our faith. We believe the 66 books of the cannon of Scripture make up God’s word to us. Therefore, it is important for us to have a healthy reading diet. However, the challenge we face is how should the text of Scripture, God’s word to us, be read? This kind of question can actually fill volumes and be argued and debated so much so that a person would have a difficult time knowing what’s right. To add to our complexity many people just choose not to attempt to understand basic Bible reading. Obviously, we all know how to read, what else is needed?

I don’t mind discussing some of the fine points of Biblical interpretation (formally known as hermeneutics) but at this point, what is really needed is just some very basic understanding of key concepts to help analyze and understand the text. Therefore, I will be looking at three very fundamental points to help understand what is being read in the Bible. They are, what I call, reading redemptively, exigetically, and eisegetically. I will go into definitions of these terms below.

Redemptively, goes without saying. We cannot deny the work of the Spirit in our lives as well as in our Bible reading. No one approaches the Bible autonomously or without influence. If you are a believer you will read the Bible from the perspective of God’s sovereign authority. The natural man, as Paul tells us, suppresses the truth that he/she has about God and thus reads the Bible from the perspective of their own ultimate authority. Reading the Scriptures redemptively does not guarantee you a perfect read because we aren’t perfect people but it is the start point.

Reading the Bible exegetically, remember this ten cent term, trust me you are going to want to cash in on it some day. Reading the Bible exegetically is a descriptive approach where one seeks to understand the text apart from any opinions, feelings, stream of consciousness type stuff, etc. In other words one attempts to remove any subjectivity from their understanding of the text and attempts to read what the text is communicating. Just look at the exegesis, the prefix “ex” means to “come out of”. In exegetical reading, the information comes out of the text. If you are in a building that’s on fire what do you look for? The “ex”it sign because you want to come out of the building. CAUTION, this is a very disciplined task and requires patience and an inquisitive mind on the part of the reader. Some of the questions one might ask himself/herself are:

  • What type of genre (style of writing) is this?
  • What is the context? (this one is a biggie)
  • What do these certain words mean?
  • What is the author communicating?

There are others you might come up with but this is a good list to get you started. Remember, the goal is to think about the text on its own terms without imposing assumptions.

Lastly, one can read the Bible eisegetically. To be perfectly candid, this is the one that gets many Bible teachers in trouble, let me explain. An eisegetical reading of the text will always communicate what the reader thinks of the text as opposed to what the text actually says itself. Think of the prefix “eis” which means “into” because one is positing their thoughts “into” the text. This is dangerous business.

Now that I have given the precautionary warning  I am going to back peddle a bit. The reason is, there are situations where an eisegetical reading is warranted. The first one that comes to mind is once there has been a thorough exegetical reading. An impatient reader would rather bypass the exegetical reading and go straight for the eisgetical reading. However the best forms of eisegesis will showcase a thorough exegesis. One easy way to look at this is exegesis will ask what the author believes. Eisegesis on the other hand asks what the reader ought to believe.

This is a basic approach to reading the Bible. There are many sub-issues that would fall under these three categories or redemptive, exegetical, and eisegetical but for the purpose of this post one would do very well if he/she would keep these in mind during Bible study.

 

 

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Bible Sufficient For Meaningful Living?

These numbers look to be a little low. However, something to think about; with the Church focus on attracting the “younger generation” over the past decades these numbers are ironic. Could it possibly be that our efforts at making amends with the “younger generation” has actually had the reverse effect?

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Matthew 28:18

 

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Filed under 2 Kingdoms, Bible, New Testament

Bible and the Qur’an

I was listening to a couple of popular L.A. radio personalities as they discussed Islamic Jihad. For the most part they did well at describing some of the security risks with a religion that teaches violence in exchange for some eternal reward (not to say that all Muslims teach or believe that). Then all of the sudden in comes this assertion from the depths of ignorance that all religions have these same crazy teachings (referring to Jihad or holy war) including the Bible. I realize this is a radio program and its primary purpose isn’t the dissemination of accurate information. Moreover, if these personalities were not dramatically amusing and entertaining they probably would not be on the air. So for their purposes some generalizing is going to be necessary. However, the statement was made and it must have come from somewhere.

It is often said that all religions are basically the same. This is more or less a civil attempt at religious pluralism for the sake of “coexistence”. The problem here is when the assumption that all religions are basically the same meets a religion where some of its adherents interpret the religion as commanding violence against non-adherents. The end result as we have seen above with the two radio personalities is a  tu quoque (you too) argument where the religion in question avoids having to engage the criticism by turning the criticism back on the accuser who must either remain silent in such matters or by default be hypocritical. Notice this type of argumentation is a type of red herring in that it doesn’t deal with the issue at hand but redirects to another issue not relevant to the conversation.

What is the issue? Does the Bible have the same violent teachings as the  Qur’an? Nothing can be further from the truth. It is true that there are some violent passages in the Bible. However, the fact that there is violence in the Bible should not be confused with the idea that the Bible teaches violence against non-believers. Within the Old Testament we find commands of Israel to wage war against other armies, we also find the sentence of death for violating certain laws, etc. We could argue the tu quoque case that a late modern Western civilization whose seen more blood shed in one century than in all of human history isn’t the best judge of morality in the Old Testament. While that argument can be made I think there is a learning opportunity here that didn’t exist in history past when people were more astute in their personal observations and studies.

Now if what I am saying is true, that the Bible and the Qur’an are not morally equivalent then what would distinguish them? The first point of distinction might be superficial but I think it’s worth mentioning that when we see Israel waging war against a foreign enemy it was for that specific time period and for that specific enemy. It was never an all out war against all enemies or in this case all non-believers everywhere for ever. More importantly as Christians we look to the Old Testament to explain the New Testament, that is key. The holy wars, the civil laws with their strict punishment, the animal sacrifices, these were all types and foreshadows of things that were revealed in Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of that which was promised in the Old Testament.

Interestingly the central story of the New Testament is not even about a militaristic prophet or leader. Rather it is about the life, ministry, arrest, public torture, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus who resembles more the suffering servant and not anything like the conquest of a militaristic leader. His teaching was not of a holy war but of the good news of grace which was the teaching that His followers shared through out the land. After Jesus’ death his followers taught this message of grace and discussed spiritual warfare but never talked about advancing Christ’s kingdom through militaristic conquest.

It is my argument that when one reads the Bible and the Qur’an these basic distinctions will emerge to anyone with a modicum of literacy.

 

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Filed under Bible, God, Islam, Terrorism

Archaeology Discoveries and Favored Bible Verses For

Biblical King’s Royal Seal Unearthed Near Temple Mount

“The royal seal of an ancient biblical king has been unearthed near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

 The seal, a clay impression depicting a two-winged sun with two ankh symbols on either side, was once used to seal papyrus documents associated with King Hezekiah, who ruled the kingdom of Judea from 727 B.C. to 698 B.C. The seal was unearthed in a trash heap near the walls of the ancient Temple Mount.” Continue reading.

The World’s Most Popular Bible Verses, According to 200 Million YouVersion Users

Every second, the world conducts more than 40,000 Google searches, creates 5 new Facebook profiles, and opens YouVersion’s Bible App 112 times.

In the app, three bookmarks are created, four verses are shared, and 18 verses are highlighted. More than 50 Bible chapters are listened to, and 342 chapters are read.

YouVersion, launched by Life.Church in 2008, announced today that the Bible app has topped 200 million installs. The app now offers the Bible in more than 1,200 versions and 900 languages. Continue reading.

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Filed under Archaeology, Bible, God, Old Testament