About Jesus Steve Sweetman
one hermeneutical rule that most people know, but donít necessarily follow.
It is the rule of context. Iíve
already mentioned this in my introduction.
donít follow this rule in life let alone in interpreting the Bible. One reason
why people communicate poorly with one another is because they take things that
are said out of context. Husbands
and wives often do this. A husband
may say something and his wife responds, but what she says in response has
little relevance to what her husband just said. She might be upset at what her
husband said or did yesterday and so her response is a reaction to that and not
what her husband just said. She is thus responding out of context.
At this point the communication between the two becomes disjointed
because she is not responding exactly to what her husband has just said.
Thus the train of thought is broken and shifts in a different direction.
Then her husband may do the same in return.
He may not respond to what his wife just said, but responds to an earlier
event. The conversation gets even
more disjointed at this point. Nothing
usually gets accomplished in this kind of dialogue.
Things only get worse.
same thing happens when we attempt to interpret the Bible.
Taking phrases out of context makes matters worse.
We often take sentences out of context and make them mean more than the
immediate paragraph wants them to mean. Our
response to a particular verse may be influenced by what we think the verse
should mean. Or, our response
to the verse might be influenced by lifeís experiences.
Our own thinking and lifeís experiences should not dictate what the
Bible says. The Bible should
dictate to what we think and to our lifeís experience.
If our thinking and experience is not in line with the Bible, we change.
More often than not, we try to make the Bible change.
one example that Iíve noticed over the years concerning taking a verse out of
context. Paul, in Romans 4:17 says
that "God Ö calls things that are not as though they were".
The misconception here is that God calls things that arenít as if they
were and therefore we should do the same. This
means that if you want a new car and donít have a new car, you act as if you
have the new car already. The acting
as if you have the car already will eventually bring about a new car in your
driveway. In this case the thing
that isnít is the car, and by calling it ours even though its not, weíll end
up with it. We thus call something
that isnít as if it is.
are a couple problems here. One
problem is that some say that God is so positive in His thinking that even if
something doesnít exist, if it is not, he thinks and acts as if it does exist.
This verse is not saying anything like this.
the other problem is that even if God does act like this according to this text,
it doesnít mean we are to act this way. It is a leap of logic to suggest that
we should act this way because the text doesnít say we should.
wrong thinking is seen in the Prosperity and Positive Thinking Movement. The
example of the new car in your driveway is an example of how both teachings
would interpret Romans 4:17. They
teach that we should view things that are not, meaning the new car, as if they
were, meaning, and the car in the driveway.
This is simply mental gymnastics and not Biblical doctrine.
the context of Romans 4:17. The paragraph that this sentence closes is all about
Jews, especially those Jews who had long since departed from their God.
If you understand the Old Testament book of Hosea, who will know that God
words "things that are not" apply to one thing and one thing only, and
that's the Jews. Beyond this, there
is no secondary meaning to this phrase, and we should not invent one.
This sentence has nothing to do with positive thinking, naming and
claiming a new car, or speaking things into existence that do not presently
exist. Such an interpretation
is way beyond the scope and meaning the paragraph intends for this sentence.
Thus the doctrine that is formulated by this wrong interpretation is in error.
another way of saying this. You ask
me, "How are you doing"? I
answer, "Iím fine". You
may interpret my answer to mean, "Iím fine with same sex weddings, with
my back ache, with my job, and so onĒ. But
all these interpretations of ďIím fineĒ are wrong.
When I say, "Iím fine", I mean at that particular moment of
time when you ask me "how are you doing", Iím dong fine.
I may not be fine the next moment. I
may not have been fine one hour earlier. Iím
not fine with same sex wedding, or with my back ache.
You cannot take the words "Iím fine" to mean more than what
the context of our conversation wants them to mean.
just spoken of the context of a sentence within a paragraph, but thereís more
to context. There is the context of
the book or letter in which the paragraph is found.
For example, what does Paul say in the rest of the book of Romans that
would shed light on Romans 4:17. If
you read the previous chapters youíll clearly see that Paul said Jews were
sinners, no different than Gentile sinners.
there is the context of the Bible as a whole.
What does the rest of the Bible say about a particular verse that might
shed some light on the subject? There
are many other statements to consider when thinking about Romans 4:17.
there are three Biblical contexts to consider when interpreting a verse Ė
paragraph, book, and Bible context. There
is one more context to consider as well, and that is the Historical context.