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Hermeneutics - A Lost Art

I was recently told of a couple who claim to love the Bible so much that every day they set their Bible on the table, let its pages flop open to anywhere, and then randomly point to any verse to read. They then derive some sort of meaning from the verse.

This approach to Bible reading is not new. People have done this for years, but itís no way to read the Bible. Do we read the news paper by just randomly pointing to any sentence on each page and then claim to understand the news of the day? We donít.

The Bible is our prize possession as Christians and we should take it more seriously than that. This kind of thing drives me crazy. Okay, so Iíve finally admitted to my insanity, but itís not my fault. Itís poor hermeneutics that made me crazy.

Picking an isolated phrase from the Bible and then claiming you understand what itís saying is just down-right foolish and certainly is not good hermeneutics. "Whatís hermmmÖ, or whatever it is ", you ask? You might be like many Christians, not ever hearing this word before. Iím guessing if I ask the average Christian what the word hermeneutics means, heíd have no clue how to answer me. Thatís part of our problem Weíre just average Christians. We need to be above average.

Websterís Dictionary defines hermeneutics this way. Hermeneutics "is the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as of the Bible) You still donít understand? Okay, how about I define the word. Hermeneutics is the logical and methodical approach to interpreting any kind of written material. This means our interpretation of Biblical passages is both logical and has a method, meaning thereís certain rules to follow. This applies to any written or spoken word, not just the Bible. Thereís just a lot of common sense connected to understanding the Bible, something that some Christians lay aside because they think the Bible is too spiritual to be logical.

One simple common sense rule of hermeneutics is that you donít take one sentence out of a paragraph and make it mean more than what the paragraphs wants it to mean. When you point your finger to any old sentence at random and then try to derive its meaning, youíre breaking this rule.

The old fashion promise box, where you have a box full of isolated verses of promise on little cards breaks this rule. Some daily devotionals break this rule.

Iíve personally found a chronological verse by verse study through the Bible to be the best form of study, even beyond word and topical studies, which Iíve done for years.

Hereís another common sense rule. If Peter, Paul, or even Jesus says something to a specific individual, it doesnít necessarily mean what is said applies to you and I. For example, Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor. Jesus spoke this to the rich young ruler, not to you or I. If Jesus personalizes these words to you through the Holy Spirit then you better obey Him and sell everything you have, but donít personalize that onto someone else. If Jesus doesnít personalize these words to you, they are not directed towards you, although we can learn lots from them. If you insist that these words apply to everyone, then you should have a big yard sale. That would be fine with me. I know of one poor guy who would appreciate the proceeds from your yard sale.

Studying the Bible in a logical and methodical way is becoming a lost art. Thereís more common sense rules than these two. Some like to read and not think about what they read. This is our "fast food" approach to devouring Godís Word. Yet the fast food approach doesnít work, especially if youíre trying understand the book of Romans You need to exercise your brain as you read.

Others like to read, hoping the Holy Spirit will make a truth jump out at them and clobber them over the head with it. Sometimes this happens, but thereís more to Bible study than that. Donít get me wrong, we need the Holy Spirit to help us study, and sometimes because of our denseness, He does clobber us over the head with truth, hoping to shake our brains into action.

A few years ago my friend and I on separate occasions suggested to our pastor that we could teach a class on hermeneutics. He didnít see the need, so it never happened. I suppose if we learn how to interpret the Bible better, we might have to change our thinking on some of our favourite doctrines. I just donít know why one has to attend a Bible College in some far off place in order to learn such things. The local church should be teaching things like this, yet in all my years, Iíve never seen this happen. Wouldnít you think that helping people understand how to study and interpret the Bible would be a good thing to teach?

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