Sunday, August 10, 2014

Session 9: History of Interpretation

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength  ~Mark 12:30
Writing about Session: 9 History of Interpretation, Evan O'Leary shares his thoughts on the history of biblical interpretation.

Session number nine in our theological study has brought us to history of interpretation, hermeneutics through the centuries. We first looked at four different questions regarding interpretation. The first question was, how did the first century Jews interpret the scriptures? Second was how did the Christ and the Apostles interpret the scriptures? Third was how did the early church interpret the scriptures? And lastly should Christians today follow the same hermeneutic as the early church?

To better understand where to begin with our own understanding of interpretation, we started with introduction to hermeneutics. We looked at the three terms interpretation, hermeneutics, and exegesis. From these we can put together a historical-grammatical hermeneutic, which is taking the authors original intent to the original audience and finding the principles and truths that can transfer and apply to our lives today. Truths that when applied, change how we think and live our lives as Christians. When we do this we then can see that there is nothing written directly to us in the Bible, just the timeless truths we can find and apply.

We must take the exegesis: the original meaning of the biblical text. Then with interpretation: the process of understanding, move to a biblical hermeneutic.

After we looked at the correct way to study the Bible by using the historical-grammatical hermeneutic, we took a look at the history of interpretation through the ages. Ancient Jewish Hermeneutics, New Testament Hermeneutics, Patristic/Early Church Hermeneutics, Medieval Hermeneutics, and Reformation Hermeneutics.

The ancient Jews when trying to make the word relevant to their current context often took an overly literal and legalistic approach. Using the scriptures in an out of context meaning for their current situation, and not just reading the scriptures but also reading the hidden message behind the scriptures. If you simply just read the Bible for what it was saying then you were uneducated and 'missing' the hidden deeper meaning in the text.

The Palestinian Jews used the Midrash method of interpretation. It sought to con-temporize the text of the scripture so as to make it relevant for everyday application. What they don't say in that explanation is that most of that method came from extensive out if context teachings. Abusive characteristics that included, giving meaning to texts, phrases, and words without regard to the context in which they were meant to apply. Combining texts that contain similar words or phrases even if they weren't referring to the same idea. They became "experts" in the Law and yet Christ called them hypocrites.

As we moved through history we found that over time there arose different views of interpretation. A hermeneutic battle of sorts broke out between two schools. The school of Antioch took the literal approach, and the school in Alexandria took the allegorical approach. The school in Antioch thought that allegory or finding the deeper meanings that lay behind the literal sense was a foolish approach. The Antiochene school of interpretation or historical-grammatical approach, did not gain wide acceptance until the reformation. So what does all this mean for us as Christians today? Are we using a biblical hermeneutic in our own bible studies? Do we read the bible for what it says or for what we want it to say or even for what others have told us it means?

We need to take the right approach with biblical interpretation and be careful to not be like the Pharisees. We must not mistake the Bible for what it is truly saying, so that we can correctly take the many truths of the Bible and make them ever applicable to our everyday lives. Then we can apply them and see the wonderful changes God can make in our lives as Christians.

Evan O'Leary

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