Goal of Bible interpretation: authorial intent is principle of biblical hermeneutics




Posted in bible study

Go Deeper for 07/03/15: Let the Bible tell you what it means

Friday’s cartoon: Let the Bible tell you what it means


Want to go deeper?

  1. Here is a great lecture on Bible interpretation, also called biblical hermeneutics. The professor is Dr. Robert Stein, whose Bible study books are outstanding.
  2. Go to the Bible interpretation section of DeeperStudy.com and take a look at some of the Hermeneutics textbooks available online or for purchase.
  3. Study for yourself these two classic biblical texts on hermeneutics: Nehemiah 8:1-8 and Luke 24:13-48.
Posted in bible study

Rainbow display not a reason to “unfriend”


Rainbow display not reason to “unfriend”

Some Christian friends of mine have begun “unfriending” anyone they know who superimposes a rainbow flag over their Facebook photo. Please let me urge you not to do that.

Three Categories

Those displaying the rainbow flag fall into three categories. The motives and rationale are difference in each group.

1) Many people in the U.S. believe that the triumph of Same-Sex Marriage advocates is a civil rights issue analogous to the historic movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for voting, housing, and service in businesses to be colorblind. They are celebrating Same-Sex Marriage, not as an affront to biblical morality but as a victory for justice. We all want justice to prevail in our country—Christians as much as everyone else, if not more.

2) Others have friends and/or relatives who are gay, and they sympathize with them and join them in celebrating this victory for their cause.

3) For a third group this victory is really personal because it is not just a struggle of someone with whom they empathize; it is their own struggle. What they have longed to do for many years is now legal, and they feel vindicated by the Supreme Court decision.

Why we should not “unfriend”

I would urge my fellow believers not to unfriend anyone in these three groups, thus cutting yourself off from the possibility of having communication with them. We should stay connected, even if we can’t agree that Gay Marriage is a good idea.

We should continue to interact, continue to dialogue, and maintain our relationships as an expression of the Second Great Command of Jesus, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31, in which Jesus is quoting Leviticus 19:18).

Want to go deeper?

1. Consider these words by Jesus and Paul:

Jesus – “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Matthew 5:13).

“Losing its saltiness” seems to mean becoming conformed to the standards of the world, becoming so worldly that there is no difference between Christians and non-Christians. Obviously we should avoid doing that.

But isn’t there also an opposite danger? Some would describe it as “staying in the salt-shaker,” or becoming “cloistered,” or turning ourselves into a “Christian enclave”—aloof from any contact with people with whom we disagree and therefore isolated from any possibility that we could have a positive effect on them.

Paul – “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6).

Paul assumes that we do not break off contact. He challenges us to engage in conversation, and with such a good attitude that our dialogue partner finds the incident “tasty.”
Part of what it takes to do this is to lower your expectations for such an interchange. Don’t think the occasion is a failure if you don’t persuade the other person to become committed to following God and His Word.

2. Seek to understand where the other person is coming from, what their interests are, and their reasoning on this or any other issue. Then try to communicate in a clear and loving way your understanding. Find things you can agree on; build common ground. Try to encourage them as a person.

3. Take a look at this blog entitled, “Cloistered Christianity” by Carl Ruby. Dr. Ruby is saying the same thing as I am.

Now it’s your turn.

Am I wrong-headed about this? What do you think?

Please “share” and “like” if you find this helpful or even if you think it is just a good stimulus for discussion. (See below.)

Posted in bible study, christianity

Whose job is judging?

pharisee's attitude

Q. Why is judging considered wrong?

A. Only a few verses after Jesus says, “Judge not, so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1), he says “By their fruits you will know them” (i.e., the false teachers, Matthew 7:16). That tells us that “Judge not” is not an absolute prohibition. See, for instance, John 7:24, where Jesus commands, “Stop judging superficially. Instead, let your judging be righteous judgments.” When it comes to the teaching of Jesus Christ, we can’t pick and choose, remembering and quoting sayings we like and forgetting or neglecting those we don’t like. In fact, it’s the ones we want to avoid that we should be thinking about the most.

What Jesus seems to mean by “Judge not” is that judging others should not be the A-1 characteristic of your life. It shouldn’t be what people automatically think of when they think of you. You are not supposed to be God’s judge-Nazi, constantly condemning people of sin and taking on the job of drawing fine lines between what is sin and what isn’t.

What follows the rest of the verse, “…so that you will not be judged,” is, “For you yourself will be measured with the very measure you use on others.” How would you like it if people were always looking over your shoulder, ready to pounce on the tiniest mistake you made?

Like Jesus, our mission is not to condemn the world (John 3:17); the world is condemned already, and most people are fairly good at condemning themselves. God wants us to help save the world by sharing the gospel message and by living out the gospel in our lives. We can be faithful to our Lord, we can be loving and patient and gentle, without being self-appointed judges of everyone we meet.

Want to go deeper?

1. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus lays out a procedure for restoring someone caught up in persistent sinning. This involves judging, even to the point that you cut off having anything to do with them if they refuse all pleading. Yet this paragraph is within a context of sacrificial love, sandwiched between a good example to imitate—the shepherd who goes out to rescue the lost sheep (vv. 10-14)—and a bad example to avoid—a servant forgiven of a mountain of debt who won’t forgive a trifling amount owed to him (Matthew 18:21-35). Such a context transforms the judging paragraph so that it is a sincere expression of love, not a harsh and cold inquisition.

2. Paul says God has given Christians “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). The term ‘reconciliation’ involves helping two who are at odds with each other to become friends, and in this context, non-Christians are the enemies of God we are trying to reconcile to Him.

God wants the friendship; He has gone to great lengths to bring it about, including permitting Jesus to carry out His saving mission of dying on the cross, becoming a sin offering for us so that we might receive God’s righteousness (v. 21).

Now God sends out all of us reconciled former enemies to bring in more to the Fellowship of Friends. Our message is, “We plead with you in behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!” (v. 20).

3. Check out this resource:

Ten ways to confront with integrity and respect” by Tami Heim. This post is specifically directed toward online discussions of the Bible and other religious controversies. We all can use guidance in this area.

Now it’s your turn.

Do you agree that some judging is an important part of what it means to love others? Do you want to share a time when for a time you were a judge-Nazi? What got you out of that mind-set?

Please “share” and “like” this post if you find it helpful and encouraging. (See below)

Posted in bible study

Go deeper cartoon: When God repeats Himself

theology god is love

Posted in bible study

Gay marriage ruling: What does it mean for Christians?

gay marriage ruling

Gay marriage ruling: What does it mean for Christians?

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, declared that gay couples have a right to marry anywhere throughout the United States and that such couples who marry deserve the same rights, privileges, and benefits of other married couples. This will likely have two negative effects for New Testament Christians. It will appear to give gay marriages legitimacy because they are now recognized officially by government officials and agencies, and it will reinforce the false notion that rejecting that legitimacy is tantamount to being a bigot who opposes to granting people their fundamental civil rights.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Roberts warns, “Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage.”

Fellow dissenter Justice Alito concurs: “Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage. The decision will also have other important consequences. . . . It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. . . . The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”

Committed Christians are not bigots because they oppose a redefinition of marriage. They are only submitting to what God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his apostles teach on the subject.

The Bible speaks clearly about homosexual acts: they are an abomination to the Lord. Leviticus 18:22 declares, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Also, Leviticus 20:13 states, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

The word abomination (Hebrew: ʿēbâ) is a category that includes homosexuality (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), along with a number of other unlawful deeds:

  • prostitution (Deut. 23:18; 1 Kings 14:24)
  • sexual impurity (Lev. 18:26, 27, 29)
  • idolatry (Deut. 17:4; 20:18; 32:16; 2 Kings 21:11; 2 Chron. 28:3; 33:2; 34:33; 36:8, 14; Ezra 9:1, 11, 14)
  • making idols (Deut. 27:15)
  • child sacrifice (2 Kings 16:3)
  • worshipping the Astoreth (a fertility cult, 2 Kings 23:13)
  • offering a blemished sacrifice (Deut. 17:1)
  • witchcraft or sorcery (Deut. 17:9; 18:12; 2 Kings 21:2)
  • cross-dressing (Deut. 22:5)
  • using unjust weights (Deut. 25:16; Prov. 11:1; 20:10, 23)
  • wickedness in general (Prov. 3:32; 6:16; 8:78; 11:20; 15:9, 26; 16:12)
  • lying lips (Prov. 12:22)
  • sacrifice of the wicked (Prov. 15:8; 21:27)
  • being proud in heart (Prov. 16:5)
  • perverting justice (Prov. 17:15)
  • scoffing (Prov. 24:9)
  • the prayer of the lawless (Prov. 28:9)
  • being an unjust man (Prov. 29:27)

I give this long list so that you can decide: does a change of covenants from the Law to Grace transforms an abominable deed into one that is now holy and pure? An apparent exception to this list is prohibited foods (Deut. 14:3), where, in a context discussing idolatry, the same word is used, when typically a different Hebrew word for ‘abomination’ (Hebrew: šeqe) occurs (see Lev. Lev. 11:10-13, 20, 23, 41-42; Isa. 66:17; Ezek. 8:10). We know that “Jesus declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19). No such similar declaration regarding homosexual acts occurs anywhere in the New Testament.

The New Testament makes equally clear statements about homosexual acts. For instance, in First Corinthians 6:9-10, the Apostle Paul declares, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (This rendering found in the English Standard Version has a footnote for the phrase “men who practice homosexuality” that says: “The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts.”)

Whether those engaged have a casual or committed relationship does not make the homosexual acts committed illegitimate or legitimate. In Genesis 2:24, Moses writes, “[A] man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The Hebrew word for ‘man’ or ‘male’ and for “husband” are the same word  (ʾīš), and the Hebrew word for ‘woman’ or ‘female’ and for ‘wife’ are the same word (ʾīšâ). Likewise, in First Corinthians 7:2, Paul commands, “[E]ach man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” Here, the Greek word for ‘man’ or ‘male’ as well as for ‘husband’ are the same word (anēr) and the Greek word for ‘women’ or ‘female’ as well as for ‘wife’ are the same word (gynē). Both the Old and New Testaments, therefore, clearly define marriage as heterosexual.

The first chapter of Romans states that as a consequence of willful rebellion against God, “God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom. 1:26-27).

These passages are enough to establish the consistent teaching of the Bible that homosexual acts are abominable to God and, along with other willful sins that a person may persist in committing, disqualify him or her from entering God’s kingdom. We need not debate with Christian gays the sin of Sodom, and we can dismiss as ridiculous their claims that biblical homosexual couples include David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, or even Jesus and “the disciple whom He loved.”

The same Bible also teaches, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18; Mark 12:31 and parallels), and our neighbors include the lesbian, the gay man, the bisexual, and the transsexual. We should be aware and sympathize with the struggles individuals of these orientations may have had, struggles that often include rejection and abandonment by family members, isolation from those around them, the deeply distressing ambivalence of a self-imposed compulsion to hide and to lie.

We can join our homosexual friends in condemning violence against gays, and we can offer them friendship, a listening ear, and acceptance of them as persons without condoning what the Bible calls sin, just like we make friends with those guilty of other sins that our society doesn’t stigmatize, like being greedy, getting drunk, overeating, overworking, indulging in heterosexual lust, being haughty, and being selfish.

We can confess to them our own sinfulness and our need for a Savior who inspires us to turn away from sin and find forgiveness in His cleansing blood. We can help them discover the Body of Christ, which meets our deep-felt needs for friendship, love, and unconditional acceptance. In time we may convince them, even if they never become Christians, that we are not bigots, that we care what happens to them, that we are committed to being their friends, and that we truly love them.

Want to go deeper?

Highly recommended:

  • Eros Defiled: The Christian and Sexual Sin by John White. (www.amazon.com/Eros-Defiled-John-White-ebook/dp/B003ZSIS80/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435359669&sr=1-1)

This Christian psychiatrist writes with understanding and compassion about sexual sins. He claims that most professional counselors believe that homosexual orientation can be corrected, and that the more experience they have in the profession, the higher is the proportion of those convinced it is possible. He concludes by explaining how local congregations can deal with sexual sin in a context of love and forgiveness.

  • A Biblical Point of View on Homosexuality by Kerby Anderson. (www.amazon.com/Biblical-Point-View-Homosexuality-ebook/dp/B00547QX9Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435360311&sr=1-3)

Chapters are: Homosexuality and Society, Homosexuality and Relationships, Homosexuality and Families, Homosexuality and the Schools, The Causes of Homosexuality, Homosexuality and the Bible, Homosexuality and the Church, Same-sex Marriage and Politics, Answering the Arguments for Same-sex Marriage, and The Social Impact of Homosexuality.

If you found this post helpful, please share.

I welcome your perspective: what should the Christian’s attitude be toward the June 26, 2015 Supreme Court ruling legitimizing same-sex marriages? Enter your comments below.


Posted in bible study

Theology: How deep is God?

omniscience of god

Posted in christian theology

Perspective of Original Audience

biblical hermeneutics

Posted in bible study

Who are the blessed?

beatitudes of jesus

beatitudes of sermon on the mount

Q. How do you understanding the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12). What do these verses say to you?

A. Matthew 5, verses 1-2 are paramount in understanding the beatitudes. “His disciples came to him and he began to teach them, saying….” In other words, this is not teaching to non-disciples, to unbelievers. It is for Jesus’ disciples, those who “come to Him,” that is, who submit to His authority, which is also how the Sermon on the Mount ends (Matt. 7:28-29). “He began to teach them…” indicates that this was their introduction to what it means to be His disciples. Literally, “He opened His mouth and taught them….” which some say implies that He held nothing back from them.
Note that Jesus does NOT say, “You must be poor in spirit. You must mourn. You must be meek, must hunger and thirst for righteousness, must be merciful, and pure in heart.” He does NOT say, “You must be peacemakers, and you must be persecuted for the sake of righteousness.” Nor does He say, “You must be salt for the earth and light for the world.”

What does He say? He says, “You are blessed.” Blessed by whom?

Jewish speech was filled with circumlocutions: carefully crafted ways of talking about God without mentioning Him. One of the ways they did this was by expressing things in the passive voice: “You are blessed,” by which they meant “God is blessing you.” How do we know that Jesus is employing circumlocution in Matt. 5:3-11? Because of a second circumlocution Jesus uses in verse 12: “great is your reward in heaven,” which means “God is giving you a great reward.”

Jesus is telling His disciples that by submitting themselves to Him as their Teacher-Trainer-Coach, God is blessing them in a progressive way. Yes, they are spiritually bankrupt, something to grieve over. But as they relinquish control to God, He begins to fill them with the very character of their Master. They develop a spiritual hunger and thirst that only God can satisfy. They begin to have compassion for other people. They let go of selfish motives and take on God’s perspective about the world and its people. They become active mediators and intercessors, introducing God’s peace as the solution to conflicts they encounter.

And yes, God blesses them even as they endure trash-talk and worse from bitter opponents, because even as they suffer they preserve what’s alive in the world and expel what is corrupt. Even as they bleed, they illuminate those around them with God’s glory.

They have a deeper righteousness than the most religious people they know. They have a more profound piety than the paragons of virtue in their community. Their simple prayers connect with God more immediately. They escape the tug-of-war between God and greed that pulls others apart. They choose to trust God for their needs, even as they make the priorities of His kingdom their own.

They refuse the role of judge and jury over other sinners as well as the role of the rending of the wild dog or the trampling of the swine. They choose their Master against the crowd and will not be deceived by the disguise of false prophets, testing them by their fruits. They remember that obedience is more than just talk and that the solid foundation of their Master’s teaching is proven by the great storm.

And why are these the people whom God blesses? Because God loves all the people of the world and has brought to His world a Savior – the one and only Redeemer. But His mission for all lost people is to redeem them through a community, through a multiplying ministry. He blesses us, so that through us He might bless others.

Please “like” and share if you find this helpful.

Want to go deeper?

I highly recommend D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.


Posted in bible study

Kingdom coming?



millennial kingdom

Does the Bible teach a millennial kingdom to come?

Q: I would love to know your thoughts on this interpretation and how are we supposed to react. “Working on my final message in the FUTURE SHOCK sermon series. . . . My topic is the millennial kingdom. What will life be like on planet earth when Jesus rules and reigns on planet earth for 1000 years? I’ll let you in on a little preview. . . it is going to be unfathomably great! No crime, no lack, no injustice, no fear! . . . . Can’t wait to see the curse removed from the earth, the lion lay with the lamb, the child play with the cobra, the desert bloom like a rose, and King Jesus physically enthroned in Jerusalem.” – Lisa S.

A: We have to deal with this as a matter of what Bible interpretation principles (hermeneutics) we use. The one passage that speaks of reigning for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4-6) says nothing about: 1) no crime, no lack, no injustice, no fear; 2) the curse removed; 3) the lion lying down with the lamb and the child playing at the hole of the cobra; 4) the desert blooming like a rose; or 5) Christ physically ruling in a literal Jerusalem.

Drawing from an assortment of Old Testament prophecies of blessing, people apply all of these concepts to the millennium because of a false assumption. The assumption is that because such prophecies have not yet found a literal fulfillment, they must be fulfilled in the future, and what better time for their fulfillment than the millennium?

The truth is that many predictive prophecies made by true prophets of God, whether of doom or bloom, are conditional: did people who first hear the prophet heed to his call to return to God. The conditional nature of predictive prophecy is spelled out in Jeremiah’s lesson at the potter’s house (Jer. 18:1-10). It nearly always applies whether or not the conditions are stated in the prophetic prediction itself. (For example, see Jonah 3:4-10; 2 Chron. 12:1-12; 2 Kings 20:1-11.)

Many of the covenant blessing passages were never fulfilled because the Israelites did not keep the conditions involved (see Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28). Other covenant blessing found a fulfillment in the blessings the Messiah brought to the world through the cross, but they are spiritual blessings expressed with metaphorical language (such as Mark 4:8, 20; John 4:35-38).

Christ is reigning now (Col. 1:13-14; 1 Cor. 15:25-28). The glorious blessings of His current reign are unimaginably rich (Eph. 3:14-21).

Should we take the millennium of Revelation 20 literally? The context says no. The dragon is not literal. Neither is his chain, or the door, or the lock. Where in the context do we make a switch from figurative to literal? There is no reasonable place to do it. That makes me believe that the souls are figurative, along with the altar, their resurrection and their reign, the thousand years, and the release of the dragon at its end.

A partial validation of this figurative understanding of Revelation 20 comes when we compare it with John 5:28-29, in which Jesus predicts the coming of “an hour when all the dead will hear his voice [i.e., the voice of the Son of Man] and come out—those who have done good to a resurrection of life, those who have done evil unto a resurrection of judgment.” In contrast to Revelation 20’s “first resurrection” of saints before the millennium and another resurrection after the millennium, Jesus anticipates one literal resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. Reconciling John 5 with Revelation 20 is difficult unless we understand that “first resurrection” as a figurative one.

Go deeper?

I go into some of this in more detail in my book, Overcoming: Guide to Understanding the Book of Revelation (http://deeperstudy.com/overcoming-study-guide-book-revelation/). See especially pages 21-25 in the sample pages – http://deeperstudy.com/link/overcoming_sample_2015.pdf.

Read and digest this great article: F. Furman Kearley, “The Conditional Nature of Prophecy: A Vital Exegetical and Hermeneutical Principle” (Montgomery, Ala.: Apologetics Press, n.d.). https://www.apologeticspress.org/rr/reprints/Conditional-Nature-of-Prophecy.pdf

If you find this posting helpful, please “like” and “share.” (Illustration: detail from “The Peaceable Kingdom,” oil painting by Edward Hicks (1826). Now in National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)


Posted in bible study, eschatology

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