Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hermeneutics 101

Welcome to Hermeneutics 101.  Come on in and take a seat.  Hermen who? you might ask.  Yeah, I think I know him.  This is not a person.  It is the art and science of how we approach our study of the Bible.  When I was recently reading Psalms 127, I was reminded of a very basic principle of hermeneutics.

In mathematics, if a + b = c then -a + -b = -c.  Although this formula works for math, it doesn't work so well when we try and apply it to the Bible.  Sometimes we take a positive verse from the Bible and try to make an opposite statement also true.  

The verse that really made me think of this principle was Psalms 127:3 which says "behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward."  I wholeheartedly agree with this verse.  There are very few things in my life that have blessed me the way that my son has.  We traveled a rough road before finally receiving this blessing.  We had two uncertain years filled with much heartache and many tears in which we didn't know if we would ever have children.  During this time, it was easy to question God and read verses like this and think, "Well if the fruit of the womb is a reward and I am not being rewarded then perhaps God is punishing me."   Many women in the Bible also struggled with this thinking.  We see a very clear example of this dangerous thinking after Rachel bears Joseph and says, "God has taken away my reproach" (Genesis 31:23).

As I reread this verse recently I was reminded of this thinking, and it hit me that this verse isn't the only one in which we try and apply this faulty formula.  Another prime example is the faith and works discussion.  James says "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself" (James 2:17).  People have used this verse to come to the faulty conclusion then that if one does all the right things then salvation is ensured. Although we can use this formula in math, it produces some wrong and dangerous conclusions when used in our Bible study.  We have to be very careful to not say more then the scriptures say.  Can you think of other scriptures where people try and make false assumptions from the negative?  Please share your thoughts below.    

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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