Hermeneutics Taught in Seminaries

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Martin Marprelate, May 24, 2016.

  1. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate
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    Dr Peter Masters is pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle (Spurgeon's) in London.

    A few years back he wrote a book on interpretation called Not Like Any Other Book (Wakeman Books. ISBN 870855-43-4).

    In this book he claims that Seminaries today are teaching a methodology of hermeneutics which has arisen over the last 50 years, which older evangelicals opposed, and under which men like Spurgeon would have been unable to preach the way they did.

    His claim is that there are six principles of interpretation which are being taught today and which are restricting the preaching of the word:

    1. 'The Wholly-Human Bible.' The sole task of the expositor is to understand the literal sense consciously intended by the original human author to be fully understood by his contemporary hearers. There is no other meaning to a text.

    2. 'The Super-Simplified Bible.' Every passage of Scripture has but a single sense or meaning, and no other.

    3. 'The Blind Date Bible.' The interpreter must not bring to a passage and religious opinions, expectations or presuppositions.

    4. 'The Fragmented Bible.' No biblical doctrine or other text may be allowed to throw light on a passage unless it was known to the original human author (so the New Testament must not be used to throw light on the O.T.

    5. 'The Strictly-Scientific Bible.' The interpreter must never allegorize or spiritualize a passage for this is utterly reprehensible (I wonder how Matthew Henry would have got on with that!).

    6. 'The Add-on Application Bible'. An application for today must be derived strictly from the human author's intended meaning.

    I was put in mind of this when I was looking for a short message for my local branch of the Gideons. I came across the story of Eleazar the son of Dodo in 2 Sam. 23:9-10. I planned to speak about the necessity to make a stand for God and the Bible today when so many Christians are reluctant to do so, and that if we do so, they will be encouraged to join with us. I would also speak about the need to keep a firm grasp on our Bibles and Eleazar did on his sword. But when I looked at Dale Ralph Davis' commentary on 2 Samuel, he has virtually nothing to say about the Mighty Men. He was obviously reluctant to 'spiritualize.'

    So what do you brothers think? Do seminaries today teach as Masters claims? If so. is that a good thing or a bad thing? Do you ever use Henry or Spurgeon as well as modern commentators and if so, do you notice the difference?

    Cool
     
  2. Deacon

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    Popularized in Gordon Fee's book, Read the Bible for all it's Worth, the historical-critical method of interpretation is very popular today. That is what is being criticized in the above post.

    Coming from a science background, I'm very attracted to this modern methodology.

    No longer are we lead by spiritualized, allegorical interpretations with no firm foundation in truth.
    The method looks to the historicity of the human author for a starting place (argument #1).

    In Fee's book he makes a statement: "the bible can't mean to me today what it didn't mean to the author there and then." (argument #2 + #4).

    Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, made the argument that science is stunted when it is forced to follow a single paradigm. We are prone to put things into a pattern that makes sense to us. Scientific revolutions occur when someone thinks outside the box and breaks the paradigm. We can observe a few people on the BaptistBoard who display an unswerving adherence to a single historical theological tradition which weakens their ability to see other perspectives. Best to come at the bible with an open mind and see what ones finds before fitting it into a tradition. (argument #3)

    Spiritualizing interpretation of the bible brings so many opportunities for abuse. I can make the bible say what I want it to say! (arguments #3 and #5)

    Lastly, there are many applications, there is only one interpretation. Find the author's meaning and you will find a biblical application. I've heard many pastors give excellent sermons that encourage and admonish us but have no basis in the text they preach. (argument #6)

    Anyway, it's so easy to teach the bible if you make it say what you want it to say. It's so much harder to teach it the way it was meant to be taught.

    Rob
     
    #2 Deacon, May 24, 2016
    Last edited: May 24, 2016
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  3. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate
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    Thanks for the reply, Deacon. That's very helpful.
    I think there are three NT texts that cast doubt upon that statement.

    First of all, there is John 5:39. "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think that you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me" (cf. also Luke 24:25-27). We are to find Christ everywhere in the NT Did the original authors of the OT do that?

    Then there is Romans 15:4. 'For whatever things were written before [ie. the O.T.] were written for our learning, that we, through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.'
    The Old Testament was actually written for New Testament readers; we may extract benefit from the OT that its writers were not aware of.

    Finally, 1 Peter 1:10-12. 'Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or in what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven- things which angels desire to look upon.' Not only did the O.T. writers not fully understand what they were prophesying, but the very angels in heaven don't understand.

    I wonder if Matthew was following Gordon Fee when he wrote Matthew 2:18, quoting Jeremiah 31:15? Or if Moses anticipated the use that Paul would make of Deuteronomy 25:4 in 1 Timothy 5:18?
     
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  4. Deacon

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    Yeah, the authors of the NT scriptures followed different principles.

    Earlier interpreters of the scriptures tried to follow their example; Origen to name but one.
    Their early attempts display the problems with the approach.

    The important thing to emphasize is that there is a difference between interpretation and application. To some this may be obvious but still easily ignored.
    Fee's statement (paraphrased from memory here) "the bible can't mean to me today what it didn't mean to the author there and then." has a few caviats but it guides us well into applying scripture the way it was intended to be applied.
    Spiritualizing scripture leads us down a path towards mysticism.

    Rob
     
    #4 Deacon, May 24, 2016
    Last edited: May 24, 2016
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  5. blessedwife318

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    Number 4 is the one I can See causing the most problems. There is a poster, inactive, at the moment who uses number 4s reason to deny that it is the blood of Christ that saves all us through all times. He insisted that members of Israel were saved apart from the blood of Jesus and would ignore what Hebrews has to say about it. His challenge was always to point to the OT to see how Israel was redeemed. I think he has since changed his views, but that was a clear example of how not allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture leads to problems.

    Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk
     
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  6. Yeshua1

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    Would say that as far as looking for what the passage meant to its original setting is a good thing, but also that we have to be open to the Lord also intending a future application of any passage, and also that we have to emply the genre roles/settings/circumstances etc

    So treat the scriptures in systematic/biblical theology ways, genre, the hebrew/Greek constructions, so really not as simple as that author outlined it being!
     
  7. TCassidy

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    Some seminaries may. I did not. Nor did the seminary I attended over 40 years ago. I don't much rely on commentaries or commentators.

    The bible is wholly Divine. It is God's Self-Revelation to mankind. And, as mankind's mind is veiled in sin, there is much we are incapable of understanding. And even some of those entrusted with penning the inspired words did not fully understand what they were writing.

    Every passage of Scripture has a single meaning, but many, many applications.

    Everyone brings presuppositions to their understanding of the bible. I bring the presupposition that God exists. I bring the presupposition that God has chosen to reveal Himself, in some small way, to mankind. I bring the presupposition that the bible is the word of God. Without such presuppositions you would do just as well reading the morning newspaper.

    Much of what the original penmen put on paper was only, at best, partially, understood by that penman. What we, as post 1st century Christians often fail to appreciate is that we have the complete bible in readily available printed form which cannot be said for any of the bible's penmen, nor even of most of humanity prior to the 15th century. The New is in the Old Concealed and the Old is in the New Revealed. I daresay we, today, may well have a better understanding of the Old Testament then the prophets used by God to pen those immortal words. :)

    I have no problem with understanding allegory as allegory. However, when plain, clear, easily understood statements are "allegorized" out of its plain and simple meaning I must draw the line. There is the meaning of a text, and an application of the text, often using the text to support an allegory, but the primary meaning must never be abandoned in the face of the allegory.
    This presumes the human author fully understood the meaning. I find that the bible quickly disproves this fanciful notion. :)
     
  8. Deacon

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    TCassidy said: "The bible is wholly Divine. It is God's Self-Revelation to mankind. And, as mankind's mind is veiled in sin, there is much we are incapable of understanding. And even some of those entrusted with penning the inspired words did not fully understand what they were writing. [/quote]

    Think about it... God used men to pen his words.
    Some imagine Scripture as they do the hypostitic union... 100% divine, 100% human.
    Article 8 of the Chicago Statement on BIblical Inerrancy affirms, "...that God in His work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared."

    Even the writers of scripture had their presuppositions.
    God used their whole self, their language, their biases, their prejudices.
    He even accommodated their preconcieved knowledge about the world around them.

    Rob
     
  9. JamesL

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    Matthew Henry commentaries ought to all be thrown in the trash.

    I used to own one, and it was the most disappointing bunch of drivel I've ever run across.

    Out of three or four paragraphs of comments on a passage, there would be one or two sentences which actually pertained, and just utter nonsense running incessantly.

    I've said before...I've never seen anybody who could waste so much paper to say absolutely nothing.
     
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  10. JonC

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    I believe Fee is absolutely correct. The biblical text has an objective meaning. Application and principles derived from that meaning may vary.
     
  11. JonC

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    The six principles he presents were not taught in my experience.
     
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  12. preachinjesus

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    The hermeneutics courses that I took whilst in undergraduate and seminary covered topics like Masters notes but also provided other methods for engaging and understanding the biblical text. Hermeneutics is a challenging field for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we are dealing with a set of ancient texts written over the course of several thousand years that have been deeply plumbed and explored already. As the field of hermeneutics has grown and developed over the past several centuries there are any number of shifts that is represents. Frankly, you could probably look through Spurgeon's sermons and find a number of these principles at work. I don't think this is a bad thing either. It is part of the nature of hermeneutics.
     
  13. Baptist Believer

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    I've rolled this around in my mind and can't make sense of this.

    Shouldn't this line be, "The Old is the New concealed and the New is the Old revealed?"
     
  14. JonC

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    The New is concealed or hidden in the Old. The Old is revealed in the New (the New which is concealed in the Old is revealed in the New). Did you not read Dr. Seuss when you were young? Laugh
     
  15. Van

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    Sometimes an OT passage had a specific meaning for the audience at that time, but years later a NT inspired writer presents it as a prophesy fulfilled by Christ, or to be fulfilled in "end times." So progressive revelation might stretch the "only one meaning" mantra a tad.

    Other than that I think Deacon is again spot on!
     
  16. Darrell C

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    It should probably be noted that not all Seminaries follow the same pattern, and also, each Seminary may have teachers who impose their personal biases into their teaching.



    When "there is no other meaning to a text" is added to the former statement, then it becomes easily rejected. However, I think we will suffer in our interpretation efforts if we do not understand the text in it's cultural setting, and understand how the passage would have related to the original participants or audience. For example, when Abraham intends to obey God and sacrifice his son, we can understand this on a human level (the act itself). Abraham states "God will provide Himself a lamb" which we, because we have not only the New Testament, but the Scripture that follows Genesis (at which time Abraham had died already), can understand on a deeper level in regards to Redemption.

    I actually agree with this to a certain extent. I have witnessed more times than I care to recall, in the Sunday School setting, a passage or verse batted around the room and everyone sharing what it means for them. The simple fact is that is no way to handle the Word of God. While we might present multiple applications, at the root of all Scripture there is but one intent given for each and every teaching. How that teaching applies in a framework of Progressive Revelation has to be carefully considered. For example, remission of sins through, ultimately...death. The wages of sin is death, and it is certain that there will be a death associated with all who sin. We see animal sacrifice as the provision of the Old Testament, beginning with Abel all the way up to the establishment of the New Covenant, at which time that provision was removed, Christ's death becoming the only sacrifice for sins accepted by God.

    So the same teaching is seen to have multiple application within the framework of an overview of Redemptive History, but...that does not mean the teaching itself changes in the least.

    In other words, we do not give a singular "sense or meaning" to something that foretells in type, shadow, or parable, because there is the example of the type itself. Death for sin went on throughout the Old Testament, which presents the principle, but, we learn through New Testament Revelation that ultimately the death that is earned is eternal and spiritual. Even today death is the result of sin, and we are given those who partake of Communion and Ananias and Sapphira to clarify this principle is universal among both believers and unbelievers.

    It is when we place the "singular teaching" into a context it was never intended (such as eternal death in Ezekiel 18, for example) that we stray into erring on the principle of "singular sense or meaning."


    One of the "Golden Rules," is it not? lol

    But don't many do that? Their interpretation is biased by the teaching they sit/sat under, or their own personal bias concerning what they want to believe. An example of this might be the denial of Eternal Punishment, Hell, or any number of issues that result in sectarian division.



    Again, the progressive nature of revelation demands this is erroneous. We can understand the promises of God in a way that no Prophet of the Old Testament could not. They had the fundamental teachings, but we have had revealed to us an understanding of the Prophecy given men in past Ages. They had hope in the Mssiah, but they did not understand they would save them from their sins from an eternal perspective by taking their deaths upon Himself.


    Continued...
     
  17. Darrell C

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    You are saying Henry was allegorical and spiritualized texts?

    I am full agreement with this principle, and stand with MacArthur in the view that there is simply no allegory in Scripture. Allegory is in a basic definition...a fictitious account. And while we might consider "fiction" to be employed in some parables, there is a difference between using concepts to teach and changing that teaching to something that is altogether representative. The best example is Paul's "allegory" concerning Sarah and Hagar, who were real people. The intent is to clarify the distinction between a child of promise, and he who was not. It distinguishes the distinction between Law and Grace.

    Another example is denying reality to events, making them "allegory" only. Spiritualizing a text is also dangerous, because as several have pointed out, this makes it easy to make Scripture mean what you want it to. MacArthur speaks of a sermon titled "Top Knot come down," in which using a passage from Christ's teaching (Matthew 24:17), the preacher teaches against women wearing their hair in a bun. And there is nothing whatsoever in the text relating to hair.

    But this is not being "strictly scientific," though I think most would agree interpretation is not divorced from science, and is a science in itself, employing a number of disciplines which, if we fail to employ, results in interpretations no better than our preacher who has a thing against buns, lol.


    Not sure I would have a problem with that. We can employ the principles of the Law to everyday life. For example, taking supplies from work. Nowhere in the Old Testament, that I am aware of, do we see a restriction from taking pens from work. But isn't that stealing? We don't see a restriction against speeding, but isn't that violating our command to be in subjection (to governmental authority)?

    It's when we say that the text had that in mind, and ignore the cultural context that we stray from a sound exposition.


    Not all of them, would be my guess.

    I think this is an issue that cannot be addressed in a book decrying procedure. I think there are those within these institutions that should be tossed out on the street, though. Have a friend that was a fairly conservative believer, Baptist, and went to seminary (one viewed as conservative). The end result was he has taken up a more liberal approach to Scripture. We had a discussion not long ago where he made the comment that "...we must first approach Scripture from a philosophical perspective." Can't disagree with that more.

    But, there is one more aspect to consider which I didn't see mentioned already: the perspective of the individual. We know from experience that among the groups, any group, there is not going to be an identical understanding. This is why one might sit under the teaching of a conservative fundamental teaching for years...and end up with a view that is in stark contrast to that which they sat under. We see people move from denomination to denomination, and this is most likely due to the rejection of the teaching they supposedly "received."

    So in other words, one coming out of seminary may not be expressing what they were taught, but, what they believe is how they did receive the teaching and the interpretation of that teaching is unique to themselves. This is why we see "Baptists" teaching annihilation, soul sleep, and works-based salvation.

    I have to agree with a previous member, I am just not a fan of Henry. Kind of dry. Spurgeon, Prince of Preachers, Is another one that I tend to stay away from, because while I might acknowledge him as a good preacher, I can't say that I would be in agreement with his teachings themselves. I ran across a recalling of a sermon he preached once (and have not been able to find it again) where he made the statement from the pulpit "Somebody here worked on the Sabbath," and rebuked the man, warning of God's judgment for doing so. Whether that is a true account or not, I don't know, but, reading that was just another reason not to spend my time studying his sermons.

    I feel that for all of us, we do better to investing our time in the Word of God itself, looking to our Teacher for understanding, which James writes He will give us if we ask. But proper approach to study, as I am sure you will agree, demands a few principles that, without, will result in some of the issues discussed in this thread. That doesn't mean I do not from time to time look at commentaries, but...that is not how I study. And I don't really view that as study, because it is more a search for someone who agrees with us, rather than trying to understand what the Word of God actually teaches. That is where we should invest our time, and I believe God will reward that time. The times I feel closest in Communion with God is first, when I am witnessing, and secondly, when I am in the Word.


    God bless.
     
  18. Darrell C

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    Your statement echoes the one quoted, so it would seem you understand the principle.

    God bless.
     
  19. Martin Marprelate

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    I apologize for not having contributed to my own O.P. I'm still on holiday at present and don't have access to Masters' book.

    I do however want to defend Henry and Spurgeon and other old writers. Reading them is like reading any classic book; the writers tend not to be in a hurry, the language is flowery and they call for a little more attention. But they will reward perseverance. George Whitefield, whose preaching was blessed to the salvation of thousands on both sides of the Atlantic admitted that his sermons were very largely drawn from Henry, and Spurgeon's ministry was hugely blessed over many years. His commentary on the Psalms is generally recognized as a masterpiece.

    Modern commentaries may be more helpful with the Greek, but the older commentaries bring out the meaning and they exalt Christ, which should be the object of all preaching.

    On another subject, IMO the Song of Solomon is allegory. If it isn't then it's just an ancient Hebrew sex manual, which is, alas, how some people preach it. Puritan commentaries on the SoS are wonderful! Also, we need to find Christ and redemption in the story of Joseph and his brothers. To do that a certain amount of allegory is necessary, but absolutely appropriate.[/QUOTE]
     
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  20. Yeshua1

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    Except that you also have to factor into this that sometimes there were later/fuller fulfillment of what the original hearer would see there, and that at times those who wrote down the sacred text themselves were still in some degree in the dark and ignorant to how it would be fully/totally completed/accomplished!

    Such as peter describing how at times even OT prophets were not allowed to fully understand what they were recording doewn from God unto us, as some things were still a mystery until, the appointed time for it to happen!
     

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