Hermen who? What Biblical Interpretation?


Recently, I read a blog post that disturbed me. This is what it said:

    Determining the method of Hermeneutics or method of interpretation is fundamental in the study of the Bible and Theology. Since the Bible is subject to literal and metaphorical interpretation, we are given two options either to be literal or metaphorical. There is no middle ground to determine what is right and wrong. One who studies theology should have his ground to stand on and must be ready to give an answer when in question.

This post disturbed me because it makes big assumptions about what is fundamental and what choices we have as to how to interpret Scripture. However, it’s interesting that the author assumes only one. The author is coming from a Greek orientation (epistemology) and worldview that claims the answer to the problem must be this or that.

This approach is problematic because the Bible was not written from a Greek or Western worldview, but from a Hebrew one. In the Hebrew worldview, the answer does not have to be this or that. It’s startling that the author to this post doesn’t recognize that his perspective is influenced by his Greek orientation. He doesn’t allow for anything but his own view. He is obviously unaware of the Hebrew worldview that could allow both literal and metaphorical interpretation of the text at the same time.

The author grounds his opinion in the last two sentences above. “There is NO middle ground to determine what is right and what is wrong.” “One who studies theology should have his ground to stand on and must be ready to give an answer when in question.”

I believe that the author is projecting his own Greek worldview need onto a Hebrew worldview that does not see things the way he does. So why should we look at the Hebrew worldview? Well, for one thing we worship Jesus (not His real name) who was a Jew, raised in Jewish tradition, who ascribed to the Hebrew worldview and not the Greek one.

It was Yeshua who used both literal and metaphorical ideas in His statements and parables. He used the methods of the Second Temple Period Rabbis. Yeshua turned many phrases that used both Greek and Hebrew idioms, and if taken literally (like raining cats and dogs) could change the meaning of the text significantly.

Additionally, Paul (or Sha’ul), a rabbi who studied under Gamaliel, was not a Greek at heart; he was a Jew. While he had an excellent understanding of the Greek language and both the Greek and Roman civilizations, to be a Jew is not just a nationality; it is a life. This is evident in the idioms, practices, and categories that Paul uses to describe his theology. He is far from just literal. In fact, Paul would not use a Greek understanding of rightly dividing the word of truth as is mentioned in the blog post (2Tim 2:15). He would use Hillel’s Seven Principles of Biblical Interpretation which are far from the blog author’s view of Hermeneutics or Biblical Interpretation.

I am not saying this author knows nothing, and I certainly don’t know a whole lot. However, what I do know is that we cannot just take the Greek or Western way of understanding reality and superimpose it on a people and a God who did not endorse our western worldview. That is an anachronistic error.

The Jews are God’s people; we are grafted into them; they are not grafted into us. I am learning, however slowly, that we have done much damage to the Word of God by not understanding its roots. In our imperialism, we have ripped the New Testament from its Old Testament foundation, and by doing that, we have rendered it rootless. Something uprooted, and not connected to its life-giving source is useless. So what do we do now?

I would suggest to the author that he begin to look at the Hebrew foundations for the Bible. Jesus quoted the Old Testament saying that not a jot or a tittle will pass away until all is fulfilled. What does that mean? What kind of idioms are in that statement? Do the idioms mean something different in Hebrew than they do in English? You bet they do?

How do Jesus and Paul’s Jewish origins affect what they say? How can we know what He really means?


I have a few resources for you….

http://www.hebrew4christians.com/index.html  Hebrew for Christians 

www.eshavbooks.com A Series called “The Essentials”

www.skipmoen.com     Sign up for the free Newsletter on 30 Days to a Hebrew Worldview!


These resources will open your mind on the Bible and how God is speaking to you!


See Ya Next Time



Study Helps:

  1. Read 2Timothy 2:15
  2. Paraphrase the meaning in your own language.
  3. Reread the verse and Identify those words or phrases that might be idioms
  4. Go to http://skipmoen.com/2009/09/06/as-greek-as-it-gets/ and read the article “As Greek as it Gets.”
  5. Using Hillel’s 7 Principles for Biblical Interpretation, quoted below from “Meet the Rabbi’s” by Brad H. Young and Skip Moen’s blog find the different ways you can understand this verse. How do they differ from #2 above?

    1. Kal va-chomer (simple and complex, literally “light and heavy”) – reasoning from something known to something less known, from something obvious to something less obvious. This principle often employs the phrase “how much more.” You can see this principle at work in Yeshua’s statements about a father who gives to his son (Matthew 7:9-11) If an earthly father knows how to give good gifts, how much more will your heavenly Father know what to give.

    2. Gezerah shavah (“equally cut”) – reasoning from an analogy of inference from one verse to another. A similarity in one passage is connected to the similarity in another passage.

    3. Binyan av mikatuv echad (“building a teaching principle based on a verse”) – reasoning from a verse to a main proposition. In other words, finding a larger principle on the basis of a verse.

    4. Binyan av mishnaic ketuvim (“building a teaching principle based on two verses”) – reasoning from two verses to a larger principle.

    5. Kelal uferat-perat vekelal (“general and specific-specific and general”) – teaching from a general principle to a specific application, or from a specific application to a general principle.

    6. Keyotza bo bamakom acher (“as comes from it in another place”) – teaching based on what is similar in another passage.

    7. Devar halamed meinyano (“a word that is learned from its own issue”) – something that is learned from its own subject.

8. What did you learn today? What will you do now?


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