The word hermeneutics has been generally reserved for college classrooms, but
in recent years has become popular with many brethren. It means “the art
or science of the interpretation of literature” (Webster). The Greek
word “hermeneuo” is defined as, “(cp. Hermes, the name of the pagan god
Mercury, who was regarded as the messenger of the gods), denotes to
explain, interpret (Eng., hermeneutics)” (W.E. Vine). A strengthened
form of it is found in Luke 24:27. Jesus “expounded to
them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” It simply
refers to the principles by which we interpret, explain or expound the
Those who are
calling for a new hermeneutic are saying they do not believe the
methods of interpretation we have used are correct. The appeal to
precept, example and necessary inference should be discarded and we
should look for another way of understanding Biblical authority. Some
say we should “study the life of Jesus and do what we feel He would do
in the situation.” It seems strange that people who profess to follow
Jesus would suggest a standard that He neither suggested nor
exemplified. If we are to follow the example of Jesus, surely that would
include following His example in how to establish God’s Biblical
temptation of Jesus, He appealed to the word of God. When the devil
said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become
bread,” Jesus responded, “It is written Man shall not live by bread
alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt.
4:3,4). When the tempter quoted Scripture (Ps. 91:11, 12),
Jesus countered by saying, “It is written again, You shall not tempt the
Lord your God” (Mt. 4:7). To the third temptation, Jesus said,
“Away with you Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your
God, and Him only you shall serve” (Mt.
If I understand the example of Jesus, He taught us to act only by the
authority of God, to accept everything He said, not just a text out of
context. That does not sound like some subjective feeling of what God
might want us to do in a certain situation.
precepts (commands or statements of fact) when He was asked about the
Father’s will. A lawyer wanted to know what to do to inherit eternal
life, and Jesus said “What is written in the law? What is your reading
(Lk. 10:26). The lawyer quoted God’s words as revealed through
Moses, and Jesus said, “You have answered rightly, do this and you will
live” (Lk. 10:28).
When the Pharisees asked Him about divorce, he quoted Genesis
and concluded, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man
separate” (Mt. 19:6). The Pharisees objected to His application
of that passage and tried to circumvent it by appealing to what Moses
permitted, but Jesus insisted that the statement of Genesis 2:24
revealed God’s intention for men.
appealed to examples in the Old Testament and taught His disciples to
follow them. Certain scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus to show them
other signs, but He said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after
a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet
Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the
great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the
heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise in the judgment with
this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching
of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the
South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it,
for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and indeed a greater than Solomon is here” (Mt. 12:39-42).
Jesus used three examples (Jonah, Nineveh, and the Queen of Sheba) to
teach them that they needed to listen to His teaching!
demonstrating humility, in the washing of His disciples’ feet, Jesus
said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also
ought to wash one another’s feet” (Jn.
Not only did He give them an example, he commanded them to follow it!
Those who say we do not learn from examples are not following the
example of Jesus. In fact, even the commands in Scripture come to us
established authority through necessary inference. The Sadducees thought
they had Jesus in a dilemma because of the woman who had been married to
seven brothers, but Jesus said, “You are mistaken, not knowing the
Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither
marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.
But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was
spoken to you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living”
The example of God speaking to Moses from the burning bush (Ex. 3:6),
necessarily implied that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob continued to exist,
therefore the Sadducees were wrong about their doctrine. Again, at the
end of the chapter, Jesus drew a necessary inference from David’s
statement, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on My right hand, Till I make
Your enemies Your footstool” (Mt. 22:44; Ps. 110:1). He
concluded, “If David then calls Him Lord, how is He his Son?” (Mt.
22:45). They had no answer, because they could not deny the
necessary implication in the Scripture.
Yes, we should
follow the example of Jesus, but that should include His example of
respect for precept, example and necessary inference. Jesus never told
anyone to study the life of Moses and do what he felt Moses would do
under your circumstance. He quoted precepts and examples from God’s word
and drew necessary conclusions. Those who say we should study the life
of Jesus and do what we feel He would do, are not following Jesus.
(This is the first
article in a four part series on hermeneutics.)