The Church Must Practice a Jesus Hermeneutic
her⋅me⋅neu⋅tics [hur-muh-noo-tiks, -nyoo-] –noun (used with a singular verb )
1. the science of interpretation, esp. of the Scriptures.
2. the branch of theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis.
The longer I’m a follower of Jesus the more surprised I am when I discover that there are other followers who prefer the book to “Ecce Homo”. I suppose it shouldn’t shock me, given that I went to study at a school with “Bible” in its’ name. Halfway through my time there the school changed its’ name and removed “Bible” to replace it with “Christian”. The uproar! I complained as loudly as anyone.
Fast forward to today and I guess I’ve changed a lot from that guy I was then. I can imagine the names I would have used to describe a guy like me now when I was a guy like then.
Ego: Like liberal? Or how about heretic?
CV: Ah, good old Ego, you never disappoint.
E: Indeed I don’t!
CV: Urm, I mean you’re predictable.
E: Like the sunrise and sunset.
CV: I was thinking more like gas after eating sauerkraut on my sausage.
E: So you’re against the Bible now?
CV: No E, I’m just saying that somewhere along the line we stopped following Jesus and started following a book.
E: I can see the book. I can read the book. I own multiple copies of the book. I can use the book to show others they are wrong. Tell me the flaw in that system?
CV: God didn’t send a book, He sent a son.
E: Your point?
CV: He could’ve sent a book. The Old Covenant was a book – a message – written down, passed along. When God wanted to be clear and reveal what he’s really like he sent his son – the clearest, most perfect picture of what God is really like.
E: Where’d you get a crazy idea like that?
CV: It’s in the book.
E: Oh, urm, right, I knew that.
CV: The problem is that we all know that E, all of us who take the book seriously anyway. We just forget it and take the book way more seriously than we do the person and relationship that the book’s message tells us about.
E: Pretty sure I’m not following you.
CV: Well, there have been huge discussions I’ve been involved with where people who follow Jesus will pull out scenes from the Old Covenant and insist that this is what God is really like. Often it involves violence, war, smiting the enemy, the wrath of God stuff.
E: Those are some of the best parts!
CV: Right. Well, in the story of Jesus it’s exactly that sort of application that some of the disciples want to use when they’re rejected by some Samaritans…generally perceived as bad people anyway…and ask Jesus if it’s time to call down lightning bolts to punish these folks. They clearly “got” the Old Covenant – Testament – whichever term you prefer.
E: I like Testament ‘cause that’s what it says in my Bible.
CV: O.K. In that setting, what was Jesus’ response E? Did he tell the lightning bolts to “come on down!”?
E: No, he, um, I’d have to look that up…
CV: You know exactly what he said. He said, “No.” The book says he rebuked them.
E: I don’t like the sound of that.
CV: The thing is, there’s a lot of stuff in the Old Testament that isn’t like Jesus. We need to understand as followers of Jesus that we need to read those things through that lens. People do horrible things in the name of God, but when we see who Jesus is and what he’s really like we can sort out the difference between people doing bad things and God being schizophrenic.
E: So the Old Testament isn’t true?
CV: What I’m saying is that the Old Testament was not an accurate portrayal of God or what he’s like: at least, if the book is to be believed when it says as much in the New Testament. In the Old Testament God made many concessions.
E: My God doesn’t make concessions for anyone!
CV: Then you haven’t read the Old Testament, have ignored it or you’re following a different God than the one in the book.
E: When did God ever make a concession?
CV: How many wives are we supposed to have?
E: Ha! I know this one! One!
CV: And starting with the sons of Abraham, how did that go?
E: Oh, um, well, there were some, um, multiple wives deals there I guess…
CV: No, you know there were. How about David, a man after God’s own heart…how many wives for him or for his son Solomon who was the “wisest” man in town?
E: eh, well…multiple.
CV: No instant judgment? No lightning bolts?
E: I’ll have to re-read that and see what you’ve missed…
CV: What about a king over Israel while we’re on that topic. Was that God’s idea?
E: Um, no, he wanted to be their king.
E: He wanted to be their king!
CV: Did he concede the point and let them do what they wanted?
E: So do you think the 7 weeks in Daniel is to be taken literally or figuratively?
CV: E, you’re trying to change the subject…
E: I’m done with this talk for today, I need to go get some books from the library to show you you’re wrong…
CV: O.K. E, I’ll wait, let me know what you find out.