Skip to main content

Introducing Hermeneutical Frameworks II

In the first post in this series I laid out the four general groups into which most Christian interpreters fall on the doctrine of Scripture and how that framework affects their interpretation of texts (and vice versa). We also looked briefly at the first of these four options. Today we will look at the second option, which is the most popular among Evangelical scholars and I believe was the position of the majority of the church throughout its history (even though they generally never articulated it).

Most Evangelicals would affirm the following syllogism:

God is inerrant
The Bible is God's Word
Therefore the Bible is inerrant

Inerrancy is typically defined along the lines of, 'the Bible never affirms anything contrary to the truth' and this assumption is extended to both God and the human author.

How does this grid work in action? First, one must determine the genre of the text. The determination of the genre of the text then limits the possible interpretations. If Jonah is history, then everything in the story must be considered historical (including the fish swallowing him and Ninevah having a population of hundreds of thousands) in addition to all theological affirmations being correct. If it's not historical, then one is only bound in the area of theology. Both of these positions are equally tenable under this framework, although almost all Evangelicals affirm the historicity of Jonah and every other text that could possibly be taken as historical narrative. The big thing to see is that we have a one way street of interpretation here. The Bible is inerrant, and that controls all of our interpretation.

Some do not think that this position holds up under scrutiny. To bring up a classic example (there are many other examples that could be used), how does one deal with Mark 2:26? 'In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions' (TNIV). Abiathar was not high priest in those days. Now some have tried to get around it by saying, for example, that he was referred to as high priest by Mark because he later became high priest. While that's possible, many believe it's unlikely, and suggest that Matthew and Luke didn't interpret Mark that way, since they omitted the reference to Abiathar (assuming that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source). The most straightforward interpretation, they argue, is that Mark made a mistake and that while there are other possibilities, they are not nearly as likely.

There are two options at this point. One is to say that the syllogism above requires you to trust that Mark did not make a mistake and some other interpretation must be correct. You are even more-so required to take this stance if you assent to the standard Evangelical understanding of the nature of the inspiration of Scripture (that the inspiration extends to the very words themselves). The other option is to reconfigure our doctrine of Scripture (i.e., let what we observe in the text change our presuppositions) by redefining or rejecting inerrancy and seeing the inspiration of Scripture working in a slightly different manner. We will look at the strengths and weaknesses of two related proposals in this latter category in the next two posts.


Popular posts from this blog

Exploring the Christian Way of Life - The Identity of Jesus - Church History (Pre-Reformation) - Aquinas and Conclusion

When we reach Aquinas we come to the pinnacle of orthodoxy when it comes to the Trinity and Christology. Christology was important to Aquinas and he dedicated the first fifty-nine questions of Tertia Pars of his Summa Theologiae[1] to the topic. In many ways it is refreshing because he does not treat solely the more philosophical questions of who Jesus was that preoccupied theologians from the third century on. He also spent extended time on Jesus earthly ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification which was a major innovation.[2] Of course every possible topic of Trinitarian and ontological speculation is also probed. For the sake of space we will only hit some highlights.

Aquinas is clearly in step with the tradition that can be traced from Nicea, through Augustine and the Lombard, to the heart of the Middle Ages. One thing to briefly note is that even in his densest argumentation, Aquinas was not trying to prove elements of his theology via rational argument as that…

Exploring the Christian Way of Life - The Identity of Jesus - Church History (Pre-Reformation) - Irenaeus

Starting from Irenaeus, Christology, in some respects, moves on. A big part of this would have been due to the “gnostic” controversies. It became increasingly important to clarify the relationship between Father and Son and to minimize their distinctiveness, while still maintaining Jesus’ full humanity. From this point on, clashes over heresy about the nature of Christ and discussions related to Trinitarian theology dominate Christological discussion to the point that the original emphasis on Jesus’ Messianic identity fades to the background.[1] Maintaining the affirmation that Jesus was both human and divine was critical for Irenaeus and those after him because they saw that as the necessary grounds of salvation.[2]

Of particular interest to Irenaeus was the baptism of Jesus. What happened when he received the Spirit?[3] It was not the means by which the Word entered Jesus. He was not merely human before that point.[4] Rather it was a divinization of the human nature of Jesus, a nat…

End of Summer Review/Update

The school year is now upon us and I'll definitely not be posting the next two months. This summer didn't quite go to plan so I didn't get to do the blogging I was hoping to do. Specifically I was planning on blogging through 2 Thessalonians, but that didn't happen. It may happen late in the fall, but we will see. I may instead decide to pick up a different Pauline letter (perhaps 2 Corinthians). This is my last year of school  and by the fall of next year I should be back on a more regular blogging schedule.

A lack of blogging was not from a lack of productivity (although I'm sure my Pokemon Go playing did cut into my reading time a little bit). I've had a interesting summer learning about Medieval Christianity and specifically focusing on Peter Lombard and Thomas Aqunias. They'll both be featured in my next paper in Exploring the Christian Way which I hope to publish here in late January of 2017. 90% of the reading and 80% of the writing is done for that …