Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Crash Course in Biblical Interpretation - Pastor Gino Geraci

On February 8, Rocky Mountain Creation Fellowship's speaker was Pastor Gino Geraci of Calvary Chapel South Denver, who presented a sermon entitled “A Crash Course in Biblical Interpretation.” His guidance and inspiration were very helpful, because proper interpretation of the scriptures on origins is at the heart of the creation/evolution debate in the Church.

gino cropped
Gino began by reading the passage from Luke 25, which records the encounter of the resurrected Christ with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who at first did not recognize Him. The men were downcast, because they had hoped that Jesus was going to redeem Israel, but the rulers crucified Him. But on the third day, the women had found an empty tomb and saw an angel, who testified that He was alive! Then Jesus reproved them, saying "O foolish ones, you slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken, about how it was necessary that the Christ should suffer these things before entering into his glory.” Then (v.27), beginning at Moses and the prophets, He “expounded,” [interpreting] to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Jesus was proving from the Scripture that He was alive. It is so important, not only that we read it and reflect on it, but also that we understand it's true meaning. The disciples marveled at how their hearts burned as He led them in this Bible study, and its truth of the Resurrection: our eternal hope, the sustaining principle upon which we lean in times of trial, disease, grief and heartbreak. Gino expressed excitement in contemplating what it would be like to be at that place and that time, and Jesus shows up and confirms that the promises in the Bible are true! In v. 41, we see how the apostles could not contain their joy, when they discovered that Jesus was unmistakably alive, and again He “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” The verb translated “expounded”, or “explained” is from the Greek, hermeneuo, which means to “explain the meaning.” Theologians use the word hermeneutics to describe the art and science of biblical interpretation. Some impose their own meaning on the text (eisegesis), and some people take meaning from the text (exegesis). How do we determine the true meaning of the Biblical text? That is a debate, between two major views:

 A. The traditional view, which claims that the key to understanding any literature is to assume that the author determines the meaning and the reader's task is to discover the author’s meaning. The Bible teaches that God the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture, who use their own language in a historical setting in order to convey meaning. So the interpreter is to come to a clear understanding of the writer’s meaning. In order to do that, there is a prerequisite: A necessity to love the Truth. The fact is, the Holy Spirit in you is bearing witness to the meaning. The hearts of the two disciples began to burn within them, because they loved the Truth. What do people do when they don't honor or welcome the Truth? They deny it! Don't ever let a person say, “Look, talk to me about God, talk to me about life and death, but don't use the Bible.” It is sharper than any two-edged sword. The enemies of the Bible would like to disarm you and take away perhaps your most important tool, which is the Revelation of Truth.

B. The contemporary view. In this view, the critics maintain that it's the reader, not the author that
determines the meaning. They argue that meaning only applies as the reader interacts with the text, which excludes the author. Jesus cites the Torah and Prophets as the credible source for the information concerning the identity and mission of the Messiah. He takes Genesis, Torah and the full, collective revelation of God, and says, “This is the source of information about me.” To bring this point home, Gino gave us a one-phrase summary of all the books of the OT, which establishes how they each were a testimonial to the coming Christ. (To view this list, please refer to the appendix on our website.)

If the Bible isn't true in the beginning, how in the world can you believe it is true in the end? The Bible can never mean what it never meant. It's got to have a plan, a purpose and a message. It says God created the heaven and the earth. Therefore, it can't mean He didn't create the heavens and the earth. There is a method called the allegorical method--the idea of bringing novel meaning to the text by spiritualizing, and looking for secret, hidden meanings, even when the meaning is clearly revealed by the context of the Scripture. It was dark, it was treacherous, and it is evil. To the person who loves allegory, Jesus can be seen as teaching billions and billions of years, or even New Age. But remember, you have to bring that to the text, you can't derive it from the text. The Bible has an amazingly, clear, consistent message in spite of the long and destructive history of reading things into the Bible that don't belong there. The Golden Rule of Bible Interpretation is: “If the plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense.” Gino went through a list of 15 principles we can apply for proper interpretation; for example: Interpret each individual verse with regard to the context, evaluating the unclear by what is clear. (See list below)

So when you open up your Bible, be seekers of Truth, and allow the Bible and the Holy Spirit to do what the Bible was intended to do. God says what He means, and means what He says.

Principles of Biblical Interpretation, from Dr. R. A. Torrey’s The Importance and Value of Proper Bible Study (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1921), pp. 55-90.

1. Get absolutely right with God yourself by the absolute
surrender of your will to Him.
2. Be determined to find out just what God intended to
teach and not what you wish Him to teach.
3. Get the most accurate text.
4. Find the most exact and literal meaning of the text.
5. Note the exact force of each word used.
6. Interpret the words used in any verse according to Bible
7. Interpret the words of each author in the Bible with a
regard to the particular usage of that author.
8. Interpret individual verses with a regard to the context.
9. Interpret individual passages in the light of parallel or
related passages.
10. Interpret obscure passages in the light of passages that
are perfectly plain.
11. Interpret any passage in the Bible as those who were
addressed would have understood it.
12. Interpret what belongs to the Christian as belonging to the
Christian; what belongs to the Jew, as belonging to the
Jew, and what belongs to the Gentiles, as belonging to the
13. Interpret each writer with a view to the opinions the writer
14. Interpret poetry as poetry and interpret prose as prose.
15. The Holy Spirit is the best interpreter of the Bible.