February 14, 2016


In this issue: The New Hermeneutic by J.T. Smith

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J.T. Smith, Editor Gospel Truths, April 1990

HERMENEUTICS is the science of interpretation. The word is usually applied to the explanation of written documents, and may therefore be more specifically defined as the science of interpreting an author's language." (The word hermeneutics is of Greek origin from ermeneuo, to interpret, to explain; thence adjective n ermeneutike (sc. tekene), that is, the hermeneutical art, and thence our word hermeneutics, the science or art of interpretation). (Biblical Hermeneutics, by Milton S. Terry, Page 17).

"Biblical or Sacred Hermeneutics is the science of interpreting the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments" (Ibid, page 18).

In his book on Exegetical Analysis Isaiah B. Grubbs said on page 1 under the heading Biblical Hermeneutics, "Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation, and Exegesis is the practical application of the principles of this science in ascertaining or in setting forth the meaning of a passage or a statement. These principles are founded on the laws of thought as related to verbal usage and find their justification in the dictates of common sense."

The New Hermeneutic

As is usually the case, when some new doctrine comes along those who are instrumental in its inception are not in agreement as to just how it should operate. Thus it was said by one who is promoting the new hermeneutics that we cannot accept anything from Acts to Revelation as authoritative. His reason for such a statement was, since the "canon" was not completed until about 400 A. D. the Christians who lived before that point in time could not have used the things contained therein. I wonder how he would explain the following passages. "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10). Obviously it was possible for all to speak the same things without all of the letters to the churches being assembled into the "canon." In fact, Paul told one who was not an apostle, "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained" (I Timothy 4:6). Thus teachers other than the apostles were bringing to the remembrance of the people that which was taught by the apostles. The Word was in the man until The Book was completed.

In this same connection it was said by one who was vying for the new hermeneutics that we should just follow Jesus. That is our pattern. The pattern for the church is to simply follow Jesus and do good. However, according to the above argument since Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all a part of the "canon" which was not completed until 400 A. D., if those who lived before that time could not follow what was written from Acts to Revelation, how could they have followed what the gospel's taught about Jesus?

Let's just assume for a moment that the above position is true. (It is not, but for argument's sake, let's say it is). Just because those before 400 A. D. could not be guided by it, what does that have to do with us today? We have it, we must be guided by it. If the position were true regarding those before 400 A. D., then what happens to them is God's business. We do have the "canon."

Another point regarding the new hermeneutics is that of rejecting any distinction between the Christian and what he can do and the church and what it can do. Thus the social gospel concept. Since all forms of institutionalism and recreation are good works for the Christian, then they would also be good works for the church. In view of such division on hermeneutics, the following is inevitable.

God's Rules For Establishing Bible Authority

In order for all mankind to be able to agree on what the Bible teaches, there are some attitudes that one must possess. First of all we must all agree that the Bible contains all truth. We must also agree that this truth is absolute. Some say, "I believe the Bible is the truth, but I do not believe it is contains all the truth in religion." But if we believe the Bible, we must believe it contains "...all things that pertain to life and godliness..." (II Peter 1:3). Also, Jesus told His apostles that the Holy Spirit would come and "...guide them into all truth..." (John 16:13). Now did Christ actually mean that they would receive all truth? That is what He said. If He did not mean what He said, what did He mean?

Also, in connection with this same point, the question arises "is the truth found in the Bible absolute?" I know many who claim they believe that which is taught in the Bible is truth. However, they believe that all truth is relative. It may mean one thing to me and another to you. But again, that is not what the Bible says. "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10). If truth is relative, how could Paul's admonition be true? Two could never walk together if truth is not absolute, for they could never agree. Yet we know that Amos said, in order for two to walk together they must agree (Amos 3:3). When one vehemently denies that the Truth of God's Word is absolute, I am always made to wonder if what the person is saying is the absolute truth!

Do We Recognize God's Word As Infallible?

Webster defines the word infallible as, "free from error: that cannot be mistaken." Unless we believe that God has given us a book free from error, we cannot accept the Bible as being our perfect guide. With an attitude of this kind, it is easy to see why some have changed God's ways so they are less objectionable to the world. But God said, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8).

Accept It As All-Sufficient

No man or organization can be held responsible for doing God's bidding unless a sufficient guide or pattern has been given unto them. Paul said in II Timothy 3:16-17 that the Scriptures completely furnish us unto every good work. Now, did Paul tell the truth or not? I believe he told the truth. But if we do not accept the Bible as all-sufficient, then who will provide us with sufficiency in religion? If it is sufficient, we must:

Be Determined To Be Guided By It

If we are not willing to be guided by the Bible, we have no place in the kingdom of God. We need to have the attitude of Samuel of old, "Speak Lord, thy servant heareth." Christ said, "'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free'" (John 8:32). "Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth..." (I Peter 1:21). Christ is truth, His Word is truth, and through our obedience to truth we are made free from sin. To be united in truth, we must all be guided by His Word. Thus we must determine to honestly desire and work for peace and unity. All unity must be based upon truth, and the only truth we have in religious matters comes from the Word of God. Yes, division is condemned in the Word of God. There is one thing worse than division - unity in error.

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