You are hereHermeneutics
by Marcus Booker
Sometimes we read and interpret the Scriptures as if it is any common body of literature; we utilize the same rules. The identical grammatical-historical method has applied equally to the exegesis of Homer and of the ancient prophets. If we are to assume, however, that sacred literature is distinct, perhaps those rules are insufficient.Sometimes we read and interpret the Scriptures as if it is any common body of literature; we utilize the same rules. The identical grammatical-historical method has applied equally to the exegesis of Homer and of the ancient prophets. If we are to assume, however, that sacred literature is distinct, perhaps those rules are insufficient.Before continuing, I will briefly be personal. Those who have a vague recollection of my presence here will remember that I abruptly disappeared from this website. As preterists, you will all be thankful to know that it was not the "rapture" that claimed me.
I left calling myself a futurist. What I meant by that self-description was more akin to what you might call a "partial preterist." I elected not, however, to use that term, inasmuch as it would have misled you. Maybe the term "idealist" would be preferable.
My foremost discovery was that there is more to the text than the surface meaning. I would even say, as discomforting as a thought as it may be, that there is more to our faith than what happened to be captured within the scant writings that have survived. [Indeed, if that were not so, then the doings of the majority of the original 12 apostles were of no consequence, not to mention all oral communication]. This view has led me to a greater respect [with caution] for early tradition and practice. Formerly, I read the text apart from any consideration of these primitive interpretations. For this reason, I adopted a modified futurism, acknowledging points of orthodoxy such as the general resurrection.
The apostolic use of prophecy, following after what I have called a midrashic tradition, purposefully goes beyond the plain meaning of the text. It is blatant. Because of this use (or seeming misuse), I cannot relegate the interpretation of the Scriptures to the grammatical-historical method alone. The apostles, for their part, do not. How can I?
The unsettling thought is that the same #1 principle that guides our lives guides our hermeneutic. That principle is uncertainty and grace. I use the two here as two sides to the same coin. I will hereafter refer to it only as grace.
Proper interpretation, like our own salvation, is not something that man can grasp for himself. Just like there are no rules for life (apart from grace) that secure us our salvation, so too do we wholly depend upon God to deliver to us enlightenment concerning the text. In both areas He imparts to us varying measures of grace. Some eyes may, via God's good gift, be more fully opened to the text. Other eyes He does not open.
Because of this inevitable reliance, our certainty about the meaning of the Scriptures must come from God. As in other areas, we may be deluded concerning that very certainty. If God chooses not to give the right interpretation to a man, nobody else will be able to give him that proper interpretation. The right rules mean nothing; they will not help the man. Imagine rules established for Daniel and Joseph for the interpretation of dreams. The only applicable rule was that the interpretation was of the LORD.
I suppose that you could say that the question isn't "how" to interpret the text. There is no "how." The question is "who?" Those who are humble before Him, God will not despise. He will open their eyes. They may not be all-knowing, but they will understand as much as they need to understand. They will be fed.
From those who are of a contrary character [oftentimes the wise, the strong, etc], God will withhold His grace. Indeed, the Scriptures themselves recount praise to God for doing this very thing.
The Preterists, as I have seen, have interpreted the text utilizing the same assumption employed by the Futurists. That assumption is singularity of meaning. In other words, you presume that there is one dimension to the text; a verse may only mean one thing.
While there is a certain convenience and [false] comfort to this method, I don't think that it accounts for #1 the apostles' Midrash, #2 the early teachings of the churches (concerning the resurrection) and #3 the mysterious and jealous character of God.