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The goal of all biblical interpretation is to discover the timeless, moral principle being established (“What’s the point?” [WTP]). The reason every Christian should be striving to do this is that this is how we gain or grow in our relationship with God. We do it by discovering Who He is through the principles He has established in His Word (by discovering WTP?). The bible is God’s self-disclosure: the means to understanding Him – or getting to know Him, so that we will trust Him, obey Him – and be passionate about following Him). Learning how to interpret the bible is therefore not a hobby –or something that only those who like reading books or studying grammar and history do for fun. It is again, essential to every Christian to gain and grow in their relationship w/God. Hence the reason a person’s lack of trust (or obedience) to God is often (if not always) proportional to their neglect in attempting to discover WTP? (e.g. Mat 22:29 = Sadducees’ distrust/disobedience directly tied to their failure to “understand” WTP? when it came to Scripture – and in turn, “the power of God”). To discover WTP? (however), first, requires the mental effort (and work) of understanding WGO? [“What’s going on?”]. The following represents what must be among our most basic considerations if we are to understand WGO?:

Biblical Interpretation: What’s Going On? – Part 1

Biblical Interpretation: What’s Going On? – Part 2

Who was the original audience? (it’s not you or me)

What was the culture or their cultural biases? (e.g. their view of children [as cheap labor and security] or women working outside of the home [not acceptable])

How is the word/phrase being used (or what is it associated w/) in the book? (“works of the law” [a reference to the OT clean laws versus earning our way to heaven])

How is this action or idea used elsewhere that might give additional insight into its meaning? (e.g. belief [baptism] and love [loyalty], holiness [what you tolerate]) (another example)

4.5. The idea of prophecy existing today (i.e. that the supernatural/sign gifts continue today) (e.g. Act 2:17-18). If we allow our study of this phenomenon to extend to the OT (as it should), we would realize that any person claiming to prophesy or be a prophet after 70 A.D. is false and therefore guilty of a capital crime (Deu 13) (Zec 12:2 w/13:1-3).

Am I dealing with an ancient idiom? (a stiff-necked person who urinates against the wall = a stubborn person who is male [versus female]) (another example)

(Mat 11:15) “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” = A reference to those who are welcome to God – i.e. those whose hearts are teachable and ready to submit to God’s truth (irrespective of how many “sacred cows” may have to die to do so) [sacred cows = modern idiom referring to beliefs we hold as not only true but vital to our current identity, way of life or expectations for the future. As a Christian, the only “sacred cow” we should possess are the principles established in God’s Word —since to do that means that the only sacred cow you ultimately possess is God Himself. Remember, the bible is His self-disclosure. So to understand and follow it correctly [which is what interpreting it correctly accomplishes], is to understand and follow God correctly (i.e. to possess the kind of relationship w/Him that is faithful, fruitful, satisfying, and saving).

Have I practiced attention to the details? (last week we looked at 1Ti 6:10 “love of money” versus “money” as evil, and Gal 6:2 “gentleness” in restoration, not discipline). (ANOTHER EXAMPLE in this respect)

6.3. (Mat 9:9-13): 1) Lack of attention to the details yields this interpretation = Jesus liked to hang out/have fellowship with unfaithful/flaky Christians (v10 – “many tax collectors and sinners were reclining at the table with Jesus…v11 – ‘your teaches eats with tax collectors and sinners’”). 2) Applying proper attention to the details (however) shows this to be the correct understanding = Jesus’ reason for having interaction was to “call” them (the “sinners”) back to righteousness. His purpose, therefore, was corrective – not comfort, penal – not pleasure.

Have I vetted my conclusions based on their consequences? (last week we looked at Act 2:38-39 on baptism and Gen 6:1-4 in re: to the sons of God)

(ANOTHER COUPLE OF EXAMPLES worth mentioning here – these I would distinguish from the others as “contextual vetting – meaning that the larger context of the book – or what is said later in the book [or text] is something that we need to be aware of as possible support – OR “squash factor” to what we are initially considering as our conclusion to a given text)

7.5. (Mat 7:1) = Jesus is prohibiting all forms of judgment (or condemnation) of other people.

The consequence of this understanding = I have no ability to put into practice the instruction Jesus gives 5 verses later (in verse 6 “Do not give to dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn and attack you”) since to do so requires that I judge (or identify) people as fitting in this (very condemning) category of “dogs” and “pigs”.

The correct understanding = Jesus’ injunction on judgment in verse 1 is to be understood in light of what is said in the remainder of His instruction on the subject (which extends through verse 6). This means that Jesus is not prohibiting all judgment, just wrong forms of judgment (such as hypocrisy).

7.6. (1Th 1:4 w/Eph 1:3-4) = Each individual Christian was chosen by God to be saved –and that before God even created them, which means there is no way they can lose their salvation.

The consequence of this understanding = Paul is abusing people by scaring them about things that could never happen to them (1Th 3:1-4; Eph 5:1-7).

The correct understanding = Being chosen (or saved) by God (even if it were true that this happened for every single Christian before God created everything – which is not who Paul is referring to when he says that [the “you” refers to the church – not individuals])… NONE of that (being chosen by God etc) negates the possibility of losing it through our actions. Such choosing and saving on the part of God simply heightens that responsibility seeing how gracious it is. IOW: Paul’s words are meant to motivate us in our efforts to faithfulness (“don’t screw up the amazing and merciful gift that has been afforded to you”).

Is this an allusion to something in the OT?

Allusion (def.) = A reference to previous words or actions whose meaning has bearing on what’s currently being communicated.

A large part of what is said in the New is an allusion to something in the Old (there are over 4K OT allusions in the NT. That’s over 50% of everything said in the NT). Some of those allusions are obvious but many are not. This means anytime we are reading the NT, we need to ask the question, “Is this particular set of verses (or chapters) alluding to something in the OT? And when that is the case, going back to that OT text since WGO in that OT will determine WGO in our NT text.

So many hack-job interpretations of the New Testament (think evangelicals) are the result of ignorance in this respect –or an outright refusal to believe there is any connection between what is said (or happening) in the New Testament and what has been said or happened in the Old Testament. Such is the case with evangelical pastor Charles Stanley’s evangelical pastor-son, Andy Stanley- who recently called for Christians to do away with the Old Testament. He said (and I quote)

“Jesus’ new covenant, His covenant with the nations, His covenant with you, His covenant with us, can stand on its own two nail-scarred resurrection feet. It does not need propping up by the Jewish (i.e. OT) scriptures.

The Bible (meaning again, the OT) did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created and launched Christianity. Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down. The question is, did Jesus rise from the dead? And the eyewitnesses said he did.” (And you thought I was just making this stuff up! “The evangelicals aren’t really THAT bad”)

(Some examples then of OT allusion we need to understand to properly determine WGO in the NT):


8.1. Mat 3 and 4: Jesus’ baptism and wilderness temptations. They are an allusion to Israel’s baptism in the Red Sea and wilderness wandering/testing (in Exo 14 -17 and Num 20-21).

This means that we are to interpret these actions/events as Jesus establishing the new covenant Israel (in fulfillment of Jer 31).

8.2. Mat 5: Jesus ascending the mountain/hill to give the people God’s law. These events are an allusion to Moses ascending mt. Sinai (in Exo 24) to give Israel God’s law.

This means we are to identify Jesus as the New Moses (in fulfillment of Deu 18).

8.3. (Mat 21:12-13) “house of prayer”: The fact that we are dealing w/an OT allusion sb obvious given the words, “it is written”. The words that follow come from (Isa 56:6-7) = God promises a time when the Gentiles will be allowed to come into His temple and make supplication and sacrifice (IOW: they wb received as His people).

Plugging that back into then our understanding of our text means = What Jesus is doing through His actions (of cleansing the Temple) and words about God’s house being a “house of prayer” is not a concern that there be enough quiet space in God’s house so that people can pray, but that there be space in the Temple for the Gentiles (who – like the Jews, would soon have their prayers heard by God since God was opening the way for them to become His people). Why that directly related to Jesus’ actions with the moneychangers? BC the place where they had set up shop was in the court of the Gentiles. Their actions, therefore, were a communication of just the opposite (the Gentiles are not – or will not be, welcome to God).

8.4. (Luk 5:1-9) “catching men”: An allusion to (Jer 16:16-17) = The “many fishers” (like the “many hunters”) refer to the Babylonians – who through their actions of killing and capture, would be bringing unfaithful Israel to judgment.

Plugging that back into then our understanding of our text means = Jesus is calling Peter (and the other disciples) to a ministry of judgment: of confronting and condemning unfaithful Christians/Christianity (versus winning people to Christ – which is how these Jesus words regarding “catching men” are most often translated). Paul calls us (as Christians today) to the same ministry (Eph 5:11). Notice (btw) what qualified Peter for such (an important ministry: he (first) recognized his own sin.

8.5. John 4:20-24 “neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father…for salvation is from the Jews”: An allusion to (Zec 8:23) = In the future (or under the NC to come), many Gentiles will realize that the Jewish God (the “lord of hosts in Jerusalem”) is true God and will therefore establish their own places of worship (“ten men from the nations of every tongue” – Gen 18) in accordance with – or consistent w/the religion (or salvation) of the Jews (“shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’”).

Plugging that back into then our understanding of our text means = Jesus is not only announcing that the time of the Gentiles seeking and setting up their own places of worship to God has come (“neither on this mountain nor that mountain”), but that (if they are legitimate), their religion (or salvation) will be consistent w/the already existing Jewish religion (most especially as it relates to salvation [“salvation is from the Jews”]) –versus something new—or the antithesis of what God established for the Jews (e.g. evangelicals and Andy Stanley [“Christianity does not need propping up by the Jewish (i.e. OT) scriptures. The Bible (meaning again, the OT) did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created and launched Christianity. Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down.”]; God has changed His moral requirements for salvation – our obedience is no longer necessary).