By Frank Jamerson
The word “hermeneutics” has been generally left to the classrooms by brethren. Many know what is it, but not by that name! During the Florida College lectures this year, one of the speakers kept talking about the “new hermeneutic, ” and a friend standing near me, leaned over and said, “What is that?” I explained that it is just principles of interpreting the Scripture. After the speaker had made a few more references to it, my friend handed me a pencil and piece of paper and said “write it down.
Those who are calling for “a new hermeneutic” are simply saying that they do not believe that the methods of interpretation we have used are correct. The appeal to commands, examples and necessary inferences should be discarded and we should look at the example of Jesus and do whatever we think he would do in a situation. It seems strange to me that brethren would claim to follow the example of Jesus in some areas, but not accept his example in how to establish authority. If we are to follow the examples of Jesus, surely that would include his methods of teaching, or establishing authority.
In every temptation, Jesus appealed to the word of God. When the devil said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones become bread,” Jesus responded, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:3,4). When the tempter quoted Scripture, Jesus countered by saying, “Again, it is written. . . ” (v. 7). To the third temptation, Jesus said, “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (v. 10). If I understand the examples of Jesus, he taught us to act only by the authority of God, to accept everything God said on a subject and that the practical application of Scripture is to show us how to worship and serve God. That does not sound like some subjective feeling of what God might want us to do in a certain situation.
Jesus used commands or statements of fact when he was asked about the Father’s will. When a lawyer asked him about what to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus said, “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” (Lk. 10:26) The lawyer quoted God’s words and Jesus said, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live” (v. 28). When the Pharisees asked him about divorce, he quoted Genesis 2:24 and concluded, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). The Pharisees objected to his application of that passage and tried to circumvent it by appealing to what Moses had permitted, but Jesus insisted that the statement and his conclusions applied to everyone who married. The eunuchs did not “receive it” because they would not be considered subjects of marriage, but it applied to everyone else.
Jesus appealed to examples in the Old Testament and also taught his disciples to follow his examples. Certain scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign, but he said, they had the sign (example) of Jonah, Nineveh and the queen of the South and those were sufficient to show them that they should listen to him. After his great display of humility, the washing of the disciples’ feet, Jesus said, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (Jn. 13:14). This is not only an example, but a command to follow it!
Jesus also established truth through necessary inference. The Sadducees thought they had Jesus in a dilemma because of the woman who had been married to seven brothers, but Jesus said: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. . . But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitudes heard it, they were astonished at his teaching” (Matt. 22:29-33). The example in Exodus 3:6 had a necessary implication, which people could see. Again, in the latter part of the chapter, Jesus used a necessary inference, from a statement of fact, when he asked the Pharisees how he could be just the Son of David, if David had called him Lord (Matt. 22:41-46).
Yes, I agree that we should follow the example of Jesus, but that should include his example of respect for Scripture and the proper use of it. Jesus never told people to follow what they thought Moses might do under a certain situation; he quoted what Moses said! Those who tell people to do what they think Jesus would do are not following the example of Jesus.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 15, p. 462
August 2, 1990