I’ve just gone through Thingamablog on my computer, looking to see if I’ve ever written an exhaustive list of the rules of Hermeneutics. To my surprise, I’ve got several articles where I list some parts, and some articles where I list other parts.
Let’s go through the list!
- Treat every verse as literal unless the passage says otherwise. Don’t assume, as some do, that “like unto” is telling you its figurative – it’s figurative if the passage tells you shortly that someone is to give the understanding of it. Compare Daniel and the he-goats, the bear with the ribs, etc. The Bible declares its a vision, and an angel is commanded to give the interpretation. Jeremiah buries a loincloth at the riverbank, and digs it up. Is this describing the Papacy? Martin Luther? No. The passage gives the interpretation a few verses later.
- All scripture is inerrant, inspired, preserved and perfect, without error or contradiction. Get this rule in your head, and suddenly a lot of rebellion against the word of God suddenly is gone forever.
- We take what the Bible says as a whole. In other words, don’t serive your doctrine from one verse or one chapter – you really need to take what the Bible has to say on a doctrine as a whole.
- The unclear verses must give way to the clearer verses. This is a well established rule, and only cults and textual critics violate this rule. If you have 50 clear verses saying X and 3 verses saying Y, then the answer is X. Once you realize that, and examine the three verses with that understaning, you realize those three are not saying Y… they’re saying X, but giving more information about it.
- We never establish doctrine off of a ἅπαξ Hapax. Hapax is Greek for once. Any verse mentioned ONLY ONCE in the Bible we cannot make a doctrine from. Baptism for the dead. All I’m going to say.
- We never establish doctrine off of a parable. Parables, believe it or not, and despite everything you’ve heard Pastors say – are designed to CONCEAL knowledge, not make a story memorable. What is the oil in the Parable of the wise and foolish vergins? Salvation, right? So… how could the foolish virgins buy some from the wise virgins? And why could the wise ones not sell it? This kind of thinking is forcing a point, which we call “making a parable walk on all fours”.
- Avoid making doctrine from the following 4 books – Job, Lamentations, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. Remember that Job and his friends were wrong. If you take something that Bildad says and build a doctrine around it… you’ve just built an error that God specifically says is wrong.
- Treat the Bible Dispensationally. There’s a lot I could say on this. If you refuse to do this, huge amounts of the Bible are indecipherable. Once you do it, suddenly the Bible is open to you.
I’ve given examples of this repeatedly. Church – Universal or local? The answer is obvious. If you follow the rules above (not my rules, by the way) there’s only one answer, and 99% of Christianity shrinks from the answer in horror – the church is local.
Salvation – by faith or works? Follow the rules above – it’s by faith.
Is God through with the Jew? Follow the rules above, no. Not by a long shot.
Who is the 144,000 Jews? Follow the rules above, it’s easy – 144,000 Jewish evangelists. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are famous for taking this wildly out of context. I remember a JW telling me their Kingdom Hall had one of the 144,000. I asked if they were Jewish. The answer was ‘no’. I asked what mark was visible on the flesh of their forehead? The answer was “none”. I told him the supposed witness was… Biblically not one of the 144,000.
Useful tools – a topical Bible. Nave’s and Torrey’s are the two I’m used to. Torrey’s is better, but Nave’s has far more entries.
Concordance and an Interlinear. They’re built into Logos. I’m going to say this nicely, but if you’re going in the Ministry, quite simply, a good enough Bible program is not good enough. Logos, Accordance, or Bibleworks are what you need – and I really can’t recommend Bibleworks because it has so few books built in! I recommend Logos, but some people think differently, so I suggest Accordance as a backup.
If you’re going to be a pastor, then you need to take one year of Greek and one year of Hebrew – minimum. Seriously. And your Bible software has to have better language tools than just Strong’s. I can do more work in original language study in Logos in one hour than I can using a Bible software that depends on Strong’s in a month.
Logos has far more original language tools than Accordance, but you can do a lot with Accordance. If all you’ve got is $60, then Accordance Starter may be right for you. I will say this – many Bible Colleges, Seminaries and Universities require Logos Gold as the minimum starting package. The answer is obvious – you get BDAG and HALOT, two really important Greek and Hebrew tools. Vine’s is highly recommended as well. Even if you choose a free on-line Independent Baptist Seminary, you should REALLY consider getting at least Logos Bronze.
I’d do this for the year before Seminary. You’re going to undertake some serious Bible study in the year before Seminary. Why? If you were going to swim college, you’d spend countless hours in the pool building up stamina. Well, same for Bible College. Get your mind USED to rapid-fire Bible study. Start getting deep into THIS, then back out at a moments notice to search THAT. The first year of Seminary, you’re required to read the entire Old Testament and entire New Testament. At the same time, Church History, Bible Doctrine 1 & 2, Greek 1 & 2, survey of Old Testament, Survey of the Gospels and New Testament.
It’s a lot. Get used to it NOW, so you’re not getting the first month overwhelm of “I hope I can do this”. The other thing to watch out for is – around year 4, the last six months, you’re OVER IT. If you make it a habit to study, study, study… then by year 4 you’re used to it. And the year you spend in study will greatly increase your grade point average.
I wish i’d done this part better! I’d have ended up with higher than an A- average.