Friday, September 5, 2014

Review of a Heavily Misapplied Hermeneutic

So many poor doctrines come from the oversimplification of and broad and indiscriminate application of an otherwise noble and sound hermeneutic, when the writers of the New Testament (the Spirit of God, really) did not adhere to the rule themselves. This is the hermeneutical rule that says that we should interpret a passage the way the original audience would have. This is particularly jeopardous when we are interpreting the OT passages and think, "Well, how would the Jews have understood it?" I am not here talking about cultural contexts where the meaning of a word or phrase was specific to that era. I am speaking of things that were specific to the Jews who were in a covenant with God and would interpret his word according to their experiences with Jehovah. What is wrong with their understanding? Why should we doubt it?
Several reasons. For one, we see new Testament usage of OT passages that are clearly alien to any OT Jewish understanding of the passage from when it was first received.  What Jew would have thought that the "seed" of Abraham was referring, not to himself and his brethren, but to the Messiah?
Secondly, the Jews, like us all were limited by the flesh; sin's effect on our ability to think. They were also spoken of in terms that describe an obstinate mind--they are stiff -necked with heard hearts.
Thirdly, Jesus purposely hid the true meaning of his words from those who were not his true disciples. (See Matt 13) Romans 11:7-10 says of the OT Jews, "What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that could not see
    and ears that could not hear,
to this very day.”
 And David says:

“May their table become a snare and a trap,
    a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
    and their backs be bent forever."
Which sets up the question, how many OT Jews were believers? The Bible does not give any indication that there were many or, necessarily more than a handful. Is this the description of people that we want interpreting God's declarations?
Given that Jesus hid the meaning of his own words from them and "God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that could not see
    and ears that could not hear,
to this very day", why should we not think that the meaning of OT passages has been hidden from them, as well? I think it is safe to assume that they were hidden but many were revealed in later canonical writings (the NT) to those who believe in Jesus.