Hermeneutics.

If you’ve been around the church for a while, you know this word hermeneutics just means how you read and interpret the Bible. One specific thing I’ve found is that you always need to take all the scripture into account. The best way to study it is to read it in whole sections as it was written, not just a few verses at someone’s Bible study. If you read it in whole sections, then in time, after reading thru it a few times (New Testament only at first is okay), the Bible is fairly easy to understand to a person with a sincere heart and conscience, with no allegiance to a particular group, and therefore a truly open mind. God will lead us with our sincere conscience. We’ll eventually naturally obey the clear scriptures and important ideas. And it’s critical to keep this core as the top priority: Love God (which means abhor evil which is clear in the Bible) and love others. Jesus said in Matthew 22:40 that all the scriptures are summed up in these two. And the issues that are the clearest in the Bible also hit the conscience the clearest: lust, immorality, hate, murder, gossip, jealousy, coveting, greed, etc. The Bible also says in Philippians 3:12-16 below that God will keep us safe as we’re on this journey of seeking the truth, even if we believe something in error for a while, if we sincerely seek Him. That’s the important part. 

 

12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. Philippians 3:12-16

 

God has wisely made sure all the important issues are very well defined in large portions of clear scriptures. But if we start trying to make ridged dogmatic absolute doctrines from isolated individual verses that don’t fit with other verses, then it’ll cause conflict, especially if we feel strongly that we need to convince other Christians. Then it causes detailed examination of these scriptures and balancing them to other scriptures and back and forth debate. Paul actually tells us not to do this after two times (Titus 3:10).

 

The Bible is unfortunately easy to misunderstand or misuse when you only take a few verses from different places. And all the denominations (good or bad) and cults do this. They all have their “pet verses”. Some churches will simply say they think this is how something is based on these verses, but not be dogmatic on it or make it a salvation issue. Other churches will take it up a notch and feel strongly about a topic and argue their verses with others, saying their church is more correct (trying to win people to their church), but that others are correct if they adhere to the essentials (e.g. Jesus being the only way to God). And then for comparison, on the far extreme, cults will say they are the only true church, and all others are going to hell. They tend to take the most obscure ideas from scriptures that are unique to their group, so they can claim to be the only ones in the right. After all, how can you claim to be the only true church because, for example, you believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven. No, almost all churches believe that, so you need some unique doctrine that the other churches don’t have. And unfortunately, the Bible wasn’t written like a legal document (it would be at least 10x the size) and was meant to be interpreted with common sense. So there are plenty of unclear doctrines for all the churches to pick their own unique ones, to one degree of exclusivity or another. The cults seem to be the most ardent, divisive, and argumentative about theirs. The focus is often more on winning disciples to their church than to God.

 

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Acts 20:29,30

 

I started jotting down all the verses that can be misunderstood. I’ll update as I go thru but just up to Matthew 24 there are 12. And they are serious things like teaching reincarnation, predestination, Gentiles are dogs, and keeping the Old Testament law. That’s every other chapter. This shows why there are so many disagreements within Christianity and why it’s so important to look for clear consistent scripture and be careful with using a few verses. Interpret isolated confusing scriptures with a larger number of clearer and agreeing scriptures. 

(Hover over the links on a PC or click them on a phone to reveal the scripture in a pop-up window.)

Matthew 5:17-20 and Matthew 24:20:  These scriptures make it sound like we should keep the Old Testament (OT) down to the very smallest detail. But it just says the smallest detail won’t pass away so it’s unclear. We have to read elsewhere in Acts 15 that the Gentiles clearly don’t have to keep the OT Law, though the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2, 1 Corinthians 9:21) is even more righteous because it deals with inward thoughts. For the Jews it’s less clear. Matthew 5:20 (Matthew is written to the Jews) indicates that they should keep the OT law in that their righteousness should surpass the OT law, and no ceremonial laws are mentioned. In fact they couldn’t keep many of the ceremonial laws after 70 A.D. when their temple was destroyed. So it could be this same Law of Christ applies to them, one that is stronger except ceremonial laws. The examples Jesus then gives are consistent with this. Matthew 24:20 however seems to indicate they should be keeping the Sabbath at His return. Only Matthew mentions this, so maybe the Jews should still keep the sabbath. This is consistent with Exodus 31:16 which clearly says this Sabbath commandment was to the Jews. There are other verses in the New Testament that fit with this also, indicating that the Gentiles don’t need to keep the sabbath (e.g. Colossians 2). But others will point out Old Testament verses that say all peoples will keep sabbaths and certain Holy days during the 1000-year reign of Christ (and this could be true but doesn’t change what the Gentiles were told in Acts 15), ignore this distinction of Matthew applying to the Jews, and (most importantly) ignore this very clear teaching in Acts 15. So they say the Gentiles should keep the Sabbath. So this is still hotly debated by these people.  

 

Matthew 10:5-23. Vs 10 says not to go to the gentiles and vs 23 can be over interpreted to say this applies until Jesus comes back. This should be understood as talking to the disciples only and they should go only to the Jews at that time (as Jesus also did). Verse 23 does say that His disciples would still be doing this when He comes back, but it doesn’t say they can’t also go into all nations as he clearly states at His ascension (Matthew 28:19).

 

Matthew 10:42. The “reward” is unclear. It can be mis-interpreted to say if you give a disciple a glass of cold water you can go to heaven, but it probably means some other kind of “reward” since such a simple entrance to heaven is contrary to many scriptures.

 

Matthew 11:14 and Matthew 17:11-13: This is clearly saying John the Baptist was Elijah. Reincarnation?? No, in the Bible the concept of a proxy seems to be really strong. If you send someone on your behalf then it can be said that you came to them. John seems to be Elijah’s proxy. This can be totally misunderstood if you don’t know all scripture to understand this proxy idea, and that there is no teaching on someone being reincarnated as someone else. However, people are indeed resurrected to live as themselves as Moses and Elijah do come back to visit Jesus, and are probably the ones to come back during the final tribulation in Revelation. This proxy system may also be in play in John 3:22 where it says Jesus baptized, but John 4:2 clarifies that it was actually his disciples. They may have been his proxy, or it could be that Jesus started out baptizing people and then let his disciples take over later as he spent more time preaching.

 

Matthew 11:25-28 and Matthew 13:13-17: These can be misinterpreted to support predestination, that God only chooses some people, which contradicts 2 Peter 3:9 and even Matthew 11:28 (“ALL who are weary”). The parables of Matthew 13:10-17 and Matthew 25:14-30 teach that if you respond to the truth you’re given then you’ll get more guidance, but if you reject what you get, you’ll have even less understanding, all the way to the point of being hardened. Here in Matthew 11:25-28 Jesus had just rebuked the towns that rejected his truth and clear miracles and how terrible it will be for them. Proud people never respond, and often times, but not always, this is the case with the professional religious people. He then praised God for revealing it in such a simple way that the humble children understood it.

 

 

Matthew 15:26: gentiles are dogs? Does God look at the Gentiles as dogs, compared to the children of Israel is His children? Israel does have a special place in His heart, but we know from other scriptures that God loves all people and told his disciples to go into all the world. Colossians 3:11-12 says there is no difference in the races but we’re all one dearly loved people. Revelation talks about people from every tongue tribe and nation being there. So we know from other scripture that this was just a verse to test her humility. She passed! But without looking at other scripture we’d certainly get the wrong idea here.

 

Matthew 16:5-8: perfect example of Jesus using a symbolic word swap and even the disciples misunderstood it. A little humorous.

 

Matthew 16:28: people use this verse to say that Jesus’ second coming happened within the first generation. But in each gospel the powerful transfiguration occurs next so it must be talking about that. There are many things that haven’t been fulfilled yet that must happen before his 2nd coming (though of course this is debated). Matthew 25:5,19 seem to indicate his 2nd coming would be a long time.   

Matthew 23:9: You can’t call anyone father. In context it’s referring to spiritual leaders only. 

 

So this is just a sampling of why it’s important to read thru the whole Bible and let large groups of agreeing scriptures clarify outlying unclear scriptures. This is in work, more to come. Check back later. Ps, another tactic of denominations/cults is to insert new ideas into silent areas that the Bible doesn’t expressly contradict. Then we can’t prove that these things are false. Just to show how this works let me make up an absurd example (I don’t believe this). It’s like me adding a new “interpretation” that when Christians die they go live on the moon for a period of time. I could confidently assert that this is what the Bible meant when it refers to the “great host of witnesses” in the “heavenly realms” that is used several times in the book of Ephesians (1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). You see how you can’t prove by scripture that I’m wrong – it’s silent on this.