Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Role of the Reformataion and Martin Luther in Biblical Interpretatioin

Consider the history of biblical interpretation and choose 1 time period and 1 person whose method offers the most promise for attaining a clear interpretation of Scripture today. Be sure to identify the person and the method with special focus on how that method aids a modern interpreter in understanding Scripture.

            There were many times and men who did a lot of good things for hermeneutics. However, the one time that stood out in my mind was that of the Reformation and the man himself Martin Luther. Martin Luther is known for many things, but his most famous acclaim in my opinion is his principle of sola scriptura (Scripture alone). What this basically means is that Scripture is our highest authority. We do not look for a greater truth than what can be found in Scripture.  Klein believes, “…Martin Luther was one of two figures whose careful exegesis aligned the best of the medieval approach with the new ecclesiastical reality of the sixteenth century and led Christian hermeneutics into new paths.”[1] Luther believed that Scripture was the only divine authority for Christians.[2]
            Secondly “Luther followed those medievalists who rejected the allegorical method of interpretation because in his view, it amounted to empty speculation. Instead, with Aquinas he affirmed that Scripture had one simple meaning, its historical sense.”[3]And he is correct while the allegorical method does give us more open interpretation it is too subjective. But he is also wrong in saying that the only correct understanding is the historical sense. The best thing Luther did was reinforce the need to read the Bible in a Christocentric nature, that is seeing Christ in the whole Bible meaning both the Old Testament and New Testament. It is said that he took up the typological interpretation of the NT.[4]
            Most of the reformers rejected allegory in exchange for the simpler understanding of what the Scripture was actually saying. It is with this method we have the start of what is now modern exegesis. Had we stuck to the old manner we would no longer cared about what the text meant to those in history but only what sense we could make of it. Depending on what school you came from there are two, three or four parts to the allegorical method.
            With Luther’s method it would allow us to develop things like the historical critical method of understanding Scripture. Which in turn allows us to have a clearer view of what the Scriptures are actually trying to say and then it allows us the opportunity to then transform it into points of application. Without understanding what the author had originally intended we run the risk of interpreting the Bible according to our own whims and desires.


Duvall, J. Scott, and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God's Word 2nd edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.
Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All its Worth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.
Klien, WIlliam W., and Craig L. and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. Blomberg. Introduction to Biblical Interpretatioin. Nahsville: Thomas Nelson, 2004.

            [1] WIlliam W., Klien, andBlomberg Craig L. and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpretatioin. (Nahsville: Thomas Nelson, 2004)47

            [2] Ibid., 47.
            [3] Ibid., 47.
            [4] Ibid., 47.

The Easiest and Most Difficult Challenges to good Hermenuetics

Four challenges for Bible interpretation are listed in your text—the distance of time, cultural distance, geographical distance, and distance of language. Offer an argument for which challenge is the easiest to overcome and which is the most difficult. Be sure to define the challenge and to identify clearly the problems inherent in it.

This is not any easy topic to approach. Each one of the distances offers its own unique challenges. If I had the option I would group two of them together and make it one, which are the distances, geographical and cultural distance.
            As I compare what these differences are not one jumps out as the forerunner as the hardest bridge to cross. In having to choose one as the easiest to get past would be time. Now hear me out before you start saying to yourself “Paul your crazy, time is one of the harder ones to settle up with.” The reason I chose time is when you think about it even the readers of the OT had to deal with the challenge of time when they were reading. According to Klein,  “Another time span that must be considered in interpreting the Bible involves the gaps that existed—more or less in various places—between the time the Bible events occurred and the time when those events were actually written down in the texts we now possess.”[1]Since we now understand that time has been an issue for all generations of Bible readers we can see that we are not unique. When dealing with the issue of time should it change how we read the Bible? The answer to that question is yes and no. We should try and understand where the original author is writing from and who he is writing to, but it should make us appreciate the Word that much more.
            The difference I think is the hardest for us to deal with is the distance of culture, while I want to say language I think we have some extremely talented men and women who have been blessed with the ability to translate. However, what does not always translate is culture. We live in a world where there is technology coming out of the wah-zoo, most of us are not living how people lived hundreds or thousands of years ago. This offers us a very difficult bridge to cross seeing that, “The biblical world was essentially agrarian, made up of land owners and tenant farmers using machinery that was primitive by our standards and methods of travel that were slow and weary.”[2]  When you think of an Inn you probably first off think of some nice hotel with a row of rooms with nice comfortable beds with cushy pillows.  Most inns were primitive shelters for people and their animals.  Also, as Klein points out, “…in the West individualism is so pervades our thinking that even in the Church we encounter interpretations that focus on individuals and never think about testing whether the text may actually have more corporate intentions.”[3] Once we can begin to learn more about the culture the Bible takes place in we can begin grasping the deeper meaning behind the words and they will no longer just be words on a page but they will come to life.


Duvall, J. Scott, and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God's Word 2nd edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.
Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All its Worth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.
Klien, WIlliam W., and Craig L. and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. Blomberg. Introduction to Biblical Interpretatioin. Nahsville: Thomas Nelson, 2004.

            [1] WIlliam W., Klien, andBlomberg Craig L. and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpretatioin. (Nahsville: Thomas Nelson, 2004)13.

            [2] Ibid., 15
            [3] Ibid., 15

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Events That Helped Shape the Reformation

While to some it may seem as though the reformation was brought on by the singular act of Martin Luther nailing his 95 thesis to the door of the church in Wittenberg, that is not the case. It starts further back, say to just after the church was divided by what we know as the Great Schism; this is where there we two even up to three popes at one time.[1] To top off all that was going on with the Great Schism, the rest of the papal system was corrupt. The leaders of the church had begun buying their way into leadership, which lead to a decline in the care of the Word of God. Things had gotten so bad that,  “The commitment to learning for which monastic houses had been famous also declined, and the educational requirements for the local clergy fell to practically nil.”[2]
            What came next is now known as the Spanish Inquisition. The inquisition took place under the orders of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain. There was a Dominican friar named Tomas de Torquemada, put in charge of leading the inquisition due to his strong love for orthodoxy.[3] It would be under these leaders that Spain would try to convert by force, Jews and Moors (Muslims). They would use tactics that would be highly frowned upon by most any society. According to Gonzalez, “The means of torture use during the Inquisition, and the manner in which it was exploited for political reasons as well as for personal gain and vengeance, are well known, and their memory would long survive as a prime example of the dangers and consequences of religious extremism and obscurantism.”[4]
            The next key movement that helped move forward the reformation was the rise of the humanist movement and its recognized leader, Desiderius Erasmus. Erasmus was a man who believed more in righteousness than in orthodoxy, not to say he did not believe in orthodoxy, he just believed in righteous living more. He was not pleased with friars who could argue the finer points of theology, but their lives were filled with scandal.[5] Erasmus wanted to see things change so that those teaching were practicing what they preached.     
            The study of church history should make a difference in my ministry by allowing me to see what the men and women of the past have had to go through for me to have the freedom’s that I now posses. It is by studying church history that I can learn what to do and what not to do. The biggest application point that I think I can take away from church history is to be true to Scripture no matter what others around me may be doing. I have to remain faithful to the Word of God and by doing that I will be doing what those who fought in the reformation fought and died for, and that is the right to interpret the Bible the way that it was intended. It is my hope to use the rights and freedoms earned throughout the centuries to the best of my ability, and to the glory of God.

            [1] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity Vol Two: The Reformation to Present Day. (New York: Harper Collins, 2010)7.
            [2] Ibid., 8.
            [3] Ibid., 11.
            [4] Ibid., 12-13.
            [5] Ibid., 17.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Brief thought on Martin Luther's theology and its impact on me.

What would you consider the most important aspect of Martin Luther’s theology? How does your view of his theology impact you personally and in your church?

             There are many important aspects to Luther’s theology. Gonzalez does a good job in pointing out some of the major tenants of his theology in chapter four of his work The Story of Christianity Vol 2. In this volume Gonzalez list five major aspects which include the word of God, the theology of the cross, law and gospel,  the church and sacraments, and the two kingdom view. For me to pick any one aspect of his theology as most important is rather hard to do.  But in having to pick I must say that his views on the word of God is the most stirring. According to Gonzalez, “ Luther sought to make the Word of God the starting point and the final authority for his theology.”[1]
            Think about it for a moment if you will. In order for him to garner a correct understanding of anything of from Scripture he must first have Scripture in the right place. He would not be able to develop any other aspect of his theology apart from right understanding of the word of God. Luther had such a high view of the Bible and of Jesus, that when someone leveled an attack against it, “Luther responded that it was neither the church who made the Bible, nor the Bible that made the church, but the Gospel, Jesus Christ, that had made both Bible and the church. Final authority rest neither in the church nor in the Bible, but in the gospel, in the message of Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God incarnate.”[2]
            Martin Luther’s theology as a whole plays a pretty decent role in my life, while not adhering to all of his tenants I do believe in the five solas, which if I am not mistaken started with Luther. I am a big proponent for a person being justified by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone. I personally am reformed and follow more of what is attributed to Calvin so as I said there is some deviation there. But had it not been for Luther starting what he did Calvin’s work may not have come along as it did. I am part of a reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA).  So our views again come from some of the groundwork laid out by Martin Luther we celebrate reformation Sunday each year.

            [1] Justo L.Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity Vol Two: The Reformation to Present Day. (New York: Harper Collins, 2010)47.
            [2] Ibid., 48.