The Plain Sense of Holy Scripture

The Plain Sense of Holy Scripture

I believe in a (largely) literal interpretation of Holy Scripture.

People have all manner of perceptions regarding Holy Scripture. Some believe all Holy Scripture is to be interpreted literally, some believe that Holy Scripture is a mix of literal interpretation, metaphor, allegory and figures of speech, and some believe that the only proper interpretation of Holy Scripture is its dismissal as old wives’ tales, fantasies and the lore of a bygone era no longer in step with the modern, enlightened age.

There is an overriding principle for the proper interpretation of any genre of Holy Scripture: prayer for the purpose of being given wisdom by God to understand His Word. This is spoken of in Holy Scripture itself:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Ephesians 1:17)

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

Let us consider this the 1st Hermeneutic Principle.

I would like to continue with a basic, credible principle:

“When the ‘plain sense’ of Holy Scripture makes sense, seek no other sense.”

I maintain this statement is self-explanatory. If something makes sense (in other words, if something ‘clicks’, appealing to your horse sense), there is no valid reason to undertake a search for another meaning. Throughout the ages that Holy Scripture has been in existence, innumerable people have ignored the afore-mentioned basic and credible rule for interpretation, especially when they have an ulterior motive for creating their own interpretation of passages because they don’t care for, or are outright opposed to, their plain and simple meaning… that many passages of Holy Scripture do not require an elevated level of interpretive effort is a plain and simple fact. That the same innumerable number of people decide to impress upon a passage of Holy Scripture their own personal interpretation of its meaning… when that is not required… does not alter the reality of that passage’s plain and simple meaning, when that plain and simple meaning is easily apparent.

I understand that the original writings that comprise the Holy Scriptures as we see them in this day and age are lost to us. The most authoritative source of the Old Testament is the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament traditionally said to have been made at the request of Ptolemy II, king of Egypt (309-247? B.C.), by a body of 72 Jewish scholars in 72 days. The New Testament was authored by multiple persons, but even through a handing down of copies through many scribes, and its interpretation (along with the Old Testament) into the multiple translations that we now possess, the inter-relationships between Old Testament and New Testament (in terms of the Old Testament pointing forward to references in the New Testament, and of the New Testament pointing backward to references in the Old Testament) are uncannily accurate, and prophecies made by the Holy Scriptures that have come to pass (such as the 360+ prophecies in the Old Testament regarding Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the Son of God) have been fulfilled in their entirety without a single miss; add to this that archeological finds in the Holy Land and surrounding locales are 100% in agreement with descriptions of them in the Holy Scriptures, and you will understand that the Holy Scriptures are the most accurate writings to come out of the ancient world, which remain viable to this very hour, despite all attempts to discredit them: they can be depended upon to be the truth, because they have never been proven to be false. Don’t let anyone deceive you that the Holy Bible is corrupted, full of inconsistencies and false meanings! Using a proper approach, which is being presented here, rightly divide the Word of God.

I am not a theologian trained in Biblical hermeneutics, which is defined as the science of properly interpreting the various genres of literature found in the Holy Bible. I am simply a person that loves God, believes in and loves the One that He has sent (His Son Jesus Christ), and believes that Holy Scripture is the inspired and faultless Word of God. If you are reading this post to get an academically oriented training in Biblical interpretation that is going to be 100% correct across all the genres of Holy Scripture, you are in the wrong place. However, if you are reading this post because you want a common-sense way in which to interpret Holy Scripture no matter what genre it is written in, you are in the right place.

One of the huge sticking points for people in properly interpreting Holy Scripture is determining just exactly what is ‘proper interpretation’… and there we have people going off in a lot of different directions.

Need I remind you of the basic, credible rule?

When the ‘plain sense’ of Holy Scripture makes sense, seek no other sense.”

Let us consider this the 2nd Hermeneutic Principle.

Let us proceed to examples of Holy Scripture:

Here is a passage from the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus Christ:

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. (Matthew 5:29a)

Sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? Does Jesus really want us to gouge out our right eye if it causes us to sin?

There is a saying:

Text without context is pretext.”

Let us break this down:
1) Text
-The wording adopted by an editor as representing the original words of an author.
2) Context
-The parts of a discourse or writing which precede or follow, and are directly connected with, a given passage or word.
3) Pretext
-That which is put forward to conceal a true purpose or object; an ostensible (or professed and pretended) reason.

If you interpret a passage of text “as is”, which is to say without taking into account and analyzing closely other parts of the text that precede and follow the text being looked at (which can be shown to be connected with that text), then you are declaring your own subjective, and therefore Biblically unsupported, meaning for the text being looked at.

In other words, to properly interpret a primary passage of text, look at the secondary text that surrounds the primary text for connections to that primary text.

Let us consider this the 3rd Hermeneutic Principle.

With regard to Matthew 5:29a…

Applying the 2nd Hermeneutic Principle:
The plain sense of the passage would have us gouging our right eye out. Obviously, we can derive from common sense alone that physical harm to ourselves is not what Jesus meant.

We must go to the 3rd Hermeneutic Principle.

Applying the 3rd Hermeneutic Principle:

The verse immediately preceding Matthew 5:29a is this:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

The verse immediately following Matthew 5:29a is this:

It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:29b)

We need to look in the passages preceding and following Matthew 5:29a for words that have a direct connection to

Matthew 5:29a. In Matthew 5:28, we see ‘lustfully’ and ‘adultery’, and in Matthew 5:29b we see ‘hell’.

We define the words found:
lustfully (root word ‘lust’)
-Unbridled or lawless sexual desire or appetite.
adultery
-Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and any other than the lawful spouse.
hell
-The place or state of punishment of the wicked after death.

In Matthew 5:29a, we look for words that have a direct connection to the words we found in the passages preceding and following, and we see ‘sin’.

We define the word(s) found:
sin
-A transgression of divine law; especially a willful, deliberate transgression.

Adultery (only one of the manifestations of lust) is condemned as sin not only within the Ten Commandments, but within the body of the Mosaic Law, and this condemnation has carried over into Christianity from Judaism, and there is a penalty to be paid for sin that is un-repented of, which is hell.

Because of the context for Matthew 5:29a, we see: 1) that lust and adultery are sin, and 2) that sin was so grevious to Jesus because of its potential for everlasting punishment that He used a powerful figure of speech (to gouge out an eye) to ensure that His hearers understood His meaning: sin is SERIOUS and will be dealt with SEVERELY… therefore, the lesson is to avoid all occasions of sin.

Here is a passage from the discourse between Jesus Christ and Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel, speaking of Himself:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)

Once again, this sounds pretty grim, like a drumhead court-martial in which the accused has no say in the outcome.

Will anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ be condemned?

With regard to John 3:18…

Applying the 2nd Hermeneutic Principle:
The plain sense of the passage would have us believe that all who do not believe in the Name of God’s one and only Son will be condemned. There is no obvious figure of speech in John 3:18 as there was in Matthew 5:29a, so it appears at this point that Jesus meant exactly what He said.

We must go to the 3rd Hermeneutic Principle.

Applying the 3rd Hermeneutic Principle:

The verse immediately preceding John 3:18 is this:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)

The verse immediately following John 3:18 is this:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)

We need to look in the passages preceding and following John 3:18 for words that have a direct connection to John :18. In John 3:17, we see ‘believe’ and ‘condemn’, and in John 3:19 we see ‘verdict’.

We define the words found:
believe
-To have confidence in, to trust in, to rely on through faith.
condemn
-To pronounce adverse judgment on; to pronounce to be guilty.
verdict
-A judgment or decision in a matter brought before a court.

In John 3:18, we look for words that have a direct connection to the words we found in the passages preceding and following, and we see ‘believe (believes, believed)’ and ‘condemned’.

We define the word(s) found:
believe, believes, believed
-To have confidence in, to trust in, to rely on through faith.
condemned
-To be sentenced to punishment or doom.

God is the Righteous Judge, able to judge in a righteous manner because He is the standard of perfection. Because of His perfection, He cannot tolerate sin, and by that same perfection manifested in His righteousness, He must punish it. However, He has made a way for all to be forgiven of sin: which is what we see in the preceding passage of John 3:17… God in His mercy has given Jesus Christ, His only Son, so that the world, through Jesus’ once-for-all blood sacrifice, might be saved through its acceptance of that sacrifice. The condemnation (‘verdict’) of those who willfully reject the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ is justified: which is what we see in the following passage of John 3:19… if we, who are not the standard of perfection as God is, willfully reject the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have by that rejection made God out to be a liar regarding His own Son.

There are multiple genres (styles of writing) throughout Holy Scripture. I believe that, through application of the 3 Hermeneutic Principles that have been discussed, you can properly and rightly divide (come to a correct understanding) virtually all of God’s Word.

There is only one genre of Holy Scripture that cannot be completely and rightly divided: apocalyptic writing, which is seen in Holy Scripture in the book of Revelation. The style of apocalyptic writing concerns itself with an unveiling/unfolding of things not previously known, and which cannot be known until the time of the actual unveiling/unfolding; it is extremely rich in imagery, which may or may not translate directly into people, places, things, events and timelines, either at the time of the literature’s writing, or in the present and even future times. That the imagery in the book of Revelation was not directly translatable into people, places, things, events and timelines that its author, the Apostle John, knew is evident from his multiple uses of the word ‘like’… John described what he saw in his visions from God as being ‘like’ this or that; he described them as best he could using what he had available to him: his life experiences, his cultural influences, his vocabulary, etc. Since the true meanings behind apocalyptic writings like the book of Revelation will not be fully known until God sees fit to reveal them, such literature is best interpreted in terms of their overall messages to Christian believers which, in the case of Revelation, is to reveal the full identity of God’s Son Jesus Christ, to give warning and hope to believers, and to assure them of the God’s ultimate triumph over evil.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a blessed day!

About On A Journey

It's About Jesus!!
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