What is a systematic approach in interpreting Scriptures and...

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What is a systematic approach in interpreting Scriptures and...

Postby Christian2 » Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:46 am

What is a systematic approach to interpreting Scriptures and do I need to use that approach in order to answer a question as to what Paul is saying in Romans 3:7?

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Re: What is a systematic approach in interpreting Scriptures and...

Postby bbyrd009 » Thu Jan 19, 2017 10:08 am

Christian2 wrote:What is a systematic approach to interpreting Scriptures and do I need to use that approach in order to answer a question as to what Paul is saying in Romans 3:7?

Thanks.
imo that would depend upon the question, but in this case you might ref the MSG to get the passage in your current idiom http://www.biblestudytools.com/msg/romans/3.html

i guess Paul was being accused of forwarding the Kingdom by deceit, in a misinterpretation of "all things work together for good?"

I have had quite a bit of insight using Bible search engines and even Google to interpret Scripture, i dunno if it is a case of kind of like "casting lots" or whatever, but it seems to almost work like that. I might note that people approach the Book looking for proof, and facts, and answers, and i suggest that the Bible is better approached as a Book of questions; which recognizing Its direct statements about knowledge, etc, might illuminate. (translation: go to a Bible search engine, enter the word "knowledge," and bam! :)) You could also even just enter "Romans 3" into google at this point, and get other perspectives on the chapter (but i would wait until i had at least gotten some individual perspective on a passage) for comparison.

You might note that there are two sides to every story, here on Earth at least; and the Bible presents both of them, in every case that i have examined. Unfortunately they are not both presented in the same passage, ever, that i can tell, and i see that this is for a reason--so that someone seeking to reinforce their position--rather than seeking the truth of a matter--might do so, that their heart may be revealed? Peace
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Re: What is a systematic approach in interpreting Scriptures and...

Postby Jac3510 » Thu Jan 19, 2017 1:02 pm

Christian2 wrote:What is a systematic approach to interpreting Scriptures and do I need to use that approach in order to answer a question as to what Paul is saying in Romans 3:7?

Thanks.

Sorry to answer a question with a question, but could you say more about what you're after? The entire field of hermeneutics is an attempt to answer your question. It's really a big one, and ever rule (so to speak) gives way to an exception, so questions, and so more rules.

That's not to say it can't be done. Indeed, I believe it can and that we all do it every single day. You're reading this post and doing it right now. If you came away and concluded from my words that I believe God doesn't exist, then you would obviously be doing something wrong, right? So people can just be wrong in interpreting a text. That doesn't mean that interpretation itself is hopeless and so we ought to all just be reader-response oriented.

So, I'll ask again, what are you after, and specifically with reference to Rom 3:7? I see that passage cited often to prove Paul was a liar and that he was okay admitting he was a liar if it meant lying for the sake of Christ. But I don't want to read into your words what isn't there based on my own experiece with how the passage is used. But maybe if we flip your question on its head and look at the specific verse then we can glean some of the general principles we're applying (and applying consciously and/or unconsciously!).
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue

And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: What is a systematic approach in interpreting Scriptures and...

Postby Christian2 » Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:39 pm

Jac3510 wrote:
Christian2 wrote:What is a systematic approach to interpreting Scriptures and do I need to use that approach in order to answer a question as to what Paul is saying in Romans 3:7?

Thanks.

Sorry to answer a question with a question, but could you say more about what you're after? The entire field of hermeneutics is an attempt to answer your question. It's really a big one, and ever rule (so to speak) gives way to an exception, so questions, and so more rules.

That's not to say it can't be done. Indeed, I believe it can and that we all do it every single day. You're reading this post and doing it right now. If you came away and concluded from my words that I believe God doesn't exist, then you would obviously be doing something wrong, right? So people can just be wrong in interpreting a text. That doesn't mean that interpretation itself is hopeless and so we ought to all just be reader-response oriented.

So, I'll ask again, what are you after, and specifically with reference to Rom 3:7? I see that passage cited often to prove Paul was a liar and that he was okay admitting he was a liar if it meant lying for the sake of Christ. But I don't want to read into your words what isn't there based on my own experiece with how the passage is used. But maybe if we flip your question on its head and look at the specific verse then we can glean some of the general principles we're applying (and applying consciously and/or unconsciously!).


I should have explained.

I am in the process of showing my Pastor what I do on discussion boards (I got the impression he thinks I am an inept idiot which is to answer critics of Christianity such as saying that Paul admitted to being a liar in Romans 3:7.

My Pastor answered with what amounted to a sermon, ending with Paul lied but would be forgiven -- his grade? F minus.

The I asked him for his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 9.

1 Corinthians 9:

19 Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law[c]—to win those under the law. 21 To those who are without that law, like one without the law—not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law—to win those without the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. 23 Now I do all this because of the gospel, so I may become a partner in its benefits.

Paul is accused of using deception as a means to save some.

His answer was:

"I think a much more fruitful approach to scripture would be a systematic study of a particular book or theme."

I can understand why one would need to use a systematic approach to explain Christian atonement, but not to answer 1 Corinthians 9 or Romans 3:7.

When I read his answer, I thought cop out.

If I can answer Romans 3:7 and 1 Corinthians 9 without having a divinity degree, then why can't he?

Thanks.

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Re: What is a systematic approach in interpreting Scriptures and...

Postby Jac3510 » Fri Jan 20, 2017 3:32 pm

I think I see. Your last statement is exactly on point. In my assessment, you do not need a degree to answer such questions. Obviously, the more educated you are in various aspects of biblical studies, the more thorough your answers can be. But let's just take Rom 3:7 as an example. (By the way, I don't presume that I'll say anything not immediately obvious to you--just formally walking through that passage by way of example.)

    5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is he? (I am speaking in human terms.) 6 Absolutely not! For otherwise how could God judge the world? 7 For if by my lie the truth of God enhances his glory, why am I still actually being judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil so that good may come of it”?—as some who slander us allege that we say. (Their condemnation is deserved!)
Seems obvious to me that verse 5 sets the tone and the basic problem Paul wants to address. God is righteous, and that righteous is demonstrated by juding our unrighteousness. No one, not your preacher, not a Muslim, not anybody, would disagree with that. Even people who think that God judging anyone would prove Him unrighteous are actually conceding the point, because they're implicitly appealing to a deep notion of love and fairness and righteousness in itself, with the implicit but real assumption of the righteousness of those being judged. But if God judges, then we can't say as judge He is unrighteous. The judgment demonstrates the righteousness.

And that sets up the problem and gives the solution. Verse 7 gives us a concrete illustation. If Paul were to lie about something, that would be unrighteous. God would judge him for it. That would demonstrate God's righteousness. Thus, Paul's lie gives occasion for God to enhance His glory. Of course, Paul doesn't actually say he does lie or that he is a liar. He could have said, "if my murder" or "if my adultery" or just "if my sin" more generally. This in no way proves that Paul is a liar or that Paul is telling any particular lie for the purpose of enhancing the gospel!

And that gets to the principle I'd highlight. One of them, anyway. Look at what the text says and not what you think it says. I teach a three week class from time to time on how to interpret the Bible. The first step is always on observation. I tell them not to interpret until they observe. Most people interpret before or as they observe. Don't do that. Just look at the actual text. What does it say? What are the relationships of the ideas? Here, we observe that Paul puts forward a general principle that God judging unrighteousness doesn't make Him unrighteous. Then we observe that Paul offers an example of a lie to be judged. And we observe Paul put that example in personal terms. Nowhere do we observe Paul actually trying to justify lying. In fact, just the opposite. Paul goes on to say (we observe) that those who justify sin because it enhances God's glory or justly (notice that word again! another observation) condemned.

You don't need a divinity degree to see that. You just need eyeballs and a willingness to read the text.

As far as systematically studying a book or concept, I think that's fine. But like you there's no necessity in it. Just take this exchange as an example. If somebody raises a question about a verse--Rom 3:7--we take it as an occasion to study that passage to see if the question is built on an appropriate interpretation. If not, and usually the answer is not, then what is the proper interpretation? And when you show that to someone and they refuse to listen, then frankly that isn't your problem. It demonstrates to you that the other person isn't really interested in what the text actually says, anyway. They aren't interested in the evidence. They're just looking for an excuse, a pretext, to get to their preformed conclusion (i.e., that the Bible is false, so let me find a way to justify that--ah, here's one, Paul admits to lying). At that point, you've done your job. Put them in God's hands, answer any further questions they have, and move on.

So says I.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue

And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: What is a systematic approach in interpreting Scriptures and...

Postby Christian2 » Sat Jan 21, 2017 6:47 am

Jac3510 wrote:I think I see. Your last statement is exactly on point. In my assessment, you do not need a degree to answer such questions. Obviously, the more educated you are in various aspects of biblical studies, the more thorough your answers can be. But let's just take Rom 3:7 as an example. (By the way, I don't presume that I'll say anything not immediately obvious to you--just formally walking through that passage by way of example.)

    5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is he? (I am speaking in human terms.) 6 Absolutely not! For otherwise how could God judge the world? 7 For if by my lie the truth of God enhances his glory, why am I still actually being judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil so that good may come of it”?—as some who slander us allege that we say. (Their condemnation is deserved!)
Seems obvious to me that verse 5 sets the tone and the basic problem Paul wants to address. God is righteous, and that righteous is demonstrated by juding our unrighteousness. No one, not your preacher, not a Muslim, not anybody, would disagree with that. Even people who think that God judging anyone would prove Him unrighteous are actually conceding the point, because they're implicitly appealing to a deep notion of love and fairness and righteousness in itself, with the implicit but real assumption of the righteousness of those being judged. But if God judges, then we can't say as judge He is unrighteous. The judgment demonstrates the righteousness.

And that sets up the problem and gives the solution. Verse 7 gives us a concrete illustation. If Paul were to lie about something, that would be unrighteous. God would judge him for it. That would demonstrate God's righteousness. Thus, Paul's lie gives occasion for God to enhance His glory. Of course, Paul doesn't actually say he does lie or that he is a liar. He could have said, "if my murder" or "if my adultery" or just "if my sin" more generally. This in no way proves that Paul is a liar or that Paul is telling any particular lie for the purpose of enhancing the gospel!

And that gets to the principle I'd highlight. One of them, anyway. Look at what the text says and not what you think it says. I teach a three week class from time to time on how to interpret the Bible. The first step is always on observation. I tell them not to interpret until they observe. Most people interpret before or as they observe. Don't do that. Just look at the actual text. What does it say? What are the relationships of the ideas? Here, we observe that Paul puts forward a general principle that God judging unrighteousness doesn't make Him unrighteous. Then we observe that Paul offers an example of a lie to be judged. And we observe Paul put that example in personal terms. Nowhere do we observe Paul actually trying to justify lying. In fact, just the opposite. Paul goes on to say (we observe) that those who justify sin because it enhances God's glory or justly (notice that word again! another observation) condemned.

You don't need a divinity degree to see that. You just need eyeballs and a willingness to read the text.

As far as systematically studying a book or concept, I think that's fine. But like you there's no necessity in it. Just take this exchange as an example. If somebody raises a question about a verse--Rom 3:7--we take it as an occasion to study that passage to see if the question is built on an appropriate interpretation. If not, and usually the answer is not, then what is the proper interpretation? And when you show that to someone and they refuse to listen, then frankly that isn't your problem. It demonstrates to you that the other person isn't really interested in what the text actually says, anyway. They aren't interested in the evidence. They're just looking for an excuse, a pretext, to get to their preformed conclusion (i.e., that the Bible is false, so let me find a way to justify that--ah, here's one, Paul admits to lying). At that point, you've done your job. Put them in God's hands, answer any further questions they have, and move on.

So says I.


Thanks. You are very good at what you do.

I'm going to try to use your approach with 1 Corinthians 9:

20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law[c]—to win those under the law. 21 To those who are without that law, like one without the law—not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law—to win those without the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.

First observation is that Paul wants to save these people, so he believed they are unsaved the way they are.

The first sentence gives a hint. How does a Jews become like a Jew when he is already a Jew?

He probably would try to convince the Jew that Jesus is the Messiah, the savior, and Lord of all by citing Scriptures and explaining them to him and show that God has provided salvation through Jesus by citing Scriptures.

How would Paul convince the Greeks/Gentiles that Jesus is the Messiah and that He died for them too?

He might start by pointing out that God is their God too.

"Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too."

And then explain that this God sent His Messiah, Jesus, to die for them too.

Paul is putting himself in their position, understanding where they are coming from. He is not pretending to be Gentile when he is a Jew.

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Re: What is a systematic approach in interpreting Scriptures and...

Postby Jac3510 » Sat Jan 21, 2017 8:05 am

That's fantastic. I mean that, sincerely. When you said, "How does a Jews become like a Jew when he is already a Jew?" I was caught off guard. I then looked back at the text. And you are exactly right. Excellent observation. Paul is a Jew already and now saying he is making himself like a Jew. At this point, a person could very easily jump into interpretation and start building some theology of Paul not really being on Jew, blah, blah. But you keep observing. He is also becoming like a Gentile. And all of this is in context of the observation of him wanting to bring these people to salvation. So the natural, self-suggested interpretation is Paul is thinking of method, not some subtle, theological/ontological point about what kind of man Paul is. Still less is Paul lying about who he is. He is, as you say, meeting them where they are, and all this is confirmed in your observation that God is the God of all, both Jew and Gentile.

So yes, very good. That's why I like approaching it this way. It takes the text seriously. It respects the author. It lets him has his own voice rather than us making him say what we want him to. And when we do that, I think what the author is trying to say becomes very clear more often than not. Like I said, you don't need a degree. Just honesty and a set of sharp eyes. :)
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue

And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: What is a systematic approach in interpreting Scriptures and...

Postby Jac3510 » Sat Jan 21, 2017 8:06 am

That's fantastic. I mean that, sincerely. When you said, "How does a Jews become like a Jew when he is already a Jew?" I was caught off guard. I then looked back at the text. And you are exactly right. Excellent observation. Paul is a Jew already and now saying he is making himself like a Jew. At this point, a person could very easily jump into interpretation and start building some theology of Paul not really being on Jew, blah, blah. But you keep observing. He is also becoming like a Gentile. And all of this is in context of the observation of him wanting to bring these people to salvation. So the natural, self-suggested interpretation is Paul is thinking of method, not some subtle, theological/ontological point about what kind of man Paul is. Still less is Paul lying about who he is. He is, as you say, meeting them where they are, and all this is confirmed in your observation that God is the God of all, both Jew and Gentile.

So yes, very good. That's why I like approaching it this way. It takes the text seriously. It respects the author. It lets him has his own voice rather than us making him say what we want him to. And when we do that, I think what the author is trying to say becomes very clear more often than not. Like I said, you don't need a degree. Just honesty and a set of sharp eyes. :) (Or ears -- there have been times when I've been stuck where I have listened to the passage, usually a large chunk before and after, and was able to pick up on things I missed otherwise. Just had that experience in Ezekiel two nights ago.)
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue

And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: What is a systematic approach in interpreting Scriptures and...

Postby Christian2 » Sat Jan 21, 2017 8:34 am

Jac3510 wrote:That's fantastic. I mean that, sincerely. When you said, "How does a Jews become like a Jew when he is already a Jew?" I was caught off guard. I then looked back at the text. And you are exactly right. Excellent observation. Paul is a Jew already and now saying he is making himself like a Jew. At this point, a person could very easily jump into interpretation and start building some theology of Paul not really being on Jew, blah, blah. But you keep observing. He is also becoming like a Gentile. And all of this is in context of the observation of him wanting to bring these people to salvation. So the natural, self-suggested interpretation is Paul is thinking of method, not some subtle, theological/ontological point about what kind of man Paul is. Still less is Paul lying about who he is. He is, as you say, meeting them where they are, and all this is confirmed in your observation that God is the God of all, both Jew and Gentile.

So yes, very good. That's why I like approaching it this way. It takes the text seriously. It respects the author. It lets him has his own voice rather than us making him say what we want him to. And when we do that, I think what the author is trying to say becomes very clear more often than not. Like I said, you don't need a degree. Just honesty and a set of sharp eyes. :)


It took my less than 10 minutes to pull this one together.

Thanks, Jac.


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