Christ Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

2nd Principle of Interpretation

Here we are, back into how we can better read the Bible!  The first Principle of Interpretation that I covered was: Context.  The next Principle of Interpretation is a spin-off of context.

The second Principle of Interpretation is this: Stick with the Plain Meaning of the Text, Unless Context says Otherwise.  To shorten it, I will say: Plain and Simple.

Indeed, it should be plain and simple, but in several cases this rule gets ignored.  Mainly for this reason: the text is unreasonable.

Take Genesis chapter 1 for example.  We find that God makes the world in 6 days and rests on day 7.

For some who try to match up an evolutionary worldview with the Scriptures (having their cake and eating it too), they will interpret the word “day” to mean something else.  Instead of being a natural day-night cycle, they will say that the word “day” really means something like “age” or “eon.” A quick thought recognizes that there is much at stake here!

On the surface, making this move sounds good.  But a closer look at the text reveals something that already dissuades us from doing that: the fact that the text further defines “day” by saying there was evening and then morning.  And even though the Sun doesn’t come into existence until day 4 the reason why it was still a day is that the Hebrews noticed that the Sun is not the only source of light, just an expression of it.  Rather, God’s Word is the source of light.  (As a further aside, John does this in both his Gospel and in his book, Revelation.)

Back to the word “day” however, there is another implication to consider: is there any usage of the word “day” in the Hebrew Old Testament that allows us the chance to read the word “day” as an age or eon and not just simply as a single day?

When you do a Word Study, you will find that the Hebrew Word for “day,” yom, that is used in Genesis 1 gives us our answer.  When we observe all the other times in the Old Testament that this word is used you will find that every usage of the Word “day” describes only a natural day that we experience every day of every week of every month of every year.

The plain and simple meaning of the word “day” tells us that this is how the text wants to be read.  There are no other indicators in the context that warrants us from reading it any other way.  In fact, the context further clarifies it as a natural day.

Another place where this Principle applies well is Jesus Christ’s Last Supper when he begins what we call “The Lord’s Supper.”  When Jesus says, “This is my body/blood.”  Some try and say that Jesus is saying a metaphor, or a parable.  But the Plain and Simple interpretation and context tell us that Jesus meant what he said and that he was telling no parable.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and Paul in 1 Corinthians make this clear.

A text will tell you to read something in another way other than the plain and simple.
 Revelation 1:12-20, for example, John sees a glorified Jesus standing in the midst of lampstands and carrying seven stars in his hand.  These are not just lampstands and stars.  Why?  Verse 20 tells us why: Jesus tells John that the lampstands are actually the various congregations that make up the Church and the stars are the angels of those 7 Churches.  This is a place where the plain and simple is not the plain and simple and Context told us so.

I pray these help you in your reading of the Scriptures!  In Christ,
Pastor Andrew Belt

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