Christ Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

3rd Principle of Interpretation

Have you ever run across a section of Scripture that seems very hard to understand?  How can you gain understanding on something in the Bible that is not clear or needs more explanation?
As we move onto the next Principle of Interpretation, we find out our answer: Scripture Interprets Scripture.

The Bible rarely talks about a subject only once.  In some places a topic might be crystal clear.  In other places, not so much.

The key to this principle is to define and clarify what the harder sections of Scripture mean in light of the easier sections of Scripture that talk about the same topic.

Do not build a theology that is built off Revelation for example.  It is a hard book and the imagery is even harder.  But yet, for many people, they are fascinated with Revelation.  Perhaps because the imagery captures their imaginations, or they have been caught up in the desire that thinks we can map out the imagery and accounts in Revelation to certain real-time events in our day.  When you build a foundation in a weird place you will end up in weird places.

Novels like “Left Behind” for example, are the fruits of people who primarily engage with Revelation and then throw in other parts of Scripture to complete the picture.

Instead, in order to understand Revelation, you need to have a mastery of the Gospels and Old Testament books like Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah.  Most of the imagery in Revelation finds its roots in those places.  So, when you have a solid foundation in those easier, clearer portions of Scripture, the harder ones become easier to patch together.

A good example of this principle in action is for a title of Jesus that he uses of himself throughout the Gospels, “Son of Man.”

What in the world does “Son of Man” mean?  The title itself was fraught with ambiguity in Jesus’s day, which is why he used it, so that he could further define it.

In the Old Testament, when someone is called a “Son of Man.”  It usually defines their mortality.  Psalm 8 is one such usage, “what is the son of man that you care for him?”  Also, God calls the Prophet Ezekiel, “son of man” constantly throughout his prophetic book as a way of highlighting his humanity and weakness.

Is this what Jesus means when he calls himself the “Son of Man?”  If so, it would be a point against those who claim that Jesus is divine!

In the Gospel of Mark, however, on the night Jesus was betrayed, the High Priest questions Jesus by saying, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” To which Jesus responds by saying, “I am.  And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Woah.  Jesus just revealed exactly what he means when he calls himself the Son of Man.  He is quoting directly the Old Testament book of Daniel.  In Daniel 7:13-14, we are told that Daniel sees a vision of the Last Day, Judgment Day.  And Daniel sees someone who is “like a son of man” who sits at the right hand of God.  This Son of Man holds divine authority and power to judge and forgive.  This Son of Man sits on the clouds (symbol of God’s presence and power) and he acts as God himself!

Instead of highlighting a mere mortal, what Jesus means when he calls himself the Son of Man is that he is the divine judge of all the living and the dead, he is in fact the God-Man.

When Scripture is allowed to interpret Scripture, we allow the Bible to speak for itself without us having to interject our own meaning or interpretation into it.  Allow the Biblical narrative to play out and allow the text to tell you what it wants you to know.  That is the core direction that this principle wants us to learn as we read Scripture.

God’s blessings in Christ as you read!
Pastor Andrew Belt

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