Hermeneutics - Lesson 16

Interpreting Biblical Narrative (Part 2)

Dr. Todd Miles emphasizes the critical importance of context in interpreting biblical narratives. He underscores the need to consider the context of individual narratives within the larger biblical account, both the story as a whole and the overarching message of the book. He illustrates this principle by examining Mark Chapter 5, where Jesus interacts with demons, allowing them to speak—a departure from the usual practice. Dr. Miles suggests that this intentional break in the narrative serves to highlight Jesus' authority over the demonic realm and reinforces his identity as the Son of God.

Todd Miles
Lesson 16
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Interpreting Biblical Narrative (Part 2)

I. Context

II. Look for thematic verses

III. Repetition

IV. Authorial comments

  • This lesson explores John the Baptist's role as the Messiah's forerunner, his imprisonment for condemning Herod's affair, and Jesus' response in Matthew 11, rooted in Old Testament prophecies. Jesus' omission of judgment references confuses John about the Messiah's timing. Believers in the New Covenant, with deeper insight into Jesus, are seen as greater. The lesson promotes patience during suffering and the duty to identify Jesus as the Messiah.
  • This lesson on hermeneutics teaches you to approach the Bible with humility, seek divine guidance, analyze context, consider character roles, examine structure, use cross-references, apply sanctified imagination, and emphasize Jesus in interpretation, all while relying on the Holy Spirit.
  • This lesson introduces general and special revelation, emphasizing their roles in inviting people to know God and providing specific truths for salvation. It explores the process of inspiration, defining it as a concurrent work of a holy God and a human author, ensuring every word of Scripture is both human and divine, crucial for biblical interpretation.
  • This lesson reveals the Bible's divine authority, unity, and human relevance, stressing accurate interpretation for life transformation.
  • Learn about hermeneutics, understanding author intent, and different views on interpretation. Dr. Todd Miles discusses realism vs. non-realism, authorial authority, and introduces speech act theory to show how the Bible engages with readers, transforming beliefs and behavior.
  • This lesson delves into theological text interpretation, emphasizing that meaning is human-made, not inherent. Authors, not readers, shape text meaning. Accurate Bible interpretation hinges on understanding God's authorship, emphasizing His lordship, knowledge, and obedience. Presuppositions about God and human nature are vital for accurate Bible interpretation.
  • From this lesson, you will gain insights into the challenges of translating the Bible, understanding the continuum of translation philosophies, and the importance of selecting a translation that balances accuracy and readability in contemporary language. Dr. Todd Miles underscores the significance of using the best available manuscripts, avoiding theological bias, and staying updated with the latest knowledge of language and culture to ensure a quality translation.
  • From this lesson, you will gain valuable knowledge and insight into hermeneutics and biblical interpretation. You will understand that hermeneutics is not about uncovering hidden secrets but about utilizing your natural ability to interpret communication. Reading and becoming familiar with the Bible is crucial for effective interpretation, and it is essential to address biblical illiteracy.
  • Learn the significance of interpreting Bible passages in the context of redemptive history. Discover the Bible's continuous narrative, emphasizing revelation's progression and God's plan through the David and Goliath story. See how context ensures accurate interpretation, connecting the Bible's parts into a cohesive story of God's redemption.
  • Understanding the Bible through biblical theology is crucial, as it reveals the overarching narrative of God's redemptive plan, centered on His glory and the role of Jesus Christ, enabling a more profound comprehension of individual Bible passages and their relevance to our lives.
  • Dr. Todd Miles underscores the vital role of historical and cultural context in interpreting the Bible. Understanding the era when a passage was penned is crucial for grasping its genuine significance. Using examples like the virgins' parable and Revelation 3:14-22, it demonstrates how historical context aids in discerning interpretations and adds depth to the message. The text emphasizes that, while the Bible offers some historical context, external sources can also enhance comprehension. In conclusion, historical and cultural context is essential for accurate biblical interpretation.
  • In this lesson on Hermeneutics by Dr. Todd Miles, the focus is on understanding the cultural context when interpreting biblical texts. Dr. Miles emphasizes that culture plays a significant role in both the biblical author's writing and the reader's interpretation. He discusses the concept of cultural conditioning, highlighting that everyone, including the biblical authors, the original audience, and modern readers, is influenced by their respective cultures.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles highlights the significance of studying words in their original language and using etymology to decipher their original meanings.
  • Learn how recognizing and applying literary genres in the Bible is crucial for accurate interpretation, avoiding misinterpretations, and approaching Scripture with a nuanced understanding.
  • In this lesson, you will gain an understanding of interpreting biblical narratives. It begins by discussing the distinction between historical narratives and parables, emphasizing the importance of recognizing the markers of historical narrative.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles review biblical narrative interpretation. He emphasizes the importance of context, adding that each narrative should be examined within the broader biblical and book context. He illustrates this with Mark Chapter 5, where Jesus interacts with demons, breaking from the norm to underscore his authority.
  • From this lesson on Hermeneutics and Law, you will gain insight into the intricate relationship between the Old Testament law and New Covenant believers. Dr. Todd Miles emphasizes the challenge of applying ancient laws to contemporary life and introduces the key factors for understanding them: comprehending the nature of covenants and situating oneself in the timeline of redemptive history. This process is likened to using a mall map to find a destination.
  • Dr. Todd Miles discusses prophecy's significance beyond predicting the future. It validates God's deity, reveals future realities, and guides our present actions. Most prophecy is about forth-telling and emphasizes covenant understanding.
  • In this Hermeneutics lesson, you'll gain insights into the challenges of interpreting prophecy, including wrong expectations, historical context, conditional fulfillment, and various forms of prophetic proclamations, while also being reminded not to let contemporary agendas override the biblical text.
  • In taking this lesson, you gain insight into the concept of typology in biblical interpretation. Typology involves finding resemblances between Old Testament figures, events, and institutions and their fulfillment in the New Testament, particularly in relation to Jesus Christ.
  • Learn about poetry in the Bible by exploring Hebrew poetic parallelism and its emotional power in Psalms. Discover how poetry enhances biblical narratives and offers unique insights.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Todd Miles discusses various types of psalms found in the Psalter and delves into their unique characteristics and theological significance. He begins by providing a list of different kinds of psalms, emphasizing that this list is not exhaustive but illustrative, highlighting the diversity of poetry within the Psalms.
  • By studying this lesson, you gain insight into essential figures of speech in the Bible and learn to interpret them effectively, enhancing your hermeneutical skills and deepening your understanding of the Scriptures.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Todd Miles discusses the interpretation of parables. Parables are a specific literary genre with their own rules of interpretation. Parables are designed to teach a single point, although there might be exceptions. Historical context remains essential in understanding parables, as they are shaped by the situations of the day. 
  • This lesson explores Proverbs and wisdom literature, focusing on its distinct genre, interpretation rules. Dr. Miles highlights its purpose, living wisely with God. It emphasizes the fear of the Lord, touches Ecclesiastes' question of meaning, and Job's theodicy.
  • In this lesson on interpreting epistles, Dr. Todd Miles underscores the importance of understanding their structure, argumentative methods, and central theological focus on Jesus Christ and the gospel, even when addressing practical issues within the early Christian communities.
  • Dr. Todd Miles delves into apocalyptic literature, emphasizing its distinct features like revelatory communication and angelic guidance. It unveils profound truths through visions, promoting understanding and righteous conduct.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Todd Miles explores the concept of perspicuity, which refers to the clarity of the Bible. He begins by explaining that perspicuity is a theological term used to describe how clear the Bible's teachings are. It means that the Bible is written in a way that its teachings can be understood by anyone who reads it, seeks God's help, and is willing to follow it.
  • This lesson provides practical guidelines for applying biblical principles. Dr. Miles emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit, examining the original context, and identifying parallel situations in the present. He encourages applications to be personal, specific, measurable, and time-bound, ensuring they lead to tangible actions in your life.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp the Holy Spirit's vital role in biblical interpretation, going beyond changing hearts to enabling comprehension and acceptance of the text. Dr. Todd Miles stresses the Spirit's role in illuminating the Bible, making it relevant to believers, challenging the idea that unbelievers interpret it as effectively, and emphasizing the importance of understanding the text's intent. The ultimate aim is not mastery but being mastered by the text, with the Holy Spirit as a key player.
Hermeneutics is the science and art of the interpretation of the Bible. It's a science because it is an orderly process based on rules you can apply. It is an art because of the nuances in communication and translation.



Dr. Todd Miles


Interpreting Biblical Narrative (Part 2)

Lesson Transcript


Well, I've been saying over and over again that the most important thing in biblical interpretation is context, context and context. And of course, that is the case with narratives as well. The the context of any individual part of the narrative, the story, the little micro story that's being told is is that story as a whole and then then the big picture. So any individual narrative should be interpreted in light of the whole account, the biblical account, and even the the book account. If we wanted to go to a little smaller level, we might ask ourself how does one piece of the puzzle fit into the whole? Mark Chapter five is a very interesting passage because it tells the story of Jesus healing the demonic, but we really should interpret it in light of the narrative as a whole. And in the gospel of Mark, we have Jesus in action. We have Jesus Christ who is the Son of God. The Mark introduces His gospel with that very verse. And then we're told in chapter one, verse 34 this, that Jesus healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons, and He would not permit the demons to speak because they knew him, which is an interesting passage. And we might wonder why, why, why would Jesus not want the demons to speak, especially if they knew him? Maybe it's because why would anyone trust a demon now that that might be that might be the reason Jesus wasn't interested in their testimony. He wasn't interested in what they had to say at that prison at that particular time as well. Because in Jesus Christ, we have a man who's totally in charge of his own destiny. He's he walks the earth as the sovereign Lord and and everything is done on his timetable, and nothing is going to interfere with that, even though it feels like things are spinning out of control as he as he's arrested and ends up on a Roman cross, it is everything going according to plan. Well, when we're reading Mark chapter five, which is the story of Jesus exorcizing a demon and the demon speaking, we have to read that little narrative. Mark five one through 20 in light of the entirety of the Gospel of Mark, where we're told in that first chapter, Jesus did not permit the demons to speak. Mark assumes when we get to Mark five that we've read, Mark one that we've read about Jesus not permitting demons to speak, the demons knew who he was. And so that indicates when we get to Mark five, we should pay careful attention to what's going on, because this is this is extraordinary. It's it's not how things normally go. Because remember, the gospel writers, every word is intentional. They they don't have to tell you anything that they tell you. They selectively choose what it is that they tell us. And in Mark chapter four, verse 35 through Mark 5:43, Mark gives a series of miracle stories that demonstrate Jesus's power over nature. Jesus has power over the demonic Jesus, his power over disease, Jesus power over death. And in the middle of that, we get the demon speaking. And it raises the question why? Why would Jesus allow the demons to speak? Particularly since the normal practice was demons are not permitted to speak around Christ, and I can only conclude that one, this did not happen by by accident. Two, Mark knew that he had written Mark one when he wrote Mark five and so he hadn't forgotten. Oh yeah, I forgot. Demons aren't supposed to speak. I messed that up. No. And then three, therefore there has to be something intentional about why he would break from the normal practice. Perhaps by perhaps this is I think what's going on is we're told in Mark one that Jesus's practice was not to let the demon speak so that when we get to Mark five, we would be. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Jesus is allowing the demons to speak. He's actually engaging them in conversation, and he has asked them their name and, you know, it's legion and that sort of thing. And I think the reason why the demons are allowed to speak in Mark five is because it fits Mark's narrative strategy of by the time we get to Mark five, their testimony is remarkable, and it demonstrates even further Jesus's superiority over the demons. Now he does permit them to speak. It's a time of his choosing. And in in their speech, they acknowledge him in word and in action to actually be the Lord. They they are frightened of him. They they beg him for mercy. They ask him to be sent someplace else again. That one story is remarkable enough, but it's heightened. It makes more sense in light of the whole, especially ironically, since we're told earlier, Jesus didn't ordinarily let demons to speak. Well, he does now. Why? And then when we hear their speech, we come to understand maybe a bit of why Jesus now is allowing them to speak and why Mark, in his gospel writing, has them speak at this point, because Jesus is being demonstrated to be the son of God in action who is powerful over the demonic and every other phase of life. Another clue for interpreting narrative is is to look for thematic verses. This is really kind of cheating a little bit because sometimes the gospel writers tell us what they mean explicitly. Like, here's my strategy, I'm going to do this. I've referenced John 20 many times where John tells us, This is why I am writing to you what I'm writing, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name, John tells us. That's his narrative strategy. So everything that he writes, he tells us in John 20, every single thing that he writes is driving towards that point. He has selected all the events that he has selected so that we would be convinced and believe that Jesus is the Christ. Other times, it's not quite as obvious. It might take a bit more reading. The Book of Acts, for example, in chapter one, verse one. Luke begins this way, he says in the first book of Theophilus. Obviously referring to his gospel, the Gospel of Luke. In that book, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach until and then it goes on, which implies that in this book it's the continuation of all that Jesus is doing and teaching. And then in verse eight, we're told you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth. Well, the rest of the book follows that trajectory. The Spirit comes upon people at Pentecost in Jerusalem, and by the time we get to chapter six, the the priests in Jerusalem are are recognizing that the spirit of God has come upon God's people. In chapter nine, we have the story of the Spirit coming upon the people, the Samaritans, and also the people in Galilee and Judea, the Gentiles in Chapters 12 and 16 and 19. The Word of God is growing and prevailing until by the time we get to the end of the book, Paul is teaching openly in Rome. So it seems that Luke gives us a bit of that, his narrative or strategy through the words of Jesus. You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth. And that's exactly what happens in the rest of the Book of Acts. Sometimes the this the critical verse that tells us what things are about can be found at both the beginning and the end of the book, and we just have to look for it. Deuteronomy Chapter 34 versus nine through 12. At the end of Deuteronomy, we read Joshua, the son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom for Moses, had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses and there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him. For all the signs and the wonders that the Lord had sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants, and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. This kind of sums up the majority of the Pentateuch to where the Book of Genesis is kind of the Prolog to this. And now Moses, the great prophet, comes who is the great lawgiver he is. He is the one who who establishes the covenant that we have named after him, the Mosaic Covenant. Mighty indeed. And it's interesting that in Deuteronomy chapter 18, Moses says, One day God's going to raise up a prophet like me. Listen to him. And then at the end of Deuteronomy, we're told, I suspect Moses didn't write this. It was probably added on by someone else. There hasn't arisen a prophet since, like Moses. Which leaves us wondering because Moses said, Look for the prophet like me. And as of the writing of this last part, many people would place it as late as even the exile. Israel is still waiting, still waiting for that prophet to come. Sometimes we can find the theme just through looking for repetition. We see this in the Book of Judges. I look, for example, in judges chapter three, verses seven through nine. The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord's side. Pretty much sums up the book of judges right there. They forgot the Lord, their God worship the Baals and the Asherahs. The Lord's anger burned against Israel, and he sold them to King Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, and the Israelites served him eight years. Then verse nine, the Israelites cried out to the Lord. So the Lord raised up Othniel son of Kenaz Caleb's youngest brother, as they deliver to the Israelites. Those three verses right there pretty much describe the cycle that we find throughout the book of judges, where things are going very badly because the people are behaving badly. God will raise up someone to oppress them and persecute them, make life miserable for them. The Israelites will call out to the Lord for mercy. God will show mercy by raising up a deliverer who who rescues them from the oppressor. And there's a period of of of good times until the people forget the Lord. And then verse seven. Do what was evil in the Lord's sight. And they forget the Lord their God. And then it's like. Wash, rinse, repeat, wash, rinse, repeat over and over again. We see that in chapter 17. Chapter 18. Chapter 19. Chapter 21. Over and over again, we see this. Another recurring theme that we find in like the Book of First Kings, for example. We see there's kings who do what's right in God's eyes. Those are all Judean kings, and there's not that many of them. And there are kings who do what's evil in the eyes of God. And that's every northern king and most of the southern kings. But you have this phrase, this king did what was right in God's eyes or this king did what was evil in the eyes of God. And as the king goes, so goes the people. Look for authorial comments IV. These appear often in John. I love the fact that he gives us little parenthetical comments. He'll interrupt the story, give us an explanation. For example, in John chapter seven, when Jesus stands up at the Feast of Tabernacles and said, Whoever is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. And then John tells us what he means by this, by referring to this and this waters of that will spring up within you. He, John, tells us he was referring to the Spirit whom he had not yet sent because Jesus had not yet been glorified. It's clear from John 20 that John had a strategy in selecting the material that he selected. And so practicing a hermeneutic of charity would involve granting to all authors the same respect, even though they don't say what John said. I write these things to you so that you may we should assume all of the biblical authors had a strategy, that they had an agenda. And so I expect that and look for that and give them the benefit of the doubt for being good writers. Pay attention to the subjects he wrote, stories we'll fake, we'll focus on on the life of a hero. And we find that in so many of the biblical narratives. Later, we'll talk about typology, about how in the narratives individuals will be raised up by the Lord to give us a picture of what when the great hero shows up, he'll look like that. That raises questions about how much the authors actually knew. Did they know that that's what they were doing? But but remember, we're dealing with dual authorship here. And so even as the Spirit of God is moving a human writer to write what he wrote, the Spirit of God may have more in mind than what the human author understood. But we'll get to that when we get to typology a bit later.