Hermeneutics - Lesson 28

Hermeneutics and Perspicuity

In this lesson, you will gain an understanding of the concept of perspicuity, which refers to the clarity of the Bible. 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. While some cultural nuances exist due to historical context, under the New Covenant, all believers have access to the Bible, making it a public book that is clear enough for everyone to understand and apply. The lesson also cites biblical passages that implicitly affirm the Bible's clarity and emphasizes the importance of moral and spiritual qualities in understanding Scripture correctly. Ultimately, you will learn that while interpreting the Bible may require effort, it is accessible to all who are willing to receive its teachings.

Todd Miles
Lesson 28
Watching Now
Hermeneutics and Perspicuity

A. Definition

B. Not All Passages are Easy to Understand

C. God has a complex mind

D. God Will Accomplish His Purpose

E. The Bible Affirms Its Own Clarity

F. Moral and Spiritual Qualities

  • 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


Hermeneutics and Perspicuity

Lesson Transcript


We'll finish up this course by thinking about a few different topics that don't fit directly into the issues related to genre analysis. And the first of those that I want to talk about is perspicuity. And many of you probably don't even know what perspicuity means. It's the theological word that we use to describe how clear the Bible is, which there's some weird irony at work there that we have a word that no one knows what it means to describe how people can actually understand the Bible. So the perspicuity or the clarity of Scripture means this, that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it, seeking God's help and being willing to follow it. And I get that from Wayne Grudem. He writes this about that definition The existence of many disagreements about the meaning of Scripture throughout history reminds us that the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture does not imply or suggest that all believers will agree on all the teachings of Scripture. Nevertheless, it does tell us something very important that the problem always lies not with Scripture, but with ourselves. So the Bible is written in such a way that it can be understood, but it's better, can only be understood by those who read it. Certainly those who read it, seeking God's help and also who have a heart willing to obey and follow it. So this this definition, it's not concern to say that every passage is easy. What we know is that God has disclosed himself in time to real people. So there are cultural overtones at work. And of course, under the old covenant, God disclosed himself through prophets and priests and kings. There was a tribal structure, there was a covenantal head. And some of that's very strange to us. In the New Covenant there are no mediating priests, prophets or kings. We have only one God and Savior Jesus Christ. Under the New Covenant, we look to the revelation that God is given and we all have access to it. This this book, the Bible, it is a public book. Part of the priesthood of believers is that we can all read and and understand it. And so the Bible is clear enough for for all Christians to understand faith and practice. And and all of us can read and understand huge swaths of the Bible. We can obey huge parts of the Bible. And quite frankly, even though there are some hard parts of the Bible, as I said earlier, the the hardest parts of the Bible for me are the parts I understand quite well. I just don't like it because it wars against my fallen sensibilities. I don't like being told not to be proud. I don't like being told not to be anxious. I don't I don't like being told to to love sacrificially because that war is against the flesh. So to me, those are the hardest parts of the Bible, not the not the difficult ones to interpret. We need to recognize also that God has a complex mind. He is, after all, God and and finitude is always going to have a difficult time understanding the infinite that that creation is not going to be able to wrap our arms all the way around the Creator. It must be said, though, that many articulate the gospel faithfully, even as they're mishandling the text at times. Hermeneutical skill is an aid to better articulate the truth. Thankfully for all of us, God works in spite of us, not because of us. That's no excuse to be sloppy or lazy thinking, Oh, God's just going to make do with what I do. He'll make lemon lemonade out of the manure that that I shovel him. That's that. No, we are not to think that way. That's no doubt why you're even taking this class. You want to be able to interpret the Bible better, and I want to encourage you in that. These skills that you learned in this class will help you be able to better live and articulate the truth. Now, why would I even think that the Bible is perspicuous or clear? Well, because the Bible says that it is. Turn with me to Deuteronomy chapter six, verses six and seven. This is in the context of the great. Shema Moses is telling the is the second generation of Israelites just before they cross into the promised land. He gives them the law again. And and he says in verse six and seven, well, verse four as the great shema, listen oh Israel or hear oh Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up, bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the door posts of your house and on your city gates. I think the Bible implicitly affirms its own clarity here in a number of ways, but the most significant is that the people of Israel were expected to be able to understand the words of Scripture well enough that they could teach them diligently to their own children. The Bible apparently is clear enough that we can take its truths and teach them even to little kids. Psalm verse 19 or Chapter 19, verse seven is is another self attestation of the clarity of the Bible. Psalm Chapter 19, verse seven The instruction of the Lord is perfect, renewing one's life. The testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the experienced wise. God's Word is so understandable, so clear that even this kind of person, the inexperienced, is made wise by it. And it doesn't make someone wise by just simply hearing it. And then it works magically in your mind. No, it has to be understood and appropriated and wisdom is garnered that way. Matthew, Chapter 12 Verse three is another kind of self attestation to Scripture. Here Jesus is arguing with the religious leaders, as he often did. There's a bit of a Sabbath controversy because he, he and his disciples were eating some grain on the Sabbath. And and they accused him of breaking the law. And he says to them, Haven't you read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry? Later on. Look at chapter 19, verse four, chapter 19, verse four, another controversy. And Jesus asked this question is, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds? Jesus says, Haven't you read that he created them in the beginning, made them male and female. Jesus assumes in these two cases that the Bible is understandable because he repeatedly asked, Haven't you read? This is obvious, guys. It's right there in black and white. It's clear. It's clear. Do you not understand? He says We should also recognize that most of the New Testament is written not to learn in teachers, but to churches, to the congregations that have ordinary people in them, including children. Notice that in Ephesians chapter six, when Paul instructs children to obey their parents, he addresses them specifically. He says, children obey your parents. He doesn't say, parents get your kids to obey. He and his understanding is that his letter would be read out loud to them and it could be understood by them. Now there are, of course, moral and spiritual qualities needed for right understanding, and I'll come back to those in the final session on the necessity of the Holy Spirit in interpretation. But for now, though, the New Testament authors frequently state that the ability to understand the Bible rightly they would understand it's more of a moral and spiritual thing than it is an intellectual ability. And I think that's huge, which is why I said that in quoting Grudem that that the Bible is clear. It's able to be understood by those who are willing to listen and obey it. So although the Bible in itself is written, clearly, the biblical authors also affirm that it will not be understood rightly by those who are unwilling to receive its teachings.