Lecture 15: Hermeneutics for Prophecy (Part 2)

Course: Biblical Hermeneutics

Lecture: Hermeneutics for Prophecy (Part 2)

Turn with me to Exercise and vocabulary, number four.  We are using the terminology found in Stein and Basic Guide to interpreting the Bible, Chapter 2.  Describe what people mean when they say the following:

1) The form of this verb means that this sentence is either a statement in the present tense or a present imperative.

The norms of language deals with a form of the Greek verb which form-wise, the present tense and the present imperative in a second person plural is identical.

2) The name Caesarea Philippi in the same must be part of the tradition before Mark wrote this account in his Gospel. Subject matter right? What was the tradition like about this material? Has nothing to do with meaning, implication or something of that nature.

3)  Not to commit adultery means not to lust. Implication.

Student: [Hard to Hear]

Dr. Stein: I would have to think about that. Interpretation, I could see where you are coming from.  I had in mind implication however.

What man meant by you cannot serve God and mammon is that a person cannot serve God and things. Interpretation. You are expressing your understanding of what Mark meant by these words. What Jesus meant by you cannot serve God and mammon is that a person cannot serve God and things.

Student: Subject matter

Dr. Stein: Subject matter. Good. Ok. We are getting pretty good at that aren’t we?

Student: Just a [Hard to Hear]

Dr. Stein: Alright

Student: What is different then about 5 and 4?

Dr. Stein: 5 and 4 deals with the author of the book.  5 is a character in the book.

6) It is expected that at point in this letter, Paul would give a thanks giving or a prayer.

Genre. Literary genre. Good.

The principle which Paul … which Peter seeks to teach here is that if Christians are to suffer, it should not be due to their own sins.  Interpretation.  You are interpreting what Peter meant.
I know what the word means, but I just don’t get it.

Student: [Hard to Hear]

Dr. Stein: Understanding would be the one I am thinking of. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. I know what the word means, but I don’t understand what it means in combination or something.

Let me try to say this in another way.  Interpretation, you are giving another verbal expression of your understanding. Interpretation.

This event took place in the context of the great political upheaval of the 1st century.

Student: Subject matter.

Dr. Stein: Subject matter – yes or no?

Alright that is a volitional issue – significance.

Is swearing allegiance to the flag part of giving to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar?

Student: [Hard to Hear]

Dr. Stein: Implication.

13. As a Jew and former Pharisee, Paul must have thought that the death of the Messiah was absurd.

Dr. Stein: [Hard to Hear]

Student: [Hard to Hear]

When people say I just don’t get it – aren’t they expressing that they don’t understand it?

Student: Wouldn’t a guy that says “I understand that Jesus hung on a cross, but I just don’t get why that a …”

Dr. Stein: My mental axe [Hard to Hear] as I was writing to save him.  What I am thinking of is somebody saying, I know what this word means in a sentence, but I don’t understand the sentence. See that that’s what I was thinking.  The exam examples will be clearer than that, be assured of that. Don’t put that too far away, we may have time to do number five later on.

How about questions with what we talked about so far in the cosmic terminology? Is it make sense to you?  Yes?

Getting wired up so much nowadays that one of these days my nose is going to glow from radioactivity or something like that. 
Hopefully - this will do a little better? OK. I will talk a little more loudly too. Alright, any comments, questions on the use of cosmic language?

Now if somebody were to say to me, “Are you saying we shouldn’t take these words literally?” Well the way the Reformers talked about the literal sense of a text, they meant, what the author meant and that absolutely I want you to take literally. What the author means by this language, but he doesn’t mean the language to be taken literally but what the language is expressing – God’s judgment for instance on these nations. That you need to take literally. Ok? Yeah. 

Student: [Hard to Hear]

Dr. Stein: Misinterpretation or something like that.

Student: That’s not always the case that it [Hard to Hear]

Dr. Stein: Yeah. You might say wooden literalism. Some people might say something like that.  Again you are trying to understand what the author meant.  You have to understand how does the author use this language.  Needless to say when Paul argues in Romans, he uses language very literally.  But we are going to look at later on, some of the language of Jesus.

Jesus very seldom seems to talk very literally. So [Hard to Hear] have to use very picturesque poetic language. “If your right eye offend you pluck it out.” I don’t think there have been many Christians that – who have taken that very literally over the centuries.  I have never known of a Christian group be known as the left-eye-followers-of-Jesus or something like that, you know.

So common sense helps you on some of those things right. 

Student: Dr. Stein, you think then considering our culture, the interpretation of the Bible has become more difficult for our nation and our culture [Hard to Hear] technologically and informative writing …

Dr. Stein: Yeah. Absolutely.

Student: You know we deal with people in the congregation that have had no training in figurative languages at all and they are bombarded day in and day out like technical language…

Dr. Stein: We are not in the world of the poets any longer. We are in the land of scientific terminology and exactness, precision, literal terminology and so forth and so on. That does create problems and some of bring with us a view of inspiration that causes the problem.  That is a scientifically accurate record.

Well. I think it is accurate in what the author means to say, but it is not a scientifically written account using the language of today’s scientist.  So that we have to say what the author meant, that I take as the word of God without error. When he talks about the four corners of the earth, that is a figurative expression. What he means is all over.  The gathering of the lost sheep of Israel from the four corners of the earth means, from all over the world they will be coming in. It is not trying to make a scientific statement.

So I am afraid that we tend to read scientifically this material and lose sight of the fact that you ought to read it more like a poet would read it, because these are poets and in those sections where we had poetry of course.

Let me just give a general warning to you. If you ever see a book on Hermeneutics written by an engineer, don’t buy it.  I say that. My two sons are engineers, by the way.  But I am just saying that there is a different mentality that engineers bring to their work than that Isaiah and Jeremiah wanted to bring.

And when we talked more about the kind of language, we talked about affective language versus referential language. Referential language is passing on information but the other kind of language seems to appeal to our emotions and scientific language doesn’t do that very well. Poetic exaggerated figurative language does that very very well.

Just think for a minute, describe you love to somebody using just pure scientific terminology. You are dead. Dead in the water.  You need something like the language of the poets, the language of the prophets and so forth.

Alright now lets look another passage – group of passages near.  I want us to look at Isaiah 11:1-9. It’s a beautiful passage, one that has been read many times.

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
   and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
   the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the spirit of counsel and might,
   the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
   or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
   and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
   and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
   and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

Dr. Stein: Now pay attention.

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
   their young shall lie down together;
   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
   as the waters cover the sea.

Now when we get to chapter 35, that idyllic scene is described somewhat differently. 35, 1 and 2

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
   the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus 2 it shall blossom abundantly,
   and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
   the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
   the majesty of our God.

Verse 8

8 A highway shall be there,
   and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
   but it shall be for God’s people;
   no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.
9 No lion shall be there,
   nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
   but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
   and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
   they shall obtain joy and gladness,
   and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Then one other reference here that I don’t have listed, and that is chapter 65, verse 25,

25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
   the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
   but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord.

Dr. Stein: I got a question for you.  In this blissful paradise, are there going to be lions there or not? Well. In 11 they are there.  But they had been domesticated.  In chapter 35, they are not there.  In chapter 65, there has been a revival and they have come back again.

Now what is going on here?

Well. Here is a scene, a picture. What is true in all three instances is each picture is showing the same reality. In the first picture, the reality of the peaceful bliss is being described by saying, the wild animals will no longer be wild. They will be domesticated, so lion and lamb can lie together.  You could put your hand over the cobra’s den and you don’t have to worry about it.  The bear and the cow, they graze together.  Peace, killing and death no more.

The next picture shows peace – tranquility, because all the wild animals are removed.  That is another way of describing it.  And then you go back to the original picture in 65, same thing, now you have wild animals are domesticated again. What each of these scenes is portraying is identical. There is no conflict between them.  It is not like you have three different authors of Isaiah and the first one liked the wild animals, that’s what we are going to have in glory.  The other one says I don’t like any animals. There will be none in glory.  I am allergic to them or something like that and the next one, the third one says, I do like animals, there are going to be animals there and they are confused.

Hey look. I don’t care if there are 65 Isaiah’s that wrote it. The last person who put it together had enough brains to know, that these either conflict or don’t conflict and he didn’t think they conflicted with another.  He understood that they portray the same scene. The author’s meaning in all of them are the same. 

Peaceful bliss in the hereafter. How you describe it? Free to do it in various ways.  The literal meaning, they agree. Identical. Different ways of describing it. Different ways of describing it.

Now let me go on to some other material on prophecy.  And lets talk a little about first of all the book of Revelation. Let me turn to the 21st chapter of the book of Revelation, which has this wonderful picture of the glory to come. In chapter 21,

“1 I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”

I like lakes and the shore. The sea was a terrifying thing in the ancient world. A storm at sea in the fragile wooden boats that they had was a nightmare so it was always a threat.  You won’t have a sea to worry about anymore. 

2I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Now as we have this description, notice in verse 17, here you have the angel measuring the walls, the city’s four square, nice even, geometrical pattern and you say the city was 1,500 miles and the length and width and height are equal.

And he measured the walls, a 144  cubits by human measurement. Alright well two hundred and thirty feet or so. Two hundred and thirty feet, why does he say that the wall is two hundred and thirty feet think? What is being portrayed by this? Security.

Have you ever looked at ancient walls? I mean if you had a 10 foot wall. That’s  pretty good. If you had a 20 foot wall – this wall is 230 feet think.  You think you are going to batter your way through that? No way. You don’t have to worry. Heaven is peaceful. Its safe.  It has great thick walls.  Now in verse 12 and 13, it talks about there being 12 gates. That’s strange, because the gate was always the weakest part of the city.

Its why they had special gates to try to fortify it but the walls were much harder to breach than the gates and somehow having 12 of them, it might be nice to have the names of each apostle on it or makes it a little less secure to me but then in verse 25,

25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.

What in the world is the value of 230 wall if you leave the gates open all the time. It makes no sense.  Well. It makes no sense if you are thinking like a scientist or a military strategist. But if you are thinking about what the author is trying to teach from, it makes perfectly good sense. Each one of them teaches the same thing. If you have thick walls, you have security. If you leave the gates open all the time, you have security. So all of them reinforce the same view of the security of Heaven. You don’t have to worry about invasion.  There is peace.  We are safe with God. We have thick walls. We don’t even need to have the gates closed each time.

So you have the writer using different images to get the same point across. And you have all of this kind of imagery used and … you say well, “What do you make of these?” Well. [Hard to Hear] The streets are made of gold.

Why does he say that?

Well. It is because the streets are made of gold. No. Actually, the streets in Heaven are made of aluminum, but we don’t have any of that in this planet. It is much better than gold. 

How can you describe that which is other-worldly except by this worldly terminology?

How do you describe the preciousness of Heaven? If you had a few gold coins, that was a treasure for you.  “Hey. Where I am going, we pave our streets with that stuff.” The preciousness of Heaven is being described.

So you have the symbolic use of all of this imagery, not to describe actually for an architect, the plans and the building material … actually gold is a lousy substance to have on streets. Its very soft. Aluminum though is real tough.
So, you have this way of describing things here.  Let me give an anecdote.  The Dean who hired me to teach for my first job at Bethel College was Virgil Olsen.  Later on Virgil Olsen became the executive secretary of the Foreign mission board of the Baptist General Conference.

Oh about. Must have been about 25 years later after he had hired me, he and I met each other at the cafeteria.  He was eating and he said, “Come on over Bob.” And we sat down and talked.  He had just returned from Ethiopia. At the time Ethiopia was a communist dominated country and the church was a persecuted minority.  Great persecution of the Christians in Ethiopia at the time.

So I asked how things were going and over there and he was excited … said there is a vibrant church.  Persecution seemed to actually help the church to grow.  Like one of the early church Fathers said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  And then he talked a little and he said, “Hey Bob. You know. I asked somebody there, ‘What were their favorite two books of the Bible?’” And they told me that their favorite two books of the Bible – “Can you guess what they are Bob?”

And I said “Well, probably one of the Gospel or probably John would be one and they need something with good theological basis – Romans. How about John and Romans?”

And he said, “No. You are wrong.”

“They are Revelation and Daniel.”

And I gulped and that was exactly my reaction. So I asked them, “Why are these your favorite two books?” They told me, “We like these books because God wins in the end.” Then I knew that they had a much better understanding of Revelation than most of these TV preachers.”

God wins at the end.  That’s what you find in the book of Revelation, not charts of the End Times. God wins.  And for people like the book of Revelation who perhaps are going to die for their faith, they want to read that God wins in the end and if you endure and are faithful, you will live with them.  They are not saying as they are lining up to be shot, “By the way, do you have pencil and paper? I want to chart out these events, I am just reading about.”

[Hard to Hear] And I think we need to emphasize that in that in the book of Revelation. God wins. That’s important. So that’s the heart of the book of Revelation. Very quick survey of it I gave you.

Let me go now to a couple of passages in the New Testament that talk about prophesy, that raises a different kind of problem.  One of them is the book of Acts, chapter 2, Acts chapter 2.  These events take place on the day of Pentecost as 2:1 says. The Spirit of God comes upon the church as Jesus had promised in 1:8 and they speak in foreign languages, people are saying they are drunk. Others are saying, no that’s not true.  And then in verse 14 and following, Peter explains this event,

“14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.”

Now what he is not saying is “You know if had been 6 pm, we might be drunk but its too early.” But [Hard to Hear] saying “You know it can’t be that. Its too early in the morning for drunkenness. It has to be a different explanation.” Technically that would be an ad hominem argument or something like that.

16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
   and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
   and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
   in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
     and they shall prophesy.”

If he had quit at that point, most exegetes would be very happy but he goes on.

19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
   and signs on the earth below,
     blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
   and the moon to blood,
     before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Now. I have seen a number of commentaries, Bible footnotes and so forth that say something like, “In verses 17 and 18 about the coming of the Spirit, that was fulfilled. Verses 19, 20 and 21 will be fulfilled in the future, in the end times.” There is a problem with that, because what Peter is saying is not this is kind of like what the prophet Joel said. This is the fulfillment of what Joel said. And you say well I can understand 17 and 18 taking place, but what of 19 and 20.

Well, 19 and 20 are the kind of cosmic language that again talks about God acting. God acts in history and he is acting now in a new era. He is bringing about in a new way, the Promises … a new covenant is begun. A major leap has taken place in salvation history. And God now is bringing His Spirit to all flesh in fulfillment to what Joel has said. And the cosmic signs here that are associated with it, simply indicates God is bringing this great thing about.

If you have trouble in understanding that, and saying it has to have a literal fulfillment, the question is wait a minute. Some would says, “Well. There is a double fulfillment.  There is a double fulfillment because verses 15, the earlier verses that [Hard to Hear] verses 17 and 18, they were fulfilled in Peter’s day, but in verses 19 and 20 and 21, that will be fulfilled in a later day.”

In some ways verses 18, 19 and 20 have to refer to what is going on in Pentecost. He doesn’t jump and say well, “Yeah. But also sometime centuries later, this other thing is going to happen.” This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel and He reads all five verses here. I think for Luke these promises, promise of Joel, is the fulfillment of what Is taking place at the Day of Pentecost. 

Once again you have this kind of cosmic language being used to describe God acting in history.  There are other kinds of prophecies that Luke the author also gives, that have to be interpreted this way. Let us now turn to His Gospel in chapter 3 verses 4 through 6,

Here John the Baptist is speaking,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
   and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
   and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

This is His explanation of what His mission is right now. Now right away you know that there were no major geographical changes that took place in the land of Israel. It didn’t become a flat Manitoba plain.  There are still valleys and hills and so forth.  But you have to understand the language.  What it means when it says, “…   make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low…”

Make straight means make it easy. Every valley being filled means the path is easy to travel. Every hill and mountain made low, well there is of a language in which he uses that same terminology.  Keep your finger back here but turn to Luke 14:11,

11 For all who exalt themselves will be made low, and those who humble themselves – those who become low - will be exalted.’

Same word is used here. And then you go to Chapter 18 verse 16, once again you have the same thing.

14 … this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be brought low, but all who bring themselves low will be exalted.’

Its picturesque language and he says, “Every valley shall be filled, every mountain and hill shall be made low…” There is a turning around.  The meek, the low and the poor being raised up and the exalted are being brought low. “the rough places made smooth, the crooked places made straight” and so forth and so on. This is poetic language for whats happening. The world is being turned on its head.

Those you expected to enter the KOG are not. And those that you always counted are entering.  The poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, the meek, they are entering. The publicans, and the sinners, the tax collectors and all. Those who you did expect, the religious elite, they are not entering and this is the language that the poet uses to describe that kind of thing.

Turn with me to chapter 4, verse 18 and following.  Here is Jesus’ speech as He begins His ministry.

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives – Now think of that – release to the captives,

the recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord.’

Now “release to the captives,” do you know anything in the ministry of Jesus in which prisoners are liberated from prison.

Let me read to you the other places where this word released is found. It is found in 1:77

to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   by the release of their sins.

The word is “forgiveness” there.

In 3:3,

"... He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the release of sins."


" ...and that repentance and release of sins - or forgiveness - is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem."

Acts 2:38, Acts 5:31, Acts 10:43, Acts 13:38, Acts 26:18 ...

In every other instance, the word means forgiveness.

So when you get back to our verse here, I think what the expression “release to the captives” means forgiveness of sins to those who are the oppressed of sin. When you go to recovery of sight to the blind, here I think is one miracle of healing a blind person in Luke, but that expression is used elsewhere. In 1:78,

"By the tender mercy of our God,
   the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace."

In 3:6,

"and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” 

Now in Acts 26 written by the same author who probably thinks very much like the author of Luke. In Acts 26, Paul, in verses 15 through 18 says, when he talks about his conversion,

15 I asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. 17 I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles — to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

I have sent you, recovering of sight to the blind, the forgiveness of sins, three of those terms found here in Acts 26:15 to 18 are found in Luke 4:18 to 21.  So what we have is the use of metaphorical language to describe the mission of forgiveness, making easy the way of the Lord and the like.

I think again, it is a very useful way of speaking and interpreting the message of God. Figurative language. Figurative language. Think for a minute whenever you see that, how would you explain it in non-figurative language and you would find that even if you could, it would be very drab and very blah to say the least. Thats the strength of this kind of language.

Alright I am pretty much all prophesied out as to my wisdom. Its about all I really know. Questions. Yes. Way back. 

Student: [Hard to Hear]

Dr. Stein: Alright. Let me give one example that I think I have worked out because the others I am not too sure of. Lets see. Ok. Now where is it – Out of Egypt I have called my Son.  Yeah. Here it is.  In Matthew 2, “14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’”

Now, in Hosea, this prophesy, “Out of Egypt I have called my Son” I think is a clear reference to the Exodus under Moses.  How can that then be a prophesy as to God calling His Son Jesus out of Egypt and bringing Him back to the Promised Land?  Might I suggest this – that Matthew saw in the Promise, God made to His people, the following pattern of meaning. That God had promised His people, a land called Canaan.

And when under Joseph and Jacob, they went down to Egypt, that promise was such that he knew that he would have to – that they would come back. That God would lead them back. Egypt would not be their permanent home because God has promised this land so that out of Egypt, God would call His Son.

Now if that’s true about the children of Israel, how much more would it be true that if His only begotten Son went to the land of Egypt to escape not famine, but the threat of Herod.  How much more would it be true that He also would be brought back. So I would try to say that in what Matthew sees, He sees an implication of the prophesy that was originally referring to the Exodus. That’s the kind of approach I would tend to want to make.

To see if I can see a possible implication.  Now there are a lot of them I don’t know. I am really not an Old Testament expert in any sense with regard to some of these Old Testament prophesies, but what I would try to do is to see just as in 1 Cor. 9:9, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is grinding out the grain” means that oxen should be able to eat from their work, so if that’s true of them, how much more would it be by implication true of those who preach the Gospel living off the Gospel as well. That would be the way, I would try to explain these things.

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