• Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Scripture

    Are the Red Letters Special in the Bible?

    When it comes to the red letters of the Bible, as Christians we often revere and cherish those portions of the text more highly than others. After all, the red letters are the words of Jesus! Why shouldn’t we value what Jesus says higher than other parts of the Bible? It is certainly popular to value what Jesus says over and above other parts of Scripture. In fact, there is a whole group called, Red Letter Christians, who exist “to take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and especially embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount” (quote from their stated purpose). Perhaps you are not a card-carrying member of the Red Letter Christians. But, I imagine you gravitate to the person of Jesus. I bet that you value him above anyone else who is mentioned in the…

  • Church,  Hermeneutics,  New Testament

    Is the Book of Acts a Template for the Church?

    Many readers struggle with the book of Acts because they assume that it has to be a model for us to follow. Reading through the book of Acts we might wonder why we don’t speak in tongues, perform miracles, or exercise control over demons. But even on the more practical level, some read the book of Acts as a pattern for church growth. Similarly, I once heard a well-known Christian speaker say that he was in the process of rethinking how his church operated because when he compared his church with the church of Acts, he didn’t see enough similarities. The problem with this view is that the book of Acts was not written to be a template for the church to follow. Rather, the book of Acts is a historical record of how the church developed. The Connection between Acts and Luke One of the ways we can tell…

  • Hermeneutics,  Old Testament,  Textual Criticism

    Bible Codes and Secret Messages in Scripture?

    I will periodically interact with groups that believe in bible codes and secret messages in Scripture, or be asked about them at church. Looking for a secret message in the Bible is seductive and has a long history with many Christian and Jewish advocates. Is there any evidence that the Bible contains a secret message or a hidden code? One individual who would answer in the affirmative was Chuck Missler (1934–2018). Missler was a very intelligent man who had a background in information sciences (computers, cryptography, etc.). In some of his written works and lectures on bible codes he taught there is a secret message in Scripture. Chuck Missler provides a good template for explaining some of the faulty thinking behind the idea that the bible contains a secret message. We will focus on two of many problematic ways of searching for a secret message in the Bible. First, we…

  • Christian Living,  Hermeneutics,  Old Testament

    Train up a Child in the Way He Should Go? A Promise?

    Proverbs 22:6 has been interpreted in some circles as a promise to parents that if they do their jobs right, their child will never abandon the faith. However, this in turn has resulted in many parents feeling as if God has broken His promise to them when their child turns from the faith. Train up a child in the way he should go:And when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov 22:6, KJV) Although this verse has been used by many parents and church leaders as a promise, it is important to slow down and read this verse carefully. A Proverb is a Principle, Not a Promise First, a proverb is not a promise! Proverbs are axiomatic (self-evident) sayings about how life normally works. But, there are plenty of exceptions to proverbs, because life is complicated by many factors. For example, although Proverbs 21:17 says the one…

  • Hermeneutics,  Scripture

    Meaning in Scripture: More Than Words

    Communication is a complicated process. Not only are words involved, but tone, mood, and non-verbal signals are also a part of the process. Even within written communication examples of sarcasm, irony, jokes, and gloom all abound. Communication is complicated because it includes both words and emotion. This is why when we read Scripture, we must remind ourselves that we should not read as if Scripture were void of emotion or feeling. When we communicate with each other we are always naturally looking at the context to determine meaning. This is why a phrase or sentence can have multiple meanings, based on who the speaker/writer is and the intent of what the speaker/writer is trying to communicate. For example, what does “I forbid it!” mean? In perhaps an obvious situation, the phrase stands as a prohibition for a particular action (as in, I forbid you from playing computer games all day). However,…

  • Hermeneutics,  Old Testament,  Scripture

    Did the Prophets Understand Their Prophecies?

    Sometimes it is claimed that prophets in the Old Testament did not fully understand their own prophecies. This is often an argument for sensus plenior, which is the idea of finding a “fuller meaning” behind the text—a meaning which the original author may not have known. One of the key texts which is used to support the idea that prophets did not fully understand their prophecies is 1 Peter 1:10–12. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent…

  • Hermeneutics,  Law,  Old Testament

    To Boil or Not to Boil: Exod 12:8-9 and Deut 16:7 in Contradiction?

    Many people constantly accuse the Bible of having contradictions within it. One such alleged contradiction is in regard to the command not to boil the Passover lamb. In Exodus 12:8-9, Israel is forbidden to eat any of the lamb raw or to boil it in water. Similarly, in Deuteronomy 16:5-7, Moses’ instructions on eating the Passover include the command to cook it and eat it. Although the apparent contradiction is not present in many English translations, the issue is that the Hebrew of Exodus 12:8-9 says not to “boil [מְבֻשָּׁל] in water,” while Deuteronomy 16:7 uses the same verb while saying, “boil [וּבִשַּׁלְתָּ] and eat.” So the same verb (“to boil,” בשׁל) is used in both verses, but seemingly in contradiction. In Exodus 12:9 Israel is told not to בשׁל (boil) the meat. But in Deuteronomy 16:7 they are told to בשׁל (boil) it. Are these two passages a contradiction?…

  • Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament

    Why Does Jesus say, “I am the Good Shepherd”?

    “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Most Christians are familiar with the picture of Jesus as the good shepherd. Typically, the meaning of the good shepherd comparison focuses on Jesus’ care for Christians. I have heard multiple sermons on what it means for Jesus to be the shepherd. In particular, I remember a sermon where the question was asked, “What is a shepherd?” The proposed points in the sermon went something like: A Shepherd Leads the Sheep A Shepherd Feeds the Sheep A Shepherd Loves the Sheep A Shepherd Sacrifices for the Sheep Now I do not dispute that these points are indeed true of a shepherd. Further, I do think there can be an analogy between these points and the love and care of Christ. However, I think we are missing something if we don’t examine this reference…

  • Hermeneutics

    What is the Root Word Fallacy Danger

    A fallacy is simply a mistaken idea. In biblical studies, a root word fallacy is a mistaken belief that a word inherently carries one meaning in all of its uses. It unfortunately happens frequently. For example, a preacher is preaching away and then gets to an important word in the text and says, “Now this word comes from the Greek root word which always means [fill in the blank], and so we can import that root meaning here.” Now, the connection made is not always incorrect. But, it is a flawed methodology. Language is not static, but dynamic. Hence, words can change in meaning over time. In fact, one of the most interesting things about language is that words sometimes take on a life of their own and develop meanings which were never found in the root meaning of the word! For example, take the English word “nice.” Coming from…

  • Church,  Hermeneutics,  Theology

    7 Beliefs that Don’t Define Dispensationalism

    Readers of this blog may be curious as to what makes someone a dispensationalist. Simply put, dispensationalism is a set of doctrinal beliefs that deal with hermeneutics (how to read Scripture), ecclesiology (how the church operates), and eschatology (what the end times look like). Hence, a dispensationalist holds a distinctive set of beliefs about understanding Scripture, the role and function of the church, and about the end times. I have written elsewhere about how one can define dispensationalism, but in this post I want to highlight seven fundamentally errant beliefs that are sometimes associated with dispensationalism. These are charges that are often leveled against dispensationalism in a variety of circles. I have listed them in their accusatory forms. Dispensationalism teaches multiple ways of salvation. Unfortunately, this myth is often repeated, but has no basis in reality. Some people accuse dispensationalists of believing OT saints were saved by keeping the Law…