Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Master Key: Hermeneutic Tool #1

 Jesus Christ is the interpretive Master Key which unlocks the whole of Scripture

Or put another way:

Jesus Christ is the lens through which the whole of Scripture is to be viewed.

This is not the same thing as saying that Jesus is the filter through which Scripture is to be viewed. A lens will bring a text into proper focus with regard to Jesus whereas a filter may well tend to eliminate a text as having no relevance to Him.
From this latter view comes the statement that “Not everything Biblical is Christlike.”
As a supposed hermeneutic tool, this is such a misleading ‘half-truth’, that if it is discovered in one’s toolbox, it is best discarded without further ado.

The difference between the lens and filter approach is subtle yet extremely significant.
The connection of some Old Testament texts with Jesus is easily discernible - Isaiah Chapter 53 for instance. For other texts the relationship to Jesus might be far less obvious.
Take for example the following text from Leviticus 19. 19b:

---Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed,
Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

There are preachers who refer to this text as so obviously arbitrary and inapplicable in our Twenty first Century context, that it casts doubt as to whether the Old Testament has any relevance to our current context in the arena of ethics and morality. Seemingly, it fails to demonstrate any relationship to Jesus and can consequently be ignored or discounted.
Such an approach uses a particular concept of Jesus as a filter when applied to the text.

By contrast, using Jesus Christ as a lens, we discover the following:

This law was given to the Israelites while traversing Sinai en route to Canaan, The Promised Land. God knew that once they began to settle in this land, they would transition from a nomadic existence to a settled agrarian lifestyle where contact with peoples who worshiped various foreign gods was more commonplace. This would bring a constant pressure to be unfaithful to the worship of Jahweh the one true God. He had chosen them to be a nation, Holy and separated unto Him: – a nation to whom He would reveal Himself as to no other nation, for from this people would come The Messiah who would bring salvation to all nations.
Yet until the coming of Jesus they were to keep themselves separate and uncontaminated by the idolatry of the surrounding nations.
Leviticus 19.19 describes everyday practices which would serve as a constant reminder that they were a Holy People, a Messianic People.
This does not mean that the laws set forth in the text are binding on Christians in our current context, (in this there is common cause with the ‘Jesus as filter’ interpreters) but the connection with Jesus becomes clear and we understand why Jesus said that He had not come to ‘abolish the law but to fulfill it.’ Indeed He said not a dot or comma of the law should be altered.
Rather a text such as this may be seen as one stone in a series of stepping-stones which lead to Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Law and prophets.

There is also a contemporary application of this text in the lives of believers, as, in Christ, we too are considered to be a ‘holy people’, separated unto God. Thus Jesus prays that we should be ‘in the world but not of the world,’ (Jn. 17.) and Paul writes that we are not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.’ (Rom12.2)

Thus we can see that viewing the text through the lens of Jesus will unlock its riches and relevance within God’s salvation purposes.

Certainly two people who had a first hand experience of viewing Scripture through the lens of Jesus Christ were the travelers on the road to Emmaus:
“And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted in them all the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24.27

Later they said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road while He opened to us the Scriptures.” Luke 24. 32  

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