Hermeneutics is a fairly long word that I was introduced to my senior year in college at HBU. I needed to take a senior seminar and the only one that fit was a class entitled Biblical Hermeneutics. I wish I could say that I walked out of that class and had a strong understanding of what it was all about, but I truly don’t know if I retained any of the information that I learned in that seminar. However, I was reintroduced to the term in my seminary studies and the field has since become very important to me.
Hermeneutics is the study of understanding. More directly, Biblical Hermeneutics, is the attempt to understand what the Bible is truly saying. To understand the Bible like most things, you must first read the text in question, and then begin to ask a series of questions to determine the meaning. The most important of questions is the question of context. Who is the audience? What else was said at the time? Who is the author and what is the purpose of the book that the text is within? These probing questions point us toward the true meaning of the text.
I could say that the parable of the wineskin or the patch are parables teaching us to stop hanging out with people who are not like us, but that is not what the context demands. The parable was told in response to the question about fasting, not a question about friends and followers.
The good news is the majority of the Bible is plain and clear, and even taught accurately. However, there are a minority of passages that have been misused by pastors and teachers, so much over the generations, that the true meaning of a passage is hidden or obstructed. In Sunday School we looked at one of those passages. It is the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15.
You likely know the story. A shepherd has 100 sheep and one wandered off. The shepherd then left the 99 to find his one missing sheep. Upon recovering this sheep he returns home and a huge party is thrown because the lost sheep has been found. The most popular interpretation of this passage is that the shepherd is God/Jesus and that he would risk it all to save one lost sheep. While this is certainly true of what Jesus did on the cross, this is not the meaning of the passage.
A brief look at the context shows that Jesus was responding to the Pharisees who had criticized him for hanging out with the “sinners.” So Jesus says to the Pharisees, “Which one of you, if you had a hundred sheep…” The shepherd in the story is the Pharisees, and the point of the story is that lost people are more important than lost property, and the Pharisees, who we are told earlier loved stuff, were unwilling to see the importance of the “sinners.”
As a parent I want to encourage you to read well with your kids. Help them understand what the Bible is truly saying. Don’t settle for anything less. If I can help, I’d love to. Do your best to lead your kids to love the Lord. Keep up the good work!