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For These of You Questioning Why I Interpret the Bible the Method I Do

My final two books The Bible Tells and So and The Sin of Certainty deal lots with (spoiler alert) decoding the Bible—particularly what I believe the Bible says about sure matters and the way I believe the Bible must be learn.

After all, this has generated some questions, like:

“Pete, what precisely is your drawback? No, severely.”

“Did you’re taking a hermeneutics course with Devil, as a result of that’s the one rationalization I can discover for why you do on web page …”

“Somebody someplace will need to have damage you very badly and also you carry these scars round in your writing.”

“How can we pray for you (moreover praying that you just break your palms and might’t kind anymore)?”

I’ve additionally gotten some very good and supportive questions from non-crazy people who find themselves genuinely helped by what I’m attempting to do as they work via their very own paradigm shifts on their journey of Christian religion.

So in an effort to make clear for each loopy and non-crazy readers alike, right here are 5 phrases that summarize my strategy to biblical interpretation, in no specific order.


(That’s technically two phrases, however the hyphen makes it one.) The Bible, like something that has ever been written, might be labeled in keeping with style—many genres, in actual fact (letters, legal guidelines, knowledge, apocalyptic, prophecy, story, parable, and so forth.). Recognizing what style you’re in is vital to sound biblical interpretation (i.e., don’t count on a parable to relay historic data; don’t learn proverbs as in the event that they had been legal guidelines).

Recognizing the varied historicgenres of our historic Bible is vastly aided by our capability to evaluate and distinctionthe Bible with related writings from the traditional world, i.e., by “calibrating” the Bible in opposition to historic analogs and thus studying to undertake historic expectations for decoding biblical literature fairly than imposing alien, fashionable conventions of studying.

So, Genesis 1-11 is greatest understood when in comparison with different historic origins texts fairly than anticipating one thing alongside the strains of recent science; the Gospels are greatest understood alongside historic Greco-Roman “biographies” fairly than modern biographies or historic accounts.

That type of factor.

Correct style recognition is a key pillar of recent biblical scholarship, and for me is a non-negotiable factor of studying the Bible nicely—although that doesn’t imply this strategy is all there’s to do when studying the Bible, which brings me to …


By this, I imply that Christ is the telos of Israel’s story—from the Greek phrase that means “finish” or “purpose.”

The Previous Testomony story doesn’t come to a climax “naturally” within the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Nor does the Previous Testomony “predict” Jesus of Nazareth in any standard sense of the phrase “predict” (“Hey, Israel, collect spherical and let me inform you one thing that’s going to occur 1000 years from now that you just’ll by no means have the ability to confirm and that can don’t have any that means for you—in case you’re questioning.”)

Relatively, a crucified and risen messiah is a shock ending to Israel’s story. The religion of the New Testomony writers is seen of their conviction that Christ is deeply related to Israel’s story whereas on the similar time grappling with the shock, counterintuitive growth of the gospel.

To forge a connection between Jesus as a shock ending and Jesus as however deeply related to the Previous Testomony, the New Testomony writers re-read, i.e., transposed, Israel’s story to account for the shock ending.

In different phrases, they learn the Previous Testomony creatively, not certain by what the traditional Israelite authors had been attempting to say for their time, however formed by what they believed God was doing within the current time.

In other-other phrases, their religion that Jesus was the telos of Israel’s story was their start line and governing precept for how they learn their Bible.

That is why—as many Bible readers already know—New Testomony writers, when quoting the Previous Testomony, usually “take it out of context,” that means the context of the unique utterance. The gospel requires inventive re-framing of Israel’s story.

The tendency towards “inventive” (i.e., midrashic) readings of Scripture in Judaism normally on the time is the right hermeneutical backdrop for understanding this “Christotelic” hermeneutic (one other occasion of genre-calibration).


The incarnation is the grand thriller of the Christian religion and offers an apt and historic analogy for understanding how the Bible might be embraced as God’s phrase whereas on the similar time unequivocally displaying the mundane properties, cultural infusions, and easy human imitations of any textual content, historic or fashionable.

As Jesus, the “God-man,” is totally a part of the tradition during which he lived, the Bible in each facet displays totally the various cultural contexts during which it was written. In different phrases, the Bible is just not a heavenly doc dropped down by divine parachute, neither is it one thing stored at a protected distance from the messy world of the human drama.

An incarnational mannequin of scripture accounts higher for the Bible’s personal properties than do numerous inerrantist fashions, which sooner or later all have to tame or corral biblical phenomena that don’t sit nicely with sure doctrinal wants.


I take advantage of this time period within the broadest sense, that means knowledge and perception for decoding the Bible can and does come from anybody, not restricted to Christians alone, or Protestants alone, and most positively to not specific Protestant tribes.

Real and deep perception into the character of the Bible and its interpretation comes from Judaism, the Roman Catholic, and Orthodox traditions, from agnostics, atheists—even Calvinists.

Additional, insights regarding the Bible come to us from all types of sudden, much less cerebral locations, just like the world round us—which is God’s world.


This historic metaphor for describing the Christian religion as a complete can also be apt for describing the interpretation of the Bible. Our understanding of the Bible at all times has a provisional dimension to it, and we should always count on our views to vary over time as all of us change and develop as human beings.

I don’t assume now as I did half a lifetime in the past after I began seminary. I had higher not. Nor do I believe that my present ideas are actually free from the necessity for future refinement, change, and even abandonment.

Pilgrimage is a metaphor for humility. Pilgrimage encourages us to let go of the necessity to have closing certainty on how we perceive the Bible and be much less inclined to place up partitions of division as a result of we’re extra keen to debate, discover, and alter fairly than proclaim, conquer, and defend.

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