God is a spirit and all his wordes are spirituall. His literal sense is spirituall. William Tyndale 1494–1536 1

It shall greatly helpe ye to understande Scripture, If thou mark Not only what is spoken or wrytten, But of whom, And to whom, With what words, At what time, Where, To what intent, With what circumstances, Considering what goeth before And what followeth. John Wycliffe (1324-1384)

Hermeneutics is the art and science of interpretation. The key factor for a hermeneutic is that it have rigor, discipline, and consistency. How we approach language is foundational to how we determine meaning. Language is of two sorts: figurative or literal. Meaningful understanding of this subject depends upon specific examples for the reader to comprehend how a passage is interpreted. What is meant by literal is generally how a passage is normally read. An example of literal (or normal) meaning is the following passage by Matthew:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, (Matthew 2.1).

This is a simple, historical statement. The literal or normal meaning and interpretation is that Jesus was born in a place called Bethlehem (a real geographical place) when Herod (a historical person who reigned in a real time) was king (a real position) over Judea (a real place). By such a statement, Matthew rooted Jesus’ birth in a real place in a real time. Contrast Matthew’s literal statement to the following by Jesus:

Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep (John 10.7).

We understand Jesus did not mean He was a literal, wooden door of a sheep pen. We understand He was using a figure of speech (cf. John 10.6), a metaphor. But though He used figurative language, He communicated a literal truth, namely, that He is the entrance to salvation. Just as a wooden door is the entrance to a house or to a sheep pen, Jesus is the “door”, i.e., entrance through whom God and salvation is found. Jesus was not talking about animals, i.e. sheep, but human beings–specifically, Jews.

Almost all communication is literal. Think about daily conversations. We talk about going out to dinner, watching a movie, what our children are doing, ongoing projects, what we’re reading, what’s going on at church, politics, sports, our job etc. These communications are literal. Were it not so, we would find it impossible to communicate. We employ conventions regularly in speech without thinking of them as such. A new car is called a “nice set of wheels”. We employ expressions as, “She’s the apple of his eye”. In doing so we understand we are talking about a whole car and not just its wheels. We know someone’s eye does not have an apple in it but that the apple stands as an object of appeal and favor. Figurative language is, in most cases, readily understood as such by its context. It can also be identified by the kind of literature. For example, poetry lends itself to figurative language. But it is essential is to remember that figurative language always communicates literal truth. Isaiah penned the poetic line,

All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field (Isaiah 40.6).

We understand he meant we are mortal. The literal truth is not flesh is grass–that makes no sense–but that human beings have a temporal life upon the earth. Isaiah conveyed literal truth through figurative language.

Most difficulties in interpreting the Scriptures arise from neglecting a passage’s context. The guiding principle of sound interpretation is to take a passage literally (that is, in its normal sense) unless strong reasons exist for not doing so. Without such discipline, interpretation of a passage becomes so elastic it can mean almost anything. The result is erroneous or ridiculous interpretations. Following the rule cited above by Tyndale and Wycliffe, the interpreter needs to ask the following questions: To whom was a passage written? What did it mean to its audience? When was it written? Under what circumstances was it written? What was the historical context? How does the passage compare with other passages the writer has written? What light do other passages shed on it? Other questions pertinent to interpretation include: What knowledge do the original languages shed? Do cognate languages provide insight? What customs were in place? Are idioms or conventions present? Does archaeology shed linguistic or historical light on the passage? These are some of the many factors an interpreter must consider to determine meaning.

An example of interpretive confusion concerns the meaning of David’s throne. Great controversy has resulted about this subject. The controversy is whether Jesus will occupy David’s throne literally in a future day or whether he is occupying it now figuratively or symbolically. A literal or normal reading of the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7.8-17), indicates God promised to establish the throne of David forever. The Davidic Covenant was unconditional. God made the promise to David sovereignly in light of His knowledge of Israel past and future failures and weaknesses. We know from history that no son of David occupied the throne of Israel since the time of Nebuchadnezzar. We also know Mary and Joseph were members of the tribe of Judah and descendants in the royal line of David. The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that God would give her son the throne of David. He said,

32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1.32-33).

A normal reading of the prophecy is that God would give Mary’s son, Jesus, the Davidic throne. His reign would be over the house of Jacob, i.e., Israel, and it would last forever. Thus, the promise was wholly and totally Jewish. How would Mary have interpreted the words of the angel? She would have remembered the Davidic covenant and the prophecies over hundreds of years that promised Israel a Messiah-King who would reign.

The context indicates Gentiles or the Church were not in view. An interpretation that denies this is an erroneous interpretation. Jesus was a Jew. He was from the tribe of Judah and his ancestor was King David. Herod occupied David’s throne during Jesus’ time on earth. Herod was not from the tribe of Judah. Herod was a Gentile, an Idumean. Jesus never occupied David’s throne during his life on earth. Is he now sitting on it? Can one visit Jerusalem and find Jesus sitting on a throne there? No, Jesus is seated presently at the right hand of his Father’s throne (Psalm 110.1). Therefore, we can conclude the prophetic promise awaits fulfillment. A future day remains in which Jesus will rule from Jerusalem on David’s throne and fulfill God’s promise to David as reiterated to Mary (Daniel 7.14; Zechariah 14.9; Isaiah 9.6-7, 16.5; Jeremiah 33.17, 20-22, etc.).

Some maintain this throne is symbol, not literal. This is where one’s hermeneutic comes in. What is the normal reading of the passage? Those who maintain the throne is symbolic have abandoned the discipline of a literal, grammatical, and historical hermeneutic. The key question is whether the Scriptures govern theology or does theology govern the Scriptures. If the former, we have an inductive, scientific method of interpretation with rigor and discipline. If the latter, we have a deductive system in which the Scriptures become so elastic that the interpreter can mold them to mean whatever he wishes. That is what has happened in most of Christendom.

The Davidic Covenant was prophetic. How were other prophecies associated with Jesus fulfilled? Were they fulfilled literally or figuratively?  Were they types? For example, were His garments parted? Did soldiers cast lots for them? Was this literal or figurative? Was He betrayed literally for 30 pieces of silver? Did His disciples literally forsake Him? Did He literally die for us or was His death only figurative or symbolic? Did Jesus literally rise from the dead or did He rise figuratively or symbolically? Some have declared Jesus’ resurrection was only figurative–He rose in the hearts of his believers. The answers to these questions should be obvious. The above prophecies and many others were fulfilled literally. If we follow a consistent grammatical, historical interpretative method, then interpretation that maintains Jesus now occupies the Davidic throne in heaven is nonsense. The Scriptures are clear a future day remains in which Jesus will reign from David’s throne in Jerusalem, not heaven, as King of the Jews and of the entire earth (Zechariah 14.9; Matthew 6.10).

Another example of interpretive confusion regards events that took place at Pentecost, recorded in Acts. Peter told his audience they had crucified their Messiah. His words pierced their hearts and they responded to his message and asked him what they should do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2.38) and they would receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. He went on to say,

For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself (Acts 2.39).

In Peter’s second sermon, he spoke similar words,

24 And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25 It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED'” (Acts 3.24-25).

The great challenge of this passage is not to read in future revelation, i.e., Paul, into the passage. What was the situation? Peter’s audience was all Jews. No Gentiles were present. Pentecost was meaningless to Gentiles except as a curiosity. Remember that our Lord’s ministry was all Jewish with a couple of exceptions. He never had a ministry to Gentiles. All his apostles were Jews and His audience was the nation of Israel. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and told the Jews to “repent for the kingdom of God is near.” Not only did Jesus Himself have no ministry to Gentiles, He forbade His disciples to go to Gentiles (Matthew 10.5-7). Thus, the kingdom Jesus proclaimed was Jewish. It was a kingdom in which the nation of Israel would be preeminent among all the nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 28.1, 13). Through this kingdom Gentiles would be blessed (Zechariah 8.23; Isaiah 42.1). This kingdom was to be the fulfillment of all that the Jewish prophets had proclaimed and the promise God had given to Abraham (Genesis 12.1-3).

Peter’s quoted Joel because he recognized the last days (Hebrews 1.2) had come upon Israel. He and his fellow apostles knew the prophecies concerning Israel were being fulfilled. Interpretive errors arise when expositors interpret Acts 2 and 3 with reference to the Church, the Body of Christ. As noted above, Pentecost was a Jewish feast. It applied to the Jews, to national Israel, not the Church. Those who interpret Acts 2 and 3 as Church doctrine have departed from the historical context and abandoned sound exegesis. They read Church (Body of Christ) doctrine into Israel doctrine. Another way to express this is they read Pauline theology into Petrine theology. But the Church (the body of Christ) is different from Israel. How do we know this? We know it because the Scriptures explicitly tell us so. The Body of Christ did not exist when Peter gave his early Acts sermons. Peter’s sermons in Acts indicate he knew nothing about the Body of Christ. Everything in Peter’s sermons (Acts 2-3) indicated his focus was upon national Israel, that is, his kinsmen after the flesh. At that time, only the Jewish “church” or “assembly” of national Israel existed. Jewish priority was the rule. Those who believed in the Messiah were either Jews or under the aegis of the Jewish program, i.e., the kingdom of heaven.

Today, the situation is completely different. In the Church, the Body of Christ, we have no distinction between Jew and Gentile and no Jewish priority. Why not? The answer is because God revealed to the Apostle Paul the doctrine of the Church. Peter, nor any of the Twelve, knew nothing about it. This teaching was still a “secret” (Ephesians 2.11-22; 3.3-9; Colossians 1.26-27). Peter or any of the other writers of the New Testament do not mention the Body of Christ. Peter knew only one program: God’s prophetic program in which Gentiles were to be blessed through Israel. His knowledge of the Church, the body of Christ, came later, through the Apostle Paul. To force later revelation and Church doctrine onto the early chapters of Acts is to abandon a literal, historic, and grammatical hermeneutic. For further study on this matter see The Church.

Maintaining a “literal” hermeneutic has been a challenge throughout history. One form of figurative interpretation is allegorical interpretation. Allegorical interpretation came to influence Christian interpreters of Scripture by way of the Greeks. The allegorical hermeneutic provided a solution to a Greek scholarly dilemma. The Greeks had an established religious heritage from Hesiod and Homer. When the philosophers and scholars began to reject the religious heritage and philosophical traditions of earlier ages it created a political problem. To reject completely the writings of the earlier Greek poets could not be done due to their popularity with the people. To preserve Hesiod and Homer in an intellectually acceptable form they allegorized their religious heritage. The stories of the gods were not to be taken literally but figuratively or allegorically. This new hermeneutic proclaimed that beyond and beneath the literal sense lay a greater meaning of the story.

Using hermeneutical methods applied to Greek pagan texts, scholars, primarily from Alexandria, began to influence biblical interpretation. While Rome was the political center of the ancient world, Alexandria was the intellectual and cultural center. It was one of the chief centers of scholarship and had the greatest library of ancient texts and writings in the world. A large Jewish population had come to reside there and later, a great Christian population. Jewish scholars adopted an allegorical hermeneutic and used it to reconcile the biblical Scriptures with Greek philosophical tradition. The Christian church, influenced by these scholastic trends, later accepted this hermeneutic. It dominated Christian interpretation until the Reformation. The man probably most responsible for introducing allegorical interpretation into the Christian church was Origen (c. 185-254) who sought to harmonize New Testament theology with the teachings of Plato.

Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo (354-425), incorporated Origen’s methodology and devised a unified theology. Augustine’s ideas influenced Christian interpretation for a millennium. Allegorical methodology and its effect on theology led to several false interpretations of the Scriptures including the view of eschatology (the doctrine of last things) called amillennialism. Augustine had held a pre-millennial eschatological viewpoint as had almost all the earliest Church fathers. As he systematized his theology with allegorical methodology, he abandoned premillenialism and became an amillennialist. According to amillennialism, no literal millennium or kingdom of God exists in which Christ will reign as Israel’s king for a thousand years. The amillennialist interprets the “millennium” figuratively or allegorically as our present Church age. In other words, no millennium exists except what is now and it began when God created the Church. Thus, it is identical with the Church age. An issue we won’t delve into here is when God created the Church (examples: with Adam, with Christ, in Acts 2, other). This a significant problem for those who do not take the Scriptures literally. For those who do, the answer is simple.

The teaching the Church had replaced Israel began as early as the second century.2 The idea was since the Jews had rejected their Messiah, God had rejected them (nationally) and had given their promises to the Church. These promises were not to be fulfilled literally but figuratively. Throughout the Middle Ages, belief Israel been irrevocably replaced by the Church solidified. Thus, the Church replaced Israel. This error is held by most of Christendom under the theological system known as covenant, reformed, or replacement theology. Theologians call it supercessionism. While it is the predominant theological view in Christendom and has a long pedigree, it is heterodox, errant theology and has a hermeneutical foundation of sand.

Despite the prevailing theological climate in the Middle Ages, certain groups such as the Syrian School of Antioch and the Victorines rejected the allegorical method. When the Reformers emerged, they revised current theological thought and established a more disciplined method of interpretation. Literal interpretation began to reassert itself as the dominant methodology, primarily in the realm of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). As a result, they were able to recover and rediscover the great doctrine of justification by faith alone. The bywords of the Reformation were sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola fides–the Scriptures alone, grace alone, and faith alone. They saw the Scriptures, read in a normal, natural way, taught salvation by faith in Christ’s work alone. But old habits and traditions die hard. The reformers did not apply their methodology to other realms of theology such as eschatology (doctrine of last things) and ecclesiology (doctrine of the church). While the reformers failed to exploit a historical, grammatical, and literal hermeneutic into other areas of theology their failure can be understood. They were under tremendous pressures and what they achieved was nothing less than remarkable. But the great tragedy in Christendom is that since then almost no progress has been made to bring hermeneutical rigor into other areas of theology. The vast majority of scholars, pastors, and theologians fail to apply a consistent literal, grammatical hermeneutic to the Scriptures. They are essentially in the same place as the reformers 500 years ago.

The degree to which some interpreters reject a normal reading of a text is stunning. The have imprisoned themselves in a flawed hermeneutical system and most want to stay enslaved. They reject God’s sovereignty and His faithfulness for they refuse to believe that God will fulfill his word literally as he did in the past. God has been proven faithful by fulfilling hundreds of promises already. Were they fulfilled figuratively or literally? Consider the following. How would non-literal interpreters interpret the Scriptures related to the Lord’s first advent had they lived before that advent? Would they not “spiritualize” away the prophesies related to the Lord’s first advent? Think about it.

Those who hold a non-literal hermeneutic also often uncritically follow tradition. While tradition has virtues it can seduce one into rigidity and blindness. Jesus’ condemned the religious authorities of his day for two reasons. One was hypocrisy. The other was tradition. The religious leaders in Jesus’ day placed tradition alongside or above the Scriptures. The teachings of the Church Fathers, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and other reformers and theologians have value but they contain many errors. The Scriptures are supreme. When commentary conflicts with the normal reading of the text, the text trumps.

The gospels reveal that when Jesus referred to the Scriptures, he always interpreted them in their literal sense. Jesus made references to the biblical figures of David, Abiathar, Jonah, Solomon, Isaiah, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Abel, Daniel, Noah, Elijah, and Elisha. He taught they were literal personages and the events surrounding them were historical. He also noted the events and places of Sodom, Nineveh, the creation of man, and the Flood. In each case he interpreted the events and places as literal and historical. Consider the following statement by Jesus:

17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matthew 5.17-18).

More familiar as “jot or tittle” in the King James translation, the “smallest letter or stroke” is the Greek expression ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία (one iota or one point) which referred to the smallest Hebrew letter “yod” and part of a letter such as the “horn” part of a letter. Did Jesus believe in the literal fulfillment of Scripture? According to his above statement, not just down to the word but down to the smallest letter and to the smallest part of a letter. Can one be more literal than that?

The figurative, allegorical, “spiritualizing” interpreter is at odds with his Master. The root of the hermeneutical problem is unbelief, the remedy, faith. This one fact should be sobering to those who “allegorize” texts.

Lewis, C. S. English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1954, p.186.
This should not be surprising to the reader who has read Paul (cf. 2 Timothy 1.15, 4.10-11).

©1998 Don Samdahl. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold.

Updated, August 20, 2010

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38 thoughts on “Hermeneutics

  1. Ron G

    G’day Don,
    I really enjoyed this article.
    I have a couple of questions regarding Paul’s’ interpretative method when quoting the OT.
    Did Paul ALWAYS apply the same literal principals of interpretation that you reference in this article to all the 90+ OT quotations he used in his epistles?
    Did Paul ever apply his new (future) revelation re the Church, the gospel of grace and his christology to any OT quotes and therefore by this he actually applied this new revelation back into OT passages?
    Ron G

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Thanks. This is not an area I have specifically studied so my response is somewhat tentative. Probably be a good article. The interpretive rule of thumb is a passage has one interpretation but several possible applications. The writers of the NT clearly took passages from the OT and expanded their meanings. Classic example: “out of Egypt have I called My Son.” Paul’s writings closed the canon and so it was still in flux while he was writing his letters. Paul could expand upon a meaning and apply a new sense based upon revelation he had received. We cannot do this since the canon is closed.

      1. Ron G

        So if I understand what you are saying, Paul was able to expand on the meaning of certain OT passages because he was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit while in the process of completing the writings to the Church. However, only those passages Paul has already expanded on can be interpreted this way. We have been set a “boundary condition” for which we gave no licence to exceed in looking back at the OT. Is this correct?
        Please pray about doing the article. It would be a great blessing.
        Ron G

        1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

          So it would seem. Since I have not studied this area I am hesitant to give a stronger answer but that is my sense. I’t’s an interesting subject and I’ll pray and think about an article. Thanks.

        1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

          Yes. Best commentary on Revelation to date, Figures still the standard text, Companion Bible outstanding appendixes, etc.

  2. Courtney King

    I favor the NASB trans. But what are your views on the Hebrew Roots Version by Don Espisito and the Heb. Roots trans. By James Scott Trimm please reply

  3. Roger Spielmann

    Please point me to an article if you’ve already covered this, but my question relates to Mark 13 (also found in Matthew 24 and Luke 21), where Jesus is telling his disciples about his return. In vs. 30 he tells them that “…this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened.” More to the point, he tells them in Luke 9:27, “Some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” Was Jesus wrong? Everyone there died before seeing the Kingdom of God, right? What other conclusion could a reasonable person come to?

    Then there’s the episode about the Gentile woman who comes to Jesus and asks him to cast out a demon from her little girl (Mark 7:24ff). Jesus’s response is noteworthy: he rebuked her. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and cast it to the household dogs.” And her famous response, “Sir, even the dogs eat the scraps under the children’s table.” Her response seems to change Jesus’ mind and he heals the girl. In Matthew 15 we find a fuller account which has Jesus saying, “I can’t help you. I am not sent to any except to the House of Israel.” But after her (similar) response he says, “Oh, woman, your faith is very great!” The woman challenged Jesus’ prejudice and he changed his mind about not helping and non-Jews.

    My point is: All this makes sense to me. As fully human, Jesus most certainly had cultural prejudices, beliefs (e.g. the world was flat), opinions and so forth. To me, these incidences show us how Jesus continued to learn and adapt. It isn’t a matter of Jesus sinning, unless one believes that to be wrong about something is a sin, wouldn’t you agree?

    Thanks for reading.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      See my articles, How “Near” is the Day of the Lord? and Two Remarkable Healings. Jesus’ response to the woman was not prejudice but program: Israel first.

  4. Sue

    Hi Don,

    In Paul’s letters to the Corinthians Paul instructs them on how to behave.
    Some of these can seem to be his own opinions rather than wisdom from on high, eg regarding sexual relations, food, lawsuits, orderly worship etc

    Do I assume this is out of a spirit of wisdom (and from regulations made in the OT.)
    Where then does Grace and the leading of the Holy Spirit fit in for each believer (in the body of Christ)

    Where does his authority come from when putting things in order.
    Hope this makes sense. I’m not looking to imply I have a problem with Paul’s ministry.

    Thanks so much for your time.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      In these cases, Paul meant he had received no further revelation from Christ but was repeating what the Lord had taught about marriage in His earthly ministry.

  5. Sue

    Hi Don,

    Are you saying that everything that Paul taught would have been taught by Jesus at some point.
    How would that tie up with the Gospel Of Grace?

    Thank you

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Paul received his doctrines directly from the risen Lord. Paul wrote he received his gospel directly from the Lord. See Galatians 1.11-12, cf. Romans 16.25. Paul declared it was not from men. In Ephesians 3.3, Paul wrote he received the secret of the Church, the body of Christ, that Jew and Gentile are equal in Christ, by revelation, i.e., directly from the Lord. Paul’s salvation and commission as the apostle of the Gentiles came from direct contact and revelation of the risen Christ (Acts 9, 22, 26). Many, if not all, were received during his time in Arabia following his salvation (Galatians 1.15-17). Paul’s doctrines remained secret until God chose to reveal them. You will not find Pauline doctrines in the OT, gospels, writings of Peter, James, John, Jude. He received them directly from the Lord when God chose to reveal them.

  6. Pete

    You pointed me to this article, so I read it as you requested. Hopefully you don’t get angry at me for pointing out what I see as flaws, since we are to hold one another accountable.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the early parts of your post. Yes, context and original audience, and other scriptures are critical to understanding. One thing I would add is we all need to make sure we TRY to remove our 21st century Western bias when we interpret the Bible. Too often we fail to recognize metaphor or context because we overlay our modern view on top. If we run into text in the Bible that sounds funny to us, we should look up other references to that text to see the meaning of it.

    //A normal reading of the prophecy is that God would give Mary’s son, Jesus, the Davidic throne. His reign would be over the house of Jacob, i.e., Israel, and it would last forever.//

    Yes, it would. That means it would not last 1000 years. “Forever” is not “1000 years.”

    //Thus, the promise was wholly and totally Jewish.//

    I don’t know what this has to do with it, but I see you sliding into your dispensational viewport with this statement, as well as

    //The context indicates Gentiles or the Church were not in view.//

    Why is this relevant? Yes. It was a Jewish reference. How does that change a single thing as to whether it is literal, figurative or otherwise?

    Don, if you don’t want to discuss this directly with me, that is fine, but you really owe it to yourself and your other readers an explanation as to why Peter would say what he said in Acts 2:29-36. Peter said that the ascension of Jesus to David’s throne was accomplished when God raised Jesus from the dead. Peter said that David’s everlasting throne was Jesus’ throne…David is dead and buried (vs 29) and David is not ascended into the heavens (vs 34). Jesus is.

    Bottom line: the kingship of Jesus, on David’s throne, is absolutely LITERAL. It is not a figure of speech. It’s just that Peter expanded on the meaning of “David’s throne” to mean Jesus’ throne IN HEAVEN. Someday that throne will also be earthly, just as heaven and earth will someday be all one. But it won’t be a 1000 year kingdom. It will be “forever.” And it won’t be “Jewish.” It will simply be “Jesus.”

    Please explain to me how any of this is heresy. Thank you.

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Peter looked for an earthly kingdom. The prophets prophesied an earthly kingdom. They knew nothing of a heavenly kingdom and Jesus never proclaimed a heavenly kingdom. The last question Peter asked the Lord before He ascended was about this earthly kingdom (Acts 1.6). Jesus did not tell him that the earthly kingdom was wrong, He told him He could not reveal the timing of its establishment on the earth (Acts 1.7). The angels told the disciples Jesus would return like He ascended. He would return to earth and establish His kingdom. He would fulfill all the OT promises. At Pentecost, Peter said God raised Christ to sit on David’s throne (Acts 2.29-30). He said Jesus was seated at the right hand of God (Acts 2.33-34). He said, “David is not ascended into the heavens” (Acts 2.34). So David’s throne is not in heaven but on earth. Christ is not occupying David’s throne. If he were I could go to Jerusalem and see Him there. Amillenialists deny this. They deny the Scriptures. They deny all the OT prophecies related to Israel. They deny God is sovereign. They deny Christ his destiny of being King of the Jews. They deny “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion” (Psalm 2.6). That is why Amillenialism is heresy. That is why it is evil.

      1. Pete

        OK, thank you for answering directly my questions about Acts 2. You have given me some things to go study. But meanwhile, I would like to answer a few things.

        //Peter looked for an earthly kingdom//

        Peter and the others absolutely looked for an earthly kingdom, they expected it and even argued over who was going to sit in the highest positions in it. But the Lord corrected their thinking and in Acts 2, Peter saw the unfolding of the end of the age before him and a light went on in his mind. He saw that the reality of the kingdom was the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father.

        Why do I say this? Because not once in the entire passage does Peter say that Jesus was raised from the dead so that someday He could return to earth and sit on David’s throne on earth.

        He said that David was promised a descendent who would sit on his throne. He said that Jesus was raised up by God for that purpose, and He is now seated at the right hand, and is “both Lord and Christ” (vs 36).

        You are adding to the Bible if you think Peter meant that this was to someday be followed by a descension back down to earth, in order to fulfill the prophecy. That the resurrection of Jesus and ascension to the right hand of God was like “Step 1” of a 2-step process. Doesn’t say that.

        // Jesus did not tell him that the earthly kingdom was wrong, He told him He could not reveal the timing of its establishment on the earth (Acts 1.7).//

        This is a favorite passage of pre-millennials to try to prove that Jesus intended to fulfill the promise of the kingdom to Israel at a later date. But folks like you never continue to verse 8, where Jesus absolutely corrects the disciples’ thinking:

        Act 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

        Key word: BUT. This verse 8 describes the kingdom. The disciples are being corrected here. They thought Jesus would blow away the Romans. Jesus had no intention of doing that and never will. Jesus is saying that the kingdom is everywhere, not just in Jerusalem. The kingdom is built by witnesses and discipleship and upon Jesus’ words. It’s a kingdom built by His blood and the cross. (I marvel that anyone can call me a heretic for claiming this. Unbelievable).

        Acts 1 shows a portion of Jesus’ final words to His disciples, but Matthew 28 shows the rest of the instructions:

        Mat 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

        I have said a number of times that I believe Jesus WILL descend someday. But it won’t be to fulfill this prophecy or those of the OT writers. That prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus ascended. Jesus will come to complete the restoration of all things and the end of putting down His enemies.

        This is just a difference of opinion and interpretation. These are not salvation issues. What I believe is NOT evil. It 100% agrees that God is faithful and keeps His promises. It does not deny Christ being king of the Jews (He is king of all). It does not deny the Scriptures, or any of the OT prophecies related to Israel. And it certainly does not deny God is sovereign. Rather, it is a different way of interpreting. I take Peter at his word, and I do not add to what he said. I do not change the plain meaning of Peter’s words. In my opinion YOU read into it. YOU add to it. But I am stopping short of calling you evil. I wish you would extend the same courtesy. We are all learning here.

        1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

          This will be my last reply. The reason is I have provided answers to all your questions and what I haven’t can be found in my articles. You continue to write the same things: You deny the OT prophecies. You deny national Israel has a destiny. You deny God’s promise to His Son to rule the earth. You give no response to a passage such as Psalm 2.6 or what Paul wrote in Romans 15.8. What promises do you think he was talking about? The entire prophetic hope of Israel in the OT concerned the coming of God’s earthly kingdom. There are hundreds of passages that talk about it. Only one passage concerns His dying and dealing with sin. So what promises do you think Paul had in mind. Well, it wasn’t just the second one. God keeps all His promises. The kingdom of God on earth is political. To say it is not is to deny hundreds of OT passages. To do this means for 2,000 years God deceived mankind, that there never was going to be an earthly kingdom. This is to call God a liar and deceiver. This is why I say amillennialism is heresy and blasphemy. Here’s another way of thinking about it. If Christ had not come, and there were prophecies of His coming, your theology would say, no, He’s not coming, His coming is not literal, it is spiritual, it is a figure, a type. Being born in Bethlehem? Riding a donkey? Nonsense! Yes, it is a different way of interpreting. Your way says Christ did not literally rise from the dead, no, He rose in the hearts of his followers. Amillennialists use one type of interpretation for what they want to believe and another for what they don’t want to believe–prophecy. If it’s prophecy, it’s not literal. If it’s history, that’s more difficult since it’s already happened. See the problem? Amillennialists are not honest interpreters.

  7. Pete

    Don, some other points in general. You dispensationalists claim to read the Bible literally in all of it’s plain and simple meaning, and you chastise people who use the “allegorical interpretation” method. Of course, the Origen-influenced allegory is a problem. I cannot disagree with that. Unless scripture specifically uses allegory to shed light on another passage, we need to be CAREFUL how we do it ourselves. We need to not create doctrines around our own allegories.

    A case in point, that I would love your input on. Pre-tribbers use Enoch’s translation (which happened literally) as an allegory of the rapture of the church. Nothing in scripture points to this allegory. Therefore we need to take it with a grain of salt. At least, we need to recognize that this allegory is open to close inspection. Agreed?

    You talk about the “hermeneutical rigor” of the Reformers, and that they saw the Scriptures, read in a normal, natural way, taught salvation by faith in Christ’s work alone. You insinuate that we likewise should read the scriptures in a “normal, natural way”.

    This sounds great on the face of it. But it actually is not helpful at all. What is “normal and natural”? A normal reading of an ancient Jewish text in the 21st century is a LOT different than one from the 3rd century. A normal reading in Chinese in the 1800s is going to look a lot different than one in the 1300s in Europe. Who decides what’s normal and natural?

    To me, reading a verse that says the day of the Lord is “near”, in the normal/natural sense, means just what it says. But you jump through hoops in your “near” article, stating that since God is outside of time, God doesn’t use “near” like a human would. That goes 100% against what you say in this article. Why would God use a word like “near” if it meant nothing?

    Call me a heretic all you want Don. These are legitimate questions.

  8. courtney

    Brother, this is a fine article. I see from your statements and position you are very well read . Thank you for answering Pete . You helped us all. Many thanks. Peace and Grace

  9. Michael Campbell

    I really have learned so much from your writings. God has blessed you with an understanding of His Word.
    May God Bless You

  10. agnes

    This is the best hermeneutics I have ever read. Thank you I am
    so blessed by this site. May God continue to bless your hard
    work at helping us understand the bible more clearly…….

  11. Joe


    Jesus used the phrase ‘jot and tittle’. That’s Hebrew (duh). Does this suggest Jesus was not a fan of the Septuagint? Am I wrong in thinking that the Septuagint is the (Alexandrian ) text for the Latin Vulgate (Catholic bible) with the Apocrypha? If I may ask, what are your views on the different manuscripts?

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      I think you are right. The primary text of the Protestant OT is the Masoretic text and Roman Catholics’ the LXX. Most of the quotes of the OT in the NT come from the LXX. It is a sound translation. Whether it was regarded as God-breathed is open to debate. Most of Jesus quotes were from the LXX. So Paul. The earliest copy of the MT we have is about 900 A.D. but the LXX dates back to the 3rd c. B.C. The Dead Sea Scrolls have given further attestation to the MT’s accuracy. This is a pretty good article:

  12. Joe


    I’ve just finished reading two of Michael Heiser’s (you mentioned MH in a previous reply) books.
    I must say that I’m still digesting it all. He believes the Church has inherited the promises to Israel but that’s not his main push and he pretty much believes all popular end times interpretations are wrong… Heiser wants people to understand that Gen 6:1-4 is MUCH more important than what traditional Christianity gives it. He makes some good points if the reader accepts his determinations. Supposedly he’s a super educated man ie. Hebrew, Greek, ancient (Mesopotamia, Egypt etc. ) history. Some of what he promotes seems very sound. Heiser begins with his understanding of Psalms 82…(God and gods both used in first verse)”Elohim is a place of residence and Yahweh details attributes.” Most, if not all unseen entities above humans but below Yahweh are ‘Elohim’. Psalms 82 establishes this he says. He then uses Psalms 89 to establish the ‘divine council of elohim’ (a gathering of Psalm’s 82 types). Deuteronomy 32 is used as an example of how the divine council is used…..At Babel the population is divided up according to the number of and passed to each of the 70 members of the council. (see Gen 11:8 and Deuteronomy 32:8…the number of the sons of God = 70) The 70 ‘elohim fail and are judged in Psalms 82. Yahweh Himself then takes Abram and begins His own nation…Israel. Israel fails and Heiser uses Gal 3 to say all promises to Abraham pass to all believers (spiritual sons of God) ……I hope I’m not getting all this confused. Like I said, I’m still digesting it all. It’s a sea change to what I’ve been taught for so many years.

    I admit Heiser’s explanation of free will/foreknowledge/predestination is the best I’ve ever read…..I Sam 23:1-13…David asks God (paraphrase) and what if I do this and what if I do that? God tells David what would happen if he did something one way vs. another way EVEN IF DAVID NEVER DOES IT. The point is God knows what would happen even when you don’t do it…Unseen Realm page 65…”That which never happens can be foreknown by God, but it is not predestined since in never happens…..Since Foreknowledge doesn’t require predestination, foreknown events that happen may or may not have been predestined”

    My brain hurts. ha

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      Heiser is brilliant and a first-rate scholar. I think he’s dead on with the divine council. I am currently reading his latest book The Unseen Realm and it is excellent. I have not examined his other ecclesiological and eschatological views. I do not think he understands Paul’s unique apostleship. But he’s done wonderful work in reinvigorating and bringing new material to light about the war in heaven.

  13. Bobbi

    Don and Joe…
    Have read most of Mike Heiser’s books and papers. As far as I’ve read, he does not grasp the uniqueness of Paul’s apostleship…nor the revelation of the mystery. He thinks water baptism is for today. His work is awesome to recognize the supernatural natural nature of God and the unseen realm. He does help to bring the awareness of that, which is lost to much of Christianity today. It bothers me he uses the word “gods” so much (for to me, God can do all things and there is only 1 God) but that is his way. He has studied in ancient languages much and cultures, and is an acclaimed expert on those matters. Sometimes these things can color our view…so I just get here a little and there a little. When he differs from what we are taught in our doctrine, I choose God’s wisdom every time. And there are differences, so be careful with that.
    So, I don’t study his work for our doctrine. For this dispensation, he does not seem to convey that he’s aware of a difference sadly enough. It’s better to know our doctrine so as not to confuse it with anything else. Part of our armor is standing “in the truth”, that we learn in our edification.

    Nonetheless, I think it is important to study all sides of the Bible that we become aware of, for every time I get one part there are more things to consider. Lol . It is an amazing book.
    Have a blessed day all brethren :)

  14. Bobbi

    Also there are some excellent books by David Winston Busch… these are for our dispensation, the body of Christ.
    1. More than conquerors (On foundation doctrine-Romans and more)
    2. The Fulness of Christ (Heavenly places… deep things)
    3. Up and Away (rapture and much more)
    4. Through the Looking Glass (excellent)
    5. Behold
    6. Seen of Angels
    7. The Devil’s in the Details
    8. The Assyrian (haven’t read yet.)
    These are full of edification, and rich in scripture and detail. Really fun to get you thinking…!

  15. Joe

    Just finished my 3rd Heiser book. ‘SUPERNATURAL’ is a nutshell abbreviation of the book “The Unseen Realm”. Some of Heiser’s Unseen Realm has footnotes that take up half the page. SUPERNATURAL has no footnotes, bibliography etc. Supernatural would be a good ‘warm up’ to reading T U R in my opinion. ….Next week I’m supposed to receive Heiser’s two novels…The Facade and The Portent. I expect to read that most if not all of today’s end times teachings are wrong and are unknowingly setups toward a catastrophe for believers of the “Left Behind” series types. In the last two or three weeks I’ve listened to 2 or 3 radio interviews with Heiser….Last night on Coast to Coast Heiser was debating Biblical Codes in re-broadcast of a July 2001 interview . (Heiser was critical of bible codes)…the man is very well educated. A scholar in my opinion.

  16. Derrick Stewart

    This was such an enlightening read, Don. Among the many areas that stood out, the following prompted a big “yes!” and “amen!”.

    “The key question is whether the Scriptures govern theology or does theology govern the Scriptures. If the former, we have an inductive, scientific method of interpretation with rigor and discipline. If the latter, we have a deductive system in which the Scriptures become so elastic that the interpreter can mold them to mean whatever he wishes. That is what has happened in most of Christendom.”

    Each day, I’m learning more and more about how to rightly divide, how to interpret the Scriptures, and which doctrine is for the Body of Christ. And as I’m becoming more comfortable and willing to share with others, I’m finding that there are many who just simply fail to open their eyes to what the Scriptures CLEARLY teach. Even those who sincerely love Jesus will repeatedly fail to “examine the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

    You say “the root of the hermeneutical problem is unbelief” and I do not disagree. I would simply add that perhaps a bit of laziness and pride are to blame as well.

  17. Joe

    Deuteronomy 32:8

    There is a move toward globalism. Does God promote borders? I remember a bible teacher in Houston saying ‘Nationalism’ was one of our Divine rights along with the institution of marriage, free will and a couple of others…I can’t remember….it’s been a long time.

    A question relating to the above scripture….Why do most bibles state at the end of the verse that the number of nations was set by the number of the Children of Israel? Was Israel even a nation at that time? Some translations say ‘the Sons of God’. I know what M. Heiser says about this but I would like to know what you think. Thanks

    1. doctrinedoctrine Post author

      God began the establishment of nations at Babel. Global governance is tyranny. There is no real check to power. I think Heiser is correct regarding the reading, “sons of God.”

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