Bible Interpretation Class – Hiawatha Bible Chapel
Genre - Gospels and Parables, Epistles, Law and Wisdom Writings
Lesson 6 – March 25th 2017
Principles for Interpreting Gospels
Some Errors about the Kingdom of God
The term “heaven” in Kingdom of Heaven is likely a metonym (where a part stands for the whole) for God. In this case it is the abode which stands for the inhabitant. Like “White House” can stand for the president and his administration.
Parallels between Matthew 13 (Kingdom of Heaven) and Mark 4 (Kingdom of God) show that the two terms are interchangeable.
Principles for Interpreting Parables
Definition of a Parable
parable – A parable is an explicit comparison, usually told in terms of a story from everyday life, to illustrate a moral or spiritual point.
Purpose of the Parables
Parables have two purposes which seem to contradict themselves. One is to conceal, and one is to reveal.
Mark 4:10-12 (NASB) "10As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables.11And He was saying to them, ‘To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.’ "
We see in these verses that Jesus’ disciples were given the parables so that they would get the mystery of the Kingdom of God. At the same time, the parables were given to conceal truth from unbelievers.
Principles for Interpreting Parables
Sometimes it helps to compare a parable with a similar one (or one very near to it in context) to help understand it. For example, the parable of the mustard seed:
Matthew 13:31-32 (NASB) "31He presented another parable to them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’ ”
Let’s look at some of the points mentioned above about this parable, and then we will look at the parable after this one and compare the two.
Now let’s look at the next parable in Matthew 13, the parable of the leaven.
Matthew 13:33 (NASB) "33He spoke another parable to them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.’ “
So comparing to similar parables and looking at context can help us do a better job of interpreting parables.
All of the NT except the four Gospels, Acts, and Revelation are considered Epistles. The simplest definition of an Epistle is that it is a letter. However a man named Adolf Deissman came up with a more complex analysis of Epistles. He made a distinction between letters and epistles. Here is how he defined them:
The “epistles” in the NT fall at various points on Deissman’s spectrum. Hebrews, for example, is said to be three parts tract and only one part letter, so it would be on the “epistle” extreme. Romans also is more of an epistle, dealing more heavily in doctrine, and meant to be saved for the future. Philemon, on the other hand, would likely be the closest thing to a simple letter (according to Deissman’s definition) of all what we call “epistles” in the NT.
Hermeneutical Principles For Epistles
Old Testament Laws
Reformed theology divides OT law into three categories. They are:
Dr. Sprinkle’s approach to the application of OT laws to NT believers is:
Value of the Mosaic Law for Christians Today
This information is from Dr. Joe Sprinkle’s book Biblical Law and Its Relevance.
Following are some brief hermeneutical observations that will help interpret texts from the Wisdom
Books, i.e., Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.
Typology is considered (by conservative theologians) to be a sub-category of prophecy. I put it at the very end rather than right after Prophecy in case we did not have time to cover it.
type – A type is a God-intended analogy between an OT person, event, or institution and a corresponding person, event, or institution in the NT.
A key part of this definition is the “God-intended” part. Typology is not reading ideas into the OT that are not there (that tends to be allegory). A true type is intended by God to be an analogy between an OT thing and some NT thing. It is certainly likely that most (all?) OT authors would have had no idea that what he was writing about foreshadowed elements of NT salvation.
analogy (Webster) – An analogy is a resemblance in some particulars between things otherwise unlike.
As an analogy, there must be substantial correspondence between the OT type and its NT anti-type. For example, Christ’s death on the cross is substantially like the sacrifices of bulls and goats in the OT. But, of course, the analogy breaks down at some point. For a trivial point, Jesus did not have hooves like bulls and goats. On a more important note, however, the bulls and goats had to be sacrificed year after year, and they had to be made first for the sins of the priests and then for the sins of the people. In Christ’s case, the sacrifice had to be made only once, and not at all for our high priest (Christ) who was sinless, but only for the people. Types are like metaphors and similes in the sense that the correspondence is not complete; yet there is analogy.
Many confuse allegory with typology.
allegory (Webster) - the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence; or a symbolic representation of something.
Allegory is a forced (invented) attempt to find hidden meaning in something rather than a natural correspondence. Allegories reflect a meaning that the person has found behind something in the OT. These meanings are not confirmed by the NT, or really anywhere. The following table shows the comparison of types and allegories:
Allegory vs. Typology
by Roy Zuck
Represents forced and alien correspondence
Type and anti-type have natural correspondence
Historical reality considered trivial
Historical reality considered important
Looks behind the literal for hidden codes/meaning
Type foreshadows the future, looks ahead
Not confirmed by the NT
Mostly confirmed by the NT
Principles for Interpreting Types
Another possible type that is not confirmed in the NT, but has, in my opinion, more evidence for us to call it a type is the story of Abram setting out to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah in Genesis 22. This passage parallels how God offers up His son so well, that it seems like a type to me. Consider the following table:
The Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22)
Does not spare his son
Does not spare His Son
His “only/unique” son whom he loves
His only (only-begotten) beloved Son
Isaac to be sacrificed
Jesus was sacrificed
Isaac carries the wood
Jesus carried His cross
Isaac does not resist old father Abraham
Jesus dies willingly doing His Father’s will, as a lamb to the slaughter
Ram substitutes for Isaac
substitutes for the world
God will provide the lamb
God provided the Lamb of God
After the sacrifice, Isaac came back alive
After the cross, Jesus came back from the dead