DIGGING DEEP – 2 by Abidan Paul Shah

Click here to view the session in its entirety.

Digging Deep
Digging Deep

Last week – The incarnational model of Scripture: Divine Book and Human Book but Without Errors.

This week – We need to understand where we are in the History of Biblical Interpretation.

Here’s an illustration: Let’s say that you want to go into farming. Where will you begin? After you buy a piece of land, the next questions are – “What will you use to till the ground?” “How will you irrigate the soil?” “Where will you find the seeds?” Won’t that be foolish if you were to find a metal rod and then experiment with it to see how you could plough the ground or collect rainwater and then find ways to funnel it to the field or go looking for seeds to sow? So also, it is foolish to begin interpretation without stepping back to see how far things have progressed in the field of biblical interpretation. It’s like buying a tractor to plough the ground, installing a water pump to water the field, and going by the local farm supply and buying quality seeds. In other words, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It also brings a sense of sense of humility when we realize that we are just a blip on the radar screen of biblical interpretation or we are standing on the shoulders of millions upon millions of men and women who have been trying to interpret the Bible for themselves.

What are the major issues that people have struggled with through the ages? (From Moses Silva, Has the Church Misread the Bible?)

  • God’s Word is divine and yet human (Incarnational model)
  • God’s commands are absolute and yet relative.
  • God’s Word should be clear and yet it is ambiguous.
  • God’s Word only requires the Spirit and yet we need scholarship.
  • God’s Word is literal and historical and yet it is also figurative and nonhistorical.
  • God’s Word only requires the interpreter’s personal freedom and yet a certain degree of external and corporate authority is needed.
  • God’s Word should be looked at objectively and yet our presuppositions bring a degree of subjectivity into the process.


Major Divisions in the History of Biblical Interpretation:

  • Early Jewish Interpretation (Hoi Polloi Podcast #8)
  • First century Interpretation (Hoi Polloi Podcast #9)
  • Early Church and Later Interpretation (Hoi Polloi Podcast #10)


Biblical Interpretation Before and During the Time of Jesus (From Gerald Bray, “Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present”):

  1. How can an ancient text be applicable at the present time?
  1. What are the limits of Judaism?
  1. How can Judaism be defended against its rivals?
  1. What is the place of oral tradition in relation to the written Word?
  1. When will the OT promises to Israel be fulfilled?


Various Methods of the time – Pharisees (See next section), Sadducees (Literal), Essenes and Qumran Community (Pesher = prophecy), Diaspora (Allegory) 

Pharisaic – Rabbinic exegesis can be divided into 2 parts: Shammai (Conservative) – 20BC-AD15 and Hillel (Liberal) – 20BC-AD15. The latter won out. It left a mark on Jewish exegesis. From the Amoraic period also came the Midrashim, scriptural exegesis. 7 basic rules of Hillel:

  • Qal wa-homer – what applies in less important cases will apply in more important as well.
  • Gezerah shawah – same word in different contexts means that same meaning in both.
  • Binyan ab mikathub ’ehad – repetition of a phrase means that ideas associated with it are applicable in all contexts.
  • Binyan ab mishene kethubim – a principle can be established by relating two texts to each other; that principle can be applied to other texts.
  • Kelal upherat – in certain cases, a general principle may be restricted in it’s application by certain qualifications placed upon it, and conversely, particular rules mya be generalized for similar reasons.
  • Kayoze bo bemaqom ’ahor – difficulty in one text may be resolved by comparing it with another similar passage. Verbal correspondence is not required.
  • Dabar halamed me ‘inyano – a meaning may be established by the context.


Which ones did Jesus and the Apostles use?

Subject Scripture Interpretation
Jesus Mark 12:18   Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying:   19 “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the third likewise. 22 So the seven had her and left no offspring. Last of all the woman died also.   23 Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.” 24   Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ ? Literal (Sadducees)
Jesus Luke 4:16   So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” 20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Pesher
Jesus John 7:23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Qal wahomer
Jesus John 10:34   Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, “I said, ‘You are gods” ’? 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? Qal wahomer
Peter Acts 2:25 For David says concerning Him: “I foresaw the LORD always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.

Acts 2:34   “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand,

Gezerah Shawah
Paul Romans 11:12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! Qal wahomer
Hebrews Heb. 1:5   For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son”? 6   But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” 7 And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.”

8 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” 10 And: “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 11 They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment;

12 Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed.

But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.” 13   But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?

Pearl Stringing


Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: