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13 November 2011

A Crash Course In Hermeneutics - The Clint Black Rule

Today (a day late) we'll get at rule two of the hermeneutics crash course. Again, Biblical hermeneutics is the process or methodology of accurately interpreting the Bible. Your Bible study should always be accompanied by prayer and by expectation that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes and your heart. What I give here are helpful procedural or common sense tips, not hard-and-fast "rules."

With that, let's dig into the new one: The Clint Black Rule.

Rule #2: Read the Bible existentially

Rule 2 probably sounds odd if you're familiar with the philosophy of existentialism, and it's even more odd that Clint isn't even mentioned in the rule. Don't worry. We're not talking about a potentially atheistic philosophy here, and I'll get to the the Clint Black tie-in in the next paragraph. In his book Existentialism, author John Macquarrie says it is "the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual." The key word is "existence."

Here's why Rule #2 can be thought of as "The Clint Black Rule." Think about his album and song 22 years ago: "Put Yourself In My Shoes" (I don't know the song but I'm familiar with the album name). Get inside the person or people you're reading about. Crawl into his or her skin, as repulsive as that may sound. Put yourself into the life of the person in the story. Be passionately involved in what you read.

When you read Matthew 23, imagine what it would be like if you were a Pharisee -- one of the super-religious people, whom everyone looked up to -- and Jesus told you in front of a crowd that you were like a tomb that was painted nicely on the outside but actually contained dead men's bones. How would you feel? Remember that they "knew" they were in the right. Or how would you feel if you were Jesus speaking to that crowd? Think His heart was beating quickly when He made such a huge statement?

To be sure, there may be statements that sound insulting to us (like Jesus saying, "Woman, what does this have to do with me?" to His mom) that wouldn't necessarily have had that intent in Israel 2,000 years ago. That's why it's good to remember that Rule #2 is a helpful guideline; not a procedure that's essential to correct interpretation of the text.

Trying to think of a catchy tie-in for tomorrow's rule: instructional Scriptures provide the perspective for historical Scriptures. I wonder if Shania Twain made an album about that...

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