Tag Archives: hermeneutics

How do you read the Bible?


This was a short article from the WSJ that explores some of the background behind a few recent news stories. The stories I’m thinking of most recently are: the Calvin College professor named in the article, Michelle Bachmann and the pope/antichrist or on submission, Tim Tebow, and World Youth Day.

Think for a second of all the people behind those stories – a college professor, a congresswoman running for president, a quarterback, a pope and thousands of largely western (i.e. wealthy) Roman Catholic Kids. All those people are Christian. One of the easy ways to tell that is look at the coverage they all got in the standard media which usually boils down to, “look at these kooks, we don’t get them, but there seem to be a lot of them, look at all the Tebow Jerseys and they guy has played 3 games”. My guess is that if you put the professor, the NFL quarterback and the pope into a bar you’d have an interesting discussion. They’d all agree on the life of Jesus and in slightly different words what it means. (Boil it down to Incarnation, Ministry, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and atonement or salvation.) But ask them about Adam and Eve, or modern Jews and Israel or the military or even sports and watch the differences.

The big word behind this is hermeneutics. That is the big word for how one interprets meaning from any source: written, verbal, or you name it. We read and interpret the Bible. Christians find Christ at the center of that interpretation. That is why the pope, Tebow and the professor actually have more in common together than with most of the journalists covering their stories irregardless of their many differences. At least for me (and Irenaeus who I’m stealing from/leaning on) that is the central role of the creeds. These are the things we all agree on. They lay out the boundaries of hermeneutics. If you read the bible and come up with something that breaks what the creeds say…go back and read again because you got something wrong. At the center of those creeds is the life of Christ and its meaning.

I also wanted to link to this story because of the picture. That is a 1993 work of art – so it is modern. And it was visually striking. There is a physical Adam and Eve, and I suppose that could be a blanket, but in a certain manner it looks like a burial shroud or a veil. In the middle of garden, death was coiled and things hidden. Coming at that picture with Christian eyes you would interpret a whole different set of things than if you were biblically illiterate.