The New Testament Letters - Interpretation
Chapter 3 - EPISTLES: THE HERMENEUTICAL QUESTION
Purpose: To lay the foundation for the hermeneutical question and how this relates to the Epistles.
Objective: Define hermeneutics and provide the guides for its use in the Epistles. The students will apply this to 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.
1) Introduce the topic of Hermeneutics.
2) Definition: Hermeneutics is a set of rules or guidelines for interpreting the Bible. What happens in a common Hermeneutic is that we bring our theological heritage, our church tradition, and our cultural norms to the Epistles as we read them. This results in selectivity and getting around a text. In the Epistles, there are different rules for the interpretation of other genres of Scripture.
3) There are several unique interpretive guidelines for the Epistles.
a) The text cannot mean what it never could have meant to the author or original hearers. This rule helps us to establish the limits of a text and what it cannot mean.
b) Whenever we share comparable particulars (e.g., similar specific life situations) with the first-century setting, God’s Word to us is the same as His Word to them.
c) When the particulars are not comparable then we must discover the principle applied which will transcend the cultural situation. (e.g., 1 Cor. 8 food offered to idols - the stumbling block principle)
4) The problem of cultural relativity presents some difficulties. The problem is that God’s eternal Word was given in a particular historical situation. We must recognize that the culture of the intended readers and our culture is very different. In order to apply Scripture today, we need to understand the culture of the intended readers so that we don’t make a text mean something that it shouldn’t.
Small group content:
Interpretation of Data (20 min)
- Go over the Text that you covered last class (1 Cor 5:1-13) and read the text together.
- Ask the participants to form into the groups that they were in last class and have them answer the following questions:
- Identify the situations in the text that (3 categories) are:
- Like our situation.
- Bound to the culture of the original readers.
- Could be both.
- Have each group report and give reasons for their groupings.
- As a group discuss what principles should come out of the text for the culturally bound material and for those that could be both.
Application of Principles. (10 min)
- After identifying the principles and the situations that are similar, have the group together address each and find ways to apply them to current life situations. Some examples of the application of the text are as follows:
- Christian liberty - It is also true that we can exercise too much Christian liberty. The Corinthians were in this position. When we have no one to keep us on the path of truth then we tend to choose a path that strays from the truth.
- Accountability. - Paul was in a position where he had to hold the church accountable for straying from the truth. We all need to be reminded that the life of a believer is one of mutual accountability where no one is an individual.
- Discipline. - There will be those within the church that exhibit the character traits that Paul talks about in verse 11. Paul tells us it is our job to hold people accountable to the commands of scripture and to deal with the persistent sinner by expelling them from the fellowship. This is most commonly called excommunication. Paul wanted them to repent so that they may be “saved on the day of the Lord.” (5:5)
- Association with the World. - We are to remain in the world and not to take on the practices of the world. The Corinthians boasted about the sinful practice of incest. Do we also take on the practices of the world too easily? Certainly, we must fight against ungodliness and evil but judgment of the unbelievers is not part of our job on earth.