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Some Ways of Skinning the Cat Are Better Than Others

Some Ways of Skinning the Cat Are Better Than Others

FEBRUARY 27, 2024

/ Articles / Some Ways of Skinning the Cat Are Better Than Others

At its heart, the primary way to read the Bible is to look for Jesus within its pages.

In the last post we poked the elephant in the room by acknowledging that there is a complicated relationship between the Old and New Testaments. The fancy terminology for this complicating factor is “continuity and discontinuity.”

As we seek to better understand the complicated nature of this relationship we have to make a pitstop to talk about interpretation in general.

“Humans are, by nature, interpreters,” says Paul Tripp. And he’s right. The moment we come naked from our mother’s womb (Job 1:21) we are trying to make sense of the world around us.

That’s essentially what we’re trying to do in this series of posts. Make sense of a very complicated book. In fact, the most important of all books. One that contains insight into the very mind of God. One that contains all we need to know Him and inherit eternal life (2 Pet. 1:3; John 17:3).

When it comes to interpretation of the Bible there’s a fancy word they use in academic circles. That word is: hermeneutics (pronounced: her-men-you-ticks). And it simply means “the science of interpreting the Bible.”

Well, that’s not entirely true. It really means the interpretation of any sort of literature but good luck running into the word outside the circle of Biblical studies.

I used to teach hermeneutics at a hoity-toity Christian high school. Once, on a plane for an unrelated trip, someone asked me what I did for a living and I said, “I’m a teacher.” To which they replied, “what do you teach?” And I said, “hermeneutics, which is the interpretation of ancient books.”

Now, dear reader, to be honest I was trying to avoid the always awkward, “evangelical stranger-danger conversation” that is so common to pastors on planes by avoiding direct references to my work as a “religious professional.”

So, they responded: “oh, so you help students understand Shakespeare and stuff.” To which I said, “well, no, we really only interpret one book.”

“Which one?” my neighbor inquired.

“…the Bible.” I reluctantly said.

They then put in their airpods (™) to indicate the conversation was over.

Lesson learned. There are many ways to skin a cat, and I took the longer and more stupid way.

But, it was a good reminder: the Bible is a polarizing book. One that is often intimidating and prone to misunderstanding and being weaponized. There’s also no shortage of proposed ways of skinning the cat of biblical interpretation. But, as we’ll learn in coming weeks, they’re not all equal!

The reason the Bible is tragically weaponized is all because of hermeneutics. The Bible itself tells us it is a sword (Heb. 4:12). One that in the hands of the wrong person can cause much damage. That’s why rightly dividing the Word of God is so important (2 Tim. 2:15).

All this to say, not every hermeneutic is a good one. There are plenty of violent ways to interpret the Bible. And we should be very careful about coming to conclusions about Scripture that differ from how it has been understood throughout history.

At its heart, the primary way to read the Bible is to look for Jesus within its pages. That sounds simple, but it’s reliable. And the more you do it the more you’ll realize it’s something one could easily give their life to and never get bored.

It also works for both the Old and the New Testament but you’ll quickly find it’s easier said than done. Especially in the Old Testament.

Why not try it out today? Maybe tomorrow too?

I’ll be back soon to give you more fuel for the fire.

Sean Nolan

Sean Nolan

Sean was an atheist until Jesus used his wife, Hannah, to preach the gospel to him. They have four children: Knox, Hazel, Ransom, and JET. He used to play in […]

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