The Comprehensive Hermeneutic, Part 2

What does a comprehensive hermeneutic look like? How does it work?

Why not try it out on a familiar passage:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” – John 15:9-17

What’s the command? I’d say it’s “Love each other,” repeated for emphasis. “Bear fruit.”

What’s the example? “…As I have loved you.” He showed us what that means. But first, He told us.

What’s implied? Jesus wants me to lay down my life for my friends, just as He has. That we should bear fruit that outlasts us, just as He has. That the Father wants to give us what we ask for in Jesus’ name.

What’s the narrative? The context is the last Passover. Jesus has just washed his disciples’ feet. He has told them that He will soon die. He is reassuring them. He is instructing them. He gives one command. He explains what that means.

What’s the story? Jesus is promoting his followers from servants to friends, letting them in what God the Father has told Him. Is the story bigger than just what happened here? Are His words only for His followers then, but not now? When He says, “You are my friends if you do what I command” tells me that we are in mind here, too; and that may be the reason that the Holy Spirit urges John to tell this part of the story that the other gospel writers do not.

What does it tell us about God’s nature and purpose? There’s a promise attached to this reassurance: If we bear fruit, God will give us what we request in Jesus’ name. That if we obey Jesus’ command, we are His friends.

Now, this is the briefest (and possibly the shallowest!) of all possible exegeses on this verse, but doesn’t it reveal more than if only the first three or the last three questions are explored?

Do you agree that both hermeneutics have value?

In what kinds of scriptures will the old hermeneutic have greater value in revealing God’s message to us? In what kinds will the new hermeneutic have an advantage? Where will both serve us better? What scriptures may remain seen only as in a mirror dimly no matter what approach you use?

5 thoughts on “The Comprehensive Hermeneutic, Part 2

  1. So many questions, Keith! And I’m not sure I have an answer for any of them! The only one I can answer is that I most definitely agree that BOTH have value. Seems to me (at least from your given example) that evaluating scripture using the old hermeneutic is better at giving us the answer to WHAT it is that God wants us to do. The new hermeneutic is better at answering WHY. Interesting that NEITHER necessarily gives us the answer to HOW. I feel that God leaves so much of the “how” up to us. And that’s usually where the two differing “sides” (i hate to use that word) end up disagreeing. As far as which one would be more beneficial for which passages of scripture, I’m not sure, that will require some more thought. But I’d be interested in knowing your answer to those questions…there’s gotta be a part three, right? You can’t just leave us hangin’ without giving us your possible answers for those questions!Thanks for challenging us yet again, Keith; you ALWAYS make me think! Much love in Him!–Your sister, Lacey

  2. This makes your earlier post even more clear…….in fact, crystal.Great follow-up! Hmmm……have you ever thought about teaching? DU

  3. Of course, the only time we have difficulty with hermeneutics is when someone uses theirs to draw a conclusion we disagree with!

  4. I agree with David; this is a nice example of your idea(s), Keith. Dwight is definitely onto something, the reason why Barth decided to change the name from “Christian Dogmatics” to “Church Dogmatics.” It’s got to work for a group, not just for me.

  5. There are at several reasons to use the wrong interpretatinal tool for a text. Here are three:1. ignorance – don’t know the appropriate tool, so a familiar, but inappropriate tool is used. 2. selfishness – using an inappropriate tool in order to arrive at a conclusion that fits a personal or organizational goal. 3. fear – the consequences (from church, denomination, spouse, grandmother etc) of using the appropriate interpretational tool results in a cost that is intolerable to the interpreter.

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