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Hermeneutics: Understanding Genesis (and all of Scripture)

March 22, 2018

From the Kindle deals in my 2018 Challies Reading Challenge, Jason Lisle’s Understanding Genesis: How to Analyze, Interpret, and Defend Scripture (currently $2.99) is a great resource for Bible interpretation, with detailed explanations of many different hermeneutical principles and the many textual and logical fallacies.  The first several chapters lay the groundwork, of how we approach any written text to understand it – the genre understanding of various types of literature – along with many examples from English language usage for correct understanding as well as fallacies and logical reasoning errors.  The features of Hebrew poetry are also covered – a topic dealt with in greater depth in books specifically about the poetic OT books, such as Dan Phillips’ God’s Wisdom in Proverbs, yet well summarized here.  Indeed, it is yet another wondrous point in God’s great plan, that Hebrew poetry has features that translate well into other languages:  parallelism of thought, rather than our English meter and rhyme of specific English words.

This book is also a good addition to the genre of Young Earth Creation books, as a good introduction and summary of the issues dealt with in more detail elsewhere.    Lisle applies hermeneutical principles to several errors concerning the early chapters of Genesis: old-earth progressive creation (two of Hugh Ross’ books), theistic evolution, and the Noahic flood as only a local flood (Hugh Ross again).  Several chapters include detailed interaction with the actual words from several Hugh Ross books plus one by a theistic evolution–a fascinating look at the flawed reasoning and ideas that actually border on heresy.

As with other creation science books, science is referenced, though primarily from the logical, reasoning perspective: pointing out the difference between operational, observable and repeatable science and that which is not really science but history: the one-time act of creation that by its very nature is not observable and not repeatable.  Related to this is the two books fallacy referenced in this previous post, that nature itself is a “67th book of the Bible” on the same level of authority as scripture itself.

Another interesting point developed by Lisle – and an area in which he differs from at least some other creation scientists – is the problem with thinking of the earth in terms of “apparent age.”  As he points out, we come up with ideas about age based on relative comparisons.  Due to observations of many people we know, for instance, we can conclude that a particular individual appears to be about 40 years old.  Yet people take such ideas and try to say that the earth “looks old” and “appears to be billions of years old”; yet we have no other planets for any relative comparison, to make such a claim:

People at the wedding in Cana may have assumed that the wine came about in the ordinary way, and probably believed that the wine was well-aged due to its taste. But Jesus did not create the wine with appearance of age. Rather, He made it good. Likewise, God did not create the earth with appearance of age. He made it to work. If people apply unbiblical, naturalistic assumptions to how the earth formed, and then come away thinking it ‘looks’ billions of years old, well, it’s not God’s fault

The hermeneutical principles and fallacies explained are not limited to use for the early chapters of Genesis, but apply to all other doctrinal subjects.  One such example, provided in Appendix B (about propositions and formal fallacies), concerns the error of baptismal regeneration:

Baptismal regenerationists commit the fallacy of denying the antecedent when arguing that water baptism is a requirement for salvation.

  1. If you repent and are baptized, then you are saved (Mark 16:16)

2. It is not that case that you have repented and are baptized (because you have only repented and have not yet been baptized).

3. Therefore, you are not saved.

Similarly, the meaning of words in their context, including general terms in the Bible that can mean many different things, is another area where people err, with superficial and out-of-context understanding.  The word ‘law’ in the Bible has many different meanings, as noted in this previous post; another term is the biblical definition of death, in its context for Genesis 3 and Romans 5.  The biblical definition of death does not include plant life, or anything other than animate (human and animal) life.

Understanding Genesis is an excellent reference for language comprehension / hermeneutics, and a useful guide for how to interpret all scripture.  It includes good application of these concepts to the specific issues of creation and the flood, yet the hermeneutics extend to all of our understanding.

  1. alf cengia
    March 22, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Good one, Lynda.

  2. pgcawley
    March 22, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    Sorry but the ‘appearance of age’ arguement presented here is not logical nor scientific. God did not create Adam with the ‘appearance of age’ because he was actually young; no, God creates Adam ‘old’ or ‘mature’ and he in fact DOES APPEAR to be old or mature, so Adam is NOT a good example for YEC’s to use at all! Again, until the totally unscientific arguements that YEC’s consistently use to defend their position are abandoned then YEC’s will NEVER understand the age of the earth. Until they can explain the existence of thousands of craters on the earth the moon and mars and HOW they got their other then by METEORITES and COMETS then they will NEVER understand that the FACT that these craters exist is (one of MANY scientific and Biblical) PROOFS that the earth and universe are EASILY older than 10,000 years. Genesis teaches the RESTORATION of the earth in 6 literal 24 hour ‘days’ NOT the first time creation of it. Genesis 1:1 is NOT CONNECTED IN TIME to vs. 2 and Moses made this clear by putting a ‘marker’ at the end of vs.1 indicting a BREAK IN THE TEXT! And there is SO MUCH MORE! What happened in between vs. 1 and vs. 2 ? The fall of Lucifer.


    • March 22, 2018 at 4:09 pm

      pgcawley: Your post shows many examples of flawed reasoning and not interacting with the post or the book I am referring to.
      1. As to Adam and ‘appearance of age’: Agree, as noted in this post, and in Lisle’s book; an argument of ‘appearance of age’ of Adam is not a good argument. Lisle addressed this in detail in this book.
      2. Your claim about the craters on the earth and moon: ‘Until they can explain the existence of thousands of craters on the earth the moon and mars and HOW they got their other then by METEORITES and COMETS then they will NEVER understand that the FACT that these craters exist is (one of MANY scientific and Biblical) PROOFS that the earth and universe are EASILY older than 10,000 years.’ — this is an example of the ‘two books’ fallacy, equating something observed in nature as on the level of scripture; also, thinking that such an observation is a proposition. A rock simply exists, it is not a proposition. Same with craters on the moon or elsewhere; they exist, but are not propositions.
      3. Your claim about a gap between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2 is not supported by the text. Lisle specifically addresses this on page 256 of the book, in response to Hugh Ross’ claim of this same so-called gap between verses 1 and 2:

      Actually, Hebrew grammer disallows the possibility that ‘something happens between verses 1 and 2.’ Namely, verse 2 begins with ‘And the earth’ – a Hebrew grammatical construction called a ‘waw-disjunctive.’ The construction occurs when a sentence starts with ‘and’ followed by a non-verb, such as a noun. The waw-disjunctive indicates a break or interruption in the narrative. ….When used this way, it functions much the way we would use parenthesis in English—it shows that verse two is a comment on verse one. Verse two does not necessarily follow in time, but is a parenthetical description of the conditions of the earth that was mentioned in the previous verse. Thus it is impossible for something to happen between verses one and two because there is literally no time between the two.”

      I suggest reading the full content of this on page 256 and the top of page 257.

  3. Robert
    March 23, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Good article and response, Lynda.
    3 things I (re?)learned just from the face of your article:
    1 – Hebrew poetry translating into other languages because of “parallelism of thought, rather than our English meter and rhyme of specific English words”
    2 – “appearance of age” vs. what is good, what “works”, etc.
    3 – The idea that something we observe (merely) “exists” is it not (necessarily) a “proposition” to be used in logical thinking e.g. a syllogism to arrive at a solid conclusion.
    God’s Word always trumps “nature”, right?

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