All humans are created in the likeness of the Father, which means that in every man or woman, believer or not a believer we shall be able to find elements of the Creator. He has given His hand and Spirit to form us, and is willing to mould us to His liking. If we are willing to give ourselves totally in His Hand He shall make the best of His creature, that is willing to be part of His creation.
Limitation by origin
Because we are all descendants from the first man and woman, we are bounded to the genetics of those first people who doubted God’s Right to rule the world and to be Master of everything. Their going against their creator, the first human deviancy, made that all their descendants can not be without fault, without working very hard on it. Only Jesus managed not to go in the fault. He also was tempted more than once, but he did not sin.
Subject to my DNA and genetic faults I also have a limited spirit. With the limitations of my brains I can only try to do my utmost best to come to the right thinking and to come to the right conclusions.
Research and interpretation
When confronted with the Word of God in the Bible I do have to go on what I can read and how I can interpret the read material. I have to pertain to exegesis to from further Biblical ideas and to mould my spiritual ideas.
The terms exegesis and hermeneutics have been used interchangeably. With the hermeneutics (/hɜrməˈnjuːtɪks/) I do want to come to the study of the interpretation of written texts using the entire framework of the interpretive process, encompassing all forms of communication: written, verbal and nonverbal, while exegesis focuses primarily on the written text.
Exegesis, or critical interpretation, and hermeneutics, or the science of interpretive principles, of the Bible have been used by both Jews and Christians throughout their histories for various purposes. The most common purpose has been that of discovering the truths and values of the Old and New Testaments by means of various techniques and principles, though very often, due to the exigencies of certain historical conditions, polemical or apologetical situations anticipate the truth or value to be discovered and thus dictate the type of exegesis or hermeneutic to be used. For me the study of the Scriptures, the writings and sayings about the Bible have as primary goal to arrive at biblical truths and values by an unbiassed use of exegesis and hermeneutics.
I am eager to search the available material and to examine the objective data pertaining to a written document in order to ascertain, insofar as possible, the identity of the writer or writers, the time of composition, the contemporary political and cultural situation confronting the author, and the attitudes and purposes he cherished in composing his work.
In line with the basic meaning of the verb krino, “to judge,” the adjective kritikos means “pertaining to discernment or judgement” I want to come to understanding. But to be able to see light I do have to make choices and come to appropriate judgements. It therefore constitutes a systematic effort to grasp and properly to sift all the objective data leading to an accurate appraisal of the value and intent of the document under study, and a just appreciation of its significance.
Especially in the critical study of religious works such as the Bible, the sacred Book of books, criticism aims at an objective analysis of all the pertinent data leading to a just estimate of its importance and worth; as such it is distinct from devotional or deductive theological study, which already presupposes the divine authority and reliability of the purported Scripture. Thus the investigative function of Biblical criticism may serve for the verification and defense of the teachings of Scripture, rather than for any sinister purpose of impairing the credibility of the Bible. It has thus been practiced by all the learned scholars of evangelical conviction who have successfully refuted the attacks of liberal and rationalist savants who have attempted to discredit the Scripture. But it should be observed in this connection that complete objectivity is virtually impossible in the field of Biblical criticism; every man is personally involved in a very profound sense as he finds himself indicted and condemned as a guilty, helpless, depraved sinner.
Choice and resources
When doing my bible study I am obliged to make a personal response one way or the other to the call of God as conveyed by the words of Scripture. For coming to a good research and to come to insight it is important that we do away with dogmatic teachings and take care not to become totally subjective in our choices which works to read. Because we do have limited time, I do agree I also have to make choices and have to eliminate certain writings to give me enough time to read others and perhaps more important ones. I also do agree with certain Bible Students that we do have to be careful when reading certain biased literature because it would be drinking wine with a little bit of or much poison.
The most important task in studying the Holy Scriptures is to open up the mind to the Word of God. To study it and to understand all the language peculiarities I use the available tools like language dictionaries, concordances, and Biblical dictionaries and encyclopedia. All tools bringing expedient answers in the objective investigation of the Biblical evidence are welcome and appreciated.
Having already assumed his conclusion as his premise, according to some, the Biblical critic is incapable of dealing logically with the abundant proofs of the supernatural origin and authority of Scripture, and all his scholarly treatment of Biblical criticism simply amounts to an expression of his defence mechanism.
I am totally aware that we do have through the entire history a subjective bias, because we got several theologians, spiritual writers and Biblical critics who wrote from their ideas brought to them by their denomination, or even by there doubts about certain Biblical facts. We do find people in the world of Biblical criticism who were of deistic or even pantheistic persuasion, like Spinoza. It was impossible for them to approach the Bible as authentic special revelation from a personal God. They were compelled to seek out purely human and naturalistic causes for the phenomena of Scripture. This subjective bias has to be reckoned with through the entire history of the development of higher criticism.
Point of departure
My starting point is the earliest Christian period of biblical interpretation of the Apostolic Age. As a follower of Jeshua (Jesus Christ) I take fully notice of his sayings and on the explanation his Twelve Apostles gave, dating from the Great Commission until the death of John the Apostle (about 100 CE). Since it is believed that John lived so long and was the last of the twelve to die, there is some overlap between the apostolic age and the first Apostolic Fathers.
As a Christian I do take the Hebrew Bible in the original text or in one of its non-Hebrew versions, common to Jews and Christians. To the Old Testament I add the New Testament and dare also to look at the Apocrypha (from the Greek “hidden away”), in the understanding that they do not make up part of the canonical writing, but are as important as any other high religious text written in the past centuries. Though not forming part of the Hebrew Bible, were included in the Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), rendered by Hellenistic Jews c. 2nd. century BCE, which constituted the “authorized version” of the early church. Those apocryphal writings in away can be set apart from the other religious writings. It has been widely held that the factors of divine revelation and inspiration in the Bible, which, according to Jewish and Christian belief, set it apart from other literature, impose their appropriate hermeneutical principles, although there has been divergence of opinion on what these principles are.
Looking at the Biblical texts in the 21st century I try to get to know the place that the biblical writings have occupied in synagogue and church. For the study it is also useful to use worldly books and diaries of Christians to get an insight how they reacted on teachings of that and previous times, but also on how they worshipped, fostering individual and community devotion, and the use of certain parts (especially the psalms) in the congregational liturgy.
My subjectivity you could say is that I do believe that the Holy Spirit (the Power of God) inspired the authors of the scriptural texts, and so the words of those texts convey a divine revelation. In this view of revealed exegesis, the principle of sensus plenior applies – that because of its divine authorship, the Bible has a “fuller meaning” than its human authors intended or could have foreseen.
The Gospels, particularly the Gospel of Matthew, make extensive use of the Old Testament for the purposes of demonstrating that Jesus was the Messiah, and that is also what I do believe and on which base I continue my comparison of the different texts in the Holy Scriptures.
In a certain way I can be accused of also following Rabbinic division of interpretation keeping Peshat (simple interpretation), Remez (allusion), Derash (interpretive), and Sod (secret/mystical) taking into account also the Talmudim, Midrash (Hebrew: מדרש), and meforshim (“exegetes“) and parshanim or perushim (commentaries/commentators) of post-Talmudic (Sifrut Hazal) writers. But I shall always look at the texts when they where written and what happened at that time, because everything what was written was also a reaction on the things that happened at that time. I do think it is very important also to take into account what the sayings or writings meant and comparing their possible meanings with contemporaneous Christian practices. I do believe it is important to get knowledge of grammatical and psychological laws of the time of writing, in trying to understand the text and the writer.
Interpretation and reaching the goal
We can reach the truth only by interpret legal tradition or scriptural texts as good as possible, understanding the past social events by analysing their meanings to the human participants and their culture, and seeing the historical facts, analysing possible meanings or social use, having the discipline to put it all in order and doing an effort to see the links.
I do hope I shall be able to encounter several, even different ideas, which can bring myself and others on the track to get more insight in God’s Word and preparing myself and others to go along the right pad to enter the small, narrow gate to the Kingdom of God.
That God may be with you and me on our big voyage, the exploration of the unmistakably Major Book of Books to Eternal Freedom and Peace.