Science in Christian Perspective



  Definition and History of Biblical Hermeneutics
HENRY R. VAN TIL, Calvin College

From: JASA 7 (September 1955): 9-15

Hermeneutics, in its generic sense, may be applied to any piece of literature since it is the theory of interpretation. Originally hermeneutica was used either with epistemc or tekne, referring to the science or art of interpreting. Whenever we are confronted with the thought of man in speech or writing the need for interpretation arises, and the reason such interpretation is possible is due to the fact that we have been created in the image of God. This image, though debased and defaced through sin, was not altogether lost. We no longer have true knowledge of God, true holiness and true righteousness, but the natural man continues to be a rational, moral and cultural being. He is spiritually dead and ethically depraved, to be sure, but physically, psychologically, analytically,

'Socially, biologically, etc. he still functions according to the laws God gave for his being, although here too there is impairment. Sin may bring about many misunderstandings, but we have not lost contact with our fellowmen. Interpretation of the spoken and written word continues.

But my subject in Biblical Hermeneutics. Therein lies the recognition that beyond general hermeneutics there are special considerations for interpreting Holy Writ. In his magnificent three volume work on theological Encyclopedia Dr. A. Kuyper places Hermeneutics between Sacred Philology and Exegesis and calls it simply, "the logic of exegesis." Exegesis, in turn, might well be called the conscience of theology.

Now if the Bible were nothing more than any other human production it would be difficult to maintain the need of a theological hermeneutics. For in every other kind of interpretation the general principles of hermeneutics as a philological science are applied and we never speak of the hermeneutics of medicine or law. However, in theology the theory of interpretation is organically united with and flows from the Scriptures as such. Consequently, historically the term "hermeneutics" has most consistently been applied to the rules for exegeting the Bible.

If Biblical hermeneutics is to maintain its unique position it must follow from the unique character of the Scriptures as the special revelation from God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and only truly understood under the guidance of that Spirit. In short, in the interpretation of Scripture there is an additional, supernatural factor, which is not found in ordinary interpretation. However, we must immediately add, that this special factor does not place the exegesis of Scripture beyond the rules of logic and of ordinary hermeneutics. For if the inspiration of the Spirit and the divine character of the Word gave to the Scriptures some sort of mystical meaning in the sense of a Deus ex machina there would then be no control whatsoever over subjectivism and no basic unity of meaning. Our Biblical (theological) hermeneutics must ever remain hermeneutics, i.e., a self-conscious analysis of the methods and rules of exegesis. For we must give ourselves an account of what takes place in exegesis, thereby making exegesis conscious of her task and guarding her against errors and deviations.

In short, on the one hand, "in so far as the Bible is exactly like other books, it must be interpreted as we do other works of literature. The Scriptures are written in Hebrew and Greek and the principles of forms and of syntax that would apply to the explanation of other works written in these languages and under these circumstances must be applied to the O.T. and N.T. also. Again, the Bible is written for men, and its thoughts are those of mankind and not of angels or of creatures of a different or higher spiritual or intellectual character; and accordingly there is no specifically Biblogic, or rhetoric, or grammar. The laws of thought in these matters pertain to the Bible as they do to other writings" (I.S.B.E. Vol. III, p. 1489, Art. Interpretation).

On the other hand, Biblical Hermeneutics is not a sub-division of general hermeneutics, but is a Hermeneutica Sacra. By that we refer to the super-human, divine character of the Book of which God is in a very special sense the author. And the simple application of ordinary hermeneutical rules will not give us the desired result. There is always an added factor in the interpretation of Scripture. For even though we understand the meaning of the secondary authors we may not understand what the Scriptures have to say. For the Holy Spirit is the primary author, and there is more meaning in the words of the secondary authors than they realized. We must, of course, admit that there is an analogy of this in the aesthetic inspiration of the poet, who often speaks more truly and profoundly than he himself realizes. However, beyond this ordinary human phenomenon, the church of Jesus Christ has in Biblical revelation the special message of its covenant God.

This special anagogical significance of Holy Writ is designated as the mystical meaning (of Encyclopedie der Heilige Godgeleerdheid, vol. III, p.p. 101, f) by Dr. A. Kuyper. He boldly asserts that the Scriptures themselves demand acknowledgment of this mystical element (of Gal. 4:24; Romans 15:4, 23; 1 Cor. 10:6, 11 in reference to Deut. 25:4). At the same time we do not deny or abolish the human authorship of the Bible. Since God is infinite and beyond all human understanding the very special question arises as to how we must proceed in exegeting Holy Writ, in order to find and set forth the meaning of the primary author. We must find the answer in the Bible itself, for God's Word is self-authicating, it not only attests its own divine character, but also indicates in what manner its testimony must be understood.

We cannot simply apply the rules of general hermeneutics to the Holy Scriptures as a particular case anymore than we can subsume God under the concept being, as if his Being were basically like that of the creature; or speak of him as a variation of the genus spirit, thereby putting him in a class with angelic or human spirit. God's Word is not a species of the general concept word, on a par with the w-.)rd of our finite existence; rather it is something in a class by itself.


Before considering further what the Scriptural definition of hermeneutics is it will be profitable to present a short history of hermeneutical principles applied throughout the ages. These are not in themselves normative but must be examined in the light of the Word. Most histories go back to the Jewish manner of interpreting Scripture, but let it suffice us to begin with the early church. The congregation received the Old Testament as the Word of God together with the Jews, but they now saw it in an altogether new light. They took their cue f rom the Lord who bad before and after His suffering declared that the Old Testament spoke concerning him. They also traced the types of Christ in person and work, thus introducing the typical and allegorical approach. No doubt this manner of placing everything in relationship to the Christ has good ground in Scripture, but a caution ought to be expressed against losing sight of the historical as such and giving the text a purely allegorical meaning a la Philo; and, secondly, taking as allegorical that which is not presented as such in Scripture. Arbitrary allegorization after the manner of the Alexandrian school of the Jews, under influence of philosophy, can be seen in Clement of Rome and Justin Martyr, whose Logos sperinaticos is not a truly Scriptural concept but borrowed from heathen philosophy.

Soon three schools of interpretation are discernible, between the years 170 A.D. and the fifth century. First there is the Western including Ireneaus, Tertullius and Cyprian. The emphasis is on the agreement with the regula veritatis and tradition. This was necessitated by heretical movements such as that of Marcion, Gnostics, Montanists, etc., with their arbitrary interpretations of Scripture. This movement deteriorated into pure traditionalism which found its expression in the famous dictum of Vincentitis Lerinensis, "Even so we must take great pains in the catholic church to hold fast that which has been believed everywhere, at all times and by all; for that is truly and in the real sense catholic and universal". As if there ever was such a thing! This over-emphasis, however, must not close our eyes to the value of the rule of faith and the ecclesiastical tradition for Scrip tural interpretation. Although tradition and confession may not overrule exegesis as is the case with Roman Catholicism today yet they may serve as a brake against hasty, superficial and wrong exegesis.

Secondly, the Alexandrian School, known as the allegorical, must be distinguished. The moving spirits were Clement of Alexandria and Origen. Although divine inspiration of Scripture was acknowledged, there was a one-sided ignoring of the concrete historical given and an almost exclusively allegorical interpretation. What was right and proper for God was sometimes subjected to human reason and philosophic considerations, and the divine injunction to make every thought subject to the obedience of Christ (II Cor. 10:5) was not seriously applied.

It must not be concluded that the allegorical method in itself is reprehensible, but it may not exceed the rules given in Scripture. Its proper application in certain cases may be derived from passages such as Gal. 4:24; 1 Cor. 10:6; Heb. 9:9; Jn. 3:14. Augustine. called the allegory a figure of speech in which out of one the other is understood.

According to Origen, who was the genius of this school, Scripture has a three-fold sense just as man in the Platonic sense consists of body, soul and spirit'. The bodily sense is the grammatical one, the literal meaning; the psychical or moral sense, which teaches us by the example of others how we ought to conduct ourselves (note: in practice this was mostly neglected) ; and the spiritual sense, designated as anagoge, allegoria. Every Scripture, indeed, has the spiritual sense, but not all of Scripture has a literal sense for Origen. In the third place, there was the school of Antioch, or grammatical-historical school. This method turned against the allegorical and inquired into the literal and historical meanings of the text and is a forerunner of those who today will not allow that the 0. T. Scriptures refer to the Christ of God, and, that the Psalms, e.g., refer merely to the times of Zerrub bel and Hezekiah. In short, the Scriptures lost their reference to the primary author and thereby their divine character. To this school belonged Theodore of Mopsuestia, Chrysostom, et. al.

Finally, Augustine calls for special mention, since, although exegesis is his weak spot and he does not always live up to his herineneutical rules, he has given the church many excellent directives in his great work on Christian Doctrine (De Doctrina Christiana, libri IV).

For Augustine the primary principle was that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of understanding of the Word of God. In humilitv we must accept the authority of Scripture. But th~ exegete must be well equipped philologically, historically, and critically. The literal meaning must be ascertained and thereafter the allegorical or mystical. First the meaning of the human authors and through this the meaning of the primary author. A text may not be severed from its context. All Scripture is not equally clear and the obscure passages must be interpreted in the light of the perspicuous. We must proceed in our work with great care and diligence, but if at last some obscurities remain, these do not pertain to our salvation.

The middle ages do not offer us anything original. Many Glossaries appeared, i.e., collections of the interpretations of the church fathers. Great ignorance prevailed so much so that bishops had to be urged to read the Word and it became a common saying later that a school-boy in Geneva had more understanding of the Word than an ordinary parish priest. The highest virtue was to follow tradition, which finds expression in the rule of Hugo of St. Victor: "First learn what one must believe, and then go to the Word to find it". If there were great diversity among the fathers it was necessary to accept quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est. There was no freedom and no new hermeneutical principle was developed. There was a great activity in gathering and collating various Scriptural interpretation in Catenae (Aquinas, most famous in West) and Peter Lombard sent his famous De Libro Sententiarum into the world. A fourfold interpretation, going back to Augustine, was accepted: the historical, the aitological, the allegorical and the anagogical, the last three all belonging to the spiritual undertsanding of the Word.

Although the doctrine of a fourfold interpretation is to be rejected, we must not lose sight cf the fact that God speaks in the Holy Scriptures, although through the service of man, and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

Even before the Reformation began there had been a re-awakening in the study of the Word in such men as Wyclif, Valla, La Fevre, Erasmus, and Reuchlin. The Renaissance showed its influence in a renewed study of Greek and Hebrew so that Reuchlin wrote a Hebrew grammar and Erasmus translated the New Testament. They stressed the necessity of studying the Scriptures in their original languages.

The Reformers proceeded on the basis of strict inspiration but not in the mechanical sense (some of their followers did). This doctrine of the infallible Word was opposed to that of an infallible Church. They held that not the church determines what the Word teaches, but the Scriptures determines what the Church ought to teach. Primarily the literal sense of Scripture must be sought, and furthermore, the Fathers are not authoritative but the comparison must be made with the rest of Scripture. Their basic priciple was: Scriptura scripturae interpres. Scripture is autopistos, i.e., must be believed for her own sake, and we may not subject her to reasoning and proof (Cf. Inst. 1, 7, 5). To rightly understand the Scriptures we must receive new sight (Calvin Comm. on II Tim. 3:16). The Apocrypha do not belong to the Scriptures. The authentic text is found in the original languages, therefore these must be studied.

Arbitrary allegorization must be rejected and one must be on guard against personal speculation and eisegesis (reading into the text). Both Luther and Calvin reject the fourfold sense of Scripture and seek to find the one meaning of the Spirit (Cf. Calvin Comm. on Gal. 4:22). The necessity of grammatical understanding and historical acumen is stressed, but the analogia fidei is not to be abandoned. The obscure passages must be interpreted by the clear, a golden rule that should have been observed, in these latter days in connection with an understanding of the return of Christ.

Luther especially distinguished himself as translater of the Word, while Calvin wrote commentaries on practically all the books of the Bible. Dr. Warfield makes the following comment on the latter. "It was doubtless in part to his humanistic training that he owed the acute philological sense and the unerring feeling for language which characterize all his expositions. . . . Calvin was, however a born exegete, and adds to his technical equipment of philological knowledge and trained skill in the interpretation of texts, a clear and penetrating intelligence, a remarkable intellectual sympathy, incorruptible honesty, unusual historical perception, and incomparable insight into the progress of thought, while the whole is illustrated by his profound religious comprehension. His expositions of Scripture were accordingly a wholly new phenomenon, and introduced a new exegesis-the modem exegesis. He stands out in the history of as, what Diestel, for example, proclaims him, 'the creator of genuine exegesis'." And a little further Warfield quotes the "judicious Hooker" to the effect that the sense of Scripture which Calvin allowed was of more weight than ten thousand Augustines, Jeromes, Chrysostoms and Cyprians. "Nor have they lost their value today" (Cf. Calvin and Calvinism, pp. 9, 10).

Over against the Reformation Rome confirmed and continued the errors and deviations which had accumulated in the course of centuries, in the Council of Trent 1545, placing tradition on a par with Scripture, accepting the Apocrypha as inspired, relying solely upon the Vulgate as being authoritative instead of the original Mss., and declaring that all obscure and difficult passages ought to be referred to the Church for final disposition.

In Socinianism we find the beginnings of Rationalism, viz., that approach whereby reason is taken as final norm and authority of the possible and one is not content to use it merely as a means of coming to knowledge. Only doctrinal passages were inspired and in the rest the writers might easily have erred, while the O.T. has merely historical relevance. Mistakes could be discovered by historic criticism, and nothing that is contrary to the healthy human reason ought to be accepted.

Meanwhile the more mystical Anabaptists made a distinction, or rather posited an opposition between Scripture and the Holy Spirit. The Scripture is not the veritable Word of God, but merely a dead letter behind which the true Word must be discovered through the Spirit. For the spiritual man the Word becomes superfluous. Illumination is not distinguished from inspiration. This error, sad to say, has continued to this very day in some sects and among some church members the Spirit and the letter are still opposed to each other.

The Remonstrants, among whorn were Grotious, Episcopus, Wetstein, etc., placed such emphasis on philology and grammar that the divine factor was not properly evaluated but rather negated, and the end result was a swing to Rationalism. Rationalism, as such, appeared under the influence of De Cartes and Spinoza and finds expression in L. 'Meyer's, Philosophia Scripturae interpres, 1666, as well as Kant's Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen de blossen Vernunft. The latter called for morally garbed rationalistic interpretation of the Scriptures. He asks the question, "ob die Moral nach de Bibel oder die Bibel vielmehr nach der Moral ausgelegt werden mfisze", (K. Kehrbach ed., S. 116 as quot. by S. Greydanus in Schriftbeginselen ter Schriftverklaring, pp. 198, 199).

Kant is of the opinion that the moral betterment is the real goal of all rational religion, therefore this ought to, be the principle of all Scriptural interpretation. This was further developed by H.E.G. Paulus and the German critical school, in which Rationalism degenerates into Naturalism. Scripture is not accepted for what it claims to be nor interpreted according to its own meaning. No account is taken of the darkening of man's mind through sin or the corruption and depravity of his heart due to the f all of Adam and Eve.

The Historical School

In passing mention ought to be made of J. A Ernesti who so emphasized the grammatical meaning of the words that Holy Writ has no future meaning and is comparable to any other book; and also J. S. Semler, who, although he did not wish to be counted among the rationalists nevertheless advanced its cause and its prominence by his one-sided emphasis upon the historical method and by relying upon the accommodation theory, holding that Jesus adjusted himself to the views of His day. Of both these men J. Wach has this to say: "Die Namen der beiden Manner bezeichnen den Anbruch einer neuen Epoche in der Geschichte der hermeneutische. Theorie, die gekennzeichnet wird vor allem durch die Losting der Auslegunglehre voni Dogma, die Verlegung des Schwerpunkts nach der Seite der grammatisch-his torischeh Interpretation. (Das Verstehen, 1926 S. 17, 3).

In passing mention ought to be made of J. A. Bengel who stands out in the school of Pietism, which was a reaction against the sterile intellectualism of the 17th century. Especially Spencer and A. H. Francke reacted with holy indignation to the and scholasticism in biblical interpretation. They stressed the need of prayer for guidance of the Spirit so that edification might be achieved. Science gradually was neglected and the grammatical, historical and analytical study of the Word could only reveal the external wrappings of the Word according to their view,

Mention ought to be made of D. F. Strauss, Leben Jesu kritisch untersucht, who in opposition to both the Naturalists and Supernaturalist proposed the Mythical interpretation. The N. T. had developed as a Myth said Strauss and now to understand it we must see that development for what it is (CF. the demythologizing of Bultmann). Baur and Tubingen school brought an end to this influence temporarily by their Peter-vs. Paul scheme, which was transferred by the Graff Welhausen-Kuenen school to the 0. T. claiming to interpret by an objective-historical method, but actually on the basis of an evolutionary philosophy. Fact of the matter is that already F. D. E. Schleiermacher, who has been called the Origen of Germany and issued Hermeneutik and Kritik, 1838 posthumously) had substituted the subjective, psychological method or interpretation, whereby he did despite to the objective validity of the Word of God as authoritative. his was developed in a slightly different direction by the comparative religion approach by which everything was relativized and attempts were made to show that there was nothing distinctive in the religion of Israel.

Concluding this rationalistic, evolutionistic trend I wish to mention finally the Foringeschichte theory of interpretation. This was started by H. Gunkel in Schopfung und Chaos, 1895 with respect 'm the O.T. and continued by M. Dibelius, Die Fornigeschicte des Evangliums, 1918, while E. Fascher in 1929 wrote a history of this movement: "Die Fornkyeschichtliche Methode."

This method does not proceed on the assumption of the historical veracity of the historical books of the Bible but rather their untrustworthiness. It is plainly the work of man and inaccurate in many details. The problem for this school is to find out what may be considered historically reliable and accurate. Supernatural facts are simply discounted, and the great quest is to find out what really took place, from which the myth and legend as presented in the N. T. grew. This method, of course, takes the very essence of Christianity, the supernatural works of God for His people, and the infallible revelation which he has made, and destroys them without residue. This is the apotheosis of the natural man, and the end of true religion.

Happily not all the 19th Centpry, scholars landed in this maelstrom. Mention ought to be made of C. A. G. Keil, who wrote Lehrbuch der Hermeneutik des Neuen Testaments, 1811. He advocates the grammatical-historical method, and holds that the -rammatical interpretation must be according to the historic milieu. He held that to know the sense of a book is nothing, else than to think as the author thought when he wrote and wanted others to think in hearing and reading. The chief criticism we have is that the not sufficient account is taken of the primary author.

During the last part of the 19th Century there was a resurgence of Reformed thought especially in the Netherlands which produced several works on Hcrmeneutics-viz., Beknopte Bijbelschc Hcriiieneutiek, L. Berkhof, in early part of this century, published in Holland. In 1929 Dr. F. W. Grosheide, who together with several Reformed scholars had published a Cornmentary on the New Testament which is being revised and re-published today, also sent his Hcrineneutick into the world. And in 1946 S. Greydanus of Kampen Theological School of the Reformed Churches of The Netherlands wrote his SCHRIFTBEGINSELEA' TER SCHRIFTEVERKLARING, together with a short resume of the history of hermeneutic theory. The viewpoint of these Reformed scholars is being presented in this paper.


I now turn to a more detailed consideration of some of the Scriptural principles of interpretation. Many things cannot be mentioned and those that are mentioned cannot be adequately treated. I pass by the question of the necessity of interpretation due to objective and subjective difficulties since that would lead us far afield. The problem of communication, of understanding another human being is forever plaguing all of us; how much more the possibility of understanding the special revelation of God, for He is infinite and we arc finite and the finite cannot comprehend the infinite. And His thoughts are not always revealed directly but mediately through angels, and men; in concrete historical situations and in acts of power, and always we must remember that God speaks anthropomorphically.

But in spite of the objective difficulties and our alienation through sin, yet the possibility of understanding Scripture and learning to know God is given in the fact of our creation in His ima-e and in His condescending grace to hell-deserving sinners so that He gives them after sin, both "new light and new insight," to use Warfield's happy phrase. There is, indeed, the possibility of a partial understanding of Scripture among the unregenerate (all men have a sensus deitatis and even the demons know some theology) but f or a true understanding of the Word of God the renewing power of the Holy Spirit is necessary. This enlightenment must not only take place in general but even with respect to particular passages (Cf. Luke 24:45 "then opened He to them the Scriptures").

The first principle of Biblical Hermeneutics in the orthodox tradition is the fact that the Bible is actually and in the literal sense God's Word. It is His self-revelation. As such the Lord Jesus recognized and applied the Word (Cf. John 10:35, Matth. 4:4, 7, 10, etc.) and thus also the disciples understood the Word.

Secondly, the Scriptures are God's Word, through the service of men, i.e., the Bible did not fall from heaven as Diana or spring full-orbed from the brow of Zeus as Minerva, but God used human agents as organs of revelation over a long period of time in many lands. Hence the ordinary rules of logic and interpretation do apply.

Again, the unity of Scripture is a principle which f ollows from the first principle, since there i, one primary author, who is divine and beyond fallibility or error. There is unity, moreover, of content, purpose, authority. This involves that we do not grant contradictions in Scripture, though we may grant seeming contradictions, paradoxes. The very center of Scripture is the incarnate Word-God was in Christ, says Paul. He spoke in times past through the prophets, hath in these last days spoken through His Son. This means that revelation is soteriological. Christ is the Key to the Scriptures.

Now the question may arise, Where do we find these principles in the Word? We cannot use the Bible as a hermeneutical text-book any more than we can say that it is a text-book for a certain physical science. But these principles are spread through the Scriptures and we must apply ourselves to know the will of the Lord and the meaning of the Spirit. Much may, e.g., be learned from the way Scripture interprets itself, but also from the mighty acts of God and His continuing providence wherein we see the fulfillment of His word. E. g. Gen. 3:15 received its fulness of meaning only by knowing the work of Christ for the salvation of mankind, while Gen. 2:17 concerning the threat of death to Adam and Eve is daily being fulfilled in all men and in the lost in hell. The O.T. becomes clear in the light of the new!

The organs of revelation themselves and the apostles show us the way in interpreting Scripture. E.g., Peter tells us the meaning of the prophecy of Joel about the last days and James tells the first Synod at Jerusalem that the conversion of the Gentiles as attested by Paul and Barnabas is the fulfillment of the promise of God to David that His tabernacle would be built and that His kingdom would be sure, thus cutting off in one stroke any physical, material worldly kingdom in the future for David's heirs.

Again, the Scriptures indicate something about the right way of interpretation by giving us various forms of writings and books of different character. O.T. Allis, e. g., used to tell us as juniors in the Seminary that we may not use the same rule in reading Ex. 14 and 15, the one being written as straight prose and the other in exalted poetic form. The one tells us that God raised the waters of the Red Sea by a strong east wind, and the other speaks of the breath of His nostrils-but we ought to remember that God is not a man, therefore, this is poetic license just as when the poet speaks of Lebanon skipping as a lamb. Again, we cannot take the highly symbolic prose of the book of Revelation and of Daniel-in certain parts-and read it literally as we do with the didactic prose of the Gospels of the Pauline Epistles.

But in all this we must not forget that Scripture is autopistos, i.e., the ground for her veracity is within her and she is herself judge and interpreter of her own meaning. The Word comes to us as absolute authority. Although God reveals Himself in nature and history and we can learn much about His ways and His glory from them, yet alone in Scripture do we have a clear and unequivocal self-revelation, so that He speaks to us in audible words and communicates His thoughts on various subjects. These two revelations are not, therefore, on a par, of equal authority. The Bible does not have to be confirmed by facts from nature before we give adherence to its pronouncements and accept its facts, it comes to us with the demand of implicit faith and obedience. We must believe the Word for its own sake as the Word of God. In the work of man and iii his reasoning many errors may appear, but this is impossible with God. He is not a man that He should lie or make a mistake. The errors lie with us in our faculty comprehension. His Word is Truth, whether confirmed or contradicted by science. His revelation surpasses all human wisdom and His wisdom can only be achieved in His fear.

In general we must observe by whom, to whom, when, where, in what manner, under what circumstances and the occasion a thing is written. We must distinguish between the Word of God in formal and material sense. All is historically normative, e.g. the words of Satan and the false prophets are truly reported; but not all is ethically normative. Because of the organic character every part must be compared with every other and the sense of the whole must be kept in mind, i.e., the centrality of Jesus Christ as key to the Scriptures. But the dispensation of the Old Covenant and that of the New must be distinguished. All that God spoke to Noah, Abraham and Moses cannot be applied ipso facto to N. T. saints. Further, the particular and the general must be clearly distinguished. In this connection we may not absolutize that which God commands to particular persons. E.g. the prohibition against murder both to Noah and in the law and Paul's admonition to believers not to avenge themselves may not be applied to the government or to mankind as a social organism thus deriving pacifism and abolition of capital punishment.

Finally, let me conclude with a word concerning the matter of objectivity and presupposition in exegesis. In giving account of the matter this becomes a question of hermeneutics.

The interpretation of Holy Writ must be objective. Objectivity is here understood in the sense that the meaning and sense of Scripture must be reproduced in its purity and fullness, the thoughts of God must be clearly expressed, brought to light, without human admixture. Our Lord takes no pleasure in prophets that speak falsely concerning Him (Cf. Jer. 23:25-26) (Ezek. 33:7-9;) God was very insistent in sending His prophets that they should speak only His words and all that He commanded them. This still applies today. It means that we may not carry our meaning into the Scriptures. We must beware lest unconsciously we present our own desires, views and reasonings as the Word of God. We may not pass by part of the text because it does not agree with our preconceived notion. We may not twist or wrest the meaning of Scriptures to accommodate our ideas.

All of which does not mean that we can approach our task totally void of prejudice or presupposition. We do not subscribe to the dogma of objectivity and presuppositionlessness (Voraussetzunglosungheit). Those who followed this fad in exegesis wanted to approach the Bible as another ordinary book. But for the last 25 years the trend has changed and men like Bultman roundly admit that they stand on the basis of Heidegger's phenomenalism. So the question ecomes rather, in how far may exegesis be determined by pre-judgments. Formally, because we are finite men, we cannot approach our task without prejudice; no man can jump out of his skin. Out of the heart are the issues of life, and as a man thinketh in his heart so is he; hence all his thinking and doing and loving will be determined by his subjective attitude for or against God. All men are either covenant-keepers or covenantbreakers. There is no escape from this formal aspect.

Materially, we may not come with a greater presupposition than the Scriptures themselves allow. Every believer starts, then, with the presupposition that the Bible is the Word of God and as such is reliable. This basic position determines one's whole philosophy and anthropology. Thus we have arrived at the boundaries of knowledge and are thrown back upon our faith. Thus it is with all men. Every theoretic judgment in the final analysis is found upon the non-theoretic priori-either faith in the Son of God as the way the truth and the life; or faith in man, his reason, his science, his infallibility to find the truth for the good life.

It is the task of hermeneutics among other things, that it does not permit the exegete to enlarge his ma terial presupposition to include his dogma. The danger is always with us that our exegesis will be used in defense of dogma. On the other hand, let us not do despite to the Spirit of God who leads the church into the truth. Let us take into account the analogia fidei and not cast overboard the wisdom of the ages. Finally, let us not absolutize our exegesis. We may not say that we now have the last word, since we know in part and see in part. We sh all never exhaust the full meaning of God's revelation in Scripture. Our knowledge of Scripture is like that of a man admiring
the Nachwacht of Rembrandt. The more he studies and the more he knows of lines and colors and paints the more he will appreciate the painting of the master. But he never reaches fully that which was in the mind of the artist who made the painting. So in an infinite degree the divine artist is always beyond our under standing, although we shall understand more of his Word as we come with more understanding of the frame of reference mould in which it is cast. But ever it is the majestic Lord of heaven and earth that speaks to us. And only if we come in faith and hear His voice obediently shall we find eternal life through that Word.*

*(For discussion of last point Cf. DE bevooroordeeldheid der exegese, by Dr. R. W.  Grosheide, 1946)