Archive for the ‘Hermeneutics’ Category

Many times in scripture natural things are commonly used and accommodated to explain spiritual things

Arthur PinkThe figurative element is very prominent in the Scriptures, especially so in the Old Testament, where natural things are commonly used and accommodated to explain spiritual things, suiting its instructions to man’s present state, in which he cannot see the things of God except through the glass of nature. Every Hebrew word has a literal sense and stands for some sensible object, and therefore conveys a comparative idea of some impalpable object. While in the body we must receive information via our senses. We cannot of ourselves form the least idea of any Divine or celestial object but as it is compared to and illustrated by something earthly or material. Inward realities are explained by outward phenomena, as in

“rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God” (Joel 2:13),

and “blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Spiritual mercies are set before our eyes under their familiar but expressive pictures in nature, as in

“For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring” (Isaiah 44:3),


“Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let them bring forth salvation” (Isaiah 45:8).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Let the translator of scripture duly lay to heart the warnings supplied by the experience of the apostles

Arthur PinkNow if great care needs to be taken by the translator in distinguishing between things that differ, equally so of the expositor. Let him duly lay to heart the warnings supplied by the experience of the apostles. How often they failed to grasp the meaning of their Master’s language! ‘When He declared,

“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth,” they said unto Him, “Declare unto us this parable,” and He answered, “Are ye also yet without understanding?” (Matthew 15:11, 15, 16).

When He bade them “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” they reasoned among themselves and concluded that it was because they had taken no bread (Matthew 16:6, 7). When He told them that He had meat to eat that they knew not of, they imagined that someone had ministered to His bodily needs during their absence (John 4:32, 33). When He said, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth,” they supposed (as any of us would have done!) that He referred to natural sleep. How often is it recorded that they “understood not” the words of Christ (Mark 9:32; Luke 18:34; John 8:27; 12:16). They quite missed His meaning when He asked, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (John 21:22, 23).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Keen discrimination, both spiritual and mental, is required for distinguishing between the literal and the non-literal in Scripture

October 4, 2016 2 comments

Arthur PinkKeen discrimination, both spiritual and mental, is required for distinguishing between the literal and the non-literal in Scripture. That applies in the first place to the translator, as a few simple illustrations will show. He has to determine in each occurrence of the word kelayoth whether to render it literally “kidneys” or figuratively “reins”: our Authorized Version gives the former eighteen times, and the later thirteen. In such passages as Psalms 16:7; 26:2; 73:21, “reins” has reference to the inner man, particularly the mind and conscience: as the kidneys are for eliminating the impurities of the blood, so the mind and conscience are to deliver us from evil. The Hebrew word ruach literally means wind, and is so rendered ninety times in the Authorized Version; yet it is also used emblematically of the spirit, often of the Holy Spirit, and is so over 200 times. Much spiritual wisdom and discernment is required by the translator to discriminate. Lachash is rendered “earrings” in Isaiah 3:20, but “prayer” in Isaiah 26:16! The Greek word presbuteros literally means an aged person, and is so rendered in Acts 2:17, and Philemon 9, but in most cases it refers to “elders” or church officers.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Interpreting non-literal language

September 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Arthur PinkNon-literal language. We have left this important canon of exegesis until a somewhat late stage, because maturity of judgment is called for in the applying of the same. There is a considerable amount of non-literal language in the Word of God and it is very necessary that the expositor should recognize the same. Great harm has been done through failure to do so, and not a few serious errors have been taught as the result of regarding what was figurative as literal. Generally speaking, the words of Scripture are to he understood in their plain and simple meaning; yea, their natural and obvious signification is always to be retained unless some evident and necessary reason requires otherwise; as, for example, when Christ bids us pluck out a right eye and cut off a right hand if the same causes us to sin, or when He charged the scribes and Pharisees with “devouring widows’ houses” (Matthew 23:14), for manifestly such language is not to be taken at its face value. But there are many other instances which are not nearly so apparent as those, as when Christ said “by chance there came down a certain priest that way” (Luke 10:31), meaning that he took that direction without any particular purpose or special design—for a literal understanding of those words would deny the orderings of Providence.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Many injunctions in Scripture are expressed in an absolute form, yet are to be understood relatively, example 2

September 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Arthur PinkWe are not to conclude from the terms of Luke 14:12, 13, that it is wrong for us to invite our friends and relatives to partake of our hospitality, though a comparative is there again expressed in positive language; but rather must we see to it that the poor and needy are not neglected or slighted by us.

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

How often have those words been misunderstood, yea, wrested; for it is a serious mistake to conclude from them either that there was no “grace” under the Mosaic economy or that there is no “law” under the Christian. The fact is that the contrast is not between the messages of Moses and Christ, but the characteristics of their ministries. “Ye see Me no more” (John 16:10), said Christ to His apostles. Yet they did! What then did He mean? That they should not see Him again in a state of humiliation, in the form of a Servant, in the likeness of sin’s flesh—compare “like unto the Son of man” (Revelation 1:13) because then in His glorified state. Acts 1:3, definitely informs us that Christ was seen of the apostles for forty days after His resurrection, and, of course, He is now seen by them in heaven. When the apostle declared,

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2),

he did not mean that that was his sole theme, but rather that such was his dominant and prominent subject. When we are exhorted “be careful for nothing” (Philippians 4:6), we certainly are not to understand that care to please God is excluded, or that we are not to have deep concern for our sins.

The above examples (many others could be added) show that constant care is needed to distinguish between positive and comparative statements, and between words with an absolute force and those with merely a relative one.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Many injunctions in Scripture are expressed in an absolute form, yet are to be understood relatively, example 3

September 13, 2016 Leave a comment

Arthur PinkWords that are used to express perpetuity are not to be stretched any farther than the known duration of the things spoken of. As when the Jews were commanded to keep certain institutions throughout their generations to be ordinances for ever (Exodus 12:24; Numbers 15:15), it was not signified they were to do so throughout eternity, but only during the Mosaic economy. Likewise the everlasting mountains and perpetual hills of Habakkuk 3:6, spoke only of comparative permanency and stability, for the earth is yet to be destroyed.

“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” (Matthew 6:3).

Neither is this to be taken absolutely, otherwise any act of beneficence which came under the cognizance of our fellows would be prohibited, and that would be contrary to the Analogy of Faith. The primitive Christians did not always conceal their donations, as Acts 11:29, 30, demonstrates. Secrecy itself may become a cloak of avarice, and under the pretense of hiding good works we may hoard up money to spend upon ourselves. There are times when a person of prominence may rightly excite his backward brethren by his own spirit of liberality. This Divine precept was designed to restrain the corrupt ambition of our hearts after the praise of men. Christ meant that we are to perform deeds of charity as unobtrusively as possible, making it our chief concern to have the approbation of God rather than the applause of our fellows. When a good work has been done, we should dismiss it from our minds, and instead of congratulating ourselves upon it, press on to other duties which are yet before us.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Many injunctions in Scripture are expressed in an absolute form, yet are to be understood relatively, example 2

September 6, 2016 Leave a comment

Arthur PinkYet it is quite plain from the words of Abraham in Genesis 15:6, 8, from his calling the altar “Jehovah-jireh” (Genesis 22:14), from Genesis 26:2, 24, and from God’s words to Jacob in 28:13, that the patriarchs were acquainted with this Divine title. But they did not know Him as the Fulfiller of His promises or in His actual covenant faithfulness; whereas Moses and the Hebrews were now to be given proof of His word in Genesis 15:13, 14, and be brought into the land of Canaan. “Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord” (Psalm 25:15) must be understood in harmony with other Scriptures which show there were times when David’s eyes were turned away from the Lord, and, as the result, he fell into grievous sins; nevertheless that was the habit of his heart, the general tenor of his spiritual life. See 1 Kings 15:5, for another comparative statement about David.

“Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire” any longer continued, as what follows shows—the shadows giving place to the substance: “burnt offering and sin offering hast Thou not required” (Psalm 40:6).

Those last words are obviously to be understood relatively, for such offerings were then required by Divine appointment. But the presentation of the most costly sacrifices (the ram, or a bullock) were unacceptable to Him unless they proceeded from those who sincerely desired to obey and serve Him, as is clear from such passages as Proverbs 21:27; Isaiah 1:11-15. Comparative conformity to the precepts of the moral Law was of much greater importance than compliance with the ceremonial (see 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 69:30, 31; Proverbs 21:3; Hosea 6:6; 1 Corinthians 7:19). Worship is rejected unless proffered by love and gratitude. Similarly are we to understand,

“For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices” (Jeremiah 7:22)

—those were not the primary or principal things I enjoined. No, “But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey My voice”: the design of the whole revelation at Sinai being to inculcate practical subjection to God’s will, the Levitical ritual being a means to that end.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures