How do we interpret the Bible? Literally? Allegorically? It depends on how the Author wants each section interpreted.
Hermeneutics, defined as the science of interpretation, is important in every field of endeavor (1). People working in law, philosophy and religion use hermeneutical techniques to interpret communication, whether written, oral or otherwise, but so do friends arranging a party, and even lovers proclaiming their everlasting devotion. Biblical hermeneutics applies the art and science of hermeneutics to gathering meaning in the Bible.
When a book is written and subsequently read, information and emotion are transferred from author to reader, and both have an important role in the process. Things become more complex when the reader is not the reader that the author was writing for, as is the case with the Bible. The role of the author is to assemble his ideas in a coherent fashion and then decide how best to communicate those ideas to his intended audience. He may use different languages, different genres (narrative, poetry, law, prophecy, wisdom, letters, and apocalyptic), different words, and different stories to illustrate his points (2). The author then puts pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to write his work.
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Skeptics sometimes say “If Jesus is the only way to heaven, then God is unjust, because some people have never heard of Him.” Between the Scriptures, the oral message, creation, dreams, visions, and the myriad of other ways that God speaks to man, there is probably no one who actually has never heard.
The discussion last Sunday, centered around how someone can be sure of his salvation and focused on Luke 23:32-43, the story of the thief on the cross, engendered some lively discussion. One issue which came up, which always comes up in lessons about salvation, was the question about what God is going to do with people who have never heard the gospel of Jesus.
The Bible teaches that everyone is a child of God, in the sense that we are all created by Him (Genesis 2:7), but some people are His children in the sense that they live in good relationship with Him (Galatians 3:26, 1 John 3:10). It also teaches that every person will live forever, some people with God and some people without Him (Matthew 13:40-43, Matthew 25:31-46, Revelation 20:11-12). In that sense, all religions and even non-religion lead to God because every person will stand before Him in judgment. To use a human analogy, every person is a child of their parents because they were “created” by them but not every person lives in good relations with their parents. Bible believing Christians hold that Jesus is the only way to eternal life; defined as everlasting life in good relations with our Heavenly Father.
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