The Future of Israel [Hermeneutical Principles]

Last time, we introduced the discussion of Israel’s future as explained in Romans 9–11. Before we get into the text itself, we need to talk about two primary hermeneutical principles that must be employed. “Hermeneutics” refers to the process of seeking to accurately interpret what the author of a text originally meant to communicate to his readers. As such, hermeneutics is essential in the study of God’s Word because, as Duvall and Hays explain in their book, Grasping God’s Word, the reader’s goal should always be to accurately understand the original author’s intended message—and this is all the more important when the author is God [1]. However, because of the great distance between the historical, linguistic, and cultural contexts of the ancient writer and the modern reader [2], it becomes necessary when reading Scripture to intentionally employ what is often called grammatical-historical exegesis.

Kaiser and Silva, in their book, An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics, explain that grammatical-historical exegesis simply means that one’s interpretation of the text “must pay attention both to the language in which the original text was written and to the specific cultural context that gave rise to the text” [3]. Bernard Ramm emphasizes that not only is there a linguistic context and a historical context, but also a literary context [4]. Without an understanding of the literary context (the surrounding verses, book, author’s writings, etc.), the meaning of a text will be difficult or impossible to determine. As Duvall and Hays put it, “the most important principle of biblical interpretation is that context determines meaning” [5]. Grammatical-historical exegesis then seeks to accurately interpret the meaning of the text, as intended by the author, by examining the historical setting of the writing, the original language of the text, and the literary context of the particular passage.

Two key hermeneutical principles of grammatical-historical exegesis will be of especial significance for this particular study. First, a lexical analysis of Paul’s use of the term “Israel” will illustrate that Paul never intends to define Israel as anything other than “the ‘national’ covenant people of the OT” [6]. Second, a contextual analysis will argue that, first, the immediate context leading up to Romans 9–11 makes sense of Paul’s discussion in these chapters, giving warrant to the view that “Israel” simply refers to ethnic Israel, and secondly, that the broader context of the teachings of Scripture suggests that a normal reading of the text should be consistently followed, which supports the view that “Israel” means just what it has always meant—national Israel—and that national Israel still has a future as a nation in the promised land.


Notes:

1] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 194.

2] Ibid, 40.

3] Walter C. Kaiser and Moisés Silva, An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 19.

4] Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation. 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970), 19.

5] Duvall and Hays, 149. Italics original.

6] Robert L. Saucy, “Israel and the Church,” in Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments: Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. ed John S. Feinberg, (Westchester: Crossway Books, 1988). 245.

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