Archives for posts with tag: hermeneutics


The book of Job is quite often quoted improperly, in sermons, Bible studies, commentaries, etc. One dream for this project is for those who read the novel, or watch the movie, to effortlessly and enjoyably come to a comprehensive understanding of the book of Job. As a result, it will become completely clear how to properly go about applying each verse, in this holy book, to our doctrine, thus to our lives. In order to properly understand the context for each verse, for this particular book, it is critical to understand the book as a whole.

Let’s say I am preparing a sermon. If I am quickly hunting for verses that agree with a point I am attempting to make, it would be quite easy for me to happen across some verses in the book of Job that seem to fit. Unfortunately, if I am not aware of the context of those verses, I may mistakenly quote verses that God said were folly; oops. It is insufficient to just read the neighbouring verses in Job to get the context, or even the whole chapter.

Next month we plan to post a colour-coded view of the book of Job to aid in clearly seeing such context.

Summary of the key points regarding the proper handling of the book of Job:

  • The folly in the book of Job is context for the astounding insights we get from the first two chapters, and from chapters 32-42.
  • God calls much of the book of Job, chapters 3-31, folly, or words without knowledge, so those verses cannot be used as a basis for doctrine. There are some who think the New Testament quotes from this section of Job, so please see this other article.
  • Though the “folly” and the “words without knowledge” sections of the book of Job cannot be used as a basis for doctrine, they can be studied to find out about the people in Job. This seems to comprise two main topics of study:
    1. Job’s righteousness
    2. What was known back in those ancient days, around 2000 BC?

We hope to inspire exploration of God’s Word, by pointing out the biblical sign posts that direct us in safely navigating the Scriptures. We also aspire to impact society, to change the world for the better. Imagine what it would be like if a good deal more Christians were freed to explore the Scriptures, instead of feeling unsure of how to take the proper safety precautions. This would be like a biblical appetizer, driving a craving for more of His Word.

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There are many songs in the Holy Bible — of course, the book of Psalms, but also The Song Of Solomon, Exodus 15, Lamentations, and several others.

Because of the nature of the language used in lyrics, some portions of these songs may have a wider range of possible meanings. When we attempt to choose which meaning is intended, then it is important to limit our selection to that which is consistent with sterling biblical doctrine. A crucial concern is that we need to have a solid scriptural understanding of the topic at hand, in order to properly see the message of a passage or phrase in the biblical songs.

When a person writes in verse, then we can try to discern its meaning based on the beliefs and values of the songwriter. In a similar way, when a song is part of Scripture, thus written by God, the whole Bible is the context.

For example, one might look at the following two verses and think of them as being contradictory, because one verse implies that God is asleep and the other verse says that God never sleeps.

Psalm 7:6 Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me [to] the judgment [that] thou hast commanded.

Psalm 121:4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

To understand this correctly, we must conform our understanding of the meaning to be completely consistent with all of the doctrine taught elsewhere in Scripture. From what we know of the nature of God, based on the vast teachings and examples in the Bible, it is clear that God would really never sleep. So, when the psalmist asks God to “awake,” it is simply a prayer that God would start doing something He is not yet doing, and poetically likening it to waking up. We are not going to quote Psalm 7 and insist that God really does sleep, in contradiction to everything we know about God.

When Jesus explained to His disciples about the prophecies that He fulfilled, the references included the Psalms. When Jesus said, “scripture cannot be broken,” He had just quoted from Psalms. So, yes, the Psalms are all inspired of God, and they are all good doctrine.

The Psalms and songs of the Bible are each a glorious expression of holy doctrine and biblical truth. These verses are not intended by God to be the foundation. Rather, they are ornaments that beautify the structure of doctrine, as they are securely fastened to the solid foundation of the whole counsel of God.

Some people do not find beauty to be of much value; God does. So, this view of our poetic Scriptures does not, in any way, reduce the appraisal of their worth. They are precious gems.

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Word Studies


Jesus preached repentance (Mark 1:15).

John the Baptist preached repentance (Matthew 3:2).

The twelve apostles preached repentance (Mark 6:12).

What did they mean? What is repentance that saves?

Repentance must include admission of sin. But, this is not enough. If we confess sin, but do not turn away from it, forsake it, then we have not repented. The the basis of the Greek word that Jesus used for “repent” is to “turn.” If we confess sin, simply to be forgiven, this is not repentance. We are still facing squarely toward our sin and the only admission we are allowing is that we don’t want to be punished. If all you can say about your sin is that you don’t want to be punished, you are still with the world, on the wide road that leads to destruction. When God forgives you, He does not excuse your sin. As John the Baptist said, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance.” Luke 3:7-8

So, what is the difference between an unsaved person who sins, but is unhappy about it, and a saved person who falls? This may seem like a subtle distinction, but it is the contrast between life and death. The change is as radical as being born … again. Also, you who are saved, now have a well of living water within you. The difference is that profound.

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly.

Yes, repentance will include emotions of remorse, guilt, sadness. That is the root of the English word. But, those emotions will not save you. There is more to saving repentance than remorse.

When we repent, we don’t just turn away from something, we also turn toward something. We change the direction of our lives.

Isaiah 55:6-7
6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Acts 20:21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

In fact, it is only through the power of God that we can hope to live in righteousness.

Romans 8:6-9
6 For to be carnally minded [is] death; but to be spiritually minded [is] life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

We cannot see the air, but we can see the effect of the movement of the air, sometimes subtly, sometimes powerfully. Can you see the effect of The Spirit moving in your life? (John 3:8) Are you drawing on the power of The Spirit? Or are you just trying to be good?

Mark 1:14-15
14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

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Many prefer the elegance of simplicity, and who can blame them? It is very nice when something is simple or easy to understand. We are naturally drawn to scenes of organized and predictable arrangements. There are many occasions when we can hunt down, or create, these manageable solutions and enjoy the benefits of such a reliable system.

Life is complicated. Sometimes we can just avoid those knotty situations, but sometimes such avoidance would be sinful negligence. Complexity in life is not going to go away, just because we prefer simplicity. We may be tempted to treat complex issues as if they were elementary.

This is just speaking in generalities, so here is an example. Church discipline is complicated. Thus, it requires much prayer, and probably fasting, for wisdom and guidance, backed by several years of Bible study. That is just an example. You can probably think of several more cases where much diligence, discretion, or responsibility is due.

Much value is added when we make the effort to simplify, yet it rarely happens without this effort. There are portions of the Bible that are easy to study. In contrast, there are some doctrinal topics that are difficult to understand. A preacher does a great service for his audience when he studies the Holy Bible for many hours, then shares some simple insights that God provided. The congregation will never get, from the sermon, the full benefit that the preacher got from the study. But, if they are attentive, they may receive far more listening to a half-hour of preaching than they would have received from a half-hour of Bible study. Among other blessings, this is one profit we receive from the prophet.

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

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There are some who believe that the New Testament teaches us not to use instruments in our music; only “a cappella” is allowed. Here is their line of reasoning, as I have heard. One principle of Bible interpretation, that they espouse, is that only the New Testament abides as our source of doctrine. So, any doctrine that is not established in the New Testament, is no longer valid for the church today. Using instruments in music is encouraged, even commanded at times, in the Old Testament, but not mentioned in the New Testament. Thus, they conclude, we are to do away with this practice. There are two fallacies in this interpretation that we will point out.

The first error is that this is not a valid distinction between the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible, as a principle of Bible interpretation. Jesus explains that this is improper.

Matthew 5:17-18
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till Heaven and Earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

There are multiple principles of Bible interpretation to help us decide which Old Testament statutes are still binding on us in the New Testament, and we will not be expounding on those. The main point of this article is to explain that this one false principle is to be omitted. Yes, we are in a new dispensation, i.e., God has now revealed additional information to us in the New Testament. That does not mean that we are to completely start over. God does not change, yet He had reason to change His covenant with us. For example, the sacrifices were fulfilled in the suffering and death of Christ.

There are some abominable evils, that I could mention as examples. These sins are clearly condemned by God in the Old Testament, and no biblicist would argue that they should be considered righteous behaviour in the New Testament, yet they are not mentioned in the New Testament. This shows us where such a method would lead us, if consistently applied.

The second error is revealed by the fact that musical instruments are used in Heaven, as ordained by God. This supersedes any silence, on the Church practice, in the New Testament. This is not to imply that anything and everything that is allowed in Heaven is also allowed in the Body of Christ. Yet it does establish that there is no general ban on the use of musical instruments, as far as God is concerned. This heavenly precedent would be foundational to any dispensation or covenant.

Though this is controversial, some claim the authority of the tradition of the early church fathers to confirm this shunning of musical instruments. Even if this were true, the Word of God is the sole authority for our faith and practice. Going beyond the boundaries of this authority, Jesus condemns as, “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.” And He considers this “vain worship.”

Matthew 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men.

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This post is another follow on to Folly … In The Bible?

As was explained in Audio Drama, in the book of Job we have a similar contrast. Job’s speeches, from chapter 3 through 31, God calls “words without knowledge” and God rebukes Job in chapter 40 verse 8 with the words, “Wilt thou also disannul my judgement? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?” Then God also condemns the words of Job’s three friends as “folly” to be repented of with sacrifices.

God could have just told us what was wrong about what they said, but He included the speeches as context to God’s rebuke and Elihu’s admonition. As such, they are valuable as a historical record.

History does not conclusively tell us who wrote the book of Job. This we do know: He was a prophet inspired of God. Here are the boundaries that God led His prophet to put in His Word, for the book of Job, so that we can clearly see what God is calling “words without knowledge.”

After Job responds to his calamities the Bible says, in Job 1:22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Again, after Job responds to his wife regarding his trial of faith, the Bible says, in Job 2:10 … In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

After that, the narration continues, by the inspired prophet, through the end of chapter 2. So, we know from these God-inspired narrative statements that chapters 1 and 2 of Job are excluded from the “words without knowledge.” There is no further commendation of Job’s words until after he repents, in the final chapter, of speaking foolishly.

We also have these two verses that act as a boundary, or container: The first verse of chapter three and the last verse of chapter 31.

Job 3:1 After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.

Which is a fitting introduction to “words without knowledge.” Here, Job does not lament the sins of society, nor his own sinfulness. Rather, he is lamenting that God allowed his adversity.

Then we have Job 31:40 … The words of Job are ended.

What does it mean when it says, “the words of Job are ended,” here in chapter 31? He speaks again after this in chapters 40 and 42. It is clear that chapter 31 precedes the other chronologically. So it must be Job’s “words without knowledge” that are ended. He is done complaining and arguing with his friends. In chapters 40 and 42, when he speaks again, in repentance of speaking foolishly, it is no longer “words without knowledge” but what God calls, “the thing which is right.”

Job 32
4 Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they [were] elder than he.
5 When Elihu saw that [there was] no answer in the mouth of [these] three men, then his wrath was kindled.

Before Elihu begins speaking, it mentions that Job and his three friends were done arguing before Elihu started.

God says that Job and his three friends did not know what they were talking about. First, the inspired narration specifies that God was rebuking Job.

Job 38
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
2 Who [is] this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

In the end, Job confesses and admits that he did not know what he was talking about.

Job 42
1 Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
3 … therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
4 …
5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
6 Wherefore I abhor [myself,] and repent in dust and ashes.

Shortly after this, God expected Job’s three friends to have repented already. It doesn’t seem, from the inspired narration, nor from God’s rebuke of Job, that God had previously said anything directly aimed at the three. Did God expect them to repent at the admonition of Elihu? Did God expect them to deduce the same as Job, that they did not know what they were talking about, so they should have kept their mouths shut?

7 And it was [so,] that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me [the thing that is] right, as my servant Job [hath.]
8 Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you [after your] folly, in that ye have not spoken of me [the thing which is] right, like my servant Job.

What did Job say that was right? He repented of his words without knowledge. In summary, after Job responded to his calamities, we are told that he did not sin with his lips; after his complaints and arguments with his miserable comforters, God rebukes it all as “words without knowledge;” after Job repents, then God commends this repentance as speaking of Him “[the thing which is] right.”

Some claim that, in 1 Corinthians 3:19 “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness,” Paul quotes Eliphaz in Job 5:13. In this other post we explain why we disagree with this conclusion.

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The words of Saint Elihu.

My three oldest children produced this short (9 min.) audio drama for All Saints Day 2009.

In this case we are using the word “saint” in the Biblical sense, rather than the colloquial or religious sense.

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Considering the nature of this topic, it seemed best to post the statement of faith and doctrine before this post, for a frame of reference. As an introduction to the teachings of The Job Project website blog, it may seem strange to start with a quote from the following verse.

1 Kings 20:23 And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods [are] gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.

Really, this verse could be a very good starting point for a thesis on systematic theology. This article is no such thesis. The reason the verse is a good starting point is because it is wrong. Yes, it is historically accurate, since this report of the Syrians giving this advice is true. It is wrong in a different way. Here it is saying, in the Holy Scriptures, that the God of Israel can only help armies when they are in the hills. I know it does not bother you to be reminded of this flawed reasoning in the Bible, since the context makes it clear that it is wrong — quite clear.

1 Kings 20:28 And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD [is] God of the hills, but he [is] not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD.

This clarity makes it a good example of a principle of Bible interpretation. You might have noticed that different people come up with different interpretations of what the Bible means. This is to be expected, since there is no limit to the possible errors we can make, causing misunderstanding and faulty interpretation.

It is outside the scope of The Job Project to teach all of the principles of Bible interpretation, but one that applies to the book of Job is that we need to interpret Bible verses in context. In the last portion of the book of Job, God is talking. God condemns some of sections of the book of Job as “folly” and some other parts as “words without knowledge.” Of course, God wants us to base our doctrine, and our lives, on trustworthy knowledge, rather than folly. So, we can completely expect to be able to discern between them, from the context. After all, the Bible cannot be fully authoritative, unless God has given us some reliable way to tell which parts of the record are sound, and which parts God has deemed as folly.

The next blog post will begin to elaborate on this distinction, through an audio drama.

If I say, “I am wearing yellow,” does that mean every thread of my clothing is coloured yellow? On the other extreme, does it mean that some insignificant, hidden thread, holding the toe of my left sock sewed shut, is the only yellow in my apparel? What if I tell you this over the phone, as I am describing my appearance, so you can recognise me, because we are about to meet at the airport? Picture that. Did you imagine someone wearing a shirt or jacket that is mostly yellow? Even with something as simple as the colour of clothing, context makes a difference.

A word can have a very different meaning when used in one context compared to another context. Even a phrase or a sentence can have a different meaning in much the same way.

There are various forms of context that we find in the Bible. The immediate context includes those words that are used together, and the sentence structure, which will help us understand the meaning. So, this is like grammar and syntax, as well as the surrounding passages leading up to and following the text, which can give insights into the intent. There is also the audience. When the words are directed to one group of people, the meaning can be somewhat different than if the audience is another group. Topical context is another very important component in our Bible studies since we can gain a better, more complete, picture of the teaching when we take into account all of the passages in the Bible that inform the subject. In addition, it is good to consider the source. So this is another context based on who is speaking and what effect that has on the meaning of what is being said.

The content of the Bible is not changing, so we can construct a full picture of a teaching by studying all of these contextual views throughout all of Scripture. The biblical phrase for this is: Rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

For example, in Judges 6:23, Gideon is told, “thou shalt not die.” Devoid of the context of the events surrounding this statement, there are several meanings that this short phrase could have. We could have quickly set aside the possibility that the pronouncement is a lie, since the context is that God is telling this directly to Gideon. But, what if Gideon is mistaken, and just thinks God is telling him this? What if he is just imagining that it is God telling him, or he is being misled to think so? Without context, we do not know. Maybe Gideon is being told that he would be like Enoch, who did not die because God caught him up to Heaven instead. Maybe this is just a spiritual death that Gideon will not experience. If it really is referring to physical death, then maybe Gideon is being told that he would live on Earth forever. Maybe he is still alive today! Maybe the world could end before his death! It is likely there are other possibilities that are not listed here. When we look at the context, it is easy to understand “thou shalt not die” means his death is not imminent, and that this conversation with God would not be the reason for his death.

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