Detangling Hermeneutics

With all of the controversy surrounding Gungor and his statements on the flood story, it should be helpful to step back and look at how the Inerrancy of Scripture and Hermeneutics interact with one another.

Many who disagree with a historical reading of Genesis (characterizing those who read it in such a way as “literalists”), often confuse the exegetical reasons for reading it that way, with a statement of inerrancy.

In other words, when exegetical arguments are given that suggest that Creation was a historical event, that Adam was the first man, or that the flood actually happened, they cannot distinguish these interpretations from a commitment to inerrancy.

I think Moises Silva provides a helpful distinction;

“Now I happen to believe that the essential historicity of Genesis 1-3 is a fundamental article of Christian orthodoxy. It would surely require hermeneutical prestidigitation to argue that the original writer intended those chapters as any less historical than the later patriarchal narratives (and could the original audience have discovered any such distinction between the early and later chapters of the book?). For that reason and others, such as Paul’s argumentation in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, I would want to argue very strongly that the proper interpretation of the Genesis material is one that does justice to its historical claim.

And yet I would want to argue just as strongly that such an interpretation is independent of my commitment to inerrancy. These are two distinct questions. Of course, once we have established exegetically that the first chapters of Genesis teach historical facts, then our belief in infallibility requires us to accept those chapters as factual. But infallibility, apart from exegesis, does not by itself determine historicity. Otherwise we would be obligated to accept as historical Nathan’s story in 2 Samuel 12:1-4 or even the parable of the trees in Judges 9:7-15.

(Old Princeton, Westminster, and Inerrancy” in Inerrancy and Hermeneutic, p. 75)

To be sure, inerrancy is something that scripture teaches about itself, however as Dr. Silva pointed out, the “quality” or “character” of the text doesn’t immediately bring forth the content. By the same token, in rejecting an erroneous reading of the text, one cannot appeal directly to scripture’s infallibility without demonstrating how the reading is erroneous on exegetical terms.

In short, if one can exegetically demonstrate that Scripture is teaching a historical flood, then one who really holds to the profitability and sufficiency of scripture as God’s Word must find some other reason than purported ambiguity to disagree


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