Ever wonder what standard of interpretation most christians use when interpreting scripture?
Let’s first step back to examine how Matthew, the alleged writer of the New Testament Gospel of the same name, practiced interpretation of the Old Testament.
Consider this verse.
Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”
Now note how Matthew later unequivocally denotes this verse in Hosea as a messianic prophecy.
Matthew 2:15 “And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.’”
Now return to the very next verse in Hosea.
Hosea 11:2 “But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.”
Unless you want to say Jesus sacrificed to the Baals, you’ve got to say Matthew took this verse out of context.
And unless you want to say Matthew was a blithering idiot when it came to understanding context, you must say he intended this as a deceitful attempt to bolster claims of Jesus’ messianic status. In other words, Matthew was a liar.
I went on-line and solicited apologists’ responses to this triad of verses, and was primarily met with the usual evasive devotional commentaries on how wonderful Jesus is and how bad I was to doubt this affirmation. The closest I came to receiving a real response was the following statement.
“God can bury prophecy wherever he wants in whatever he wants to say for whoever he wants to extract it later.”
Matthew had no obligation to remain faithful to the context, it seems, and could take full liberty to apply any snippet of Old Testament scriptures to bolster his claims.
Consider the following corollaries of such a claim.
- There is no such concept of taking a scripture “out of context” for christianity or any other faith that christians might wish to dismiss based on similar internal incoherencies. Anyone can claim that a scriptural snippet was “hidden” by god to be later “extracted” by a private individual with no need to consult hermeneutic standards limiting the interpretation to contextual considerations.
- Any potential hermeneutic standard for New Testament writers of Old Testament scriptures is replaced with private revelation that can repackage any scriptural snippet with a meaning completely removed from its original context. Here’s a verse that, under this hermeneutic free-for-all method, Matthew could have claimed to be messianic.
“The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker;” Jeremiah 44:13a
Jesus was both a carpenter, and wrote lines on the ground (John 8:6)! What are the odds that Jesus would fulfill such prophecy?
- Just as New Testament writers can ignore Old Testament context when fingering messianic prophecies, christians today have no reason to respect context when interpreting the New Testament. And they don’t. Simply look at all the diverse interpretations of the book of Revelation.
- Ultimately, any potential singular truth the bible might have contained dissipates into a dark cloud private interpretations, for if interpretation has no dependence on context, then any one of the legions of snippets found in the bible can be co-opted by the interpreter to bolster whatever doctrinal predisposition they have. And do you think christian integrity and logic would keep this from happening? Review church history and the wide disparity between doctrines among those who claim the bible to be the authoritative “Word of Truth”.
I’m not actually lamenting this incoherent claim that christians can, as Matthew did, strip snippets of scripture from their context and apply them in ways that match their predispositions. The inherent absurdity of this will be unseen only by those completely disjointed from logic, reason and evidence. The example of their credulous irrationality has well served the many who are now abandoning the empty promises of faith.
For another christian perspective on these verses, read http://www.spiritandtruth.org/teaching/documents/articles/11/11.pdf.
The summery reads “This view contends that Hosea 11:1 is not looking forward. Rather, Matthew is looking backward to Hosea 11:1 for the purpose of drawing analogies between Christ and Moses and Christ and Israel.” This ignores the Greek phrase (ἵνα πληρωθῇ) specific to fulfilled prophecy seen in Matthew 2:15. Arguments that ἵνα πληρωθῇ in Matthew 2:15 have a meaning other than the many times fall flat given the many other New Testament contexts in which ἵνα πληρωθῇ is unequivocally determined to refer to prophecy.
Here’s another attempt.
Matthew continues with saying that in Jesus this history is perfected. The Israelites were called out of Egypt, but were imperfect in serving Baalim. But Jesus was called out of Egypt, and was perfect in His obedience towards God. The Israelites were the sons of God. But Jesus perfected this being the Son of God. For Jesus was the Son of God in a more perfect sense, namely directly born from the Spirit.
Others suggest you can even speculatively twist the prophet’s focus to be “futuristic” in the face of the past tense of the actual context.
…when Hosea drew from the Pentateuch’s language in referencing the exodus, particularly with this phrase, it is likely that he too was thinking of the future.
Honestly is nowhere to be found among christian apologists on this issue.
Other comments on Matthew’s alleged prophecies can be found at http://www.messiahtruth.com/matthew.html.