OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew


A.             A lawyer asked Jesus the question:  “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25).  Jesus’ answer was:  “What is written in the law?  How readest thou?” (Luke 10:26).

1.                Jesus was asking for the lawyer’s conclusions.  Based upon his studies, he must have formulated some view of this matter.

a.         The process of coming to conclusions is “hermeneutics.”

b.         Hermeneutics involves the interpretation of the Scriptures.

                        2.         The lawyer gave Jesus his conclusion (Luke 10:27).

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind:  and thy neighbor as thyself.

2.                Jesus’ response is interesting (Luke 10:28).

And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right:  this do, and thou shalt live.

a.         This man had interpreted the Scriptures correctly.  His conclusions were right.

b.         Jesus’ answer also has an implication within it.  It is possible for a man to answer incorrectly, that is, to misinterpret the scriptures.

B.              Everyone who reads and studies the Bible must interpret it.

1.                Again, the interpreting process is called hermeneutics.

2.                This process of interpretation can lead to right conclusions and wrong conclusions.


A.             For years, members of thechurch of Christ have used a method of interpretation that involves three aspects:  commands, approved examples, and necessary inferences.

1.                Command.

a.         Definition:  A direct statement that demands an action.

b.         II Timothy 2:15.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God…

2.                Example.

a.         Definition:  An account of an action that is to be followed.

b.         John 13:14-15.

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

3.                Necessary inference.

a.         Definition:  A truth that is gleaned from another statement of truth.

b.         Matthew 22:31-32.

But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

1)         The statement that Jesus noted did not specifically state there will be a resurrection.

                                                2)         The statement, however, infers a resurrection.

B.              In the late 1980s and early 1990s, many “liberal” brethren began to clamor for a new hermeneutic.

1.                These men were calling for change in almost every area of faith and practice.

2.                These changes were challenged by sound brethren who demanded a proper and accurate interpretation of the Scriptures.

3.                These men saw that they could not prevail against the defenders of the faith unless they had a new way of interpreting the Bible, a new hermeneutic.

4.                NOTE:  It is important to understand that these brethren did not say that a new hermeneutic was needed in order to implement all the changes they desired.  They said they wanted a new hermeneutic because of the “paradigm” shift within the churches of Christ.

“I conclude by offering my observations on what has been called a hermeneutical crisis in our churches.  These have come about, I believe, because of significant shifts in the driving forces of our churches.  We are no longer committed in the same manner to the centrality of ecclesiology and soteriology as I have shown in several specifics above.  In some cases a vision that is more biblical and less dependent on the Swiss Reformation and the Scottish Enlightenment has emerged.  This has forced us in turn to reexamine our traditional hermeneutics.  This has not been easy since our traditional hermeneutic is more obvious in our theory than in our practice.

“In the past we have assumed that the church for which Jesus died and for which he is lawgiver is basically one of correct structure in polity, worship, and discipline.  Salvation results from entering that church through baptism and maintaining the structure sacrosanct.  But now that vision has eroded.  The question has arisen whether the church of the New Testament was a structure or an amicable, sharing, family-like, fellowshipping community.  If the latter, then the older presumptions and strategies are called into question.  The result has been considerable confusion, which worries some and leaves others without a formulated hermeneutic but probably find the majority of church members indifferent.  Members seem currently more interested in personal struggles than in reflection upon how to interpret the Scripture” (Restoration Quarterly, Vol. 37/No. 1 (1995), “Hermeneutics in the Churches of Christ, Thomas H. Olbricht).

1.                Brother Olbricht refers to a hermeneutical crisis in the churches.

2.                The reason for this crisis is supposedly due to significant shifts in the driving forces o four churches.

a.               From ecclesiology and soteriology to community.

b.               From proper interpretation of Scriptures to personal struggle.

c.               From doctrine to practical living.

d.               From the inner man to the outer man.

C.              The New Hermeneutic has never developed into an organized system of thought.

1.                There is no formal work that exists in our brotherhood that sets forth the tenents of the New Hermeneutic.

2.                To come to an understanding of it, one must read the writings of those who contend for it.

3.                The reality is that they do not want a hermeneutic at all.  They want to do what they please, as they please, with little or no restrictions from God’s Word.  It reminds this speaker of Psalm 2:1-3.

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.


A.             When the New Hermeneutic was first called for, there was no new hermeneutic to replace the old.  There was just an all-out attack on the Old Hermeneutic of Command, Example, and Inference (CEI).  The “change agents” in the church needed to dispose of it.

B.              Quotes.

1.                Michael Casey:  “I want to propose a ‘new hermeneutic’ that grows out of a critique of the ‘old hermeneutic’ of command, approved example, and necessary inference” (Christian Scholars Conference, 1989).

2.                Paul Roberts:  “One of the major questions, or major approaches that is so common in our fellowship or our particular group is a perspective of looking at the Scriptures.  Is our pattern or our plan of biblical exegesis – how do we know what the Bible really says to do when you go to the Bible?  Do we have a little pattern or a little form?  It is called – well, we know it by three ways:  by command, by example, by necessary inference.  If it commands, you do it.  If you find an example of it in the Scriptures, then that’s binding upon you.  If it’s necessarily inferred by Scripture, then that’s biding upon you.  At least that’s been the perspective of the Churches of Christ for about a century or more.  And, I think that’s one of the reasons why we are so divided today” (Radio Sermon, Westwood Church of Christ, march, 5, 1989).

C.              Remember, the old hermeneutical principles restrict and forbid these men from going in the direction they desire for the church.  Therefore, it is not surprising that they want to do away with the old.  It is important to recall that the old ways are not always wrong (Jer. 6:16).

Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.  But they said, We will not walk therein.


A.             There are several components of the New Hermeneutic.  We will examine some of these in upcoming lessons.

B.              Most of the things the New Hermeneutic teach loose the restrictions of the teachings of the New Testament of Jesus Christ.

C.              It is sad to find so many within the churches who are giving heed to and following these false teachings.

D.             We must be well warned!!!