15 – What Are ‘Hermeneutics’?

There are “rules” and “guidelines” for understanding meanings, whether hidden or apparent, in any literature. Those rules are called “hermeneutics”. Hermeneutics are often referred to when interpreting the Bible. Being a collection of literature, the Bible, of course, requires hermeneutics in order to be understood properly.

One hermeneutic involves knowing genre; the Bible has many: history, genealogy, law, promises, prophecy, poetry, journalism, correspondence, and visions. The Gospels (Matthew–John) and Acts are forms of history, but mainly journalism. In that ancient time, journalism reported the “voice” of what people said; the concept of an “exact quote” neither existed nor was important at the time. Just the same, the purpose of journalism was to prove a point, the concept of “just the facts” didn’t exist much either; it was always “news and comment”, in its Greco style.

None of these genres in the Bible fit with the “lawyer” attitude of post-nineteenth century English. A connotation of “you know what I mean” could be footnoted to every sentence in the Bible, which twenty-first century Black American culture, generally, practices better than White.

Prophecy, whether in the Bible or not, can be “foretelling” the future or “forthtelling” a message; both are from God and have multiple layers of meaning and fulfillment. In foretelling, the foretold event will be fulfilled multiple times and will affect people’s thinking each time it happens. Both foretelling and forthtelling are easy to misunderstand and there is no way to fully interpret the meaning of a prophecy until after the event has happened or the audience has accepted and acted on the message.

Prophecy in the Bible is part of canon, prophecy outside of the Bible is “particular”, for specific audiences and times. Prophecy from God is vague, using plain language, while pagan prophecy often uses long, boring poetry.

One constant hermeneutic is progression. Chronologically, not “Biblically”, every word of the Bible expects the reader to know what happened previously. We learn more and more about and from God as the Bible’s timeline unfolds. So, the best way to understand the Bible is to know the whole Bible and use different parts of the Bible to help interpret each other, whether in foresight or retrospect.

Luke 24:13-35

16 – What Is ‘Godliness’?

Godliness, etymologically speaking, means living like there is a god above.

To be “godly” means that one is not the greatest power in one’s life. It means that one is not a spiritual orphan, but has a greater, can-handle-all Master watching over, teaching, correcting, punishing, loving, rewarding, funding, preparing, training, enjoying, cheering, catching, and seeing in all that one does.

This Master is not imagined by mere Human creativity, as Blaise Pascal said, “God created man in His own image and man returned the favor.” This Master is higher, above all adversaries and threats, able to save and help and rear from birth to death throughout life on Earth.

People who live without consciously knowing about such a greater Master behave, in spiritual terms, as if they were raised by wolves. They lack self-control in some matters, but not others. They often pontificate as if their “wonderful ideas about God” are an attempt to receive epistemological validation for the first time. They conflict inside, are unsure of their theological direction, and thus lack some—not all—necessary qualities of a leader. Their followers, likewise, will in some ways behave as if they too were raised by wolves—including Christian children.

We emulate and behave and think according to who and what we believe our “god” to be. We often get our view of God from the adults in our lives. If a parent is godless, we may struggle to believe in any God at all.

Anything can be a “god”, including verbal abuse, drugs, money, calendars, indecision, education, philosophy, theology, nature, entertainment, one’s own ego, and especially Sunday morning.

One who truly believes in the God who first said, “Let there be light,” will often and intentionally bring light, hope, guidance, and encouragement to others. To be godly in “Biblical” terms is to know the need for lifelong study and, firstly, every human’s need for forgiveness and redemption, primarily redemption for oneself and thereby secondarily redeeming others.

The God of the Bible is mighty, to be always trusted and never tested. Knowing that brings strength to the heart, both the confidence of being loved and having fear of nothing else. The Bible calls this adoption.

Genesis 4:26, John 1:12-13, Romans 8:14-17, 2 Peter 1:5-9

17 – Recognize Fruit

One of the most difficult things for anyone to learn is to recognize results. The more we graduate the more we think that a diploma is a form of results; it is not.

Certification, effort, intentions, experience—all of these prove nothing. A tree is not known by the official label burned into its bark—no right thinking person would do such a thing for fear of being labeled “absurd”. No! We know a tree by what grows on its branches. Oranges do not fall from apple trees and they certainly do not grow on them.

What financial planner is most qualified except who is financially independent and does not need clients? Which artist should you hire—the sincere one or the one with a huge portfolio, collected since childhood, and having the style and flair you seek? Which operating system is more reliable than the one that doesn’t appear in “virus email” warnings from your bank? The engineer who can design the bridge for your city is not the one who graduated from the most prestigious college, but the one who built countless bridges already, with zero of them collapsing.

Despite the simplicity of the idea, companies still hire an MBA to lead a business of engineers or some other specialized talent. An MBA would be more suitable to lead a company whose main product or service comes from the department full of other people with MBAs. Claiming qualification to manage based on a degree in management itself is comparable to helping people know a tree by its label—just as absurd as the stock market at times.

Learn to look at results. Pick the mind of the coffee shop owner or the shoe repair man or the local gadget dealer who has been in business 20 years. Ask the man who has the numbers in the bank. Money doesn’t lie, accountants do. Follow the money.

A degree may open some employment doors, but not all jobs lead to stability, career or financial. Who gains from pop culture superstitions that value certification over results?

Certificates can be good if preceded by results. To see results, one must learn to think critically even without the certificate.

Matthew 7:15-20; 15:1-20

18 – Chivalry

The long legacy of chivalry sprouted from the unwritten Noble Habitus noted in the twelfth century: loyalty, forbearance, hardihood, liberality, Davidic ethic, and honor. These habits were for all people.

Chivalry customs change with time and were never exempt from exploitation. But, the mature and strong must always look after the young, elderly, and weak.

Bull sessions and rowdy friendship—at proper times—are indeed collective virtue. Hardiness with cheer encourages others by implying that they are tough enough to take it. But, never steal another’s thunder, overstay your welcome, nor let play interfere with work.

Do your own work well and honestly. Work unfinished or badly done makes work for others, even danger. Honor is about self-sacrifice, not saving face. Sacrifice yourself for others, merely because they are near you. Obey God above mortals and angels, pay respect to all, and expect respect from none.

Elbows off the table and napkins on the knee save space. When you must retrieve from across someone’s plate, always say, “Pardon my reach.” Who goes through the door first is not so important as making the passage best and pleasant. Whether to talk at the table changes with occasion and each house has different rules. But, never spit your food at others and never be difficult for any friend.

Never break promises, never betray friends, and never associate with those who wish to. When your friend slips in his chivalry, offer your shoulder to help him stand.

Forbearance and forgiveness make for flexibility and resilience. If your opponent plays fowl, object if the referee blows his whistle. Chivalry ’tis not only about being a good loser, but also not quibbling over fowl play.

When late, make haste, but not so much that ye make waste. Be punctual, don’t get in others’ way, but weep not at interference or tardiness of others. Unlacing over a faux pas is bad chivalry, whether yours or not; it’s best to “not even notice”.

Never lodge complaint over tone of voice. Anyone can practice gruffness or bad grammar if he worked to pay for his own plate, especially if he pays for everyone else’s. Carelessly sharing is most caring, as any chevalier knows.

2 Samuel 19:1-8, John 2: 1-12; 6:1-14; 19:26-30

19 – Shoulders of Giants

“Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.”
John of Salisbury, 1159 AD, Metalogicon

One constant in leadership and succession is respect for those who have held office before us. This applies to any position of employment and can help bring peace to a community dissatisfied with a leader of the past.

Revolutionaries, dictators, pharaohs, caesars, and emperors who despise previous establishments quickly sink in quagmires. While the past may be despicable, it was responsible for bringing you to where you are. Don’t despise it, just move forward and let history have its word in the annals.

The Fourth Commandment, to honor father and mother, includes so that your life may be long—respecting predecessors. David respected Saul. Jesus visited the temple and held a cordial courtesy even with the Pharisees. The Pilgrims and the Patriots of early America respected England in their ventures and separations. Look through history and you will find that fortune favors the respectful in many things, including where succession is concerned.

Leaders can be terrible at times. They will answer to God for bad stewardship, incompetence, and lack of love. But, they often accomplish things that the next generation can benefit from, if nothing other than rising stock value as the company gets back on track. Consider the departure of a bad CEO a fruitful investment opportunity; capitalize on his folly and let your thanks be your soft insult.

Bad parents are quite common, especially when absent or abusive. Learn what you can. Don’t excuse them, but don’t expect perfection from them either. Lowering your expectation of others does justice for you, them, and the entire situation. They get properly labeled, you release your burden of faulting another, and the future can open up.

If you have no objections to the past then you aren’t looking honestly enough. When you find fault, don’t let it consume you. Forgive and thank as needed, include them in the public memoirs, and then charge forward. Ancestors surely would have done more had they been so able and would salute our progress. The past was intended to be exceeded from the Beginning.

If you can look at your predecessors and find anything good to celebrate, your time at the helm will prosper and history will celebrate your voyage.

Exodus 20:12, 1 Samuel 24, 26, 31, Proverbs 22:28, Luke 2:41-52; 14:1-7

20 – Jesus’s Morals Are Practical

Morals were meant to be beneficial. When God gave the first commands to Moses, they were intended as a kind of treasure map guiding us to bounty and plenty. If you go back and look at the rules of Moses’s law, you will find many of them to be practical and beneficial. The priestly sacrifices had a concrete spiritual function as well, but that’s a discussion for another time. All moral rules—from the Bible, that is—are practical and sensible.

Cold and boring religious ruts trap people into useless routine. Once we lose touch with the practical value of morals, we begin thinking of them as silly hoops to jump through, as if God is testing whether we will comply with arbitrary requirements and, if we do, then He will interrupt the natural flow of life and “reward” us. This may be the thinking of people who wish to redefine laws of physics for people under their control, but God’s moral laws are different.

God created the universe. He defined laws of physics. He invented biology. Also, He invented and implemented principles of “sowing and reaping”, whether in agriculture or “good luck” returning to those who are gracious and diligent. Since God designed those ideas and wove them into the fabric of our reality, He knows how they work better than anyone else. This is yet one more reason why a useful moral code can only come from above. But, it also explains what morals are: practical measures to navigate the cosmos.

Loving your neighbor just as yourself should seem sensible. Don’t bear false witness against the innocent, don’t covet, don’t murder, “eye for an eye”, and all Deuteronomy taught safety to a society with neither morals nor soap. When Joshua received Moses’s Law, God told him that obeying it would cause Israel to prosper and thrive—dah!

Most everyone agrees that moral are supposed to somehow benefit people who obey them, but it is a well-kept secret in Churchianity that Biblical rules are practical and sensible. We don’t always see the practicality because we are always learning, but it is still there. Impractical “religious morals” are man-made; Heavenly morals just make sense.

Exodus 20:16-17, Deuteronomy 4:1, Psalm 119:32, Proverbs 6:16-20, Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 12:29-31

21 – Basic Definition of Justice

Justice is about balance. Essentially, that’s all justice is about. Justice also uses words like “fair” and “right”, but these also focus on principles of balance.

A “fair” price is equal in value to what is purchased. Looking at the supply chain, the manufacturer pays for raw materials at a “fair” price, essentially having gained or lost nothing. Then, the materials are refined and improved, then sold for a higher “fair” price since the goods’ value has increased. A trader may buy goods at a “fair” price, then go through the trouble of transporting them for the convenience of others until the end consumer pays the highest “fair” price, still having neither gained nor lost. For the consumer, the purchase is worth payment because the benefit of having the goods is more important than the equal value it was purchased for.

Business exchanges have justice, but so do all areas of life. It doesn’t matter specifically what is paid and purchased except that the values “weigh” or “balance” out to be the same.

When God commanded Israel “an eye for an eye”, He was not teaching Israel to be angry, venomous, bloodthirsty, and vindictive; He was teaching them the basic concept of balanced justice. At that time, Israel didn’t understand justice—at least not thoroughly as a complete society. Justice is not something that humanity instinctively understands—due to sin or what have you. Many people thirst for justice, but we don’t instinctively know how to balance justice.

Justice is an expertise. It is a skill, a philosophy, a science like any other study. Because of this, the first structure of government in any society is that of a judge. Judges are not bringers of wrath and harsh punishment on people who deserve whipping and beating. No! Judges understand and calculate from their wisdom to prescribe the “verdict”. By carefully “hearing”, a judge keeps justice balanced in a society so that the human instinct that cries for justice does not seek imbalanced justice through society at large, unguided and thus only creating more injustice than it solves.

Moses was Israel’s first judge. Even before kings, Israel had judges, a grace granting primal needs for justice.

Exodus 21:24-25, Leviticus 24:19-20, Deuteronomy 19:20-21, Judges 2:16-19