A Way Forward!
Well, “What Do You Do with What the Biblical Teachers Taught?” is the $64,000 question. We have too often raced to the interpretation of Scripture as a one-to-one situation. Sometimes that is correct. Do not murder is pretty clear. It means do not murder. There are, however, other times when this one-to-one interpretation of a so-called application does not work. As an example, when in Leviticus 19.19 you read the following:
“Keep my decrees.
“Do not mate different kinds of animals.
Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.”
The question expands. At first, we say, well, that’s in the First (Old) Testament and we are Second (New) Testament folks. This simplistic answer just simply doesn’t fly. When Timothy says:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” He was talking about what we now call the Old Testament.
That answer doesn’t fly either.
What to do?
Read the context. In the case of Leviticus, the context is about being holy, i.e., set apart for the purpose of God. So, in the passage quoted, it’s true to say something like the following:
Mating different kinds of animals, planting a field with two kinds of seed, and wearing clothes made of two kinds of material has to fit the context, i.e., being set apart to be holy.
It is probably fair to say that very few of us living in the modern Western world are mating different kinds of animals, planting with two kinds of seeds, but we most likely wear clothing with two kinds of material. So are we breaking the Old Testaments word? We should train ourselves to think a bit differently where a one-to-one literal application might not work. In those cases, and most of the time interpretation fits into this category, we have to think a bit more broadly.
How about this: mixing two kinds of animals, planting a field with two kinds of seeds, and even wearing clothing made with two kinds of material suggested to these Israelites a picture of making something unholy, i.e., mixed. So, for them, they may have physically done these things to remind themselves that they were to be holy, set apart to God.
So what might we do with that passage today? Actually, the answer is easier than we think. Let’s take the last one of the three saying. An Israelite wore clothes made with one kind of material as a reminder that they were not to be fussing around with the gods of the land, but were to worship one God. The “one cloth” clothing was a daily reminder that they were to be a “one God” people.
All this is to say: as we interpret a New Testament passage, we try to interpret the text with its first hearer in mind thinking about the historical context. But, when it comes to living into this text today, we have a bit more lead way as the illustration from Leviticus may model for us.
We have too often raced to the interpretation of Scripture as a one-to-one situation. Should we? Click To Tweet So, in our work to interpret Jude, we will look at the passages with the first hearer in mind, but then we will ask how do we live into this text today as a Jesus community. It is at that point that it is fair within limits to look for a solution somewhat like the one I proposed above for the Leviticus passage. What can we see in our contemporary timeframe that the message of the book to its first hearers might allow? In this case, I think it is fair as one possible way of living into the message of Jude to see a coloration between the folks who had gained entrance into the early Jesus communities to provide an alternative message about Jesus and in today’s society the folks who live in the Jesus communities being invaded with those who are preaching a “different gospel,” a gospel of Fake News! being passed off as real news. At least that is the way in which I am going to present the material on Jude.
Hang on for the ride. I hope you find the material informative and useful to live into.
Keep these thoughts in mind as you begin your journey with this Jude series.