Hermeneutics and Matthew 13 Part I -- By: Mike Stallard

Journal: Conservative Theological Journal
Volume: CTJ 05:15 (Aug 2001)
Article: Hermeneutics and Matthew 13 Part I
Author: Mike Stallard

Hermeneutics and Matthew 13
Part I

Mike Stallard

Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, PA

Preliminary Hermeneutical Concerns

When one reads the parables of the mystery of the kingdom of heaven given by Jesus in the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, one immediately senses a majestic air to this teaching of Christ. However, the observant reader also discerns that a mere casual reading will not uncover all there is to know. In fact, it is tempting to believe that the disciples lied when they told Jesus that they understood all that He had said (13:51–52)!1 The large number of divergent views of the passage, even within traditional dispensationalism, speaks to the hermeneutical problems associated with any attempt to understand its meaning. Nonetheless, this paper is written with the express conviction that to read the text with difficulty does not automatically translate into the notion of reading the text without understanding. A proper awareness of background hermeneutical issues along with a rather straight-forward reading of the text will yield a comprehension of the passage that is available, not just to the technical experts in biblical studies, but to the average Christian in the world who contemplates these remarkable words of Jesus.

This article is designed to be the first part of a two-part series on Matthew chapter thirteen. Here preliminary considerations in hermeneutics are discussed as a precursor to actual examination of the text of Matthew thirteen. The second article will discuss the particular exegetical issues of the chapter itself.

There are several preliminary considerations that affect one’s reading of Matthew thirteen. Some of these, on the surface at least, appear to be common sense. However, each is debated at great length in the literature. The discussion below will highlight four issues that relate directly to the methodology one uses in his interpretation of Matthew chapter thirteen: 1) the foundational approach of literal interpretation, 2) the Old Testament understanding of the kingdom of God, 3) the issue of harmonizing the Gospels, 4) the development of a biblical theology of Matthew. A proper understanding of each area will go a long way toward objectifying one’s grasp of the passage.

Literal Interpretation

At a recent prophecy conference this writer was confronted by an amillennialist of the preterist variety. His complaint was that dispensational premillennialists ignore church history in general and the early church fathers i...

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