A Survey of the Case for Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures -- By: Kenneth R. Cooper

Journal: Journal of Dispensational Theology
Volume: JODT 10:30 (Sep 2006)
Article: A Survey of the Case for Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures
Author: Kenneth R. Cooper


A Survey of the Case for Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures

Kenneth R. Cooper

Several years ago, Paul Lake described the current situation in hermeneutics rather interestingly. He wrote,

In Kenya, velvet monkeys take the ground
Until a sentry gives a chattering bark
Which in the simple velvet lexicon
Means snake, and connotes evil, death, and dark.
Or else the sentry makes a guttural sound
That translates in our own more complex tongue
To hawk or eagle circling for prey,
And sends the monkeys scampering. Either way,
The monkeys must take action—jump or flee
Across the ground or to a sheltering tree.
Should one, instead, hearing a sentry speak,
Decide to deconstruct the fellow’s meaning
And prove all urgent chattering oblique,
A python’s fang or hawk’s cruel curving beak
Will punctuate the monkey’s idle preening,
Ending his dissertation in mid-squeak.1

Obviously, it is crucial how the monkeys interpret the signal from the sentry. If they fail to understand the meaning he intended by his signal, they could run into serious trouble, not to mention become dinner for a python or a hawk.

If correct interpretation of the sentry’s signal is vital to the monkeys in this context, how much more vital is correct interpretation of God’s Word in its context for believers today? But, how do we determine the “correct” interpretation of God’s Word? If we adopt the New Hermeneutic, for instance, we may find ourselves in a maze of meanings of which few if any possess any direct relationship to the text of God’s Word. Summarizing the New Hermeneutic, Walter Kaiser notes,

Every text has a plethora of meanings that are said to exist without any norms for deciding between which are right and which are wrong. If and when norms are allowed, by some evangelical forms of this

hermeneutical revolution, they still stand opposed to what the author intended to say through his use of these words. Rather, it is claimed that the text itself is autonomous and free from the author once he has written it: it is ready only to be shaped by our act of understanding it.2

To follow these guidelines to their ultimate end would result in confusion and lack of understanding. Furthermore, to allow the reader of Scripture such latitude that he basically determines whatever meaning he chooses for the text not only leaves him in a kind of oblivion so far as the meaning actually goes but also could send him directly into Satan...

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