Let My People Think—Rightly Dividing Scripture According to the Hebraic Rules of Biblical Interpretation (part 2)

(Author’s note: This is the updated and rewritten version of an article that I wrote in the early 2000s. The information contained therein is based largely on the booklet entitled, Hermeneutics: How to Understand the Scriptures by James Scott Trimm [http://www.nazarene.net or http://www.lulu.com/shop/james-trimm/nazarene-jewish-manifesto/paperback/product-403845.html], although I have added many of my own fresh insights and some new information to the original material.)

The “Science” of Argumentation

Throughout Scripture one finds arguments used to prove theological points. An argument in Scripture is not referring to a heated discussion between two parties, but rather to the putting forth of series of points which lead to a conclusion, which is the point the author is trying to make or prove. 

An argument generally has two parts: the premise and the conclusion. A premise is a proposition (i.e. the point to be discussed or maintained in the argument, usually stated in sentence form near the outset of the argument) antecedently supposed or proven as a basis of argument or inference. It is something assumed to be true or taken for granted. Sometimes an argument can be simple with one or two points leading to a conclusion. Other times an argument is a complex series of steps often containing points and subpoints or mini-arguments (as in some of Paul’s writings) eventually leading to the conclusion. These can be hard for the untrained mind to follow. Paul was a theological lawyer and formulated some pretty complex arguments which, as Peter noted, were hard to follow and easy for unlearned individuals to twist or distort (2 Pet 3:16).

An argument can usually be laid out laid out in an “if-then” format. If the premise is true, then the conclusion must be true. In scriptural argument, the words if and then are not always used. 

Some of other words that have the same meaning as if are since, because, for, as, in as much and for the reason that. Words that have the same meaning as then would include therefore, hence, so, consequently, it follows that, we may infer that or we may conclude that.

All arguments are either deductive or inductive. Deduction is deriving a conclusion by reasoning, or inference in which the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises. James Trimm gives the following example to illustrate this point:

  • All prophets spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:20–21).
  • Enoch was a prophet (Jude 1:14).
  • Therefore, Enoch was moved by the Holy Spirit.

­Induction is the act of bringing forward or adducing a proposition (i.e. the point to be discussed or maintained in an argument, usually stated in sentence form near the outset of the argument), or the process of reasoning from a part to a whole, from particulars to generals, from the individual to the universal. Trimm gives the following example of an inductive argument where the reader is lead to a conclusion through inference:

  • Abel obtained a good report by faith (Heb 11:4).
  • Enoch obtained a good report by faith (Heb 11:5).
  • Noah obtained a good report by faith (Heb 11:7).
  • Abraham obtained a good report by faith (Heb 11:8).
  • Therefore, all of the elders of the Tanakh (i.e. the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament obtained a good report by faith (Heb 11:2, 39).

A proposition, usually stated in sentence form near the outset of the argument, which is widely accepted on its intrinsic merit as self-evident truth, Trimm writes, is called an axiom. In biblical interpretation (or hermeneutics), any proposition that comes directly from the text of the Scripture is called a proof text. One utilizes a proof text or axiom as the premise for an argument. If the proof text is in context and is a valid axiom (and is therefore regarded as true), and if the argument made is valid, then the argument (or exegesis) is sound and the conclusion is therefore true. Using a valid proof text to formulate an argument and prooftexting are two different things. We shall discuss prooftexting below in the section Examples of Common Logic Errors.

When formulating arguments or interpretations from Scripture, Trimm gives the following pointers:

  • Don’t sacrifice objective understanding to make your point.
  • Superficial study can be worse than no study.
  • Spiritualizing and allegorizing should be avoided. When the allegorizing of Scripture should be used to illustrate a point from the objective meaning of that passage and be confirmed by the objective meaning of one or more other passages as well.
  • When studying Scripture, keep in mind the Rule of First Reference. This refers to a concept or term in the Scriptures where it is defined by its earliest usage and that definition is then applied to later readings.

Examples of Common Logic Errors


When one starts with a conclusion (i.e. one owns opinion about something) and searches for “proof texts” to support that conclusion or opinion, this is an eisegetical interpretation. 

Here is an example of prooftexting that occurs in mainstream Christianity: 

Conclusion: According to the mainstream church, Sunday, the first day of the week, and not the Sabbath or seventh day of the week, is now the day that the New Testament declares is the day of worship and rest for Christians.

The following prooftexts are used by many Christians to support this (unbiblical and false) conclusion: 

Act 15:20 — Christians no longer have to observe the seventh day Sabbath since there is no mention of Shabbat here as being a requirement upon New Testament believers.

Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. (Acts 15:19–20)

Colossians 2:16–17—This scripture proves the Sabbath is no longer obligatory upon Christians.

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Col 2:16–17)

Romans 14:4–6—Christians can keep any day of the week as a rest day that they like.

Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. (Rom 14:4–5)

Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:1—This proves that Jesus rose on Sunday making it the “Lord’s Day,” and thus is another “proof” that Sunday has replaced the Sabbath.

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. (Matt 28:1)

None of these Scriptures actually state that Sunday has replaced the seventh day Sabbath or that the Testimony of Yeshua (or New Testament) in any way invalidate the numerous commands in the Torah for the saints of Elohim to observe the Sabbath, even though this is what mainstream Christianity teaches.

Here is another example of prooftexting that occurs in mainstream Christianity: 

Conclusion: Christians are no longer obligated to follow the biblical dietary laws as outlines in Leviticus 11.

Many Christian use the following prooftexts to support this (false) conclusion: 

Mark 7:19—When he declared that all foods are clean, Yeshua freed Christians from having to keep the Old Testament food laws.

Thus He declared all foods clean. (Mark 7:19, NASB)

Luke 10:8—Yeshua freed his disciples from having to observe the Old Testament food laws when traveling.

And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. (Luke 10:8)

Acts 10:15—Elohim has now freed his disciples from having to observe the Mosaic food laws.

And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. (Acts 10:15)

Romans 14:14—The Bible no longer considers any food to be unclean. 

I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. (Rom 14:14)

1 Timothy 4:4—The Old Testament dietary laws are no longer a requirement for New Testament believers.

For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving. (1 Tim 4:4)

1 Titus 1:15—New Testament Christians can now eat whatever food they want.

Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. (Tit 1:15)

After a casual reading, these scriptures verses may appear to invalidate the Torah’s dietary laws pertaining to the eating of clean and unclean meats. However, when they are read in context of their surrounding verses as well as the context of biblical linguistics and against the backdrop of the Hebraic culture of the day as well as against the contextual backdrop of the entirety of Scripture, they in no way annul the biblical dietary laws.

Continue reading

Let My People Think—Rightly Dividing Scripture According to the Hebraic Rules of Biblical Interpretation (part 1)

(Author’s note: This is the updated and completely rewritten version of an article that I wrote in the early 2000s. The information contained therein is based largely on the booklet entitled, Hermeneutics: How to Understand the Scriptures by James Scott Trimm [http://www.nazarene.net or http://www.lulu.com/shop/james-trimm/nazarene-jewish-manifesto/paperback/product-403845.html], although I have added many of my own insights and new information to the original material.)

When reading the Bible, how do we properly interpret it, so that we arrive at the author’s intended meaning? This has proven to be a daunting task for both Christians and religious Jews. There is a saying: Put three Jews in a room will have five opinions. The same could also be said of Christians. Perhaps the fundamental principles of biblical interpretation as laid out in this article, if followed, will help to bring some unanimity among truth-seeking Bible believers. Who knows?

Over the millennia, differing views on the meaning of many Bible verses have resulted in countless church splits and the founding of thousands of religious denominations. This is a problem than can be mitigated if not largely alleviated if YHVH’s people learn to follow Paul instructions to the young Timothy to “study to shew thyself approved unto Elohim, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15, emphasis added). How do we do this? This will be the subject of discussion below.

If there is a right way to divide the word of truth as 2 Timothy 2:15 states, then it follows logically that there must also be a wrong way to do it. As a matter of fact, we actually have biblical record of this occurring among the first-century believers. In 2 Peter 3:16 we read, “As also in all [Paul’s] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [or twist], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” In this case, some believers were twisting Paul’s writings to say something other than what the author meant. Sadly, this practice still goes on today. Whole denominations, sects and even cults have been founded on the twisting of scriptures resulting in countless biblical heresies and millions of people being deceived. 

Twisting or improperly interpreting Scripture can lead to one’s spiritual ruination if the result is a false “salvation” or the loss of one’s salvation. This is no small matter! Over the years, there have been whole denominations that claim to justify through their erroneous biblical interpretation such heinous abominations and sinful practices as abortion, homosexuality (sodomy), torture and even genocide. Scripture warns very clearly that “no prophecy [or divinely inspired utterance] of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” YHVH Elohim will judge false teachers severely!

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive [or damnable, KJV] heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction…and their destruction does not slumber. (2 Pet 2:1, 3)

So with all these warnings and admonitions in mind how can we insure that we will not fall into the trap of misinterpreting Scripture and coming up with the “damnable heresies” and false teachings as we read about in 2 Peter 2:1–3 that lead many people astray? This now brings us to our study of the rules of biblical interpretation that were extant in the first century during the time of Yeshua and the apostles, as well as the universal rules of simple logic that every honest scholar and truth seeker follows.

As we shall discover below, during the first-century there were specific rules of scriptural interpretation that were taught and well-known among Bible students and scholars. These had been developed over the centuries by leading learned Jewish biblical sages to ensure that false teachings and twisting of Scripture would not occur. We can learn from the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

As Bible student seeking to reconnect ourselves with the Hebraic roots of our Christian faith, we realize that much twisting of Scripture has occurred from the time of the last apostle until now in Christian theology. Grossly aberrant teachings have been promoted in churchianity where, for example, it is taught that Messiah Yeshua and Paul came to “do away with” the Torah-law. Sabbath has been changed to Sunday and Passover to Easter. Christmas, Lent, Halloween and other Christian holidays have replaced YHVH’s commanded and blessed feasts. Moreover, the church has set aside many biblical standards of holiness such as the Torah’s dietary laws and now permits the eating of what the Bible refers to as abominable things (e.g. pork and shellfish). In these lasts days as the saints prepare to be the spotless or sin-free bride of Yeshua in anticipation of his second coming, it is time for us all to awake from our spiritual sleep and to repent of our errant ways and return to scriptural Truth. It is time that YHVH’s people search out the Truth and come into alignment with it. This involves learning how to properly interpret Scripture, so that we will have the tools to separate the spiritual wheat of Truth from the chaff of unbiblical doctrines and traditions of men. Currently, YHVH is raising up a spiritual priesthood who is learning to separate the holy from the profane, the precious from the vile (Jer 15:19; Ezek 22:26; 44:23), as his saints extricate themselves from the spiritual Babylon of religious confusion in which they find themselves (Rev 18:4). For too long YHVH’s people have been feeding from the serpent’s tree of the knowledge of good and evil instead of from the tree of life. The former is contains the evil the doctrines and traditions of men that have made of none-effect the Word of Elohim (Mark 7:9, 13). “Come out of her my people” and “be separate, do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you,” is YHVH-Yeshua’s cry to his end time saints (Rev 18:4; 2 Cor 5:17), who love him and keep his commandments (John 14:15, 21; Rev 12:17; 14:12).

Objectivity Versus Subjectivity 

The first rule in proper Scriptural interpretation is to know the difference between objectivity and subjectivity. The word objective means “to exist outside of or independent of the mind, something which is observable or verifiable by facts, not by emotions or feelings of the individual.” By contrast, the word subjective means “something relating to the mind of the individual as the subject of experience.” James Trimm states succinctly that objective means “existing independent of the mind,” while subjective means “that which comes from a person’s point of view.” Facts are objective while opinions are subjective. Trimm goes on to say that many in Christendom, however, have developed a “do-it-yourself, do-your-own-thing” approach to biblical interpretation. Christians will often have Bible studies in which they ask, “What does this verse mean to you?” In response, many Christians will often say, “To me this verse means….” By contrast, the truth-seeking approach is to ask, “Okay, so if you were not here what would this verse mean?”

Exegesis Versus Eisegesis

These complicated sounding terms relate to the idea of subjectivity versus objectivity. ­Eisegesis (subjectivity) is interpreting a text by reading one’s own ideas into the text and pulling out a subjective meaning. Exegesis (objectivity), on the other hand, is an explanation or critical interpretation of a text by drawing the author’s intended message out of the text, and letting the text speak to you. The former approach is an inaccurate reading of a text and misses the author’s message, while the latter approach is an accurate reading of the text and catches the author’s message correctly. Many biblical examples can be given of how both mainstream Christian and Jewish religious systems have interpreted various Bible passages subjectively (or using an eisegetic approach). Here are some examples of this:

  • In Matthew 5:17, Yeshua said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” To the modern Christian, this statement means that the Torah-law or law of Moses is largely no longer binding upon the New Testament Christian, since Yeshua did it or fulfilled it for us, even thought the context of the passage (especially the following several verses) say exactly the opposite thing.
  • In Romans 10:4 we read, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (NKJV). To most Christians, this means that the necessity to adhere to the laws of the Torah terminated with the death of Messiah, even though in the context of the surrounding verses Paul, the author, is actually teaching that the law is binding upon Christians even as it was upon the Israelites under Moses.
  • Romans 14:5–6 states, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (NKJV). To most Christians this verse is proof that the seventh day Sabbath is no longer a required observance, and that Scripture now allows one to rest on any day of the week, even though the Sabbath is not what Paul is even referring to in this passage of Scripture.
  • Yeshua says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Christians typically apply this verse to unsaved, non-Christians, when in reality it is referring to the saints who are already saved but who are asleep spiritually and lukewarm in their faith. 
  • Modern religious Jews apply the Messianic suffering servant figure of Isaiah 53 to the modern Jewish people and the State of Israel, when this prophecy is clearly referring to a singular individual who dies atoning for the sins of YHVH’s people and then resurrects to life again.
  • One of the most famous verses in modern American Christendom is 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The context of this verse, however, is Solomon praying in Jerusalem at the temple’s dedication and the land of Israel is being referred and not America. Not only that, most modern readers fail to understand why YHVH would allow the land of his people to come under judgment. It was because they had forsaken his Torah commandments (the law of Moses, see vv. 17, 19). Only if they would return to his Torah would YHVH heal their land. The typical modern reader misses both of these points.
  • Many Christians quote Hosea 4:6 which reads, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me….” However, they fail to read the rest of the verse, which explains why YHVH has rejected his people. It is “because you have forgotten the Torah-law of your Elohim, I also will forget your children.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:4 reads, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving” (NKJV). Most Christians read this verse and stop there. They take it to mean that the biblical dietary laws of Leviticus 11 have been done away with and that it is now permissible to eat pork and other unkosher foods. Yet they fail to read the next verse, which says that not only prayer, but the Word of Elohim (i.e. Lev 11) sanctifies or determines the kind if meat that the saints are to eat.
  • Ezekiel:15–28 contains the well-known “Two Sticks Prophecy.” Many modern Bible teachers declare that this prophecy has already been fulfilled by the Jews returning to the modern State of Israel, when in reality, there are major aspects of it that will not be fulfilled until after the second coming of Yeshua.