Driscoll on Bible Interpretation

I mentioned Mark Driscoll in my last post. He’s the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, a solid evangelical church in a city with “more dogs than evangelical Christians,” as well as an author and conference speaker. The more I hear from him the more I like him.

Right now I’m listening to a talk he gave at a conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, addressing some of his concerns with the emerging/Emergent church. (You can download all the audio from the conference here.) The whole thing has been great, but I was really struck this morning by one of his comments. He’s responding to Rob Bell’s idea that we understand the NT best when we look at it through the lens of rabbinical Judaism.

If rabbis don’t love Jesus, they have a bad hermeneutic… Jesus says [referring to John 5:38-39] that the key to all hermeneutics, all interpretation of Scripture, is connecting everything to his person and work. If you don’t love Jesus, you’re a bad Bible scholar… The Bible is about Jesus. Ultimately it’s all about Jesus. And to say that we cannot understand the Bible unless we look through the lens of people who don’t like, know, worship, adore, or understand him, is to in a sense say that we must close our eyes before we open the Book, so that we can see clearly.

This isn’t just a good response to Rob Bell; it’s a very good statement about how we read the Bible. He also refers to the end of Luke’s Gospel, where Jesus goes back through the OT and explains how everything points to him. Jesus is the point of the whole Bible, and he’s the key to understanding it rightly. If we don’t love Jesus, if we’re not looking to learn more about him and love him more, we’re bad Bible scholars.


4 thoughts on “Driscoll on Bible Interpretation

  1. Interesting. I like Rob Bell a lot, but this statement does seem to take the emphasis off of Jesus and put it on a thought system… not good.

  2. Don’t you think, though, that we should understand the NT through the lens of 1st Century Judaism? Jesus was, after all, a first century Jewish man ministering to the “lost sheep of Israel”. Ben Witherington of ATS has a similar critique of Rob Bell, saying that Rabbinic Judaism didn’t even hit it’s stride until after Jesus’ lifetime (I have no idea if this is true or not). If this IS true, Driscoll is obviously right, but I don’t think that seeing the NT through a Jewish lens NECESSARILY means that you don’t have Jesus as the central point of your biblical hermeneutic. Thoughts?

    By the way, I passed your blog on to another of my friends here in town…doing my best to increase your readership!

  3. Witherington is right about rabbinic Judaism– most of what we know about 2nd-temple Judaism is from at least AD 200. You’re right, too– understanding the NT in its cultural context, and esp in the context of the OT, is vital & not antithetical to reading Christ-centered-ly.

    The problem comes when people act like knowing a whole lot about minute Jewish stuff gives you this secret knowledge of the NT that you couldn’t have otherwise. This is the case with a lot of books about the Jewishness of the NT. It’s very helpful to understand the cultural background, but it doesn’t change the central truths of the gospel. I don’t know enough about Bell to know if he goes too far with it, so I need to look at his stuff some more.

    Thanks for spreading the word– I’ll give you a cut of the proceeds!

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