Hermeneutics is the study of interpretive methods. A person’s hermeneutic will determine how that person will interpret and apply a biblical text. There are many different hermeneutics, and, thus, many different interpretations. Certainly, some methods of interpretation seem to be more valid than others. I think the best hermeneutic is one that is consistent.
Consistent? Yes, consistent – meaning, the best hermeneutic is one that interprets and applies Scripture similarly across the same genre. A poor hermeneutic, then, would be a hermeneutic that picks and chooses how to interpret and apply the biblical text.
For example, most churches meet together on Sunday. Why? Because in Scripture, we see an example of the church in Troas meeting together on Sunday. In fact, this is the only instance where Scripture indicates the day of the meeting:
[I]n five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days. On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:6-7 ESV)
According to this passage, the church in Troas met together on the first day of the week – Sunday. And, every possible reading of this passage should agree with this statement: when Paul visited Troas, the church met together on the first day of the week. Thus, if a church wants to model the example given by the church in Troas, then it would be valid to meet on Sunday, the first day of the week.
Most churches agree with this, and most churches meet together on Sundays. Sure, many will agree that it is not necessary to meet on Sundays, but this remains the common practice.
The question that I have is this: Why do we stop interpreting this verse as normative when we read, “On the first day of the week…” There is more to this passage. Specifically, Luke tells us why the church met together. He give us the purpose of their getting together.
The church in Troas met together for the purpose of breaking bread. They listened to Paul speak, but this was not the purpose of their meeting. Many other things may have taken place, but these were not the purpose of their meeting. The church in Troas met together on the first day of the week specifically to break bread.
The phrase “break bread” is used to indicate eating a meal. Perhaps this meal included the “Lord’s Supper” or perhaps there is no distinction between the Lord’s Supper and the meal, but these questions are beside the point. The point is, the church in Troas met together in order to share a meal together.
Why do we pick the first part of this passage to follow, but choose to ignore the later part of the passage? Why do we decide follow the example of Troas and meet together on Sunday, but ignore that the purpose of their meeting? Could we be missing something by focusing on the meeting day but ignoring the meeting purpose?
Is your hermeneutic consistent? Or, do you pick and choose which parts of Scripture to follow – even within the same verse?