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Examples of Bad Interpretation

Posted by Matt Postiff November 26, 2013 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Interpretation 

Examples of a bad hermeneutic:

  1. That all birds in the Bible represent the devil.
  2. That all leaven in the Bible represents sin.
  3. That all fig trees in the Bible represent Israel.

In some places in Scripture, birds, leaven, and fig trees may indeed represent those things, but not always. If the context says so, fine. But if you are importing the meaning of a symbol from a remote context to your local context, you will almost certainly make the local context say something that its author never meant to say.

When you take care to avoid this interpretive error, you will find that:

  1. The birds in the mustard "tree" (Matthew 13) do not represent Satan and thus the kingdom of heaven is NOT necessarily populated with a bunch of sinners. The idea that the birds represent evil in the kingdom of heaven has been used to distinguish the kingdom of heaven from the kingdom of God, a distinction which is unsustainable because of many other texts of Scripture.
  2. The leaven mixed into the lump of dough (Matthew 13) does not represent sin making its way throughout the kingdom of heaven to sully it, even though leaven represents sin elsewhere in Scripture.
  3. The fig tree does not always refer to the nation of Israel in symbolic form (see Revelation 6).

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