Jews for Jesus often encounters accusations from the Jewish community. Aside from the favorite argument that we are no longer Jews, they say that in our attempts to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, we twist the meaning of passages from the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible.
It is easy to level the accusation that a person is twisting the meaning of anything, be it the Bible, the Constitution of the United States, a legal contract, or any other document. In our personal study as well as teaching Scripture to others, we cannot make the Bible say what we think it should say. We use an objective and scientific method to determine the meaning of such passages. This study of proper Bible interpretation is called Biblical Hermeneutics.
The Bible contains various kinds of writings: history, prophecy, poetry, law, and wisdom literature. A good Bible interpreter takes into account many factors, such as the language and type of literature under discussion, the cultural and historical backgrounds, and the author’s point of view.
Some passages of Scripture remain cryptic, even to the most skilled Jewish and Christian translators and interpreters. Yet the overwhelming majority of passages and major themes of the Bible are perfectly understandable to the ordinary reader who is willing to take the time to become familiar with the Scriptures as a whole. The most important rule, even for the nonspecialist, is that a passage must be interpreted in its context. For example, if you want to understand what Zechariah 12:10 means when it refers to the Messiah, you also need to be familiar with passages from Daniel 9 and Isaiah 53 when they speak of similar themes. The larger context for all of these prophetic passages is the Bible as a whole, so to interpret them, one really needs to develop an overall knowledge of the Bible.
Several of us in The Liberated Wailing Wall have undertaken the project of reading two chapters of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New Testament each day. By doing this, we can read through the entire Bible in a year. It may seem like a large assignment, but at the end of that time, we will be able to have an entirely different conversation with anyone about whether or not we misinterpret Tanach. My answer to anyone’s accusation about our twisting Bible passages is that before we argue about interpreting the Bible, let’s at least have read the Bible in its entirety!