Hermeneutics for Halflings

Check out this post from Zondervan’s new blog, Koinonia. It describes common errors of Bible interpretation committed against the weakest among us: children.

The post is right: children’s Bible lessons fly under the hermeneutical radar. I should know; I edit and write them for a living.

I predict that most teachers of children would respond to a post like this with, “But these are just kids! We can’t give them high theology! We just need them to connect with simple Bible stories. They can learn the finer points later!”

Simple Bible stories… That’s just it. Kids are renowned for loving stories—and paying close attention to the details! When I was a kid listening to bedtime stories, my father would purposefully mix up details or read things incorrectly. I was constantly saying, “Read right, Dad!” If I had heard the story, I knew he was altering it!

The Bible tells a big story. Surely kids from Christian families should come out of their childhood with a grasp of this story, at least in its overall sweep. Right now their understanding is too often atomistic and moralistic: David and Goliath have nothing to do with Jesus or grace and everything to do with my five smooth stones of Bible memorization, prayer, church attendance, and… was it no video games?

For more on this, see Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel and Kingdom.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

1 thought on “Hermeneutics for Halflings”

  1. “But these are just kids! We can’t give them high theology! We just need them to connect with simple Bible stories. They can learn the finer points later!”

    That kind of thinking has frustrated me for a long time. Certainly children need to have complex themes explained in terms with which they are familiar (which is hard to do), but those of us who teach children’s SS (and those few who write the curriculum) need to remember Matt 18:6 and realize that children do not begin thinking only after they join the youth group or go away to college.

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