Many people ask the question why Christians often have such different opinions about Israel even though they all rely on the same Bible that could help them in their understanding. Why are there so many divergent theological positions, so many end time views that confront each other? The answer does not seem to be easy unless we look into the mechanics of the so-called hermeneutical circle or the hermeneutical spiral. Why can biblical hermeneutics (the way we interpret Scripture) provide insight into the reasons for controversy and dissension? The theology of the end time is part of systematic theology that seeks to study specific topics of Scripture in an orderly, systematic way. The following short series of slides should help us to understand what are the basic ingredients that belong to the process by which theologies are formed. Hermeneutics comprises everything that belongs to the interpretation and understanding of texts. The reason why one uses the term 'circle' or 'spiral' ought to become clear from the following set of slides.
2. This introductory sequences of slides in a simplified manner shows the pertinent factors that enter the making of a theology. Every one of these factors influence the way we interpret Israel in relation to the Bible and to the conflict in the Middle East, even if we are not conscious of what kind of theology we represent. Theologies are like glasses that help us see. It is important to understand that there is none exempt from wearing them, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Once we understand the basic process of interpretation we are ready for a presentation of these somewhat abstract factors in the way they are linked to the various end time positions or eschatologies that underlie the various Christian quarters in terms of how each one relates to modern Israel: a comparative table of factors that form the hermeneutical circle or spiral. There is an introduction to this comparative table in case the display is not self-evident.
"Why is it so hard to recognize that behind a smoke screen of international politics the core issue of the Middle East is four millennia of hatred Ó la Uncle Ishmael, and reinforced with 1300 added years of Islam. The trauma those recently resurrected dry bones of Israel has inflicted upon her legion of Arab adversaries is neither ethnic per se, nor is it a problem of land, or settlers or any other political presumption whatsoever.
"Rather the roots of the frenzied conflict, which spans not a few millennia of unabated bloodletting long before the 20th century, is an ongoing metaphysical clash to someday settle whose version of God is superior-a concept quite clearly spelled out in the Bible from the Baals onward. And it is one that was hardly hidden to the worldview of the ancients. It is the God of creation-the God of the Bible-versus any and all rivals!
Victor Schlatter, "Showdown of the Gods, The Global Confrontation Between Islam, Humanism, and God" Evergreen Press: Mobile, AL. 2001, S. 160-161
3. What applies to Christians equally applies to Jews who also share a common base of reference between themselves. Jewish principles of interpretation may be rabbinic rather than Greek depending on their background. All human understanding is subject to a kind of circular or spiral process of interpretation. It has to do with the way we know what we think we know. The various factors may be or may not be the same. Whatever members of a group share the same factors they will look at the world in the same way. Divisions are the result of divergence between the factors of understanding. Positively speaking, the greater the number and extend of shared factors the greater the unity between us, Jews and Christians alike.
4. Prof. Mark Moore of the OCC produced an excellent slide show 'Five Views of Millennialism' that you may want to look at. His conclusion is that Scripture does not allow us to be sure about any millennial view. This slide show may serve as an illustration for our thesis that our presuppositions determine the conclusions we arrive at. Our differences are the result of differing assumptions upon which we base our conclusions. What appears to be a logical deduction is often predetermined by conscious or unconscious a priori choices. Nobody stands on neutral ground. The observer determines what he or she observes.
Websites to consider: Summary of Christian Eschatological Differences