When you hear “red-letter hermeneutic” or “red-letter Christian”, what immediately springs to mind? Chances are, if these phrases bring to mind anything at all, it is a form of theologically liberal Christianity. I’m thinking in particular of the group Red Letter Christians whose tagline is the following: “taking the words of Jesus seriously.” It is associated with notable progressive Christians, like Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren and Jim Wallis. It is strange, though, that a movement that claims to return in a special way to the authority of Jesus’s teachings is apparently concerned primarily with political issues. This is strange because Jesus was notoriously indifferent to the political issues of his day, such as the cruel oppression of Roman rule ( with systems that were far worse than anything in the Western world today). The only time I believe that Jesus commented on a political issue was when confronted about Roman taxation. He gave a short, somewhat dismissive answer in Mark 12:14-17 ( to render to Caeser what is Caeser’s and to God what is God’s). Other than that, the movement seems to have made obedience to Jesus look approximately the same as being a non-Christian left-wing political activist, including approval of sexual identitarianism. So, I don’t think this movement is taking the words of Jesus seriously at all. There is sometimes a tendency to use Jesus and his death on the Cross as a template for whatever sentiment you would like to label “compassionate”, rather than the Bible’s particular definition of compassion ( which, by the way, is often not compatible with what our culture thinks to be compassionate). For those of you who don’t know the “red letters” refer to editions of the Bible where the words of Jesus are printed in red.
Unfortunately, it is true that the red-letter hermeneutic has become identified with theologically liberal Christianity, which uses Jesus’s teachings to recklessly do away with large swaths of the Bible for vague reasons. This has been rightly condemned as a new form of Marcionism. Many progressive Christian voices are fairly unanimous about the idea that the Old Testament God is evil ( although they will not find Jesus himself agreeing with them on that point). And, like Marcion did, they will use a Christ-centered hermeneutic to justify this idea. There is rarely to never any clear inconsistency in the ministry of Jesus and these other biblical passages, but rather simply a vague feeling or notion that Jesus is for mercy and the Old Testament is for judgment. Jesus himself proclaimed severe judgments often and warned frequently of “outer darkness”, “eternal fire”, “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, and cutting the unfaithful to pieces and dividing them their portion with the hypocrites. Also, these punishments were not merely the “consequences of sin”, but sentenced by the Heavenly Father himself or by Jesus. It is Jesus, in his parables, who refuses entry to the unfaithful even though they seem to want to enter and says to them “depart from me, you workers of lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:23). It is Jesus who refuses them entry even when they plead to be allowed in:
“After the master of the house gets up and shuts the door, you will stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ But he will reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets’. And he will answer, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers.’”Luke 13:26
In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, the goats do not wander into hell of their own accord, as is sometimes portrayed in bad apologetics about the “problem of Hell”, but are sentenced to hell by God:
‘Depart from Me, you accursed people, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…Matthew 25:41
Jesus is, as far as I know, the only teacher in the entire biblical canon who tells us that there are sins that God will refuse to forgive ( he will not forgive those who refuse to forgive others and he will not forgive the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit). There is no inconsistency with the real Jesus of the gospels ( rather than the vague compassionate non-judgmental sage that seems to inhabit the minds of many) and the severe judgments of the Old Testament. It is also common for progressive Christians to think that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for being “judgmental”, and therefore are quick to decide that modern conservative religious people are the Pharisees of the 21st century, simply because they are willing to disapprove of things that the non-Christian culture wants to approve of. But remember John 7:7: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” Ironically, as far as I know, Jesus never condemns the Pharisees for being judgmental. He condemns them for pride ( which includes looking down on others, of course), vanity, hypocrisy, and for being unfaithful to the most important commandments. On the other hand, there is much compassion and mercy in the person of Jesus, signified most especially in the greatest work of his ministry: his sacrificial death on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins. There is a correct sense in the New Covenant, that “mercy triumphs over judgment” ( James 2:13) in a way that it did not in the Old Covenant, not because the Old Testament is evil, but because we have the perfect Lamb and they did not. This also means that those who reject the Lamb will receive the judgments of the Old Testament. Those judgments are legitimate. We must put our trust in Jesus’s mercy and focus on his mercy and kindness but also allowing ourselves to be instructed by his warnings of judgment without trying to sweep them under the carpet ( but also without agonizing about them and being terrified and panicked by them). So anyone who believes the severe judgments of the Old Testament are incompatible with Jesus, have paid little attention to the red letters that they claim to hold in high esteem. And as there is overlooked judgment in the red letters, there is overlooked mercy in the Old Testament. What should be admitted, however, is that there is a break from the Old Covenant, which was a shadow of what was to come in Jesus. Colossians 2:17 says:
Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath day— things which are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.Colossians 2:17
The same idea is repeated in the book of Hebrews which refers to the Law as the “shadow” and Jesus as the reality:
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the form of those things itself, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually every year, make those who approach perfect.Hebrews 10:1
For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.Matthew 13:17
Why would prophets and righteous people long to see and hear the things of the New Covenant, God’s self-revelation in Jesus, if their own covenant is just as good? That’s because it is not just as good. It is possible to believe, against the new Marcionites, that the Old Testament was ( and is) a legitimate and authoritative revelation, appropriate for its own time, but was supreme and primary only in its own time. It was superseded, and only somewhat abrogated, by God’s self-revelation in Jesus. Even so, the God of the Old Testament is the the heavenly Father of Jesus. It is never wise to think yourself more merciful or compassionate than the God of the Old Testament, or to think Him evil, as some progressive Christians seem to do. The astounding contempt with which which some progressive Christian authors speak about the God of the Old Testament disqualifies them more in my mind than any of their other false teachings.
The Positive and the Negative Red-Letter Hermeneutic
If we are trying to formulate a red-letter hermeneutic we can distinguish between a negative and positive version of the hermeneutic. A positive red-letter hermeneutic says that Jesus’s teaching is the only real authority and that anything that Jesus didn’t comment upon is really optional. It is said that because Jesus didn’t address the issue, such as the prohibition of a behaviour, that therefore it’s prohibition in other parts of the Bible is not valid or optional. Firstly, Jesus recognized the divine authority of the Old Testament. He quotes the Old Testament in debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees and he quotes the Old Testament when Satan tempts him. He also connected his own authority to those of his disciples, saying that those who didn’t listen to his disciples ( the apostles) were not listening to him. When Jesus sends out the seventy-two disciples in Luke to preach his message, he tells them:
“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”Luke 10:16
Similarly, Jesus tells his disciples that he is sending them as the Father has sent Jesus.
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”John 20:20-23
So, Jesus legitimized both the teaching of the Old Testament and in some way he also legitimized the teaching of his disciples. There is simply no basis in the most original tradition of Christianity for regarding only the gospels as really inspired and the rest of the Bible is sort of optional.
So the positive red-letter hermeneutic is untenable. But what about the negative red-letter hermeneutic? This is the one that I’m going to defend. Jesus’s ministry ( his works and words) should be regarded as uniquely authoritative, and deserves special priority and emphasis. The negative red-letter hermeneutic is an implication of this belief. The negative hermeneutic does not contend that merely because Jesus didn’t comment upon something elsewhere in the Bible, it is not valid, but that if something in the rest of the Bible seems explicitly inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus, it should be disregarded. We do not need to say that it is wrong, but as long as it says what it appears to be saying to us, it should not be believed ( which is why I don’t think this hermeneutic is necessarily inconsistent with biblical innerancy.) (Bear in mind that I’m using “red-letter hermeneutic” broadly, not to refer only to the words of Jesus denoted by the red letters but also to his actions described in the gospels, including his voluntary sacrificial death. I refer to all of this as the “ministry of Jesus”.) But why believe any of this?
Jesus the Word of God
First, it should be said that the belief that the New Testament is more authoritative than the Old Testament is a typical Christian belief. In fact, I believe it is assumed or presupposed by orthodox Christian doctrine. Why? In order for the New Testament to be able to abrogate Old Testament commandments, it must be more authoritative. Jesus abrogates some of the Old Testament, such the Jewish law about divorce which, he said Moses allowed because of their hardness of heart (Matthew 19:8). His disciples abrogate a whole swath of Old Testament laws in Acts 15. The Old Testament is still there. It still claims its truth and it still claims that those who lead people away from the commandments of God are under a curse. So why are we as Christians not under a curse? The only teaching that can authoritatively abrogate teaching that is already divinely authoritative, is teaching is more authoritative. This belief is woven into the Christian consciousness in various ways, including many Christ-centered hermeneutics that hold sway. The New Testament is regarded as a standard for life and doctrine in a way that the Old Testament is not. But why is it the case that the New Testament is more authoritative than the Old Testament? Why can it abrogate what is written in the Old Testament? The only reason is because it is based on the foundation of the authority of God Incarnate, an authority that goes beyond that of Moses or any of the Old Testament prophets. If you want to summarize the New Testament, the best way to do so is to say that it is about the Incarnation. That’s it. The whole thing is about that: the story of it, the significance of it, and the future outlook in light of it. Protestant Christians especially tend to lift up an even more select group New Testament beliefs for special emphasis which is called “the gospel”. This select group of beliefs is given special priority and emphasis, and those parts of the Bible that appear to contradict it are disregarded. So I point this out in order to indicate that this is not a unique idea. Christians always give priority to some biblical truths over others, even while they accept ( or endeavor to accept) all biblical truths. If you only believe everything written in the Old Testament, you will not be saved and you will not know God ( otherwise orthodox Jews would be saved). If you believe only what is written in the the New Testament, you will be saved and you will really know God. Why? The New Testament is focused on the person of Jesus, but the Old Testament is not. The New Testament contains the gospel message, while the Old Testament does not.
Or as John puts it:
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.John 1:17
Jesus is the foundation of the New Testament’s authority. I submit to you that it doesn’t make sense to regard Jesus as Lord while regarding his ministry as of the same importance and authority as any other biblical teacher. It doesn’t make sense to regard Jesus as the Son of God while regarding his works and words as basically the same as what came before and what came after. If all the biblical teachers whose teaching we regard as inspired stood before you this very moment and all were inspired by the Holy Spirit and speaking simultaneously ( so that it only makes sense to listen to one of them), does it matter whether you listen to the teaching of Jesus or the teaching of David or Solomon or Paul or Peter? I think it obviously does. The New Testament has greater authority and deserves greater emphasis than the Old Testament, and the ministry ( the teaching and works) of Jesus has greater authority than the rest of the New Testament and deserves greater emphasis. The ministry of Jesus and the significance of the Incarnation is the subject of most of the New Testament, but is concentrated in the four gospels. But what about scriptural support? Let’s turn first to the famous passage in John 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of mankind. And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not grasp it.
A man came, one sent from God, and his name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
This was the true Light that, coming into the world, enlightens every person. He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, and yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not accept Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who [believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and called out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who is coming after me has proved to be my superior, because He existed before me.’” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; God the only Son, who is in the arms of the Father, He has explained Him.John 1:1-18
There are a couple things to notice here. John is clearly referring to truth and grace and Light that the earth had not yet encountered. The event of the Incarnation brought Light and truth that had not been on earth before. This is not and should never be regarded as basically the same revelation as what came before. “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” at the event of the Incarnation, not before, not through the Old Testament, even though it is still inspired and authoritative. This was utterly unprecedented.
Hebrews 1:1-3 says:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, to the extent that He has inherited a more excellent name than they.Hebrews 1:1-3
The Incarnation of Jesus and his life is not basically the same thing as the biblical sages before and after him. The current doctrine of the Word of God undermines these truths. Let’s take a look later in John:
If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?JOhn 14:7-9
Does Jesus mean here that you can just read anywhere in the scriptural canon and you will see him and therefore God? I don’t think so because Jesus specifically refers to his earthly ministry as the reason for why Philip should have seen the Father. In a similar vein, Jesus is called the “image of the Invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus is God’s primary self-revelation. Some may say, again, that Jesus can be found in all scripture since the Holy Spirit inspired all scripture and didn’t Jesus say that Moses wrote about him (John 5:46)? There is a difference clearly between the whispers and traces of Jesus in the Old Testament and the presence of Jesus himself at the Incarnation. There is a difference between writing “about” Jesus and seeing the real thing teach right before you. The New Testament on its own, can save and contains the crucial information about Jesus. The Old Testament, on its own, cannot save and does not have the crucial information about Jesus. Jesus was speaking, in John 5:46, to the Pharisees and the implication is that there is enough of Jesus in the Old Testament that they should be able to recognize him, but they don’t. The implication was definitely not that the Old Testament was equal to the New Testament or the ministry of Jesus in terms of revelation about Jesus. The idea that Jesus is present in all scripture does not make sense at all of these two passages (John 14:7-9, Colossians 1:15), since they are clearly referring to a particular person ( Jesus) and not the scriptural cannon. So closely identifying Jesus with the biblical canon is tantamount to saying that it is actually the Bible as a whole that is the image of the invisible God. It is actually the Bible as a whole that is the Word made flesh, the Word incarnate. It actually Bible as a whole that you need to see before you can see God. This is and should be seen as a heretical doctrine of the Incarnation, that regards the Bible as a whole, rather than Jesus, as God Incarnate. This is a heretical doctrine that has come from an overemphasis on biblical innerancy. If “seeing Jesus” is just a matter of reading anywhere in the biblical canon, even anywhere in the New Testament, then it is meaningless to confess Jesus as God’s primary self-revelation. Most theological wanderings and heresies result from taking Jesus away from the center of some area of theology. A similar thing can happen in our doctrine of the Word of God. Protestant Christians are very concerned with having Jesus at the center of soteriology ( which is perfectly correct), but not other areas. In our doctrine of the Word of God, Jesus seems to be regarded as the same as any other biblical figure. It also seems true to me that as a result of the focus on soteriology, protestant Christians sometimes give hermeneutical priority to the epistles of Paul. “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:13)
There are also times when Jesus clearly and explicitly refers to his own teaching and those who obey it.
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and its collapse was great.”Matthew 7:24-27
Jesus is clearly referring to his earthly ministry here: “these words of mine”. “These words , these things I’m saying right now in your hearing”. There is an expectation expressed here that we will not ignore the rest of the canon, but pay special attention to Jesus’s teachings. It makes no sense here to interpret Jesus as referring to the whole Bible as “these words of mine”.
Let’s turn to John again:
The one who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what has happened that You are going to reveal Yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will follow My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him. The one who does not love Me does not follow My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.John 14:21-24
Again, it makes little sense to regard Jesus as referring here to the whole scriptural canon. Jesus did not refer to the Old Testament as “my words” or “my commandments” when he quoted it. He is clearly here referring to his own teachings in his earthly ministry.
The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.Matthew 12:41-42
Something greater than Solomon is here. Something greater than Jonah is here. Jesus is here contrasting the wisdom of Solomon and the preaching of Jonah with his own person (which is identified by his life and ministry). He is contrasting “wisdom” and “preaching”, which we believe to be divinely inspired ( the wisdom of Solomon recorded in Proverbs, Song of Songs, and maybe Ecclesiastes, and the preaching of Jonah recorded in the book of Jonah) and saying that his own person and his own ministry is greater, even though those other authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit. So would Jesus believe that you can be just as close to him by reading Proverbs or Jonah as by reading the gospels? Apparently not.
Possible Applications of the Negative Hermeneutic
So we’ve established that the New Testament has greater authority and Light than the Old, and that the ministry of Jesus is greater and deserves greater emphasis, than the rest of the New and Old Testaments. Apart from paying special attention to Jesus’s acts and teachings (without ignoring the rest of the Bible), we would want to disregard what seems clearly inconsistent with a teaching of Jesus. The negative hermeneutic is separate from the realization that the ministry of Jesus deserves greater emphasis and can be accepted apart from it. The whole biblical canon must be regarded as incontrovertible except by appeal to a greater authority, such as the gospel message or the ministry of Jesus. Let’s start with an example that Protestants are most likely to identify with. There is a famous difficult passage in 1 Timothy 2:15 that women will be “saved by childbearing”. Now, there are different interpretations of this passage, which may avoid the difficulty, but which I won’t delve into here. The only point I want to make is that a person who preaches what this passage appears to be saying at first glance would be rightly regarded as a false teacher preaching a false gospel. If a Christian woman started believing that she is saved through childbearing and not through Christ, her soul is in danger. In other words, this verse is clearly inconsistent with the gospel message of the New Testament and should be disregarded insofar as it is regarded as saying what it appears to be saying. We don’t need to declare it an error. We just need to say that it either means something different or it is indeed wrong. But this is an example of how an over-commitment to the doctrine of innerancy can turn one into a false teacher and even an enemy of Christ. This is because we recognize that there are certain truths in the New Testament, the preaching of Christ or the Kerygma, that is greater and has greater authority than the rest of the canon. This is an example of how the Bible rather than Jesus can be regarded as God Incarnate. We must not hold the themes of the Bible captive to the minutiae.
We can also apply the negative hermeneutic to Hebrews 6:4-6, which seems to say that a genuine Christian who has apostatized cannot again be brought to repentance. However, Jesus does seem to teach through the parable of the Lost Son, the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin that servants of God who forsake his way, can return to him ( though perhaps not without first suffering for their disobedience). And not only can they return, the Father will give them a very warm and gracious welcome. So we can say, on the authority of Jesus’s teachings, that either the passage in Hebrews does not mean what it appears to mean, or it is wrong. And so we don’t need to have any qualms about welcoming apostatized Christians when they return to the fold, or worry that they might never be true Christians again. When a previously apostatized Christian points to the passage in Hebrews as a point of anxiety, we can point them to the greater authority of the Lord’s teaching, which says the opposite.
We can apply the negative hermeneutic to the imprecatory ( or cursing) Psalms. Jesus is quite explicit that we are to pray for the good of our enemies and do good to them. Not only that, Jesus’s condemnation of unforgiveness is some of the severest and most unequivocal of his ministry. After telling the parable of the unmerciful servant, Jesus says:
And his master, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he would repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.Matthew 18:34-35
So is praying God’s judgment on those who have hurt you or disadvantaged you incompatible with Jesus’s teaching on forgiveness? It is clearly incompatible. You pray for and do good to your enemies while simultaneously wishing and praying that God would punish them ( that they will suffer)? That is a perfectly contradictory attitude. It is not compatible with forgiving your brother from your heart, because if you wish judgment on them, you have not forgiven them from your heart. To forgive by definition, and according to the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, means that you do not will that this person be punished for what they did to you. So if you wish and long for God’s punishment against them, then you have failed to forgive. So this does not mean that the cursing Psalms are errors or that they are wrong in themselves, but that it would be wrong for the Christian to imitate them. To put it another way, it was not wrong for the Psalmist to pray an imprecatory prayer since he did not have the light of Jesus’s teachings. And God could inspire the Psalm as an example of His judgment, which is precisely how the New Testament uses the imprecatory Psalms (as indicative of God’s judgment against Judas Iscariot in Acts 1:20). However, the New Testament does not endorse or approve of imitating the Psalmist in this way, and Jesus seems clearly to be prohibiting it in his teaching. Those Christians who pray cursing prayers against their enemies and wish God’s judgment on them can expect to be disciplined by their Father if they do not repent of it.
Too often, when dealing with passages that exist in tension, the passages are allowed to qualify each other, so compromising the integrity of those teachings. Too often, the hermeneutical emphasis is placed on Paul, and the gospels become no more than repositories of problem texts and Jesus’s teachings are explained away or ignored or qualified into oblivion by the authority of other texts. Jesus is still the stumbling block. Jesus’s teachings about petitionary prayer, for example, are widely ignored (because they are difficult) and those who take them seriously are said to practice “word-of-faith” or “name-it-and-claim-it” heresy. Take the following:
Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.Mark 11:23
Jesus says many similar things in the gospels. So, there is a need for refocusing priorities, to notice that it is Jesus, not the Bible as a whole, that is God’s primary self-revelation and God Incarnate. There is need to realize the priority of Jesus’s ministry recorded primarily, but not only, in the gospels, while retaining a commitment to the authority of the rest of the Bible. Except by appeal to a greater authority within the Bible, it should be regarded as incontrovertible and absolutely authoritative. The principle that “scripture interprets scripture” is a good principle, and I don’t want to abandon it. Jesus’s teachings is illuminated by the New Testament writers who authoritatively help us to interpret the significance of the Incarnation. As always, when interpreting the Bible great care and discretion must be exercised, knowing that we are dealing with something that is holy and we must do it with “fear and trembling.” No reckless moves must be made. Dismissing large portions of scripture would certainly mean that we are misreading Jesus’s teachings, because it is unlikely that the Apostles could substantially misunderstand their Master. The main principle to be recognized is not the negative hermeneutic but that Jesus is the primary revelation and his ministry deserves special emphasis. Secondly, the New Testament has greater authority than the Old and deserves greater emphasis.