One of the helpful things in interpreting scripture is to identify what I call “scriptural fences”. These special verses force us to interpret the passage within the limits set up by the “fence” line. When we can identify a “fence” in scripture, we are well on our way to understanding the apparent contradictions within scripture. In this post I am going to give three examples of scripture “fences”.
The first fence line is found in Revelation chapter 21.
Rev. 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Now to some, this may not seem like a “fence” but when we read in Acts 1 that the apostles picked Matthias to replace Judas, we have a contradiction that needs to be dealt with:
Act 1:20 “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘LET HIS HOMESTEAD BE MADE DESOLATE, AND LET NO ONE DWELL IN IT’; and, ‘LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE.’
Act 1:21 “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us–
Act 1:22 beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us–one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
Act 1:23 So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias.
Act 1:24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen
Act 1:25 to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
Act 1:26 And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
How could Matthias be an apostle who replaces Judas when Paul claimed to be an apostle picked by the risen Christ? Some may claim that there are actually 13 foundational apostles, but that is impossible. Why? It is because of the scriptural “fence”. The book of Revelation states that they are 12 apostles who form the foundation stones, not 13. If we interpret scripture with the understanding that Revelation 21:14 forms a boundary or a “fence” that places a boundary for our understanding, then we need to make a decision; was Paul the 12th apostle or was Matthias? Did you ever wonder why Paul had to try so hard to prove his apostleship? It is because Psalms 109:8 says that another is to take his (Judas) place and the 11 disciples had already picked the 12th before Paul even came on the scene.
Psalm 109:8 Let his days be few; Let another take his office.
The word for “office” is supervision. It is a place of supervising or overseeing the foundation of the church. For some reason the 11 disciples thought that it was their job to appoint a replacement for Judas, but neither scripture nor revelation from God told them to do this. Because they took authority over something that they were not give authority over, the dice (or lot see verse 26) was cast and this was what determined that Matthias was ordained into ministry with the eleven. However it wasn’t their responsibility. Just as Jesus’ chose the eleven disciples, so he alone was the one who had the authority and responsibility to choose the twelfth apostle to replace Judas. Jesus chose Paul (Romans 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1). Paul was constantly having to affirm that he was chosen by Christ as an apostle because Matthias already had Paul’s place. Paul specifically says that he was not ordained by man in Galatians 1:1, yet Matthias WAS the one ordained by man.
Galatians 1:1 PAUL, AN apostle–[special messenger appointed and commissioned and sent out] not from [any body of] men nor by or through any man, but by and through Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and God the Father, Who raised Him from among the dead–
So our understanding that Matthias was not a true foundational apostle is made clear by the scriptural “fence” verse found in Revelation 21:14 and Paul’s claim to be ordained not by man but by Jesus himself
Another scriptural “fence” is found in 1 Corinthians 14:36. The interpretation of verses 34 & 35 are hemmed in by the “fence” of verse 36. Some don’t know what to do with the “silencing” of women in verses 34 & 35 so they have taken a position of either disregarding these two verses or claiming that these verses are not in the original manuscripts. Yet there is no manuscript where these two verses are not in the text. This means that there is no evidence whatsoever there these verses are not in the original inspired text. While I appreciate Gordon Fee and his scholarly work on other verses, he is one that has taken the position that verses 34 & 35 are an interpolation into the text by some unknown people. The problem that Mr. Fee has in taking this position is that the “fence” of verse 36 will not allow theses verse to be removed or we are left with a “refutation” of nothing. There is also a problem in that if we do this to other texts we don’t like, then any verse we don’t like could likewise be removed from the scriptures with no textual evidence for its removal. We cannot do this and be faithful to God’s inspired word. But if we understand the “fence” that hedges verse 34 & 35 in, we will not have any problem with these verses. Verse 36 starts with the Greek word “n” or English word “what!”
The Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament says “n” is used frequently to introduce rhetorical questions to which a negative answer is expected. 1 Cor. 14:36 is then included as an example of something that we are expected to answer “NO!” to. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon also agrees. It lists the “n” as a disjunctive conjunction before a sentence contrary to the one just preceding, to indicate that if one be denied or refuted the other must stand, and Thayer’s also lists 1 Cor. 14:36 as an example of a grammatical structure that stands as denial of verses 34 and 35 where the alternative position of verse 36 must stand.
So Paul is saying “What!The word of God has come only to you (men and not women)?” (No women learning in the church and no women speaking in the church?) and we are to answer this rhetorical question with a “NO!”Verses 34 & 35 are then a quote from the Corinthian letter to Paul and Paul promptly refutes this demand about silencing women by using a disjunctive conjunction that produces a rhetorical question that must be answered in the negative. If verses 34 & 35 are removed as Gordon Fee would like, what would Paul be refuting by the precise grammar of verse 36?There would be nothing to refute!Some say that Paul is refuting what he thinks the Corinthians might say to his own commands in verses 34 & 35 but the precise grammar (the “fence”) of verse 36 refutes this view. The grammar demands that the preceding sentences are refuted by verse 36.Verse 36 is a scriptural “fence” that logically proves that Paul was quoting from the Corinthian’s letter to Paul (1 Corinthians 7:1Now concerning the things about which you wrote…) and Paul’s grammar has set the refutation solidly within a scriptural “fence”.
The last fence that I would like to look at is the scriptural “fence” in 1 Timothy 2:15. We have talked a lot about this very precise verse in previous posts, but I would like you to see it today as a solid “fence” that sets up the boundaries of the prohibition passage. What this “fence” does is set up the farthest that we can go in interpreting 1 Timothy 2:12. We cannot know who Paul is prohibiting in verse 12 from teaching without limiting the application to knowing who the “she” and who the “they” are in verse 15.
There are those who have tried hard to ignore the “fence” of verse 15. Some have even gone so far as to claim that Paul’s grammar was in error. They claim that while he said “she” AND “they”, what he really meant was “they” or “all women”. This is not correct. The grammar of the verse is precise and we cannot ignore the inspired grammar without doing violence to the text. The problem with the typical hierarchical interpretation of verse 12 is that it does not fall within the boundaries of verse 15. The typical interpretation of verse 12 ignores verse 15 treating it as if part of the inspired grammar is to be ignored and also it is treated as if Paul is introducing a topic that is foreign to the context of the prohibition in verse 12. This too is wrong. For more information on what verse 15 means in context, see my post on the rest of the story.