When I attended seminary, as a new student, I was given a glossary of words that are commonly used in religious circles, specifically for theology students. It was not just subject matter, I needed to worry about, and I also needed to learn a new language.

Words such as Transubstantiation, Soteriology. Justification. Sanctification. Pneumatology, Ecclesiology, Narthex, Hermeneutics, Eschatology, Sacristy, Lectionary, and many others, tried to get the best of me. They all seemed Greek to me. (That’s a seminarian joke.) Back in the day, we also were required to take Greek and Hebrew. Kids have it easy these days. If you are a Lutheran seminarian (student) you are still required to take two languages, but they can be sign language or Spanish.

I still love the word hermeneutic. It simply means interpretation. It is the understanding that all ‘understanding’ is context driven. Hermeneutics is not relativism but realism. Furthermore, hermeneutics is the antidote to fundamentalism. Adding to this, fundamentalism is the inability to recognize that all of our most deeply felt convictions are mediated through language, tradition and history. This idea is not only true for religious people but also for the scientists among us.

Which leads me to the point of this column. Even Jesus was not a fundamentalist, he used hermeneutics to understand Hebrew scripture and the way he taught what God wanted him to teach. Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest, and director of Center for Contemplation and Action writes about Jesus’ use of scripture and how he taught.

-Jesus actually does not quote Scripture that much! In fact, he is criticized for not doing this: “you teach with [inner] authority and not like our own scribes” (Mark 1:22).

 -Jesus talks much more out of his own experience of God and humanity instead of teaching like the scribes and Pharisees, who operated out of their own form of case law by quoting previous sources.

-Jesus often uses what appear to be non-Jewish or non-canonical sources, or at least sources scholars cannot verify. For example, “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick do” (see Mark 2:17, Matthew 9:12, and Luke 5:31), or the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (see Luke 16:19-31). His bandwidth of authority and attention is much wider than sola Scriptura. He even quotes some sources seemingly incorrectly (for example, John 10:34)!

-Jesus never once quotes from nineteen of the books in his own Scriptures. In fact, he appears to use a very few favorites: Exodus, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Hosea, and Psalms—and those are overwhelmingly in Matthew’s Gospel, which was directed to a Jewish audience.

-Jesus appears to ignore most of his own Bible, yet it clearly formed his whole consciousness. That is the paradox. If we look at what he ignores, it includes any passages—of which there are many—that appear to legitimate violence, imperialism, exclusion, purity, and dietary laws. Jesus is a biblically formed non-Bible quoter who gets the deeper stream, the spirit, the trajectory of his Jewish history and never settles for mere surface readings.

-When Jesus does once quote Leviticus, he quotes the one positive mandate among long lists of negative ones: “You must love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

For me, my mind is officially blown, my heart is happy and my soul is content in the fact that Jesus looks at us, in our context, and then teaches to us what we need to hear. We are released to look at scripture and hear the words from our own location, in our own identity, no matter where we are, where we are coming from, or where we are going. Jesus uses the scripture to teach about love from his own consciousness which is God’s. May you read scripture and put yourself in the middle of the message of love.

- Noblesville’s Teri Ditslear is a pastor whose column appears Saturdays in The Times. Contact her at pastor@rolcommunity.com, on Facebook or at www.rolcommunity.com