Lessons in Hermeneutics By
Gary Ray Branscome

 The following letters were  written to a devotee of the Watchtower. Prior to writing these letters I tried to convince him that the true doctrine is what the Bible explicitly says. He mocked at that idea, saying that Satan misleads people by quoting the Bible, that we would need no teachers if doctrine were only what the Bible says, and that no one can know the truth without some teacher (like the Watchtower) to show them the correct interpretation. The letter below is my response.

Dear XXX:
 I am glad to see that you realize that Satan can quote Scripture. However, he never simply quotes Scripture. If he did he would be speaking the Word of God. He always interprets Scripture. Your letter says nothing about how  to tell which interpretations are from Satan and which are not. If you will look carefully at the example Christ set when tempted by Satan, you will see that He shows us how to recognize Satanic interpretations.

 1- First of all Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12, saying, "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, ‘He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee:'".

 2- Satan's interpretation of Psalm 91:11-12 was essentially this: You can jump off the temple and not be harmed because God will protect you.

 3- Jesus recognized that interpretation as wrong because it contradicted Deut. 6:16, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

 This is an example of Jesus applying the hermeneutical rule found in Isaiah 8:20, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."

 Now that you have seen how Jesus recognized false interpretations you are without excuse and will be condemned if you do not apply the same rule to every interpretation the Watchtower comes up with. You  might begin by rejecting all interpretations that contradict Col. 2:16, a passage you show no desire to obey.

Gary B.


 In his next letter, he referred to Revelation 20:14, denying that the lost suffer for eternity in hell. My answer to that letter follows.

Dear XXX:
 In your letter you refer to Revelation 20:14, "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." Revelation 21:8, says about the same thing. Both refer to the lake of fire as the second death.

 Now the question you raise is this. Does the phrase "second death" mean that those cast into the lake of fire lose consciousness and cease to exist?

 In order to resolve this question let us look at what the Bible says and allow the Word of God to settle the matter.

 In Revelation 20:10, we are told that the false prophet will be tormented day and night forever. We also know from Revelation 14:9-11, that all who, "worship the beast and his image and receive his mark…. Shall be tormented with fire…. The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night."

 Now let us look outside the book of Revelation. In Matthew 25:31-46, we find an account of the final judgement that parallels the one given in Revelation 20:11-15. In both accounts all men stand before God. In both accounts the wicked are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14, Matt. 25:41). However, verse 41 tells us that the fire lasts forever, while verse 46 tells us that the punishment lasts forever.

 Do any of these verses answer the question that you raised? Well on the basis of Matthew 25:41, we know as a fact that the fire will last forever. On the basis of Matthew 25:46, we know as a fact that the punishment will last forever. And on the basis of Revelation 14:11, we know as a fact that those who have been cast into the lake of fire will not lose consciousness (have rest) night or day.

 On the basis of these facts I set forth this doctrine. On the last day the lost will be cast into the lake of fire. There they will be punished with everlasting torment. They will never lose consciousness or have any relief from that torment. I know as a fact that my doctrine is the true doctrine because every part of it is explicitly stated in the Word of God.

 I have just shown you how a true prophet of God interprets Scripture and formulates doctrine. This method of formulating doctrine is taught in Isaiah 28:9- 10. "Whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand doctrine? …. For precept must be upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little:"

 The true doctrine consists of facts, not opinion. Facts that are explicitly stated in Scripture, line upon line, line upon line. It is so simple, yet the children of darkness cannot see it. They are blinded by all of the false explanations that fill their mind, and all of the assumptions that they read into the text.

Gary B.



 He did not reply directly to the above letter, instead he sent me photocopies of Watchtower literature which attempted to explain the words, sheol, hades and Gehenna. My reply follows.

Dear XXX:
 The papers that you sent consist largely of conjecture about the words, sheol, hades and Gehenna. A true prophet of God does not base doctrine on such conjecture, but instead allows the Bible itself to determine the meaning of key words.

 For example: In 2 Samuel 22:6, we read, "the sorrows of sheol compassed me about." Psalm 18:5, also speaks of the, "sorrows of sheol" while Psalm 116:3 says, "the pains of sheol got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow." Ezekiel 32:21, tells us that some who have died physically, "speak…out of the midst of sheol."  In Deuteronomy 32:22 we read, "a fire is kindled in My anger, and shall burn unto lowest sheol." In Isaiah 33:14 we read, "The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell [remain/inhabit] with devouring fire?" And Isaiah 66:24, says of the lost, "Their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched."

 What do the passages just quoted tell us about, "sheol?" Well we know as a fact that there is pain and sorrow connected with sheol (Psalm 18:5 and 116:3); that people who are physically dead speak out of sheol (Ezekiel 32:21); and that there is fire connected with sheol (Deuteronomy 32:22). Keeping those facts in mind, let us look at what the Bible has to say about Gehenna and hades.

 Jesus said that those who sin, even in words, are in danger of "Gehenna fire" (Matthew 5:22); that the fires of Gehenna shall never be quenched (Mark 9:43- 45); and that a man, who was physically dead, "in hades lifted up his eyes being in torments" and said, "I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:23-24).

 On the basis of the information given in the passages above, we can know as a fact; that the terms, "sheol" "hades" and "Gehenna" all refer to a place of fire (Isaiah 33:14, Mark 9:45, Luke 16:23); that the lost, who have died physically, inhabit that flame (Isaiah 33:14, Luke 16:23-24); that they are conscious and able to speak (Ezekiel 32:21, Luke 16:24); that they suffer pain and torment (Psalm 18:5 and 116:3, Luke 16:24); and that their torment is not momentary, but continuous (Mark 9:43-47, Isaiah 66:24, Luke 16:24).

 I know that this doctrine is the "true doctrine" because it consists only of what the Bible explicitly says. I also know as a fact, that any person who contradicts this doctrine has, "no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20). And a person (or organization) that has no light is a false prophet and a deceiver.

 As to the other paper you sent, the one which praised Watchtowerites for their devotion to making converts, the Bible has this to say, "Ye compass sea and land to make one convert, and when he is made you make him twofold more the child of Gehenna than yourselves." (Matthew 23:15)

Gary B.


 The letters reproduced above take an approach to the formulation of doctrine that is the direct opposite of that taken by the children of this world. While I begin with what the Bible explicitly says and interpret the rest to agree with it: those who are carnal begin with interpretations and then explain away any explicit statements of Scripture that contradict those interpretations.