Proper Biblical Interpretation: Hermeneutics

Understandinall-pictures-594.jpgg Hermeneutics: its application and impact and right division of the scriptures.

Hermeneutics is a Christian discipline of biblical study.  As such, hermeneutics refers to the process by which certain logical principles are applied to a document in order to ascertain the author’s original meaning.   Hermeneutics play a critical role in determining the meaning of a passage, and thus, our understanding of God and ourselves.

Scripture basis: 2 Timothy 3:16, Proverbs 4:7

  • Study to show yourselves approved unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth.
  • Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom. And in all thy getting, get understanding.

Right division is not just the responsibility of the preacher, pastor, bishop or teacher, but every Christian is responsible for properly interpreting the God’s Word. Neither is it just for the college and seminary educated or those who understand ancient languages. The spirit of the Berean Christians should act as an example to us.

Some people think the Bible is contradictory and that it has been “tampered” with, thus rendering it unreliable. In some places, the bible does seem to contradict itself. But there are reasons for that which do not reflect on the authenticity of the bible, but rather on external issues the reader must resolve. There are three reasons why there is difficulty (after reading the text) understanding the text and communicating a “right division” of the text to others:

1.We are separated from the historical events written about by thousands of years of history

2.We live in a dramatically different culture and oftimes are tempted to interpret scripture in light of contemporary culture.

3.The biblical texts were written in foreign languages (Hebrew, Greek and some instances of Aramaic).

Therefore, based on these stated difficulties, if a person is seeking some type of quick answer to an issue biblically, its very likely they could walk away with the wrong interpretation and thus pass on an incorrect meaning. A wider implication of this is the proliferation of false teachings and doctrine which bring the people into bondage, rather than freedom. Moreover, in  resolving these stated difficulties, one should not automatically assume he or she has reached a proper interpretation.

A basic goal when reading the scripture is to exegete and not impose or superimpose.

Exegesis is extracting meaning from the scripture. To impose or superimpose is to “tell” the scripture what it should mean.

How do I interpret the Bible?

Because the Bible is uniquely different from any other book ever written, we must understand what the Bible says about itself (self validation). Then too we must accept (by faith according Hebrews 11:6) that the scripture is our written authority from God.

1. The Bible declares that it is the final authority on all matters of human living and interaction. 2 Tim 3:16

2. The Bible declares that it is not of human genesis (John 1:1, 14 2 Pet 1:16, -21).

3. The Bible declares that it is an true picture of the human condition, both good and evil (1 Cor 10:11).

4. The declares itself to be spirit in nature, but practical and applicable in the natural (John 6:63).

Secondly, lets understand that not all of the Bible is interpreted the same way.

Proper hermeneutics leads the Christian into a right division of the scriptures by examining the text based on major literary types. Generally these are:

A. Literal – Exactly as stated; read or understood without additional interpretation

B. Historical – understood in light of a verifiable historical event, document or object.

C. Prophetical – speaking clearly to a future or forthright event. Prophecy is both foretelling and forthtelling.

D. Allegorical – seen in light of a deeper meaning of faith, such as parables.

When studying the scrptures, pay attention to “small words” in the text which can produce big returns. Particularly, verbs and conjunctions within a text help to move you along with the author’s “flow”.  Connective words like “and” or “for” are important when reading long or difficult passages. For example, the word “for” introduces a reason for a preceding statement. In Romans 1:15-17 Paul says that he is eager “to preach the gospel . . . for I am not ashamed . . . for it is the power of God for salvation . . . for in it the righteousness of God is revealed.” Thus, it clarifies and itemizes Paul’s passion for preaching the gospel. Why is that necessary? Some might have mistaken his motives, especially in a culture which treated Christians as enemies of the state. It also served to inspire others to proper motives for preaching.  Other techniques for studying words include looking at synonyms, antonyms, and cross references.

For references, avoid secular dictionaries i.e. Websters in favor of Bible dictionaries, concordances, word study books, and commentaries. 

Finally methodology, while good in its place, it only addresses one dimension of Biblical interpretation. One must be empowered with the Holy Spirit to rightly divide in illuminating (or “quicken”) the scripture and the believer. It is the right application of the methodology which truly impacts the lives of people to the glory of God.

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One thought on “Proper Biblical Interpretation: Hermeneutics

  1. This was a very interesting read. It is difficult sometimes knowing how to apply the Bible to theory and making the connections and links. You provide some useful information that helps to show how to interpret the Bible. Thanks.

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