As we continue in our hermeneutics study, it is important to discuss how we determine the meaning of a text.

Who Controls the Meaning?

  • Who controls the meaning of a biblical text?  There are two options:
    1. Authorial Intent: Meaning is determined by the intention of the author.
    2. Reader Response: Meaning is determined by the reader or by a community of readers.
  • The author of any text is the ultimate authority of its meaning.
  • We wouldn’t believe we could read a governmental sign or a financial charge and interpret it any way we chose.
  • A text can have multiple meanings if the author intended to communicate those meanings.
  • The most dangerous question to ask in a Bible study: “What does this passage mean to you?”
  • It doesn’t matter what the Bible means to us but what it means to God.
  • Be careful you don’t “over-spiritualize” a passage and miss the plain meaning of a text.

The Holy Spirit and Hermeneutics

  • The Holy Spirit doesn’t teach a secret meaning of Scripture, but he reveals the intended meaning of Scripture.
  • Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach and remind us regarding Scripture’s claims.
  • But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (John 14:26).

Questions to Determine the Meaning of a Text

  1. AUTHOR: Who wrote the book?
  2. AUDIENCE: For whom was the book intended?
  3. CONTEXT: What is the context of the passage?
  4. BEFORE: What precedes the passage?
  5. AFTER: What follows the passage?
  6. TOTALITY: How does other passages interpret this passage?

Let’s Practice: Do some work on Matt. 7:1 by answering the questions above.

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.