The Meaning of a Text

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.