What Is Hermeneutics?

If God took the lead to communicate to us through the Bible, we must take our time to interpret that truth diligently. The task of hermeneutics is interpreting God’s Word into our context.

The Need

  • If the Bible is God’s Word, that implies there is an intended message for us to receive. 
    • Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law (Psalm 119:18).
  • God expects us to work within our levels of understanding and our commitment to precision to interpret the Scriptures accurately.
    • Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
  • The crux of the biblical message can be understood easily.
    • And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1).
  • Since some sections of the Bible are challenging to understand, there have always been people trying to distort its message.
    • [Paul wrote to you] as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16).
  • People would rather have God say what they want to hear rather than what needs to be said.
    • For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions (2 Timothy 4:3).

The Rules

  • You cannot fully discover the biblical content until you rightly study the biblical context.
  • If you study the Bible out of context, you treat it just like the devil (Luke 4:1-11)
  • Exegesis – discovering the original meaning “out” of a biblical text
  • Hermeneutics – “messaging” the Bible into different contexts
  • The Bible has eternal relevance: It speaks to all people at all times in all cultures.
  • The Bible has historical particularity: It was first written to a particular people at a particular time in a particular culture.
  • Before it was ever God’s Word to us, it was God’s Word to them.
  • A text cannot mean what it never meant.

The Balance

  • Theologians focus on what the Word meant; laypeople search for what the Word means.
  • The Church has unfortunately made these two pursuits work in contradiction to one another.
  • The accurate disciple will discover what the text meant then so that they can rightly apply what it means now.

The Context

  • The essential way to interpret the Scriptures is by acknowledging the context.
  • A text without a context is a pretext. 
  • Historical Context: What are the unique historical contextual circumstances of a particular book that help explain its meaning?
  • Literary Context: What are the unique literary contextual attributes that explain a verse in a complete section of thought?

The Tips

  • Allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.
  • Your ability to treasure the Scriptures is contingent upon your willingness to dig into it.
  • While the Bible can benefit from academic procedures, it was never meant to be simply a religious textbook of information.
  • The Bible is designed for our transformation – not just to dispense information.
  • Be careful of anyone who claims special revelation for biblical interpretation.
  • If everyone has missed a special understanding of a verse for 2000 years except for a particular teacher, there might be a good reason why.
  • To understand the Bible, you must meditate on the Bible.
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