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Hermeneutics, and the Exegetical Process

Overview

This is the science and art of interpreting the Bible. Some people are changing the meaning from discovering the biblical author’s one intended meaning based on an analysis of the grammar and the history of the time to what does it mean to me apart from the historical time and purpose of the text.

 

  • Topics in this study include introductory comments, Scripture, definitions, Old Testament in the New Testament, translations and resources, the exegetical process, and public speaking.
    • Introductory Comments
      • Biblical hermeneutics. This is the science and art of interpreting the Bible. Some people are changing the meaning from discovering the biblical author’s one intended meaning based on an analysis of the grammar and the history of the time to what does it mean to me apart from the historical time and purpose of the text. This is bad. It affects interpretation, doctrine, and application.
      • There is a rising tendency to credit the results of secular studies discovered by human ingenuity (such as philosophy, psychology, math, science, and literature) with revelatory value. This view results in the so-called “all truth is God’s truth” and upgrades general revelation and down grades biblical revelation.
      • The following statements are wrong.
        • We cannot know what the author meant.
        • It does not matter what the author meant.
        • One interpretation, many applications is no longer true.
        • Interpretation and application are the same.
        • What the text means to me is what is important.
        • Our pre-understanding or what we bring to the text from our culture and background determines our interpretation.
    • Scripture, its source and importance
      • Deuteronomy 31:24, It came about, when Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete,
      • Jeremiah 30:1-3, The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2 “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book. 3 ‘For behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah.’ The Lord says, ‘I will also bring them back to the land that I gave to their forefathers and they shall possess it.’
      • John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
      • 2 Timothy 2.15, Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
      • 2 Timothy 3.16-17, All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
      • Hebrews 4:12, For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
      • 2 Peter 1:20-21, But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
    • Definitions
      • Hermeneutics. Hermeneutics, though it can refer to any kind of interpretation, in this context is the science of Bible analysis and interpretation. The purpose is to discover the one meaning of the author; and to find the author’s meaning the student must observe the normal, grammatical, and historical construction and background of the text.
        • The word “hermeneutics” is from the Greek verb 2059 ἑρμηνεύω hermeneuo, which means “to explain” or “to translate” (John 1:38; Hebrews 7:2) and the noun hermeneia (1 Corinthians 12:10), which means translation, interpretation. Illustrations include “And they said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated [verb] means Teacher), where are you staying?” (John 1:38), and “And to another, the interpretation [noun] of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12.10).
        • Hermeneutics seeks the author’s meaning. The author meant to communicate what he wrote, and his meaning is the meaning meant for the reader and listener.
        • Hermeneutics seeks to know the plain sense of a biblical passage. “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.” David L. Cooper
        • Hermeneutics recognizes the correct double reference in a passage if it has one. A passage of Scripture may speak of two different events or people and they are separated by a long period of time, yet the two are blended into one context while the time gap is not stated.
      • Grammar is the branch of linguistics that deals with word forms and usage of words. It includes the following.
        • Morphology, sometimes called grammar, concerns the form of words.
        • Syntax concerns the arrangement and function of words.
        • Semantics concerns the meaning of words.
        • Phonology concerns the sound of words.
      • History concerns the people, culture, events, beliefs, government, religion, wars, discoveries and other circumstances that were happening in any given time period. Each biblical author wrote within a specific set of circumstances—the history of the time of each individual author. It is important to know the historical circumstances surrounding each author in order to rightly interpret his writings.
      • Exegesis and Exposition are the practice of Bible analysis and interpretation in order to find the author’s one meaning.  In John 1:18 “he explained” is the Greek word 1834 ἐξηγέομαι exegeomai, which means to tell, report, explain, expound in detail. This verb is also in Luke 24:35, Acts 10:8, 15:12, 14, and 21:19. There is a Greek noun ἐξήγησις, exegesis, and it means a narrative, description, explanation, interpretation. It is not used in the NT, but is used in Judges 7:15 of the LXX.
      • Revelation. Revelation is the way God makes known himself, his works, and his will to his creation, and especially to mankind; it also indicates the product or what God revealed (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). The Bible is God’s revelation to mankind. The verb is “to reveal” and the noun referring to what is revealed is “revelation.”
      • Inspiration. God the Holy Spirit so supernaturally directed the human writers of Scripture, that without waiving their human intelligence, vocabulary, individuality, literary style, personality, personal feelings, or any other human factor, His complete and coherent message to mankind was recorded with perfect accuracy in the original languages of Scripture, the very words bearing the authority of divine authorship.
        • This is the process God chose to record His special revelation. The written Word is exactly as God wanted it, down to the very words and letters and is without error (Luke 24.44; 1 Timothy 5.18; 2 Timothy 3.16; 2 Peter 1.20-21).
        • "Inspiration" is translated from the Greek, theopneustos, literally meaning "God-breathed.”
        • Scripture, having been inspired by God the Holy Spirit, is free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. Man’s sinfulness did not in any way introduce distortion or falsehood into God's Word. Also, the absence of the original autograph of the Scriptures does not render the assertion of inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.
        • "No progress has ever been made in formulating doctrine from the Bible when men have doubted the inspiration of the Scriptures in all its parts" (Chafer, VII, p.201).  (2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2 Peter 1:20–21).
      • Inerrancy of the Scriptures. Scripture was God-breathed which means inspired by God. The wording, grammar, historical data, people, events, doctrine—all of Scripture in the autographs are exactly as God meant them to be. They are without any error.
      • Infallibility of the Scriptures. Scripture, having been inspired by God the Holy Spirit, is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.
      • Sufficiency of the Scriptures. Scripture states that it is able to equip us for every good work.  In addition, the Lord states that He has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the body of knowledge wherein His great and precious promises are recorded.  Therefore, we believe that the Bible alone, as one applies it to his life, is a sufficient resource to prepare the believer to handle all the problems and exigencies of life and ministry (2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2 Peter 1:3–11).
      • Illumination of the Scriptures. This refers to the enlightening or teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit that guides the interpreter to understand the one correct meaning and the many applications of the written Word. The written Word comes from God. God must illuminate it or make it clear so man can interpret God’s word correctly and apply it correctly (John 14.26; 1 Corinthians 2.12-13; 2 Timothy 2.15; 2 Peter 3.16; 1 John 2.27).
      • Communication of the Scriptures. Communication is the process by which God transfers His message from the written Word to the soul and human spirit of man. God especially uses man spiritually gifted communicators to proclaim and teach his Word (Ezekiel 2-3; 1 Corinthians 12.28-31; Ephesians 4.11-16; Hebrews 5.11-14; 1Timothy 4.11; 2 Timothy 4.1-5).
      • Application of the Scriptures. Applications are the moral and practical lessons that come from a correct understanding of the author’s meaning. A wrong moral lesson will result from wrong interpretation of the Scripture. There may be many applications from a passage, once the interpretation is correct. The “what shall we do,” or “what shall we say,” Scripture passages often ask for an application of a biblical doctrine (Acts 2:37; Romans 6:1 and 7:7;
    • There are two basic uses of the Old Testament in the New Testament. I suggest Evangelical Hermeneutics, Kregel, 2002, by Robert L Thomas for a very helpful study on this subject.
      • Literal. The NT author uses OT author’s inspired grammatical-historical one meaning and simply applies it. He accepts the truth of the OT author’s one meaning as written and does not read the OT through the eyes of the NT. The literal fulfillment has great apologetic value to demonstrate that the Bible is true and Jesus is the promised Messiah, and it gives the reader confidence that God keeps his word.
        • Matthew 1.23 with Isaiah 7.14. Virgin is an unmarried woman. Isaiah’s son did not fulfill this. Isaiah’s son would not have been a fulfillment of the sign. Immanuel means “God with us.” Literal fulfillment.
        • Matthew 2.5-6 with Micah 5.2. The prophet specifies that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem of Judea, not in Galilee. Literal fulfillment.
        • Matthew 21:5 with Zechariah 9:9. Zechariah predicted that King Messiah will enter Jerusalem on a colt of a donkey. Matthew records that Jesus riding into Jerusalem was what Zechariah predicted. Literal fulfillment.
        • Luke 3:4-6 with Isaiah 40:3-5. Isaiah prophesied of one who preaches in the wilderness that Israel should prepare for the arrival of Messiah. John the Baptist was the preacher. Literal fulfillment.
        • John 12.37-38 with Isaiah 53.1. Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah and that people would reject him.  John recorded that though Jesus performed many miracles that attested to him being the Messiah, the people refused to believe in Him. This literally fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy.
        • Acts 8:32-33 with Isaiah 53:7-8. Philip identified Jesus as the one whom Isaiah was writing. Jesus was silent like a lamb when sheared. Literal fulfillment.
      • ISPA. The NT author, under God’s inspiration, goes beyond the inspired one meaning of the OT passage for the purpose of explanation, illustration, or another inspired meaning. This meaning is called inspired sensus plenior application or ISPA (see Robert L. Thomas, Evangelica Hermeneutics, Kregel, 2002. Pages 241-269). The interpreter does not change the meaning of the OT passage. He does give an additional and fuller meaning to the passage in its new setting than the OT had in its original setting. He applies the OT wording to the new setting. Interpreters do not have this divine inspiration that the NT authors had, and so do not have the liberty to give additional meanings or uses to the OT text.
        • Matthew 2:15 with Hosea 11:1. Hosea speaks of God calling Israel out of Egypt. Matthew, under inspiration, applies the passage to Jesus and his family leaving Egypt. The OT passage is true; Matthew used it in another sense.
        • Matthew 4:12-16 with Isaiah 9:1-2. Isaiah was speaking of the cessation of foreign domination and the glory to come when the Messiah would rescue Israel at his second coming to earth. Matthew, under inspiration, applies the verses to Christ’s Galilean ministry. The OT passage is true; Matthew used it in another sense.
        • Acts 2:14-22 with Joel 2:28-32. Joel wrote of what will happen in the future day of the Lord. He was not speaking of the church at all. Peter, under inspiration, uses the sense of Joel’s message and applies it to the events of the early church. Joel’s prophecy waits to be fulfilled in the Day of the Lord.
        • 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 with Isaiah 28:11. Isaiah predicted that Assyria would rule Israel and command them with Gentile languages. This happened because Israel rejected God’s prophets who spoke in their own language. Paul’s meaning is different. He applies these words to those with the gift of tongues (foreign languages) who spoke God’s new revelation soon after Messiah came.
    • Translations and Resources. See handouts listing various translations.
      • Translation, interpretation, and application go together. We must first have an accurate translation before we can have an accurate interpretation. We must have an accurate interpretation before we can have accurate application.
        • Bible translation is affected by one’s method of translation. The dynamic equivalence theory of translation emphasizes the ideas and seeks to translate them into the second language.
        • The NIV (New International Version) is based upon the dynamic equivalence theory. The formal equivalence theory seeks to translate the words and phrases and sentences into the second language as the original author states them.
        • The NASB (New American Standard Bible) is based upon the formal equivalence theory.
        • Dynamic equivalence includes some interpretation of the text. Formal equivalence seeks to translate the sentences with minimal interpretation and leaves the interpretative struggle to the student. This latter method is the most honest. It conveys the text and allows each interpreter to do the work.
      • The practice of Bible Study for the English reader is very rewarding. There are many resources available. The minimum resources include a Bible, a Bible Dictionary, and a concordance. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is the most useful for the English reader. Strong’s contains every word in the Bible (KJV). It gives a number code to each word so you can look it up in the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries in back of book. One of the best 1 or 2 volume commentaries is the Bible Knowledge Commentary, authored by Dallas Seminary Faculty and published by Victor Books.
    • The Exegetical Process
      • History: The facts of history or historical background pertinent to the Bible section under study.
      • Context: the relationship to the paragraph, chapter, book, argument of the book, other Bible books, to the Bible as a whole, and to God’s plan for creation. This includes a preliminary outline.
      • Text: The determination of the wording of the manuscript that best reflects the original.
      • Grammar and Syntax: The forms and uses of the language(s) at the time the Bible section under study was written (subject, verb, object, phrases, clauses, etc). This includes style, literary form, and poetry. Diagramming helps.
      • Lexical: The development, use, and meaning of the words.
        • This includes figures of speech by which the author expresses himself in a special way. Important figures of speech include Simile, a comparison using like or as (Psalm 1:3 and 42:1).  Metaphor says something is something else to imply a resemblance (Psalm 23:1; John 10:7, 11). Symbols are words that teach by representation (John 1.29).
      • Analysis and Synthesis: The investigation, explanation, and combination of the elements and parts of the whole. This will include an outline. This is the place in the process where everything is brought together.
      • Summary: A concise recapitulation of the Bible section under study. This includes a brief point by point, verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph summary
      • Doctrines and Applications: Develop the categories and principles of doctrine related to the Bible section under study. Be sure to make applications of the doctrines studied and include the applications in the study.
    • The Communication Process emphasizes the delivery of study and teach the Bible text.
      • Teach the Bible text. This is the task. Our job is to work in the Bible text.
      • Stay on Topic. Whether you have a Scripture passage or a biblical doctrine to teach, make sure you teach that. Do not wander from the topic.
      • Organize and watch your Time. Keep within the anticipated time allotted. If the lesson will run over to the next class, make sure you bring the present class to a contained conclusion.
      • So what? Make sure the audience knows what you are teaching and why it is worthwhile to have listened. Make the effort make very clear what you intend to teach. This is the application and answers the question, “so what?” The “so what” need not be limited to one idea or one point, but make sure the “so whats” are from the lesson.
    • Summary helps for study, organizing, interpreting, and teaching God’s word. Principle: the teacher has the responsibility to transmit the meaning of the Scripture to the listener so that the listener understands and can apply the Scripture. In the most simplified form you must study, organize, simplify and clarify, teach, and then repeat the process again to make your work more accurate and more understandable.
      • Study or preparation—Study the Bible text
        • Interpret, 1-6 of exegetical process
          • What does the text say? 1-6
          • What does the text mean? 1-6
        • Summarize the argument and doctrine of the text, 7
        • Doctrine and Application, so what? 8
          • Doctrine or doctrines taught by the text. 8
          • What should I do in response to the text? 8
      • Teaching, also called public speaking or delivery—Teach the Bible text. See the file Study Teach Checklist.

Last Update

Saturday, March 1, 2008