Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hermeneutics 101

Here are some basic points (in no particular order) to consider when interpreting Scripture:

1. Perspicuity - The Bible is simple and clear. Literate people can read and understand the Bible - esp. its general concepts and narratives. Obviously, there are some concepts that are above us (like the Trinity) which we can apprehend as comprising part of God's authoritative revelation; and there are some issues which may require research/study to discern (see, for instance, 2 Pet.3:16).

2. Analogy of Faith - Scripture interprets Scripture. Let the more clear passages interpret the less clear (esp. w/secondary doctrines).

3. Context - The word or phrase in its sentence; then in its paragraph or topical passage; then in its book (esp. audience); then in the context of the whole Bible.

4. Genre - Narrative, Poetry, History, Prophecy, Wisdom Literature, etc. Knowing which genre a passage falls into, helps us understand whether to, for instance, be aware of allegory, metaphors, literalness, typology, symbolism, etc.

5. Authorial Intent - A more difficult factor, but discoverable with the help of the other points listed here.

6. Setting - Including time, place, and audience, this consideration concentrates on the immediate intention and application of the Word.

7. Grammar - More technical, esp. for those working with the original languages. However, a simple part of grade school English regarding how sentences work, parts of speech, etc.

8. History - or Background. It helps to know a bit about the historical context of a passage (or Book), and sometimes even geography.

9. Presuppositions - Whether you actively pursue or unknowingly have, presuppositions are a significant consideration. Examine your worldview - the self-made, or learned from school, parents, peers, or catechism lens/filter through which you look at, categorize, judge, and act on the data of the world beyond your self - and you will find it affecting your interpretation of Scripture. If your worldview is deficient, correct it, make it biblical (through good shepherding, catechesis, Bible reading/study, and holy fellowship), and it will help you to understand the Bible better. Simple (basic) presuppositions like: God is the Creator, we are Creation, and all man is fallen and awaiting the wrath of a just God unless he finds a mediator (Christ) to redeem him, and God is true, etc. are fundamental concepts that inform our biblical interpretation; while systematic theology, the Creeds and Confessions form macro presuppositional grids with which we interpret Scripture.

10. Faith - This is a general category founded on the necessity of a person's faith (1 Cor.2:14, etc.). Regeneration is a prerequisite for proper biblical interpretation. The Holy Spirit must be indwelling a redeemed sinner to enable his sanctification and understanding (Eph.1:18, etc.). Then prayer is a means of Grace and a sure help in interpretation. Obedience to God, hiding His Word in our hearts, delighting in it and meditating on it are also beneficial considerations. Finally, Hearing the Word faithfully expounded is also a biblical means of Grace and sure help in interpreting Scripture.

Hope these are helpful, and that I didn't miss anything.

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