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Hermeneutics: How to Study the Bible. Gene Taylor r1r. Blessings Which Result. From An Understanding Of The Bible! The Revelation of Divine Wisdom.
Table of contents

In this view then, investigation largely amounts to putting our intellectual preparations into action to discover the facts of Scripture. We investigate the original meaning of biblical texts by meticulously implementing carefully conceived methods or principles of interpretation to discern the actual original meaning — not just someone's opinion or agenda. As we'll see throughout this series, implementing scientific methods in this way is a very important dimension of biblical interpretation. But we'll also see that it hardly covers everything necessary for sound investigation of the original meaning of Scripture.

Basic Biblical Hermeneutics - Scofield Biblical Institute

We've looked at certain priorities for scholarly, scientific hermeneutics in the processes of preparation and investigation. Now we're ready to ask about the process of application. How do the majority of evangelical scholars apply the Bible today? When I was a theological student, a particular classmate would frequently interrupt professors while they were lecturing. His questions were always the same. The professor would smile and say, "That's a great question. Not for me, but for the practical theology professors. As this experience illustrates, all too often, scientific, scholarly interpretation of the Bible has little room for the practical application of Scripture.

At best, it leads to factually-oriented modern application. In other words, application primarily amounts to establishing the kinds of facts that the Bible teaches modern followers of Christ to believe. We call for the faithful to believe that the theological and moral factual claims of the Bible are true. To be sure, this type of application is of great value.

But it neglects a number of crucial ways that Scripture should be applied to our lives today. Bible study methods are crucial, but we can overemphasize them at times because we can make it too mechanical, as if it's automatic, so that it's just a matter of, "Well, I've used these methods; here is my logical conclusion," and it becomes a purely intellectual exercise rather than something that our whole person embraces and gets into.

I found over the years as I… For example, one of the places where I've emphasized a lot of my own research has been in cultural background, the world, the ancient world, because that was a need. A lot of people don't have access to that, so as a scholar I could bring that to bear. And I found that, as I did that, as it would come back to the biblical texts, it would open whole new worlds to me of understanding those texts. At the same time, there was no spiritual life in the background by itself. I took intellectual pleasure in it, but the real spiritual life was in the biblical text, and coming back to it and hearing what God is actually saying to us, submitting our lives to it, that's something that can't be just a mechanical procedure.

That's something that comes only by devoting our hearts to the one who loved us and gave himself for us.

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Craig S. Now that we've looked at some important terminology used in biblical hermeneutics, and the longstanding tradition of scientific hermeneutics, we should turn to our third main topic in this lesson, how scientific interpretation should be coupled with devotional hermeneutics, the Christian tradition of emphasizing our need to draw near to God as we interpret the Scriptures. Followers of Christ adopted scientific hermeneutics that resemble many facets of general hermeneutics because human beings wrote the Scriptures. But devotional hermeneutics focuses primarily on the divine authorship of Scripture.

Christians have always acknowledged that the human words of Scripture are also the Word of God. As 2 Timothy tells us, the Scriptures were inspired by God, or more literally were "God-breathed. As we interpret Scripture it's so important that we remember that we're not just handling the words of human authors, that the Holy Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity has breathed out these words through the distinctive personalities, styles, experiences of those human authors.

As we go to Scripture, that means because the Spirit who breathed these words out is also resident and at work within us as believers, in a sense we have access to the author of Scripture. And we need that desperately; we need as we approach Scripture to come prayerfully, dependent upon the Spirit to open our minds as well as to open the Scriptures to our minds. Dennis E. To see what we mean, we'll look at devotional hermeneutics in ways that parallel our earlier discussion.

First, we'll see that this kind of scriptural interpretation has biblical roots. Second, we'll sketch some historical examples of biblical scholars who practiced devotional hermeneutics. And third, we'll see how following this approach to Scripture shapes our priorities for the processes of interpretation. Let's turn first to the biblical roots of devotional hermeneutics.


Even though biblical authors often examined the Scriptures in more or less scientific ways, it's just as important to see that they also approached the Scriptures devotionally. Time and again, they indicated that followers of Christ are to read the Scriptures as the word of God, in the presence of God, in ways that bring about extraordinary, even supernatural experiences of God. Biblical authors pointed to this dimension of interpretation many times, but for now we'll mention just one passage as an example.

In Hebrews we read:.

Hermeneutics Courses

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart Hebrews In this passage, the author of Hebrews referred to a portion of Psalm 95 that he had quoted in the preceding verses, calling it "the word of God. Now, notice how after acknowledging the divine authorship of the Psalm, the writer of Hebrews described the experience of reading Scripture.

He said that Scripture itself is "living and active. But in this passage, the writer of Hebrews indicated that Scripture actually dissects and analyzes us. This passage is particularly important for our discussion because the author of Hebrews was a very sophisticated biblical scholar. Time and again, he treated Old Testament Scriptures with a depth of insight that exceeds many other New Testament authors. Still, his highly intellectual analyses of Scripture didn't turn him away from devotional hermeneutics. On the contrary, his intellectual interpretations enhanced his ability to approach the Scriptures in ways that brought him into highly emotive, compelling, and deeply transformative encounters with God.

And as such, he shows us that scientific and devotional hermeneutics must work together. Having seen the biblical roots of devotional hermeneutics, we should mention a few historical examples to illustrate the way followers of Christ have combined scientific and devotional approaches to interpretation. Devotional interpretation of the Bible was particularly important in the Patristic period of church history.

We mentioned earlier that Origen of Alexandria was a meticulous, scientific biblical scholar. When you devote yourself to the divine reading, uprightly and with a faith fixed firmly on God, seek the meaning of the divine words which is hidden from most people. Do not stop at knocking and seeking, for the most necessary element is praying to understand the divine words. Here, Origen told Gregory to "devote [himself] to the divine reading.

Now, Origen's approach to Scripture was deeply influenced by Neo-Platonism, especially as it had been expressed earlier in the works of the Jewish Old Testament interpreter Philo of Alexandria. From this point of view, beneath the surface of the Bible were heavenly, spiritual truths that were "hidden from most people. That is to say, they must "seek the meaning of the [Bible as] divine words. In fact, according to Origen, "the most necessary element" for comprehending Scripture is "praying to understand the divine words.

When the faithful seek God through prayerful contemplation as they read Scripture, God grants them insights that otherwise often remain hidden. People like Origen emphasized the fact that when you read the Bible, it's really important that you gain the spiritual meaning of the text. Now I would want to say that is a really healthy thing, because the Bible is not just a history book, it's not just an academic textbook to titillate our theological imagination.

There is spiritual significance … In fact, we believe that the two belong together, that as we improve our ability to understand the meaning of the biblical words, the context in which they're set in the passage, the historical details, etc. Simon Vibert].

Biblical Hermeneutics

Throughout the medieval period, nearly every leading interpreter of Scripture practiced some form of divine reading, or Lectio Divina , including important scientific interpreters like Augustine and Aquinas. By and large, Lectio Divina came to be practiced in four well-known steps or movements: lectio , reading of Scripture; meditation , silent pondering of the content of what is read; oratio , earnest prayer for God to grant enlightenment; and contemplation , quietly waiting for the Spirit of God to grant highly intuitive, deeply emotional and transforming convictions of a passage's significance.

By the time of the Reformation, the Church of Rome used the practice of Lectio Divina to justify all kinds of false teachings. Church authorities claimed that their teachings derived from supernatural insights from God, but these "insights" actually contradicted the teachings of Scripture in some very important ways.

Laws of Bible Interpretation - Lesson 1

In response, most Protestant scholars rightly placed a high premium on scientific hermeneutics. But they didn't forsake reading the Bible devotionally. On the contrary, they insisted that devotional hermeneutics be tied to sound exegetical analysis of Scripture. This feature of Protestant biblical scholarship isn't widely acknowledged, so it will help to mention just two well-known examples: John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards. John Calvin has rightly been called the most rational and logical biblical interpreter of the early Reformation.