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11 November 2011

A Crash Course In Hermeneutics

I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with the word "hermeneutics." From BibleStudyTools.com comes this brief origin and definition of the word:

The word "hermeneutics" is ultimately derived from Hermes the Greek god who brought the messages of the gods to the mortals, and was the god of science, invention, eloquence, speech, writing, and art. As a theological discipline [Biblical] hermeneutics is the science of the correct interpretation of the Bible.

With that we'll kick off a multi-part series! I anticipate that it will be five posts. Our house church group has begun to go over a basic outline of Scripture Interpretation that I put together and called "A Crash Course In Hermeneutics." In preparing to teach, I found that there are very few available resources geared for small group discussion and teaching of fundamental Biblical hermeneutics. That's crazy because it's such an important area -- one in which every believer needs to grounded. It isn't just for "professional" Christians.

I used R. C. Sproul's book Knowing Scripture (Second Edition, InterVarsity Press, © 2009 by R. C. Sproul) as a foundation because it's quite solid, easy to read, and there's a section that gives 11 general "rules" that are a great starting point.

These guidelines don't cover everything, don't make the mistake of thinking they do. But they'll get us well on our way. I'm not sure if I'll lay out one or two "rules" in each post after this. Just one today, though, because I've already written so much, and the first one will sound controversial.

Feel free to chime in with your comments!

Rule #1: Read the Bible like any other book.

"Whoa there, Dean! The Bible isn't just 'any other book!'" Of course it isn't. I'm not saying it is. I stand behind what 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says; the Bible is divinely inspired -- God-breathed. I believe it is infallible. But the upshot of this rule is that in the Bible, a noun is a noun, a verb is a verb, etc.

The Bible doesn’t take on some special magic that changes basic patterns of literary interpretation. There's a Latin phrase, sensus literalis, that means "literal sense." "The literal sense is the grammatical-historical sense, that is, the meaning which the writer expressed." (from Article 15 of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics).

Questions in Scripture do not suddenly become exclamations just because we want to read them that way, historical narratives don't become allegories or parables. Read the Bible with that knowledge. Sounds obvious, but it's a big "rule" that is violated regularly.

So there we have it; one "rule" down, ten to go!

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