Some Definitions:


Hermeneutics:  The systematic study of the principles and methods of  interpr


Or   The systematic study of the principles and methods of interpretation of
the Bible.


Exegesis:  Explaining the meaning of the text;  i.e. what the author meant when
he wrote to the people of his day.


Homiletics:  Practical application of the meaning of the text for us today.


Good Bible teaching and preaching:    hermeneutics  ??  exegesis  ??  homiletics


Q:  Why should we study hermeneutics?


2 Tim 2:15    ?gcorrectly handle?h     ?grightly divide?h (NAS)


2 Pet 3:16   ?gdistort?c.to their own destruction.?h


Nehemiah 8:8  ?gmaking it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could

                                    understand what was being read.?h


Problems of misinterpretation:


1.  Using the Bible to say something it does not say.


2.  Using the Bible in an unbalanced way: improper emphasis.


3.  Confusing command from application of principle.


Advantages of correct interpretation:


1.  Get more out of the Bible.  The Bible must be understood to be correctly applied.


2.  Go to heaven, and help others to do so.  1 Tim 4:13?gsave both yourself and



Why haven?ft we, as a group, emphasized hermeneutics?


Why Biblical hermeneutics works:


1.  In the Bible, God speaks, not man. 2 Peter 1:19-21, 2 Tim 3:16, 1 Thess 2:13.


2. The Bible has been accurately transmitted to us and has been accurately translated.

3.  The Bible, as originally written is infallible and consistent with itself.
Ps 19:7,

      Ps 119:160.


4.  With work, the Bible is understandable.  Deuteronomy 29:29.


5.  The Bible is complete.  We do not have to worry about new information.


6.  God uses written language to communicate to man.  Language study is important.


7.  The Bible, correctly understood and applied, is authoritative.


Hindrances to correct interpretation of the Bible:


1.  Prejudice or preconceived ideas:  human nature!


2.  Pride.  There is a reason they call it Pride and Prejudice!


3.  Laziness.  Intellectual laziness is a very common disease!


4.  Wishful thinking.


5.  Desire to be like the world.


6.  Proof-text approach (see point 1.)


7.  Clergy/laity attitude.


8.  Appeals to human authority.


9.  Assuming that what is popularly believed is true.


10.  Studying without a system or plan.


11.  A schismatic or sectarian attitude.


12.  An overly theological approach to understanding the Bible. (let the Bible

       itself and tends to ignore the practical)


13.  Feelings-orientation.


Helps to correct interpretation of the Bible:


1.  The opposite of points 1-13 above.


2.  Common sense.  God gave us a brain for a reason.  If it sounds ?gfishy?h it probably


3.  Hard mental work.


4.  Sincere desire to know the truth.


5.  Faith in God and specifically in the inspiration of the Bible.


6.  Education.


a.       Logical, analytical, critical thinking.

b.      Ability to concentrate mentally. It is like working out.

c.       Study of languages, foreign in general, and Greek and Hebrew specifically.

d.      Study of political and social history and geography.


7.  Tools.


a.       Complete, exhaustive or analytical concordance.

b.      Bible dictionary.

c.       Topical Bible.

d.      Expository dictionary of NT words (Vine?fs).

e.       Greek and/or Hebrew interlinear Bible.

f.        Greek and/or Hebrew lexicon.

g.       Commentaries:  homiletic and analytic.

h.       Other translations.

i.         History books.


A very brief history of hermeneutics:


1.  Allegorical  (Philo, Clement of Alexandria, Origen).


2.  The Antiochan School (Diodorus, John Chrysostoam, Theodore)  rejected the

     allegorical approach.


3.  Mystical   (Gnostics, Mary Baker Eddy, Ellen G. White).


4.  Authoritative/Heirarchical  (Roman and Greek churches)  Augustine.


5.  Dogmatic  (JW?fs, Mormons, proof-texting in general).


6.  Literal  (some evangelicals, premillenialism, etc.).


7.  Inductive/Analitical  (Francis Bacon)  (Restoration Movement).


8.  a. Luther  sola scriptura.

     b. Melanchthon   grammar; simple and plain.

     c. Calvin   history the key to understanding the Bible.


9.  Churchof Christ  Inductive/Analyticalapproach.  Command, example, necessary

     demonstration.   Speak where the Bible speaks, be silent where the Bible
is silent.


10.  Kip McKean  Where the Bible speaks, we are silent, where the Bible is silent,



Rules of Interpretation:  (a summary)


1. Every passage has one meaning.


2. The most obvious meaning is usually the correct one.


3. Always allow the author?fs explanation to stand.


4. Always interpret a passage within the context of the passage, the book, and



5. An interpretation of a passage should conform to the environment of the author.


6. Rightly divide books by dispensation, covenant and setting.


7. Interpret every passage in the light of all others.


8. One passage will often explain another.


9.  Let plain passages interpret difficult ones.


10. All passages on a subject must be studied before a conclusion is drawn.


11.  Observe the proper balance of scriptural truth.


12. Passages should be interpreted in harmony with the idioms contained.


13. Rightly divide the language (grammar and figures of speech).


14. Know the meaning of sentences, phrases and words.


15.  Rightly divide books by type of literature (poetry, apocalyptic, historical,



Rules of Interpretation: detailed outline.


I. Every passage has one meaning.


Our job is to find that meaning (exegesis)


There is one meaning, but there may be more than one application. 


Our job:  What was the meaning in its original context to its original readers?


Ex:  do not be yoked with unbelievers.     We must know the meaning before we make the application.


Ex:  the meaning of Revelation is that it applied to the persecution of the
disciples under Rome.   But, we can apply it to our situation.   However, we should know
the meaning first.


II. The most obvious meaning is usually the correct one.


William of Ockham.  That which is explained by fewer assumptions is explained in vain
by more.  If the explanation smells fishy, it probably is.


Ex.  John 3:3-8      What does It mean, ?gborn of water and the spirit??h


In the New Testament, water refers to baptism and spirit refers to the Holy


(Use the most common meaning of the word unless the context demands otherwise)


Ex Acts 2:38


Another interpretation:     Born of water = physical birth 


while Born of Spirit = filled with the Holy Spirit.    Which is more ?gobvious??h


Q:  Where in the Bible or Hebrew or Greek writings does Born of water = physical


Ex   Eph 4:5,6     What is the ?gone baptism?h?  What is the normal and common meaning of baptism
in the NT?     


III. Always allow the author?fs explanation to stand.


Ex:  1 John 3:6   No one in Christ continues to sin.  What does that mean?


Answer:  1 John 1:8,9     1 John 3:8  practices?c..    3:9  goes on?c..


An obvious example:    Parable of the sower   Luke 8:4  Is the seed the Holy Spirit?  No!


Daniel 11:  vs. 2-4 The kings of the North and the South are Greek kings.


Dan 8:19-22     So much for the fourth beast being the RC church or something?c


Jn 2:19-21   What is Jesus talking about?   He answers the question.


Look for the explanation in the


1. immediate context


2. that ?gchapter?h


3. that book


4. that author


Most false/bad interpretations of phrases and passages by denominations (and
us!) the answer is right there!!!


(other examples:  2 Tim 3:17    that the man of God may be perfect (mature) (teleon),  thorou
ghly equipped for?c    thoroughly equipped explains perfect


2 Tim 2:13    if we are faithless..     explained by  ?ghe cannot disown himself?h   faithless = disown


IV. Always interpret a passage within the context of the passage, the book,
and the



Ex.   Jn 9:31  Look at who is talking.  Is it even true?     


Matthew 18:20   What is this about?  What is the context? (resolving conflict)


A classic case:   Rev 3:20   context:  written to people already saved.   How does that influence
the interpretation?


Matt 12:30     vs      Mark 9:40


1 Cor 11:2f  Often applied to women in worship.  Is this about worship services?  (note the bogus
section heading in the NIV)  


Ch 14 is about public worship     1 Cor 14:33-35    



V. An interpretation of a passage should conform to the environment of the author.


1 Tim 2:8-15     holding up hands in prayer.   The Jews did that.  What might we say instead?


Is the actual posture the point of the command?


not with braided hair or gold or pearls?c    That is what the prostitutes wore in the
Greek world.  How should we apply it to our cultural context?


Vs.  11  What is the context?   Is he talking about worship?    Does the environment of Greek
culture affect our interpretation?  This is not an easy question.


Q:  Does it matter if something was said by Jesus or by an apostle? (1 Cor


Is there such a thing as an inspired opinion?  Yes (in my opinion) 1 Cor 7:25


Mark 10:23      What did the Jews assume?  


Another example  Romans 14:5,6  and/or   1 Cor 8:4


VI. Rightly divide books by dispensation, covenant and setting.




Patriarchal:   God speaking to his people through heads of families   Adam to Moses


Mosaic:   The first covenant (Coll 2:13-17)   Moses to Jesus


Q:  Are we required to follow the Ten Commandments?


So why read the OT?   (1 Cor 10:6)


The second covenant:  begun when Jesus was raised and ascended to heaven.


Q:  What about the thief on the cross?  Does he prove that one can be saved without
being baptized?


Be careful when you read the words of Jesus that he considered himself to be
under the First Covenant.       He declared all foods clean (Mark 7) but he did not eat
all foods!


Ex:  do not take his attitude toward the Sabbath as indication of what we should

Ex:  he applied the Ten Commandments to the Rich Young Ruler.



VII. Interpret every passage in the light of all others.


  Acts 2:21(OT  Quote)  Rom 10:9  2 Tim 2:19


VIII. One passage will often explain another.


Acts 1:5   and  Matt 3:11


1 Thess 4:15f   Is there room for a rapture here?    1 Pet 3:11-13   


Q to ask about passages which might seem to contradict:  In what sense are they both true?


Ex:  Harmonize Prov 13:25with Psalm 38


Harmonize Prov 26:4  and Prov 26:5


IX.  Let plain passages interpret difficult ones.


Ex:  1 Cor 15:29,30   Q:  What does it not mean?  Better Q:  What does it definitely
not mean, based on plain passages?


Romans 8:28-30    Does this justify a strict predestination?  See Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:19-32,

Ezekiel 18:25-29  Rev 20:13,14


X. All passages on a subject must be studied before a conclusion is drawn.


Ex: Doctrine of the efficacy of prayer:   Jn 14:14 James 4:2,3  5:13-16    1 John 5:14,


Ex:  Passages on salvation:     


XI.  Observe the proper balance of scriptural truth.


Eph 2:8-10   saved by grace, apart from works     vs     James 2:24   


Q:  In finding the balance between these two, where should we start? (answer:
in Eph 2)


Other relevant passages:  Phil 2:12and 2 Cor 13:5   vs   1 Jn 5:13 Romans 8:37and Hebrews


Do not pit one passage against another, but study out the whole subject carefully.


Ex:  Q: Is predestination taught in the Bible?  Is ?gfree will?h taught in the Bible?


Romans 9:19-21 


Ex: Judas  Did God predestine him to destruction?  He did foreknow his betrayal.


And what about Romans 8:29?  (Those God foreknew he also predestined?c)


True, but also consider  Deut 30:19,20 Now choose life  Joshua 24:15 ?cchoose for yourselves
whom you will serve?c    Luke 9:24etc. Jesus called people to make a decision.  John 7:17 
If anyone chooses to do God?fs will?c


Where is the balance of teaching?   God predestines certain things in order for his greater
will to be done, but he does not take away ultimate choice.


XII. Passages should be interpreted in harmony with the idioms contained.


Like a camel through the eye of a needle.


Q:  Other Jewish idioms?


XIII. Rightly divide the language (grammar and figures of speech).


Anthropomorphisms.  Giving human attributes to God.  The hand of God reached down.
God.s eye, God?fs arm etc.  Ex:  Ps 44:3


Hyperbole:  Purposeful exaggeration  Psalms 51:5

Matthew 9:47  pluck it out  Psalms 22:6


Irony, sarcasm.  Galatians 5:12 


Simile  Use of like or as for two things which are not the same which are similar
or analogous.

Matthew 3:16  The Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.

Isaiah 53:6.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray.


Metaphor.  Two things said to be the same because of some conceptual similarity


Jesus;  take, eat, this is my body. (Matt 26:26)  Luke 13:32  Go tell that fox.


Allegory.  An extended metaphor.  Writer does not identify the exact meaning of all the
parts, so reader must fill in the details.   Eph 6:11-17  Put on the full armor of God.


Metonymy:  Substitute one word for another, because they are related. 1 Cor 11:
25the cup = the wine in the cup.   ?gMoses was being read in the synagogue?h means
the books of Moses, etc.


Synecdoche   a part stands for the whole   ex: bread = all food Deut 8:3  Man does not
live on bread alone?c




1 Cor 11:27  KJV unworthily  NIV in an unworthy manner.  Greek an adverb  Adverbs mody a verb.    It modif
es eats not anyone.    Some who do not feel good about their relationship with God
do not take LS.  That makes no sense.


Matthew 16:17  Peter = petros = little stone    rock = petra= bedrock   He is contrasting
not comparing Peter to the Church.  He is the gate-opener, but not the foundation!!!


Consider tense, singular vs. plural, adjective vs adverb, etc?c.


Figurative vs literal


When in doubt, or unless the context demands it, assume the passage is literal.


How do we know if a passage is figurative?


a. An implied impossibility or absurdity.  Luke 9:60  Let the dead bury their dead.  The first
dead is figurative.


b. When it requires a contradiction or an inconsistency.  John 11:25,26


c.  When it requires an obviously immoral conclusion.  Matthew 18:9


d.  When the context clearly implies it, or when the author says so.  Jn 2:18-20


e.  Let common sense apply.  John 4:10-15  ?gstreams of living water?c?h



XIV. Know the meaning of sentences, phrases and words.


Webster?fs definition


Greek or Hebrew definition


Biblical definition:  normal Bible usage of the word


Ex:  church


Webster:  a building?  A religious organization?


Greek:  the called out.  A political gathering


Bible:  those called out by God to meet together.


Ex #2   flesh  Romans 8:5,9,13  Those who live according to the flesh  (NIV sinful nature)


English: the actual meat  on a body


Greek:  body  sarx


Bible:   human nature, sinful man, sinful nature, earthly, worldly, human effort,


A different sense (but same word)  John 6;52-58  ?gwhoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood)


Etymology:  the history, root meaning of words.  Caution:  etymology does not determine
the meaning of a word.


I came that you  may have life = quality of life


In interpreting passages, look for key words.  Ex 1 Cor 11:2-16  head is the key word.


Greek:  kephale    top, point of origin, in the primary place, capstone.


Also, look at praying and prophesying.  What do these refer to.




English:  predict the future


Greek:  to speak forth


Norman biblical meaning:   inspired teaching




Normal biblical meaning:  talk to God.


Special meaning (in context because of the connection to prophesying) may be
a reference to praying in tongues  (1 Cor 14:14,15)


Ex:  find a key word in Romans 8:5-11   I say it is the word controlled. 


Know the range of usage of a word and recognize how it is used.


Ex:   bread.


Matt 6:11  Give us this day our daily bread    bread = food


Acts 2:42   Breaking of bread  = Lord?fs Supper


Acts 2:46  broke bread from house to house  = shared meals together.


Another example of context determining the meaning of a word.  Romans 14:23  Eve
rything that does not come from faith is sin.  Does this mean not having faith is
a sin? Faith, in this context, means with a clear conscience that it is within
God?fs will.


Ex:  Spirit


A man?fs Spirit


The Holy Spirit.


XV.  Rightly divide books by type of literature (poetry, apocalyptic, historical,



What if Paul had said Psalm 58:3





1.  Pray about the hindrances to good Bible interpretation.  Make it personal.


2.  Come up with a single scripture, a section of a book or an entire (small)
book you want to analyze using the principles of hermeneutics.  You will be submitting a


3.  For the book of Galatians;


Read it.?
Find a theme verse.?
Discover an overall theme for the book.?
Create an outline for the book.


Use a Bible dictionary or commentary or other resource to determine the historical
and cultural context of the book of Galatians.


4.  Write a paper on the topic chosen in 2. above.


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