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Bible Hermeneutics may be defined as the systematic interpretation of Biblical scriptures historically, grammatically and contextually through laid down principles with the objective discovering the meaning that the Bible author intended for his audience on each passage of the book or letter and drawing a life application for the reader. The hermeneutics set out the principles of interpretation while the exegesis is the process of discovering the meaning. The true meaning of the author is often embedded in his cultural, historical and political/religious circumstances of writing the book. Sound hermeneutics must employ these dynamics in order to decipher the meaning as closely as possible. Historical interpretation refers to understanding the culture, background, and situation which prompted the text. Grammatical interpretation is recognizing the rules of grammar and nuances of the Hebrew and Greek languages and applying those principles to the understanding of a passage. Contextual interpretation involves always taking the surrounding context of a verse/passage into consideration when trying to determine the meaning. Why Hermeneutics? Many Christians often wonder why we need to approach the study of the Bible in this way when it is possible to simply read the Bible and find the meaning in a literal sense. You may be surprised to learn that what may appear to be a simple interpretation of a piece of scripture can mean several things to millions others depending on how they approach the interpretation of the passage. Unless we are agreed on certain principles of interpretation, we may never concur on the meaning of certain verses or passages and the author’s intended meaning may be rendered obscure as theologians argue over the appropriate interpretative positions. We must bear in mind that he Bible author could never have intended more than one meaning for his audience when he wrote the scripture unless this can be proved from Scripture itself. It is the task of discovering bringing out this meaning that underpins sound Bible hermeneutics and exegetical methods. The opposite of this is what is known as eisegesis from the root Greek word “to lead into” rather than bring out the meaning. We must extract the correct meaning and not impose our ideas into the Word of God. Illustrations on Bible Interpretation Approaches To illustrate, let’s use both approaches in the treatment of one passage: 2 Chronicles 27:1-2 “Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years.... He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the LORD.” Notice the wrong approach. The interpreter decides on a topic. Today, it’s “The Importance of Church Attendance.” The interpreter reads 2 Chronicles 27:1-2 and sees that King Jotham was a good king, just like his father Uzziah had been, except for one thing: he didn’t go to the temple! This passage seems to fit his idea, so he uses it. The resulting sermon deals with the need for passing on godly values from one generation to the next. Just because King Uzziah went to the temple every week didn’t mean that his son would continue the practice. In the same way, many young people today tragically turn from their parents’ training, and church attendance drops off. The sermon ends with a question: “How many blessings did Jotham fail to receive, simply because he neglected church?” Good sermon isn’t it? Certainly, there is nothing wrong with preaching about church attendance or the transmission of good Christian values. And a cursory reading of 2 Chronicles 27:1-2 seems to support that passage as an apt illustration. However, the above interpretation is totally wrong. For Jotham not to go to the temple was not wrong; in fact, it was very good. As the proper approach to the passage will show. Why? Because his father had sinned against God when he burnt incense in the temple!
Understanding the bible is a mixture of interpreting a little Literally; but mostly Figuratively, Metaphorically and Spiritually. The Scriptures are spiritual and for the most part, do nothing as taking it literal. Jesus own disciples were offended because they couldn't take his words (if they took it literally) John 6:51-53 "...if any man eat of this bread...the bread that I will give is MY FLESH... The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man GIVE US HIS FLESH TO EAT? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye EAT THE FLESH of the Son of man, and DRINK HIS BLOOD, ye have no life in you. Should this be taking LITERALLY? Definitely NO. Jesus was not endorsing cannibalism. No way whatsoever literally, if we focus on it literally. This was metaphorically and spiritual. John 6:60, 66 MANY therefore of HIS DISCIPLES, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?...From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. these next verses are the principles to ALL Scripture "hermeneutics". Understand that you, me, and we are all FLESH. Jesus was made flesh (John 1:14). There is one kind of flesh of man (1 Corinthians 15:39). Naturally, Without the SPIRIT of God in us, we are carnal minded (fleshly minded), things of our flesh -- yet Jesus, who was made flesh, had the spirit without measure (John 3:34). When we come to the bible naturally, physically, and carnal, we cannot truly receive the things of God John 6:63 It is the spirit that gives Life; the flesh profiteth nothing:the words that I speak unto you, THEY ARE SPIRIT, and they are life. 1 Corinthians 2:14 the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:for they are foolishness unto him:neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Romans 8:7 the carnal mind (mind of the flesh, natural man) is enmity against God:for IT IS NOT SUBJECT to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Naturally(by the flesh) those disciples -- who ACTUALLY SAW Jesus miracles [dwell on that...] -- couldn't receive his words for it was a "hard saying" - Jesus words, sought to be understood naturally (or literally) "profits nothing", "neither could they know them", "neither indeed can be" --- and be mindful: All scripture is given by inspiration of God (GOD BREATHED, by His spirit) ~ 2 Timothy 3:16 One of the best kept secrets is that: the Scriptures are a big parable. They display stories, most of all, literal true stories of Jewish history. But the SAVING MEANING, THE WILL OF GOD, even the GOSPEL OF CHRIST is displayed in EVERY text of scripture in metaphors, spirit, and in parabolic writings. Abraham signifies something greater, what Joseph signified was something amazing, Joshua, oh Joshua - He signified a spiritual mountain. All of those meanings, the will of God, the Gospel, the Law, Prophets, Writings -- they sum to the spirit of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:14-17) Jesus said time and time and time again. Approximately 16x, "He who has ears, let him hear.” - in His revelation to John, he adds, "let him hear WHAT THE SPIRIT says"...Hearing the spirit is IMPOSSIBLE without the spirit of God. "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit". It has nothing to do with going to school, education, natural knowledge, knowing Greek and Hebrew (those are helpful) -- "principles of interpretation" comes from the spirit of God. Another flaw to taking the entire bible "literally" is you'll stumble when you open the New Testament. "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the SON OF DAVID, the SON OF ABRAHAM (Matthew 1:1)--- yes, that is a classic figurative language. He was not LITERALLY their "sons". More like great great (x10 or so maybe) son. "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees:therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." (Matthew 3:10) --- what benefit is it to read this? Half instructions as to why chop a tree down? John instantly switches to talking about baptism (?). Trees being cut down and baptism are totally different thoughts literally: but spiritually, they are in Harmony. And there are many other examples. And for the last principle, you actually have to know the meaning "literally" or "physically" FIRST to then AFTERWARD understand it spiritually when God REVEALS IT TO YOU 1 Corinthians 15:46 However, the spiritual is NOT FIRST, but the natural, and AFTERWARD the spiritual. That is the order of our lives in maturity, mankind, Adam to Christ, even to spiritual understanding. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says".
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