Hermeneutics, Exegesis, and Interpretation

menorah-windowThese three terms or rules are often used interchangeably, which can lead to minor misunderstanding even by the people using these terms or rules.

Hermeneutics are the rules by which one interprets the Bible. This is how the historical, grammatical, syntactical, and cultural context is to be considered.

FYI” Hermeneutics comes from the name of the Greek god Hermes who was the interpreter of the gods.

Exegesis is an explanation of which and how the rules of hermeneutics were applied. The problem with exegesis is that everyone claims to be doing this, when in fact most are no longer following any or all of the rules. They all seem to be making them up as they go. When rules are not  implemented and followed consistently it leaves the people in the pews confused as to how to understand Scripture fully. They just don’t see what their spiritual leader says is in the Text. Many then go away thinking that they are somehow too stupid to understand what  the Bible says. So they don’t read it for themselves. Trust yourself, it’s not that hard, and there is a whole list of books in our Bibliography (most of them so old that they are free on the internet) that will help if you get stuck.

Interpretation is what is given after all the study is done. Here we have another problem, most preacher can only interpret the English Bible. It has fallen out of fashion for the average spiritual leader to read Greek let alone Hebrew. Most don’t realize that any translation is already an interpretation. The translator must decide what he thinks the author was saying, and how that should be best said in the language of the new reader. Since Hebrew in particular often has more than one meaning intended, a full translation can be an almost impossible task. The Hebrew Scriptures are full of puns, and other word play that just doesn’t translate. (See Also: Paronomasia/Word Play in the Bible) This all comes down to the average spiritual leader interpreting an interpretation. They just don’t have the language tools to do the job properly.

The spiritual leader that one sits under should be carefully considered. We are, after all, trusting the state of our eternal souls to their teachings. Are they really trustworthy and educated enough to warrant such trust?  Would we trust Doctors or Lawyers who are not fully educated in their respective field? Then why are we trusting undereducated Spiritual Leaders? Maybe it is time to hit the books on our own. Check out our Bibliography, most of it is links to wonderful old theology books that are free on the internet.

These rules have three main methods.

  • The Historical Grammatical method seeks to find the original intent of a passage. This method has been the standard historical protestant method that most protestant leaders used for the last 400 years.
  • The Revealed method seeks to find the “fuller meaning” of a passage. Believing that the Biblical authors could not and did not foresee all that was intended, this is called sensus plenior. This is all well and good if one has done the heavy lifting of figuring out the historical grammatical context first. Other wise this method becomes the playground of charlatans and hoaxers. These teachers are as magician’s pulling mysteries from their bags of vivid imagination. They start their soliloquies with “I think” “I believe” and end with “we should therefore”.
  • The Rational method seeks to find the individual inspiration of the writers. Although the word “rational” makes one think that what is being taught is somehow scientific, this method begets all manner of nonsense. This comes down to putting your beliefs on to some else thoughts. These teachers do not as a rule believe that the Bible was written by the authors ascribed to them nor at the time that they are said to have been written. This makes the whole or parts of the Bible a complete fable.

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