The Study of Hermeneutics
By Pastor Augie Herrera
The Bible is NOT Privately Interpreted
2PE 1:20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
PRIVATE, (Adjective) idios (2398), one’s own, translated “private” in 2Pe 1:20 (our English idiom: expression)
Interpretation is a generic term and may refer to any work of literature. Specifically referring to the sacred Scriptures, the science of interpretation is generally known as hermeneutics.
Exegesis Vs Eisegesis
When practically applied the science is called exegesis. In nearly all cases, interpretation has in mind the thoughts of another, and then, further, these thoughts expressed in another language than that of the interpreter. In this sense it is used in Biblical research. A person has interpreted the thoughts of another when he has in his own mind a correct reproduction or photograph of the thought as it was conceived in the mind of the original writer or speaker. It is accordingly a purely reproductive process, involving no originality of thought on the part of the interpreter. The moment the Bible student has in his own mind what was in the mind of the author or authors of the Biblical books when these were written, he has interpreted the thought of the Scriptures.
If the interpreter adds anything of his own it is eisegesis and not exegesis.
1. ektithemi (1620), “to set out, expose” (ek, “out,” tithemi, “to place”), is used (a) literally, Act 7:21; (b) metaphorically, in the middle voice, to set forth, “expound,” of circumstances, Act 11:4; of the way of God, Act 18:26; of the kingdom of God, Act 28:23.
2. epiluo (1956), primarily, “to loose, release,” a strengthened form of luo, “to loose,” signifies “to solve, explain, expound,” Mar 4:34, “expounded”; in Act 19:39, of settling a controversy, RV, “it shall be settled,” for KJV, “it shall be determined.” See DETERMINE. Cf. epilusis, “an interpretation,” 2Pe 1:20.
3. diermeneuo (1329), “to interpret fully” (dia, “through,” intensive, hermeneuo “to interpret”); (Eng., “hermeneutics”), is translated, “He expounded” in Luk 24:27, KJV, RV, “interpreted”; in Act 9:36, “by interpretation,” lit., “being interpreted”, see also 1Co 12:30 14:5 13 27. See INTERPRET.
Hermeneutics is both a Science and an Art
Doing the science assuming one know the basic 6 steps used in the scientific approach. As long as one know them and uses them, fine. How well one does that, is the art side of it, i.e., I know how to paint cars, and I can teach you how to mix the paint, connect the air hose, use the paint gun, but unless you have master the art form you will run the paint. That is true for hermeneutics too.
The major steps of Hermeneutics are:
2. Historical and Cultural setting
All communication must be properly interpreted by the hearer or reader. Witness Philip’s question to the Ethiopian treasurer, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30), indicating the need for interpretation.
The basic word hermeneutics (Gr. hermeneia, verb hermeneuo) means “to interpret,” “to expound,” “to explain,” and further includes to translate from a foreign language into a familiar language (Joh 1:38, 42; 9:7). In the OT the English term occurs, e.g., in Pro 1:6 regarding interpretation of a proverb.
Joseph was enabled to interpret (Heb patar) dreams in Egypt (Gen 40:12; 41:8-15), and Daniel was given the interpretation (Aram. peshar) of several dreams (Dan 2:4; 7:16) and the mysterious handwriting (Dan 5). The term pesher was used by the Qumran community for their interpretations of OT prophetical passages (see Dead Sea Scrolls).
The interpreter of the Bible is similar to a workman with a task before him. He is an intelligent being, and he sees what needs to be done. What else is required? Two things: spiritual insight and good tools. The former is supplied by the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer (Joh 14:26; 1Co 2:10-13; 1Jo 2:27; cf. Eph 1:17); the latter we now discuss. Admittedly, some of these tools, or principles, will be more available to some than others.
1. Determine the meaning of the original language of any passage for the original readers. Ideally, this calls for a knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Practically, it means the interpreter needs to use the best translations of the Bible available to him. In this connection, he ought to learn something of the purpose for which the author wrote and the historical circumstances out of which the writing arose. The Scriptures are part of a larger historical and cultural context. In the OT, Israel was related, in one way or another, to the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians (to name a few); in the NT, the church emerged from a Jewish background and arose in the Greco-Roman world. The languages of the Bible reflect these various cultures; thus the interpreter must be knowledgeable of and sensitive to the use of words in their various settings.
For example, the word “save” (Gr. sozo) was a common term included saving from death, rescuing from physical danger, saving from disease or demon-possession, and preserving one’s physical well-being (e.g., Mat 8:25; 14:30; Mar 3:4; 15:30-31; Jam 5:15).
In addition to these, in the NT the word is used of saving from spiritual or eternal death (e.g., Luk 9:24; 19:10; Joh 3:17; 5:34; 10:9; Rom 5:9-10).
Work Shop example
2. Interpret the words of any given verse or paragraph within its immediate context. The context is the ultimate determinant of word meanings. While the dictionary will provide various possibilities, the context will aid in narrowing the choice. For example; why translate the Gr. word parakletos as “Comforter” in Joh 14:16 and as “Advocate” in 1Jo 2:1?
5. parakletos (3875), lit., “called to one’s side,” i.e., to one’s aid, is primarily a verbal adjective, and suggests the capability or adaptability for giving aid. It was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant, counsel for the defense, an advocate; then, generally, one who pleads an other’s cause, an intercessor, advocate, as in 1Jo 2:1, of the Lord Jesus.
Joh 14:16. In the widest sense, it signifies a “succorer, comforter.” Christ was this to His disciples, by the implication of His word “another (allos, “another of the same sort,” not heteros, “different”) Comforter,” when speaking of the Holy Spirit, Joh 14:16. In Joh 14:26 15:26 16:7 He calls Him “the Comforter.” “Comforter” or “Consoler” corresponds to the name “Menahem” given by the Hebrews to the Messiah)
Or what is the difference between the word “law” in Rom 7:9 and in Rom 8:2? Furthermore, the context of the Bible as a whole must be included. The principle of “the comparison of Scripture” is a corrective to isolated interpretations and a guard against the danger of pet theories based upon limited data and personal experience over the clear teaching of the Word.
3. Discover the literary nature of the passage under study. Is it to be taken in the natural, normal sense of the language? Or is it figurative? Is it a narrative of events? Or is it discourse or academic material, meant to teach a specific idea? This calls for some knowledge of customs within the culture involved, and of the idioms by which ideas are made clear.
Often there is no problem in deciding matters of this kind. For example, the parables of Jesus are regarded as illustrations of ideas, figurative language to clarify concepts. Idea: the kingdom of heaven. Illustration: a man who sowed good seed in his field (Mat 13:24-30). Not so simple is the meaning of the words “a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea” (Rev 8:8). Is it a description of a meteorite-like object falling into the water? Or is it depicting the fall of some great ruler, rejected by God and cast down among men? Possibly more difficult yet is the interpretation of the phrase “a thousand years” (Rev 20:2-7). Does it mean an actual thousand years? Or a round number of years? Or a long period of time (regardless of specific length)? Or is it a symbol of completeness? The history of biblical interpretation shows that these questions are not always easily decided.
Work Shop example
The Numbers refer to Strongs Numbering system.
Jn 4:16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your  husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 “for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
LUK 1:27 To a virgin  espoused to a  man whose name was Joseph, 2CO 11:2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have (718) betrothed you to one (435) husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
Notice Jesus (when talking to the Samaritan used ἀνήρ (435) (anēr) A primary word (compare G444); a man (properly as an individual male): – fellow, husband, man, sir.
G444 ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos. We get our word Anthropology from this Gr. word.
718 harmozo, to joint, i.e. (fig.) to woo (reflex. to betroth) Found only in 2Cor. 11:2.
Sample of (KJV)
Greek: Count: Translation:
0435 00079 MEN
0435 00075 MAN
0435 00038 HUSBAND
0435 00012 HUSBANDS
0435 00006 SIRS
0435 00001 MAN’S
0435 00001 FELLOWS
Notice that this word is translated as Men, Man far more times than Husband, what makes the difference is the context.
LUK 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, (5) to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
MAT 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
Notice that an engaged (betrothed) lady is called a WIFE…
GK. mnesteuo (3423), “to woo and win, to espouse or promise in marriage,” is used in the passive voice in Mat 1:18; Luk 1:27 2:5, all with reference to the Virgin Mary, RV, “betrothed,” for KJV, “espoused,” in each case.
The betrothal. The selection of the bride was followed by the espousal (q.v.) or betrothal. It was a formal proceeding and far more binding than our engagement. The men who were to marry Lot’s daughters were already considered to be his sons‑in‑law (Gen 19:14, RSV).
Faced with these facts… What we know about her is (1), She may have been married all these times and her Husbands all died (it happens) (2). She was engaged five times and is not engaged to Number six. (3) A mix of all three. What we can’t call her at all from the Word is a Bad Lady… I rest my case…
4. Interpret the Bible in terms of the principle of progressive revelation. Put simply, this means that God revealed things gradually, not all at one time. Partly, this was because of the stages in which the divine program was being fulfilled (cf. Heb 1:1-2); partly, because of man’s state of unreadiness to receive and understand the message (cf. Joh 16:12).
On occasion, this principle involved adding to what had been given earlier. Jesus told His disciples, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now” (Joh 16:12); the Holy Spirit would teach them when He came. In other instances, there are a fuller interpretation of previous teachings, e.g., “You have heard that it was said… but I say unto you” (Mat 5:21-22). Here, our Lord explained the essential character of the commandments.
5. Interpret the language of the Bible regarding the natural world as that of appearance and popular rather than technical or scientific. Yet, at the same time, popular terminology is not synonymous with errant or invalid. The Bible does not theorize about nature; it simply states facts in a non-technical manner.
Illustrations of this form of language are found in expressions describing the sun rising (Ecc 1:5; Mat 5:45), or the earth having four corners (Isa 11:12) a form of speaking preserved in our speech until this day. Notice, too, the manner in which the various elements in the creation are described: a “firmament” (Gen 1:6-8); “grass,” “herb,” “fruit tree” (Gen 1:11); “living creature” and “fowl” (Gen 1:20). None of these are technical names. They are all common, popular terms, intelligible to the ordinary reader. Simply put, too, are observations of the water cycle of nature: the rivers flow from their sources into the sea; then by evaporation and condensation the waters return again to their sources (Ecc 1:7).
Another illustration of this same principle is found in the book of Ecclesiastes as a whole. The writer makes observations on various human experiences and natural conditions, then draws certain deductions therefrom. The book is essentially a commentary on life by nature, a continual round of activity, unsatisfying to the one caught in it. A final solution to the human dilemma occurs at the end of the book (12:13-14). To return to the question of the identification and interpretation of various literary types, a knowledge of these is indispensable to the interpreter. A concise discussion has been written by J.Stafford Wright from which the following are adapted, with some ad illustrations:
Literal fact: A statement of events as they occurred, to be interpreted in its simple sense e.g., JOH 1:35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
Substantial or compressed fact. A statement compressing irrelevant details in the interest of a main impression (cf. Luk 24:44-53 with Acts 1:1-11, the latter indicating that there were 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension, a fact not given in the former passage).
Metaphor: A word or group of words indicating a resemblance between two ordinarily different things e.g., Gen 2:7 which describes God’s creative activity under the figure of a potter; cf. (Rom 9:20-21).
Parable: A story based on an ordinary life situation, used to convey the meaning of an idea concept. See the examples in Luk 10:30-35 (where one point is basic, answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?”) and Mat 13:24-30,36-43 (where Jesus explains both the one point and the many details).
Symbol: An object or person which has no importance in itself, but rather in what it portrays. Many of these are found in the visionary apocalyptic writings (e.g., Dan 7:2-3,17; Rev 1:12,16,20), as well as in the prophets’ teaching techniques (e.g., Eze 37:15-28).
Type: An object or person having significance of its own, yet is used to represent something or someone else. While often abused by interpreters, the type holds a large place in Scripture. The original plan of the tabernacle (Acts 7:44; Heb 8:5), the first Adam (Rom 5:14), and the experiences of the Israelites in the wilderness (1Co 10:6, 11) are all called types (Gr. typos) of something greater. Probably the NT use of certain OT figures is the proper starting point for interpretation of others. See Type.
Allegory: The use of a story, which may or not be factual, to depict a certain truth. In Jdg 9:7-15 is one clear example; the story in the Song of Solomon may be another; while Paul’s use of Hagar and Sarah (Gal 4:21-31) seems to be a third.
Myth: While the use of this word is always in an unfavorable sense in the NT (1Ti 1:4; 4:7; 2Ti 4:4; Tit 1:14; 2Pe 1:16), probably resulting from the apostles’ response to Gnostic excesses, the term basically means an account, whether or not true in itself, used to teach a truth about human experience.
The interpreter of the Bible, therefore, needs genuine spiritual insight into that which he reads, and honest diligence in his pursuit of understanding. And what he understands ought to end in glory to God and to richness of life in Christ.
A final summary of the approach to study is as follows:
1. Read the text prayerfully, asking God for wisdom;
2. Study the immediate and surrounding contexts;
3. Give attention to other major related biblical passages;
4. Investigate available theological, historical Archaeological,and psychological / sociological evidences which bear upon the problem involved;
5. Choose the resulting interpretation which seems most inharmony with clear evidence (including the whole ofScripture);
6. Be willing to await further light rather than make a bad choice at the moment.
The Last Supper/Passover Feast.
The observation that the “cup” mentioned at the Last Supper is not mentioned in the account of the Passover meal.
Did Jesus taken some hermeneutical liberty or violated a hermeneutical principal in the use of the “cup” in the “Last Supper.” As you can see Ex. 12:23-24 and other related passages omits the use of any “cup” as you have clearly noted and that this is an ordinance that is to be observed forever.
EXO 12:23-24 Passover items:
– Lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year.
– Lambs blood
– Unleavened bread
– Bitter herbs
“LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. 24 “And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever”.
Remember, Jesus is The Master founder of hermeneutics having the authority to create or modify any institution. We do not. We know the OT as turbid and the NT as limpid. Jesus the Christ, was himself the Paschal Lamb, the spiritual Passover, of whom the Hebrew rite was a type.
As you can see the use of lamb’s blood was a vital part of the OT the Passover. The Passover meal was God’s covenant to His people regarding His salvation. This agreement was sealed with the blood of the lamb. “… an ordinance for you and your sons forever.”
- Two misunderstood and misapplied biblical passages concerning tattoos (rodneyhunt.wordpress.com)
- Learning Hermeneutics from Holmes (str.typepad.com)
- Duke Divinity Faculty on Scriptural Imagination (juicyecumenism.com)