Hermeneutic question

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by ReformedBaptist, Oct 12, 2010.

  1. ReformedBaptist

    ReformedBaptist
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    Ok, here is my kind request: If you have no idea what your talking about, please don't reply. lol In other words, if your not at least somewhat familiar with the study of hermeneutics, and especially the various schools of thought in biblical hermeneutics, then you may not be able to answer my question.

    I'll give a personal example. I became confused about some questions regarding Greek roots and declensions. My pastor lovingly told me, "Your asking questions beyond your learning. Wait till you take Greek." Basically he said, your questions are dumb son, hold off to Greek 101. hahaha! I love it.

    So here is my question:

    Consider the following, "The Bible should be interpreted in the same manner, that is, by the same principles, as any other book."

    I do not think the idea presented above is saying the Bible is just like any other book. It's saying it should be interpreted under the same principles. For some reason this is just not sitting well with me. I don't believe then in resorting to allegorical or mystical interpretations. Yet, where is the illumination of the Spirit along with this grammatico-historical method?
     
  2. dwmoeller1

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    A lot depends on what he means by such a statement. For instance, he may be promoting a historical-critical method in which case he means that one should approach the interpretation with the assumption of no prophetical foresight on the part of the writers.

    But he might just be saying that one should apply the same basic principles that one would when interpreting others books - ie. interpretation is not some mystical process when applied to the Bible but follows the same basic logic and processes as used for understanding other books...with the caveat that it must be understood that authors often had God inspired insight.
     
  3. ReformedBaptist

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    The author is committed to the inspiration of Scripture and miracles, et. He is promoting the grammatico-historical hermeneutic.
     
  4. glfredrick

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    I really don't have a problem with that statement. But, a lot could be read into (or between) the statement and the actual practice -- just like it can be done in our study of the Bible.

    A good hermeneutic will have expressly stated steps that are followed consistently. I've not always found that good hermeneutics are followed by a lot of people, they making "special rules" for the interpretation of Scripture versus other things they work with, largely based on tradition or some other "spiritual" (or spiritual sounding) notion.

    A few steps to a good interpretation:

    • What is being read?
    • To whom was it addressed and what was the occasion?
    • Who is saying what and why?
    • What is the genre (evangelistic tract, historical, allegory, poetry, apocalyptic, etc.)?
    • What is the surrounding context?
    • What is the context of the entire pericope?
    • What is the context of the entire book or letter?
    • Which difficulties are raised in the interpretation of the text?
    • Can those difficulties be explained by another more simple text in the same letter, testament, or the entire Bible?
    • If the difficulty is a particular word, how is that word used elsewhere, what is its usage in context? If that cannot be discerned, how was it used in the ancient literature apart from the Scriptures?
    • What are the inferences of the passage?
    • From those direct inferences, can some principles be formulated that will assist our living God's plan in our own culture and situation?

    If these questions are asked honestly of the text, the likely outcome will not be one that misses the mark, but there is more. There are some "big pictures" in the Scriptures -- overarching principles of God -- that transcend any individual "proof-texted" passage. For instance, God's missional work, God's glory and righteous worship of our glorious God for another, and the immutability of God for a third. When we read and apply a good hermeneutic to a passage or pericope, how do these big overarching principles (or doctrines) of God play into the passage?
     
  5. dwmoeller1

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    I am not seeing the problem then. Sometimes the grammatico-historical method leads to an allegorical or mystical interpretation.
     
  6. jrscott

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    Perhaps a quote from Zuck may help:

    "In approaching the Bible it is a self-evident truth that the Bible is a book. Like other books it is written in languages spoken by people for the purpose of communicating ideas from the writers to the readers.

    Another obvious observation about the Bible is that it is a divine book. It is clear that the Bible, though like other books, is unique in that it has a divine origin." (Basic Bible Interpretation, 59)

    In other words, God condescended to us to speak to us through the normal use of human language. Therefore, all the rules of normal human languageapply. The Bible should be read according to clear principles of communication. Once this revelation was recorded (inspired), then all the normal rules of written communication and literature come into play (ie. hermeneutics). This in no way compromises the Scriptures' divine origin or supernatural ability to change lives and bring people to salvation. If anything, it's common sense. If God wanted to speak to us, He had to speak in terms and language that we can understand.

    On the other hand, the Spirit helps us to come to an understanding of the text. Illumination is a debated subject, but my personal opinion is that it happens through several means including but not necessarily limited to - the hard work of study, explanation by human teachers, convincing us of its truth, and helping us in the application throughout our lives.

    Hope this helps.

    Randy
     
    #6 jrscott, Oct 13, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 13, 2010
  7. glfredrick

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    Truth is, we don't need a "mystical" or "spiritual" reading of the Bible to cause us to worship God or fall on our faces before Him. Just a plain reading will do... :thumbs:

    Sometimes, we almost end up in the gnostic camp by the way we turn what is reasonably plain language into something "spiritual" and allagorical. We know what we are told, in the original context, by the original writer. To say otherwise is speculation. Yet, how many people do just that?
     
  8. Siberian

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    I think that statement is correct, with one caveat. Unlike other books, we approach the Bible with certain very appropriate presuppositions. These, of course, influence our hermeneutic in a unique way.
     
  9. ReformedBaptist

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    That helps a lot. Thank you.
     
  10. dwmoeller1

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    A plain reading often means that a mystical or spiritual reading is called for. This dichotomy between spiritual/mystical and plain makes no sense. It just sounds like someone is arguing for wooden literalism...which I don't think you are doing but the dichotomy makes it seem that way.

    If the author intended to convey mystical or spiritual meaning then we should be reading it in that light.
     
  11. Greektim

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    I would have whole-heartedly agreed with that statement a while ago. That is, until I started studying Hebrew. The mere fact that ancient Hebrew literature was written and reads so very differently than the way we read and write, it is hard to make a 1 to 1 correspondance except on a cursory level. Examples of this would be intertextuality, punning, play on words, and loan words.

    And then, you have to consider that the hermeneutical practice of first century Jews and even the apostles. The way they read and interpreted literature would be consistent with the statement above if contained within their own historic-cultural setting. But we don't interpret the way they did. So there is a time gap to deal with as well.
     
  12. ReformedBaptist

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    Understand the times and cultural setting of who wrote and and so on is part of the grammatico-historical school is it not?
     
  13. Greektim

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    It is, but that's not what I am talking about. From a linguistic point of view, a "natural" reading is not what we would think of it. When authors would play on words (even loan words), we have a hard time grasping that in English and have a difficult time putting that in hermeneutical parameters. Exodus 10:10 is a great example with the word "ra". Not only do we miss punning in English, but how do we explain this within the realm of hermeneutics? This has to be more than a natural reading, because there is emphasis that is read between the lines.

    And then you have the idea of canonical hermeneutics and canonical inspiration. Example, the order of the Psalms was done by an editor, many are now believing with a theological emphasis (Christological really). Same with Proverbs. Obviously, there is much to be gained from the historical setting of the Psalm, but a plain reading into the context of other Psalms around does not exist. Yet there may be some validity in that.

    And the historical setting I was referring to was to understand how 1st century Jews interpreted - midrash, pesher, and so on. They definitely interpreted in a way that we would say goes against our understanding of "plain". But it was plain for them. Their hermeneutic is not ours. Does that mean they were right? Does that mean we should switch to their hermeneutic? This is why I like to claim what Robert L. Thomas claims - I don't consider myself a hermeneutical theoretician but rather an exegetical practitioner. :D
     
    #13 Greektim, Oct 16, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 16, 2010

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