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Hermeneutics 11 – Introduction to Grammatico-Historical Interpretation

November 26, 2012

We will now move on to the principles of grammatico-historical interpretation.  The first part of this survey defined hermeneutics and offered a very brief overview of various historical approaches to interpretation.  We will now move on to what many consider the proper method of determining the meaning of any passage of Scripture.

I believe as we move through the various principles of grammatico-historical interpretation, you will see that most of the considerations are intuitive to proper communication.  In other words, even if we do not recognize it, we apply these principles to our every day conversations.  If we did not apply these principles, communication would be impossible.  Let me offer a most basic example.

Imagine we are at a seminar and the last session has just finished.  I immediately turn to you and say, ” I liked that speaker.”  How would you know what I meant by the term “speaker”?  Why is it that, most likely, when you just now read the statement above, you immediately thought I was referring to the person who spoke at the seminar?  Didn’t the context in which the term was used demand its referent or meaning?  It would have been odd if in such a context you thought I meant the SONY B300o in your living room.  Now it is possible I meant the PA system that was used at the seminar but the context would make that unlikely.  I probably would have clarified that I was speaking of the audio equipment and not the human speaker since it would have been so easy  for you to misunderstand me.  This is a basic concept that we use every day.  Paying attention to the context is just one principle that is used in grammatico-historical interpretation.

For the remainder of our posts on hermeneutics we will discuss many principles, like the one above, that help us to properly read and interpret the Bible.  Basically, grammatico-historical interpretation recognizes that the authors of Scripture wrote in specific social, political, cultural, geographical, and linguistic contexts.  The proponents of this method of interpretation (with which I agree) believe that we can better understand the writings of these authors the better we understand the various contexts within which they lived and communicated.

We will see that recognizing the various literary genres of the Bible will aid us in understanding God’s message to us.  The genres of Scripture consist of, but are not limited to, historical narrative, poetry, prophesy, parable, epistle and apocalypse.  As we begin next week, we will try to start with the principles that I believe transcend every genre of Scripture.  In other words, there are certain principles that will aid our understanding of any passage of Scripture regardless of its genre.  After we have established these principles, we will begin to discuss to principles that are more unique to each specific genre.  In case I have not been clear , all this really means is that we want to make sure we do not read poetry exactly the same way we read historical narratives.  Likewise, we don’t want to read an epistle the same way we read a proverb.  I think this will all make more sense as we move along in these posts.

On a side note, I have been writing every Monday and Thursday.  However, for now, I will be limiting these posts to Mondays only.  Therefore the normal two posts a week will be reduced to one per week.  I am excited to begin to discuss grammatico-historical interpretation with you!

From → Hermeneutics

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