Hermeneutics, is the discipline concerned with ‘Interpreting the Scriptures Correctly,’ or as stated in 2 Timothy 2. 15, “…rightly dividing the Word of God” (KJV)
Hermeneutics at an academic level can be a vast and complex business, yet any student of the Bible can grasp the elements of the matter. Indeed, whether one is a preacher or teacher of God’s Word, a leader of a Home Group, a Sunday School teacher or simply reading the Bible for one’s own spiritual nourishment, it is important to have a few important Hermeneutic Principles under one’s belt.
These fall naturally into two groups namely:
- Principles of Context
- Principles of Interpretation
So here is a Pocket Pack of Hermeneutic Principles which I hope will be found useful by any student of the Scriptures wishing to unlock their rich treasure:
The Master Key
The purposes and character of God are fulfilled and revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.
As the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testaments speak of Him, so He affirms their truthfulness and authority.
Principles of Context
1. The text must be understood within the context of the passage in which it occurs
2. The text must be understood within the context of the book and the literary genre in which it occurs.
3. The text must be understood within the sweep and thrust of the entire Bible.
4. The context of the writer must be taken into account.
5. The purpose of the writer must be taken into account.
6. While we take note of the historical context of the text, in applying it to our current context, we yet allow Scripture to be the yardstick for what is pleasing and acceptable to God. We do not allow our context to be the yardstick for what is acceptable in Scripture.
Principles of Interpretation
1. Scripture is its own interpreter: one text will expand upon or give insight into another.
2. The New Testament interprets the Old.
3. John’s Gospel interprets the Synoptic Gospels
4. The Epistles interpret the Gospels.
5. The systematic and didactic Epistles such as Romans and Galatians, interpret the historic and incidental.
6. The universal interprets the local and cultural.
7. The clear interprets the obscure.
8. There is an unfolding (or progressive) revelation evidenced in Scripture such that our understanding of God and his purposes both creative and redemptive become clearer and fuller as they are revealed “line upon line and precept upon precept.”
9. Taking due account of the above principles, unless there is compelling Scriptural evidence to the contrary, the plain meaning of the text is the true meaning.
In earlier posts we explained ‘The Master Key’ and also Principle 8. more fully.
In subsequent posts we may tease out certain other of the above principles in order to make them clearer.