Give diligence to present yourself approved by God, a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed, properly handling the Word of Truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
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Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation theory. Hermeneutics in the traditional and Christian sense refers to the use of interpretation of texts in the Bible.
Hermeneutics involves establishing important principles for understanding the Bible, and then interpreting it so its message is made clear to the reader or listener. It involves exegesis, which is the process of examining what the actual biblical text meant to the author and its original intended audience. It also involves contextualization or application of the meaning of the text in a contemporary context.
Taken together, both exegesis and contextualization are what comprises hermeneutics.
The goal in applying the principles of hermeneutics is to "rightly handle the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15) striving to accurately discern the meaning of the text.
There are a number of factors that need to be considered when interpreting the Bible. Understanding how these factors combine with accepting the Bible as God's word is an important challenge for each Christian.
Yourself - The Interpreter
No person interprets in a vacuum. It is important for the interpreter to consider how his culture and up-bringing influences his interpretation. Although it is impossible to completely remove personal bias and cultural understanding, recognizing it as a factor in interpretation is extremely helpful.
The Author's Purpose and His Original Audience
Understanding that the author wrote the text for certain purposes is very helpful. For example, realising that one rason the apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew was to show his Jewish audience that Jesus is the Messiah helps shed light on why Matthew so often makes reference to the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah.
Not only is there a gap of at least 1,900 years between the original author of a book and the person reading and interpreting the Bible today, but there was often a gap between when the author wrote the book and the events he described. For example, the apostle John wrote his account of Jesus' life decades after Jesus' ministry, death and resurrection. Other authors wrote about events they did not witness, such as Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts after speaking to eye-witnesses. Much of the Old Testament authors wrote about events that happened generations earlier.
The Bible tells the history of a people over many centuries. Their culture changed and developed with time and in many ways is very different from the cultures of Christians today. Understanding the cultural contexts and meaning of customs can be very helpful in better interpreting the intended message.
The Old Testament was mostly written in Hebrew and partially in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek. Naturally it is a complex task to translate these ancient languages in modern day languages. This is especially the case with words that have ambigious or unclear meanings.
Futhermore, when the gospels quote the words of Jesus, it must be remembered that Jesus likely spoke Aramaic, yet the gospel writers wrote in Greek, and so these are translations of Jesus' words by men for whom Greek was not their mother tongue.
Genre - Style
History of Hermeneuetics
Apostolic Hermeneutics - The Apostles Interpretation of the Old Testament
The way in which the apostles understood and interpreted the Old Testament showed many similarities to contemporary Jewish hermemeutics, but also marked differences. Examination of the apostles' usage of the Old Testament reveals a Christological approach to understanding it, that is, they saw the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus as the fulfilment of Scripture.
Hermeneutics in the early church
Hermeneutics in the Middle Ages
Hermeneutics in the Reformation
Recent developments in Hermeneutics