Hermeneutics: Understanding the Bible
- January 29, 2020
- Lydia McCord
Last week we chatted about reading the Bible, the Word of God, for ourselves. I mentioned a couple reasons why it was important and gave advice just to start. I have some more advice, things that were taught to me that really should be taught to everyone.
Growing up I just kind of picked up the Bible and flipped to a random verse read it and moved on. Relate? Yeah I feel like every other book on the planet we read start to finish but the most incredible story of all time we just read chunks here and chunks there and end up with a very chunky gathering of misunderstood pieces.
When I took my first Biblical Theology classes in Costa Rica, we had a teacher teach on “Hermeneutics” which means to explain or interpret, in this case the art and science of biblical interpretation. This concept and practice changed my life. It absolutely blew my mind that the Bible told one cohesive, incredible story.
So how do we “do” this hermeneutics thing? Here are a couple of key factors:
The first – context is key. The chapter, book, verse, and part of the Bible is vital to interpretation. We need to ask questions like – who is this being written to? What time period in history is this during? In what culture is this being written in? To what culture is this being written? Because the Bible was not written TO us, though it was written for us. When we just flip open the Word, scan for a verse, write it down and close up the Word, we lose all of the context and usually interpret what we’ve ripped out completely wrong. This practice of ignoring the context of the Bible leads people astray.
We need to use an inductive way of study when we read the Word of God. Inductive means we read a verse then look at the key words, then look at the chapter context and then the culture that it’s written in.
We need to AVOID using a deductive way of study which is reading a verse and interpreting it by bringing in our opinions, experiences, sermons we’ve heard, etc. this type of study develops a biased opinion on what we believe and does not allow the Word to speak for Himself.
Next we have to acknowledge that there is only one single interpretation but many applications of scripture. Truth is truth it’s not relative or contradicting. Let’s stop asking, “what did that mean to you?” And start asking – “what did the author MEAN for it to mean??” Let the Bible speak for the Bible.
A great question to ask is – is this true for all nations? All people everywhere? Because if it’s not, it’s not the truth. The gospel is meant for all people everywhere. If you have interpreted something in the Word that could only be true for the upper class then it’s not the gospel.
Thirdly we have to meditate on the Word. Chew on it. This takes discipline and intentionality. My teacher related it to “chewing the cud” you know like when an animal with multiple stomachs chews up and swallows something, partially digests it and then regurgitates it and re-chews, re-swallows and repeats? THATS what we are supposed to do with the WORD… except not like completely literally because that would be in bad taste… pun intended. Okay, moving on!
There is so much more to lay out but I think this is an fantastic place to begin if you are beginning.
I encourage you, dear reader, to dive into hermeneutical study of the Bible. It changed my life completely.