Just what is hermeneutics?

Walter C. Kaiser defines hermeneutics as the art of interpretation.[1] The concept of hermeneutics is the desire of man to learn the meaning of the Scriptures. Osborne presents a similar viewpoint, “Hermeneutics is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘to interpret.’ Traditionally it has meant that science which delineates principles or methods for interpreting an individual author’s meaning.”[2]

Exegesis, used many times when discussing hermeneutics, consists of drawing out of the Scriptures the meaning of the selected passages. Michael J. Gorman points out the position of Rudolph Bultmann concerning exegesis, “However, as Rudolph Bultmann, the great German biblical scholar of the first half of the twentieth century said, there is no exegesis without presuppositions.”[3] No matter the age, education, or experience, each person brings a particular set of presuppositions to the endeavor. These presuppositions can restrict or hinder the ability of the individual to discover the original meaning of the Scriptures.

Three areas need to be understood as members of the twenty-first century seeking to understand and discover the meaning of the Scriptures written over two thousand years ago. The Scriptures are in a different language, out of a different culture, and by a different people. The effort to understand the Scriptures will necessitate an investigation into language, cultural attributes, and the society at the time. The meaning of the Scriptures is simple and understandable; the process is not.

[1] Walter C. Kaiser and Moises Silva, An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1994), p. 11.

[2] Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, p. 21.

[3] Michael J. Gorman, Elements of Biblical Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), p. 27.


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