Aug 22, 2007

I Love Hermeneutics

Ben Witherington, a professor of New Testament over at Asbury Theological Seminary (Wesleyan), published a post today on his blog that talks about hermeneutics. It's a very good post that nails a couple of points firmly down that everyone needs to understand.

Here's a couple...
"1) ‘What it meant is what it means’."

The way I like to say it is, "It can't mean what it didn't meant (sic)" which is a negative way of saying what he's saying. I hear people interpret the Bible all the time in ways that have no bearing whatsoever on what the author intended it to mean (as best we can tell) or how the original target audience would have understood it. That's a big problem.
"2) ‘Context is king’. One of the great, great dangers in modern interpretation of the Bible is proof-texting. What this amounts to is the strip-mining of certain key terms and ideas, linking them together with similar or the same words in other texts and contexts, and coming up with a meaning which none of the original texts had. "

Enough said. He gives a couple of examples. You gotta read the to the end of the post to hear about his encounter with some Flat-Landers. What an experience that must have been.

For Further Reading

I refer to D.A. Carson's Exegetical Fallacies about monthly after listening to sermons, reading articles online, and talking with others just to keep things in check. Very good book for reference.

If you want a comprehensive and accessible introduction to hermeneutics, I recommend The Hermeneutical Spiral.

We can't stop there though. As Anglican evangelicals we have to engage in good biblical theology that pays attention to the overall structure and thematic trajectory of Scripture.

Books like William Dumbrell's The Search for Order or Graeme Goldsworthy's Gospel and Kingdom are crucial, in my opinion, to get a good Christ-centered understanding of how to interpret Scripture. Newer books that I haven't read yet, but that are sure to be good are, Gospel Centered Hermeneutics and God's Big Picture.

For more detailed study, Jesus and the Old Testament or the more rare, The Israel of God in Prophecy are just outstanding.

Happy reading ... and interpreting.

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