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Hermeneutics

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A Latin Bible handwritten in 1407 AD.

Hermeneutics is the science or practice of understanding text (theory of interpretation). Although there are secular applications, the term was used originally to stand for the field of biblical interpretation.[1] The philosophy or methodology assumes the Bible remains as written, but that its interpretation changes between historical periods, across cultures, etc. It is a qualitative research tradition that uses these diverse experiences of people as a tool for understanding the social, cultural, political, and the overall historical context in which interpretations occur.

The Oxford Companion to the Bible defines hermeneutics as;

inquires into the conditions under which the interpretation of biblical texts may be judged possible, faithful, accurate, responsible, or productive in relation to some specified goal.

A Christ-centered hermeneutic is what produces "faithful, accurate, responsible, or productive" interpretations. Without hermeneutics based around the life and work of Christ, endless false critiques of Christianity usually emerge. These criticisms may be rooted within the biblical text itself at first, but eventually fail at giving Jesus Christ due relevance to all the word of God, thus critics tend to practice eisegesis in this regard. The point is to let the text speak to you on its own terms without human bias inserting itself. Jesus Christ explicitly taught His relevance in the diligent searching of Scriptures which is why He would be the "specified goal" when reading the Bible. Juxtaposing a Christian hermeneutic against a first century Rabbinic hermeneutic within the book of John, Christ states;

39"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. John 5:39-40 (NASB)

Hermeneutics deals with issues such as whether the Bible should be viewed as history or mythological. It may include the process of exegesis but is broader in scope, as it entails a study of biblical texts in order to understand not only the historical aspects of the writings but also the significance of these documents for the present. Christians and creationists contend that while some ancient literature is mythological in a symbolic fiction sense, other ancient literature is historical and metaphorical.. Critically studying types of interpretive methods to represent honestly the interpretation of a particular passage, and therefore characteristics of the literature itself, mythological fiction and history can be distinguished by their not only style but content. Historicity is found within the context of the historical method and the scientific method as well as other related disciplines which are used as checks and balances when reading so that a logical and reasonable, or historical-critical interpretation is the result.

Methods

Exegesis

Main Article: Exegesis

Exegesis (from the Greek: ἐξηγεῖσθαι, exēgēisthai; "Name means::to lead out") is a critical exposition, commentary or interpretation of ancient texts, especially religious books such as the Bible or Qur'an. The opposite of an exegetical reading of Scripture is eisegesis and instead of reading out what the text plainly presents it reads into the text what the reader is influenced by.

Eisegesis

Main Article: Eisegesis

Eisegesis means "reading in" and refers to the practice of inserting personal ideas into interpretation of a text preconceived through the philosophy of a worldview. Eisegesis leads inexorably to erroneous interpretations, in that it does not allow the Bible to speak to you on its own terms.[2] Eisegesis generally found widespread success as an intellectual critique of Christianity within liberal Christian theology embraced during the Enlightenment. The ancient Platonist philosophy influenced academic skepticism, at one point questioning any true knowledge,[3] and may be seen as an historical root that grew into the later opposition of a historical-critical/grammatical exegesis.

References

  1. It Does Not Matter What the Bible Means to You by C Michael PattonMay 17th, 2009
  2. African Pastor: 'Jesus Was An Aids Victim' Emma Hurd, Africa correspondent. September 03, 2010
  3. Platonism By Wikipedia