Four Key Principles of Exegesis

  1. Introduction and Review

    1. Determine the Author’s Intended Meaning (Neh. 8:1-9; Luke 8:5-15)

      1. What did the author (and the Holy Spirit) intend to communicate?

        • A given text has a single meaning although it may have multiple applications.

      2. How would the initial audience have understood it?

        • Individuals properly equipped according to Lesson 1

        • If it is God’s Word to God’s people, then #1 and #2 must be synonymous in order for effective communication to occur.

    2. The Meaning of a Text is Genre Dependent

      1. define genre: A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even (as in the case of fiction) length.

      2. give examples: historical narrative; poetry; proverbs/wisdom; parables; prophecy; didactic

    3. Context is the Key to Interpretation

      1. Historical Context

        The grammatico-historical exegete, furnished with suitable qualifications, intellectual, educational, and moral, will accept the claims of the Bible without prejudice or adverse prepossession, and, with no ambition to prove them true or false, will investigate the language and import of each book with fearless in dependence. He will master the language of the writer, the particular dialect which he used, and his peculiar style and manner of expression. He will inquire into the circumstances under which he wrote, the manners and customs of his age, and the purpose or object which he had in view. He has a right to assume that no sensible author will be knowingly inconsistent with himself, or seek to bewilder and mislead his readers. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, p.70

        It is of the first importance, in interpreting a written document, to ascertain who the author was, and to determine the time, the place, and the circumstances of his writing, the historical The interpreter should, therefore, endeavor to take himself from the present, and to transport himself into the historical position of his author, look through his eyes, note his surroundings, feel with his heart, and catch his emotion. Herein we note the import of the term grammatico-historical interpretation. We are not only to grasp the grammatical import of words and sentences, but also to feel the force and bearing of the historical circumstances which may in any way have affected the writer. Hence, too, it will be seen how intimately connected may be the object or design of a writing and the occasion which prompted its composition. The individuality of the writer, his local surroundings, his wants and desires, his relation to those for whom he wrote, his nationality and theirs, the character of the times when he wrote all these matters are of the first importance to a thorough interpretation of the several books of Scripture.Ibid, p.129

      2. Literary (or Grammatical) Context

        The grammatico-historical sense of a writer is such an interpretation of his language as is required by the laws of grammar and the facts of history. Sometimes we speak of the literal sense, by which we mean the most simple, direct, and ordinary meaning of phrases and sentences. By this term we usually denote a meaning opposed to the figurative or metaphorical. The grammatical sense is essentially the same as the literal, the one expression being derived from the Greek, the other from the Latin. But in English usage the word grammatical is applied rather to the arrangement and construction of words and sentences. By the historical sense we designate, rather, that meaning of an author s words which is required by historical considerations. It demands that we consider carefully the time of the author, and the circumstances under which he wrote. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, p.101

    4. The Text Itself Must be Given Priority

      1. A spiral from inductive to deductive reasoning (46:00 ff) (interpretation)

        • inductive reasoning: from facts (evidence) to propositions

        • deductive reasoning: from proposition to demonstration of truth of proposition (from general to specific)

        • How it works: gain an understanding of the text – formulate propositions & hypotheses – verify validity of hypotheses by comparison of Scripture with Scripture

        • Propositions plainly stated in Scripture rule. e.g., All have sinned; God is love; I am the way, truth, life; All Scripture is given…

      2. A spiral from text to context (50:54 ff) (application)

        • from the text of the Bible to the context in which we live

        • in both cases the text of Scripture sets the agenda

        • the meaning of the text controls the contextualization and application

    5. Clarification of the meaning of the phrase, “interpreting the Bible literally.”

      1. interpret the passage according to the natural meaning of the text

        • dependent on genre – poetic, parabolic, didactic, proverbial, etc.

        • use of figurative language

          1. metonymy – substitute one word for another: hoary head; kill the passover; circumcision and uncircumcision (for Jews and Gentiles)

          2. synechdoche – the whole used for the part or vice versa: 276 souls

          3. personification – give animation to inanimate objects: the hills leap for joy

          4. hyperbole – exaggeration either large or small: eye of a needle; as many as the stars of heaven

          5. irony – saying the opposite of what is meant: Elijah and the prophets of Baal, 1 Kings 18


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