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Hermeneutical booklet

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Hermeneutics

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Hermeneutical booklet

  1. 1. TNTHermeneutical Principles Launching Pastoral Training Movements Worldwide
  2. 2. Illustration Infant Child AdultWe can think of understanding the Bible the way we might think of knowing a person.Think of your life in three stages – infancy, childhood, and adulthood. Who would knowyou the best? The person who only knew you as an infant? The person who only knewyou as an adult? The person that would know you best is the person who has known youat every stage—from a baby to a child to who you are today as an adult. They wouldknow the history of your beginnings, your development as a child, and the reality of whoyou have come to be. Understanding God’s promises and plan in the Bible works much the same way. Wemight think of the first stage as the first five books of the Moses, the second stage asthe writings and the prophets, and the final stage as Jesus and the New Testament. Whatis there in the first five books in its infancy is developed and explained through thewritings and prophets. Finally, it is fully developed and realized in Christ. In Himeverything is fulfilled, and the New Testament explains that. The person who looks at a promise or some significant Biblical truth only from the OldTestament does not see the full reality of it. At the same time, the person who looks atthat significant idea only from the New Testament doesn’t see the fullness of it either,because he doesn’t see its beginning and how it has developed through the OldTestament. Through Biblical theology, we want to know a truth from God’s Word allthroughout its development – from beginning through its fulfillment. This is difficult to do. It requires a knowledge of the Bible and how each part relates tothe theological message of the whole. 17
  3. 3. Biblical TheologyWhat is Biblical Theology? Biblical theology is a way of looking at the Bible that sees the big picture of its overarching story and how each part connects with the rest. It sees how God’s plan Contents unfolds to reveal Himself and His purpose – all with its focus and fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Staying on the Line ..........................................................3How the Story Ends and Begins The closing pages of the Bible in Revelation 21–22 help us to see what the Bible’s Text and Framework........................................................4 story is all about. They reveal how God will ultimately fulfill his purpose and plan. The Basics of Inductive Bible Study ..............................5 When we compare the ending (Revelation 21–22) with the beginning (Genesis 1–3), we begin to see the important connections and significant ideas in the opening pages that help us understand the story as a whole. We also see the tragedy and Asking Good Questions ..................................................6 loss that make everything written in the pages in between so crucial and necessary. The Egg Illustration .........................................................7The Promise and Person that Connect It All Together The Egg Yolk – The Text .................................................8 The thread that connects the beginning and end of the story and holds it all together is the promise of God that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ – in a word, it is the The Egg White – The Historical Context .......................9 gospel. The promise of God is an unfolding one. God, in His grace, gave the first promise of The Egg Shell – The Biblical Context...........................10 salvation in the Garden in the face of judgment and death after Adam and Eve’s disobedience. The storyline moves forward as God, throughout the Old Testament, Traveling Instructions...................................................11 gives His promises to Abraham, King David, and the prophets. Finally, God’s promise is fulfilled in Jesus Christ – in who He is and what He came to Getting the Big Idea .......................................................12 do. Seeing Jesus as the focus and fulfillment of Scripture gives us the interpretive key to unlock its meaning. Finding the Big Idea of a Book .....................................13 The task of Biblical theology is to see how Christ fulfills God’s promises in the Bible, and it is the task of the gospel preacher to proclaim that truth. Structure ..........................................................................14 Genre ................................................................................15 Biblical Theology............................................................16 16
  4. 4. GenreWhat Is Genre?“Genre” is a word that refers to the type or kind of literature or written material that wefind in the Bible. We know the different kinds of genres by differences in literary featureslike the style of writing, the form, the content, and purpose of what is written.Different Genres in the BibleThere are many different literary genres found in the Bible. Below are some of the majorgenres generally recognized in the Bible (with a list of books that contain that kind ofgenre): Historical Genesis, the first half of Exodus, Numbers, all of the books narrative from Joshua through Esther, and Jonah Law The last half of Exodus; Leviticus; Deuteronomy Wisdom Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes Poetry Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations Prophecy All of the books from Isaiah through Obadiah and Micah through Malachi Apocalyptic Daniel and Revelation Gospel Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and perhaps Acts Epistle All of the New Testament books from Romans through JudeAlthough whole books of the Bible are usually associated with certain genres (as they areabove), each book of the Bible can contain different genres within it or subgenres – morespecific classifications of literary genres.Why Is Genre Important? “Genre is the key to understanding what sort of information a Biblical author is trying to convey.”1 “Until you know the purpose and kind of a text, what it intends to say or convey, you don’t know how to read it properly” (C. S. Lewis).2 Knowing the genre gives us certain clues (even understood rules) for how to read and interpret the meaning of a text.1 A summary by Ben Witherington of a part of a book reviewed in “The Living Word of God (in an Age of Truth Decay)”(October 31, 2007) at http://benwitherington.blogspot.com.2 Quoted indirectly by Ben Witherington, “Hermeneutics – A Guide for Perplexed Bible Readers” (August 21, 2007) athttp://benwitherington.blogspot.com 15
  5. 5. Structure Staying on the Line What does it mean to “stay on the line”? Staying on the line illustrates the task of the teacher or preacher to discover what Message of the God has actually said in His Word and to preach or teach nothing more and nothing passage less. The line itself represents what God actually says in His Word: God’s Word Major ideas of the passage To go above the line means to add something that is not really there – to say moreWhat is structure? than what God’s Word says. Going above the line means to add something that God The structure of a passage involves: (1) units of information – the sections of a did not say. It leads to error often in the form of legalism. passage that contain the major ideas of the passage – and their arrangement To fall below the line means to leave something out that is there – to not be wholly within the passage, and (2) the patterns of words and thoughts that connects the true and faithful to what God’s Word is saying. It leaves something out of the truth ideas in a passage together. of what God says and often leads to liberalism. The task of the preacher or teacher of God’s Word is to discover and stick to theWhy is structure important? line of God’s Word. He is not to go above it, saying more than God said, nor is he to Seeing the structure helps us identify the major ideas of the passage as well as go below it, saying less than God said. how an author has designed the development of thought between them. Structure is important for our preaching and teaching because we want to make What does staying on the line involve? sure that the way we arrange the ideas in our teaching in the way the author 1) Carefully discerning and understanding what God’s Word actually says. arranged his thoughts in the passage. An awareness and understanding of structure in the Bible brings a clarifying power to our preaching. 2) Communicating it faithfully in our teaching and preaching and living.How do you find the structure of a passage? The Importance of Staying on the Line Divide the passage. Divide the passage into units of information – sections that The Nature of God’s Word contain the major ideas of the passage. Where one idea ends and another begins Right from Genesis 1, we find that God’s words are beyond compare. From there is where you should divide the passage into sections. After finding the major and through the rest of the Bible we see that His Word is powerful, life-giving, sections, look for smaller divisions where smaller ideas develop the larger idea. good, and certain. Look for patterns. Every passage has a logical flow to it created by patterns of Going above the line, saying more than God’s Word says, leads to error often in words or thoughts. Try to identify these patterns by looking for key literary the form of legalism. features. Going below the line, not saying all that God’s Word says, leads to error in the Look especially for: Also look for: form of liberalism. Repetitions How a passage begins and ends Progressions Commands Our Task as Preachers and Teachers Contrasts and comparisons We have an awesome privilege and responsibility to preach and teach God’s Identical ideas as bookends words and not our own. Questions asked and answered Like Timothy, we have been charged with a sacred duty: to preach the Word (2 Key transitions, summary statements, Timothy 4:2)! We must be faithful to what God has said. or a climax We want people to hear God’s voice rather than our own – His truth rather than Steps for finding the structure. man’s opinion and ideas. Look for shifts in thought. Divide the passage. What does staying on the line require? Look for patterns. A commitment to God’s Word Describe the major ideas. Diligence and care in handling it and living it out faithfully Find the connections between the major ideas. Now, in light of all this, what is the Big Idea of this passage? 14 3
  6. 6. Text and Framework Finding the Big Idea of a BookThe Principle: We must allow the Bible to shape our framework rather than allowing our What is the Big Idea of a Book?framework to control how we understand and teach the Bible. Just like the Big Idea of a passage, the Big Idea of a book is a statement thatWhat do we mean by “text” and “framework”? captures the main idea of what the book is really saying—its central message. The text is any passage from the Bible that we might study and preach or teach. The Big Idea is the overall message of a book. It is the theme that runs through A framework is our basic way of thinking. It affects how we read and understand it and unites all of the thoughts together as a whole. The better we understand the text. the Big Idea, the better we will communicate each part of the book.More on “What is a Framework?” Why Is the Big Idea Important? A framework is a person’s basic way of thinking. It is the underlying thought It acknowledges that the writer had a message he was trying to communicate with the structure that shapes his understanding about everything. It organizes all of his whole book, not just different ideas in separate passages. thoughts and holds them all together. Everyone has a framework. It develops over time by our parents’ teaching, our How Do We Find the Big Idea of a Book? education, culture, personal experience, and our place in history. Finding the big idea of a book is much like finding the big idea of a passage. During our lives we encounter new information. We have to figure out how it fits in 1. Read through the book several times. with our previous understanding of things. In the end, we either decide to ignore or reject new information or take it in and allow it to reshape our framework. 2. Ask lots of questions.How frameworks affect how we read the Bible When we sit down to study the Bible, we bring our framework with us – including 3. Look for clues to the Big Idea in the way the book begins and ends. Often a the way we see and understand God, man, sin, Christ, suffering, redemption, and writer introduces the main reason he is writing as he opens the book and many other important things. comes back to it as he closes. Frameworks, in and of themselves, are not necessarily bad. They are necessary. However, they can influence the way we understand the text. 4. Break the book into smaller sections and try to summarize what those sections are about. The ideas in the sections of the book make up theThe text should rule over and shape our framework. supporting ideas for the larger big idea. We believe that the Bible is from God (2 Peter 1:21), inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16a), without error (Matthew 5:17-18), and sufficient for our faith and practice 5. Ask: What are the connections of thought between the sections of the book? (2 Timothy 3:16b). Understanding how they relate helps us to see what the author is getting at. Yet we often do not recognize when our framework overpowers the way we understand the text, and sometimes, even when we are aware of it, we are unwilling 6. Look for the repetition of key words and ideas. to let go of our framework. In order to rightly understand God’s Word and preach it faithfully, we must let the 7. Ask the two questions: “What is this book talking about? What is it saying text rule over and shape our framework. about what it’s talking about?” Where there is a difference between the text and our framework, we must recognize it and allow the text to control and shape our understanding. We must not ignore How Should We State the Big Idea? the text or make it say what we want it to say. We must understand and preach Just like the big idea of a passage, state the big idea of a book in a sentence. God’s Word for what it really says. We must ask God to help us see the text with fresh eyes, become aware of our own First, answer the two questions, framework, and truly understand what He is saying through His Word. “What is this book talking about?What often happens: What should happen: What is it saying about what it is talking about?”Our framework influences and shapes The text rules over andour understanding of the text. shapes our framework. Then state the answers to those questions as a complete thought in a sentence: “This book is saying that .” F T t f 4 13
  7. 7. Getting the Big Idea The Basics of Inductive Bible StudyWhat is the Big Idea of a passage of Scripture? What Is Inductive Bible Study? It is the main point or main idea of what a passage of Scripture is saying. “Inductive” describes a kind of approach to understanding something. It beginsThe Importance of Finding the Big Idea with the facts and allows those pieces of evidence to lead to a conclusion. It is the In Scripture: opposite of “deduction” – beginning with a conclusion and using it to explain the It helps us to discover what God is saying through a passage of Scripture. facts. It helps us to see the focal point around which other ideas in the passage are Inductive Bible study begins by paying close attention to what the Bible actually organized. says and letting it form our conclusions. It works hard to see what is there and, with God’s help, to understand it. In preaching and teaching: It is key to good expository preaching and teaching, since it helps us to remain The Importance of Inductive Bible Study faithful to what God is saying in his Word. It becomes the focal point around which everything in a sermon or lesson is Inductive Bible study begins with the Bible and tries to discover what it has to say organized. for itself – not starting with our own ideas or with materials that tell us what the book says or means.Finding the Big Idea involves Inductive Bible study approaches the Bible on its own terms and allows it to tell praying for God’s wisdom and insight its own story and proclaim its own message (and not our own). It works hard to see what is there, understand it, and take hold of its message. It is concerned looking for clues in the text with hearing God speak through His Word. There are objective clues in the text that point to the Big Idea of a passage. The Three Parts of Inductive Bible Study Look for: Inductive Bible study involves connections between the way a passage begins and ends the repetition of key words or ideas Observation summary verses Asking “What does it say?” conclusions or purpose statements (that begin with words like “therefore” or “so that”) Some helpful questions to ask are: the flow or development of thought through the passage Who are the main characters? the ideas in smaller sections of the passage and the way those ideas Are there any words or concepts that are repeated in the passage? connect to each other What important comparisons/contrasts do you find? Where do the major transitions or shifts occur? asking certain questions about the passage Is there anything surprising here? The Big Idea is made up of the answers to two essential questions: Is there a key verse or passage that sums up the message of the book? 1. What is this passage talking about? Interpretation Example: What is this passage talking about? This passage is talking Asking “What does it mean?” about . . . the kindness of God. What is it saying as a whole? 2. What is it saying about what it’s talking about? How does this passage fit into the larger story of the book and of the Bible? Example: What is this passage saying about the kindness of God? This passage How does it point to or speak of Christ? is saying that . . . the kindness of God should lead us to repentance. Application stating the idea as a complete sentence Asking “What does it mean for me or for us?” The statement of the Big Idea should be a complete idea—not a title, but a complete sentence (with a Is there an application already in the text? Does the passage give some subject and verb) command or exhortation for how we should live? should be specific enough to get at the main, driving point of the passage What is similar about the situation of the original audience with the should be broad enough to include some of the smaller key ideas of the situation of our lives today? What did God say to them about that, and how passage would that apply to thes same circumstances in our lives? What does this tell us about God? How should we live in light of that? 12 5
  8. 8. Asking Good Questions Traveling InstructionsThe Importance of Asking QuestionsAsking questions helps us to observe and understand what the Bible is actually saying. What Do We Mean by “Traveling Instructions”?This skill may be the most important thing to remember and put into practice when As you read the Bible and attempt to bring the ancient Word of God to the people wherestudying God’s Word. It is the way we learn the mind and heart of God through His you live, you must always travel through and understand the context in which it wasWord. written.What is a Good Question?A good question is one that helps us understand the author’s intended meaning of the Necessary Questionsbiblical text. When we read the Bible, we are often tempted to make an immediate application to ourselves without first asking what the words meant to the original hearers. But we mustHow Do We Ask Good Questions? ask, “How would they have understood these words? What was the situation that theConsider these different approaches for coming up with good questions: author was addressing? What truths about God did the readers need to hear at that time?” Basic Questions Begin by asking the basic questions of observation: Who? When? Why? What? Where? How? Knowing What it Meant Then to Know What It Means Now Until we have asked questions like these, we cannot be sure we have understood God’s Categories message as it was originally delivered. Consequently, any application that we make may It may help to think in terms of different categories when coming up with good miss what God originally intended. questions to ask about a passage. For example, when studying 2 Timothy, we might be tempted to read the words as if Context – First, the historical context—the life situation of the author and they were addressed to the situation where we live. But the direct route is not the original audience that would have affected what the text meant to them. correct route. Second, the literary context—how the text fits into the flow of what is written in the rest of the book or passage Only when we have determined what this letter meant to Timothy, will we be able to say Key Words – Important or repeated words or ideas; central characters what it means for the church in our day. Christ – How the passage speaks of or points to Christ Central Point – The main point or Big Idea of the passage In other words, when studying 2 Timothy, we must travel through Ephesus before Curiosities – Things that are curious or seem difficult to understand arriving at the door of our church: Intent – Why the author wrote what he did Conclusions – The implications of what the passage says for us today The Word of God Essential Questions Essential questions for any Bible text: What does the author say? How does he say it? Why does he say it in this way? Why here? How would the recipients have heard this? What is surprising about it? What is it saying as a whole? How does this fit into the flow of thought? How does it point to or speak of Christ? Today – Time and place of How is this important for us today? Where I live the original readers What’s Not Obvious A good question asks about something that may not be obvious in the text but is Why is this important? essential for understanding its meaning. In order for us to correctly apply the words of Scripture, we need to understand theThe Attitude of the Heart in Asking Questions context in which they were spoken.Three attitudes of the heart are essential in our pursuit to know what God’s Word issaying and in helping us develop the skill of asking good questions: Curiosity,Discernment, and Perseverance. 6 11
  9. 9. The Egg Shell – The Biblical Context The Egg Illustration The Egg Illustration The Yolk (The Text and Its Literary Context) The Yolk (The Text) The White (The Historical Context) The White (The Historical Context) The Shell (The Biblical Context) The Shell (The Biblical Context)The broadest level of context is represented by the shell of the egg. The shell addressesthese questions: This illustration is a helpful way of thinking about studying the Bible. How does the passage or the book fit into the rest of the Bible? In other words, what major themes or ideas found in the rest of Scripture emerge in The yolk represents the text that we are studying – not only the words, phrases, and this book or are expanded upon by this book or passage? sentences of the passage you are studying, but also the paragraphs and chapters of the What does the things in this passage or book have to do with Christ? rest of the book.Understanding Biblical Context – Seeing the Big Picture of the Bible The white represents the historical context – that is, what was going on in the world and culture in which the people written about in the text (or the people written to, or the Understanding the Biblical Context of a passage or book means seeing the big person who wrote the text) lived. The book you are studying involved real people and picture of the story of the Bible and how a particular book or passage fits into it. took place in a real place at a particular time in history – it has a historical context. The overall plan of God is progressively revealed through the Scriptures. Every book of the Bible is either a continuation or expansion of what God has revealed Finally, the shell represents the larger biblical context in which the text is placed. For before or may be further explained by what will come afterwards in the rest of example, the book of Jonah is one of the books of the Old Testament. The Old Scripture. Important truths begin in seed form in the early chapters of the Bible Testament, in turn, serves as the foundation for and precursor to the New Testament. and then grow and fully develop as Scripture unfolds. The book of Jonah does not stand alone, but is part of God’s larger communication to The overall story of God’s plan undergirds each book of the Bible. That plan is mankind, which begins with Genesis and ends with Revelation. In other words, Jonah has also known as a biblical context. – the “Big Idea of the Bible” or – the “Story of Redemption” or – “Salvation History” The Egg IllustrationThe Big Idea of the Bible Thinking about the different parts of an egg is a helpful way to think about context when studying the Bible. Thinking about the Big Idea of the Bible and how to capture all of the details of the Bible into one sentence may seem overwhelming. However looking at the The Yolk represents the text you are studying – not only the words, phrases, and beginning and end of the Bible gives us the clues to find the Big Idea. sentences of a passage, but also the surrounding paragraphs and chapters of the The Bible is not a collection of random books. It has a deliberate design, a book. natural flow, and a clear focus. By observing the beginning and the end and a bit that flows in between we can The White represents the historical context – what was going on in the history see the overall message of the Bible. It is a book about God who claims a people and culture of the people in the book or the passage. (This may not just be the for Himself to live and dwell with Him for eternity. They will be His people and historical context of the people written about in the text, but it may be about the He will be their God. historical situation of the people the text was written to or of the person the text At the center of the Bible stands Jesus. He is the clear focus. All roads lead to was written by, such as the writer of one of the psalms.) Him, and in Him God’s work to redeem a people for Himself is accomplished. Seeing Jesus at the center shapes the way we think about and communicate any The Shell represents the biblical context – the place where the text stands within book or passage in the Bible and draws us into a deeper relationship of love and the Old or New Testament and within the overarching message of the whole Bible. commitment to Him. 10 7
  10. 10. The Egg Yolk – The Text The Egg White – The Historical ContextFocusing on the Yolk – the Text and Its Literary Context The Egg White represents the historical context surrounding the text. We use the label Bible study and teaching and preaching must begin and end with the text. “historical” to refer to many aspects of the real-life context of the people and events of The text must always shape and determine our message. And we’re not just the passage, as well as the author who wrote it. The historical context includes the concerned with the text of our passage, but with the surrounding text of the rest of the book. The literary context shapes our understanding of the historical and culture text of the passage. Our task as teachers and preachers of God’s Word is to study and understand the text within the context of the book in which it political events was written. family/tribal/ethnic language Studying the Text and Its Literary Context Will Involve relationships Observation – Making lots of observations of the text. We’ll keep looking religious practices geography and asking: “What does the text say?” and ideas Questions – Asking lots of questions about the text – the kind of questions that made up the real-life, historical setting of the passage – the world in which the that a newspaper reporter might ask: “Who? What? Where? Why? Why not? people of that day lived and thought. How? When?” Interpretation – Discovering ways to properly interpret the text. We’ll The Historical Context especially look to the text for clues on how to interpret it. We’ll seek to The historical context of a passage is the real-life world of the time and place that interpret the text within its proper context. We’ll ask: “What does the text surrounded the people that the passage was written about, written to, or written by. The mean?” historical context is made up of different elements including the historical The Big Idea – Discovering the overall message of the book. We’ll ask: “What’s the big idea of the text?” political cultural Application – Applying the text to our own lives. We don’t want this to linguistic become an academic exercise – we want and need God to speak to us personally. He has important lessons for us in the book of Jonah that family/tribal should make a profound difference in our lives. We’ll ask: “What does it geographic mean for me?” religious Observation Why Is It Important? Understanding the historical context is important because we could wrongly The problem of “looking but not seeing” happens in Bible study as well. interpret a book or passage if we don’t understand how the original hearers We’ve all had the experience when we’re reading a familiar passage and all understood it. of a sudden something jumps out at us. It had been there all along, but we just saw it for the first time. Clear and accurate observations are How Do We Get There? essential to effective Bible study. We can become better observers of the If we are to interpret a book or passage correctly, we must travel back in time to Bible. Our goal in this session is to train our eyes to see better. the place where the original readers lived. If we are going to understand the text, we must first understand it how the original audience understood it – andUnderstanding a Passage In Its Literary Context that means understanding the historical context. This will help us read theHere are some helpful questions to ask: words of the Bible for our times and understand how to apply them for our own lives. What are some important ideas that come up or run throughout this passage? The Word of God What is the Big Idea of this passage – the main point the passage is getting at? Where do some of those important ideas from the passage come up in the rest of the book? How does the Big Idea of the passage relate to the rest of the story in the book? Today – Where I live Time and place of the original readers 8 9

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