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February 1, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views Summarized

The following is a very informal summary of the key concepts in “Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views”–it does not include a breakdown by type of hermeneutic method or tool.

Preserved scriptures as practical/instrumental.

My 5 question series:
• Is the text a narrative? (literature) What does that mean?
• What is the purpose of author? What is God purposes
• What is the context?
• How do we approach the text?
• What perspectives can confirm this view?
One of the best ways–to me to get to some of these is simply to use the 2 part hermeutic discussed below.


Church community as interpretive community

1) original ancient reader
2) the context for todays reader [not sure if this means both context/assumptions and application]
3) understanding our own context

similarities and difference between the readers

Four/five criteria (Spencer) p. 135
1) Final text
2) Cotext
3) Intertext
4) Context
5) Open text

“Gospel narratives also take for granted, with little explanation, readers deep awareness of pervasive ancient eastern Mediterranean cultural values concerning, for example, honor shame codes, patron-client systems, and dyadic (versus individualistic) identities.” (p. 53).

Scheiermacher–(whole/part) (textual/biological-psychological)


“Social, political, and cultural environment” (context) (p. 54).
Zoom and wide angle lense–engagement with intratext (p. 61)
Contexts (historical, linguistic, literary, rhetorical, compositional, canonical) (p. 130)

“Strictly speaking, hermeneutics discusses questions of knowledge, validity of interpretation, distinctions between meaning and significance, the possibility of objectivity, and much more…” (p. 137)

“Christians, however, as Wall properly points out, must approach Scripture as a sacred text that is fully divine as well as fully human.” (p. 143).

Unity vs. diversity (NK: essence, core versus perifery)
Salvation & exodus

Richard Gaffin (p. 153)
Geerhardus Vos (p. 153)

Wolterstorff (double hermeneutic)

What did the human author say to the original audience?
What is God saying to us here and now through these words of Scripture?
“assertion, promise, request, command, question”, or another action the author might perform via the text. (p. 158)

Reproductive (exegesis) and productive (application).
Double hermeneutic

Use of Biblical virtue (ie humilitiy or fruit of the spirit)
I-thou relationship


4 part case for post-modern:
1) dialog
2) humility (plural, partial, and perspectival) (p. 156)
3) re-confirm
4) nuance, complexity

Canonization from above versus Canonization from below (p. 112)

“All the factors that shaped the earliest literary history of individual biblical compositions at their diverse points of ancient origins–language, date and location, religious experience, spiritual crisis or social struggle–should also inform exegete’s understanding of what the text actually says, even if its written and first read/heard for reasons that differ from why it is subsequently received by a later generation of readers/hearers as Scripture.” (p. 113)

“Truthseeking and truthtelling, forgiveness and repentance, patience and prophetic boldness are all formed by the practice by the practices of worshipping community and essential to interpretation that seeks God’s way of ordering the world.” (p. 116)

“Not only do various Biblical practices find their home in a congregational setting and their purposes in aiming believers at God, but also it is in the company of saints that the spiritual authority of the biblical interpreter is honed and confirmed…..The congregation encourages the self-awareness and maturity of one who can avoid sinful tendencies in interpreting biblical texts.” (p. 121)

“Moreover, reading texts with a fellowship of believers that cultivates spiritual virtues necessary for faithful reading and hearing of God’s word, such as love for God and neighbor, truth-seeking, humility, patience, and forgiveness, is critical to using Scripture in a way that targets holy ends.” (p. 130).

“We must certainly avoid an objectivism or naive realism that thinks we can interpret comprehensively or flawlessly, precisely because as Christians we affirm that we are both finite and fallen creatures. However, we must also avoid a postmodernism that rejects the possibility of all metanarratives or absolute truths, even from God’s perspective. Mediating between the two is a critical realism that allows us to increasingly and successively approximate the original meaning of a text through all legitimate tools of study that this book surveys, without ever claiming exhaustive or inerrant interpretation.” (p. 135-136).

“The spiral never reduces to a single dot.” (p. 136).

Speech act-theory

Art inspired by Scripture = part of meaning (p. 143).

NK: River, roots/tree, fractal (author purpose versus reader interpretation)

Double-hermeneutic and scripture

“This embeddedness means that understanding is necessarily plural, partial, and perspectival.” (p. 74)

Luther–simultaneous divine & sinner.

Contextual–“Hellenistic-Jewish and Greco-Roman literature to illuminate the cultural world of the New Testament gospels.” (p. 53)
4 Major Foci (p. 201):
1) the world(s) extenal to the biblical text
2) the biblical text itself
3) the author(s) of the text
4) its current reader(s)

“Any one part is located within an expanding horizon of God-given contexts that, with whatever imponderables involved, serve to clarify. Biblical revelation is self-elucidating because in all its part it is a unified whole.” (Redemptive-Historical) (p. 97)

application (?)
complexity, tension, dialog (micro or dialog/types, chacters, values, or themes)
multiple readings/perspectives

Lost authenticity or sustained authenticity

the aesthetic principle (p. 118).

No text in isolation (?)

Canoncial view:
1) Scripture is approached as human text
2) Scripture is approached as sacred text
3) Scripture is approached as single text
4) Scripture is approached as a shared text

aesthetics/arrangement (first helps clarify later)

Gregory the Great, “Scripture grows with its readers” (p. 170).

“According to Spencer’s hermeneutic, if I understand him, Scripture needs distinctively Asian, Latin American and African readings, along with feminist and postcolonial applications in order to be itself fully.” (p. 170).

“This is an ecumenical hermeneutic.” (p. 171).

“I think all five of us contributors are primarily interested in interpreting the Bible in the context of the church, and I expect that will be true of most of our readers.” (p. 171).

Comparison and contrast to secular hermeneutics (no unpacking of this concept/idea)


1) What are the important components of context?
2) What are the sources of context?
3) What are the important elements of narrative?

Part, whole, and relationship

Go through the index

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