Skip to main content

Introducing Hermeneutical Frameworks

I have decided not to review the final two sections of 'The Art of Reading Scripture' as they are primarily examples of how to work out methods discussed in the earlier chapters. In lieu of that discussion, I would prefer to lay out a discussion of an important set of practical questions in hermeneutics. When we approach Scripture, what questions should we consider and what are the acceptable outcomes of our inquiry? What presuppositions should we bring to the text about the nature of Scripture? How much should we let our presuppositions drive our exegesis? Is the historical critical method a valid interpretive tool? What if our exegesis drives us in a direction incompatible with our presuppositions? Can what we observe about the nature of Scripture cause us to change our presuppositions?

I think that there are four basic ways or frameworks within which a Christian can operate (other frameworks that I am aware of are incompatible with Christianity in my opinion):
  1. Whatever the Bible says must be taken literally. Historical criticism is a misguided attempt to undermine the authority of Scripture. This view is most commonly held by many Fundamentalists.
  2. The traditional position of inerrancy, i.e., after accounting for things like genre, the Bible never affirms anything that is contrary to fact. This is the position of most Evangelicals and some Fundamentalists.
  3. Scripture should be interpreted within the rule of faith. The central truths of the Christian faith cannot be undermined (the contents of the creeds of the early church), but outside of that, freedom is given to the interpreter to follow their exegesis wherever it leads. Here you will find most Catholic scholars, many mainline Protestants, and a growing number of Evangelicals.
  4. A fourth position which tries to avoid talk of limits to our exegesis because it finds externally imposed limits to be counterproductive. This group is rather small but it is populated by at least some Evangelicals.
This week we'll do a series of posts discussing these positions (each except the first which I will briefly discuss below will get one post) in relation to the questions we brought up earlier and to inerrancy.

The first position to me is the least satisfactory, so I'll only briefly discuss it. While I don't think that the historical critical method is the answer to all of our questions, all hermeneutical methods need to be able to at least attempt to reconstruct the original purpose of the book or section of Scripture. While the text can have more meaning apart from its 'original' meaning (I still find the notion of an original meaning of the text to be helpful and honestly unavoidable), whatever meaning we give the text now cannot be in conflict with the original meaning. Without historical research, this literalist approach has no external controls beyond the interpreters theological grid.

It also ignores and flattens out difficulties. What the Bible says must be taken at face value an must be true. Denying something like young earth creationism becomes tantamount to denying the faith in the opinion of some literalists (but not all). I appreciate that literalists want to take the Bible seriously, but I think it fails to account for the fact that the Bible is a product of the culture it was written in.


Popular posts from this blog

Commentary Series Overview

When I write commentary reviews, one of my main goals is to assess how well the commentator hit the intended audience of the commentary and utilized the format of the commentary. This often necessitates cluttering up the post discussing issues of format. To eliminate that, I thought that I would make some general remarks about the format and audience of each of the series that appear in my reviews. Terms like liberal, conservative, etc. are not used pejoratively but simply as descriptors. Many of you are familiar with Jeremy Pierce's commentary series overview. If you don't see a particular series covered here, check out his post to see if it's reviewed there. I am making no attempt at covering every series, just the series that I use. Additionally, new series (such as the NCCS) have been started in the five years since he wrote his very helpful guide, so I thought that it might not be completely out of order to have another person tackle commentary series overviews. This…

Paul's Argument in Galatians 3:15-29

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! Fo…

Doctor Who: Rose Tyler - Traitor?

The end of season four was very, very controversial. When I first saw it, I felt cheated. I was angry. The more I think about it, the more I think I see what Russell Davies was doing. He is too good of a writer and the show is too carefully crafted for him to screw up Rose's character and the end of a four season storyline. So while the ending isn't strictly part of our series, it is tangentially related, and I've agonized over that scene in Bad Wolf Bay so much that I have to write about it. :)

To briefly set things up, near the end of the final episode of season four, there is a meta-crisis, that results in a part human. part Time Lord Doctor being generated. He has all of the Doctor's memories, and thinks and acts like the Doctor. However, importantly, he only has one heart and cannot regenerate. He only has one life to live. The meta-crisis Doctor brought full resolution to the battle fought against the Daleks, and in the process, wiped them out. Thus, the real Doc…