The Task of Faithfully Interpreting Gods Word
Pastor David Robinson
Grace Bible Church
Lecture 1: Introductory Comments
Lecture 2: Laying a Foundation
Lecture 3: Method of Interpreting
Lecture 4: Biblical Authority
Lecture 5: Scripture has a Story-Line
Lecture 6: Power of the Preached Word
Lecture 7: Process of Hermeneutics
Lecture 8: Basic Principles of Hermeneutics
Lecture 9: 5 Stages to the Hermeneutical Process
Lecture 10: Putting Into Practice: Hebrew Gospel Narratives
Lecture 11: Putting Into Practice: Prophetic Literature
Lecture 12: Putting Into Practice: Wisdom
Lecture 13: Putting Into Practice: Psalms (Poetry)
Lecture 14: Putting Into Practice: Parables
Lecture 15: Putting Into Practice: Epistles
Lecture 16: Putting Into Practice: Apocalyptic
Lecture 17: Concluding Life Lessons for the Church Leader (Words of Encouragement)
What is the best book that you have ever read? After reading a good book, you turn it over in your
mind, you try to understand the characters and why they did that they did; you try to pull the plot
together, remembering details to see the big picture; and you recall again and again the last
chapter of the last page where the main character died or lived happily ever after. A good book
does all of that and more it engages all of our senses and our emotions.
In our course, Biblical Hermeneutics: The Task of Faithfully Interpreting Gods Word we have such
a book. This course is not merely an academic wrestling with individual passages so our minds
can grasp a text and then we can preach to our people. Rather, hermeneutics and by extension
this course, places the pastor or church leader or Sunday School teacher in the middle of a story
that has not yet ended. In fact, the story is so glorious that while we know how the book ends, it
has not yet happened. It is like the final verses of the book of Acts: Boldly and without hindrance
he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. The story in Acts 1
began with the command to preach throughout the nations and ends with the gospel being
preached throughout all nations. The point: you and I are living Gods history and are part of the
When we read the Bible, it is not to be read as individual verses that make up a story. Rather we
read the Bible as a story with verses. We will come to see there is a big difference between the
two. And that story, told so many years ago still speaks today. Hermeneutics asks the question:
how do we read the Bibles plot-line (interpretation) in order to know our place in the history of
And once you begin the study of Gods Word, His words become addicting you want more and
more. A great and holy God, the God of all creation has spoken so we may hear and respond in
love and obedience. Each page of Scripture, beginning with Genesis all the way to Revelation,
pours forth Gods glory. And so the prayer for the beginning of the course is found in Exodus
33.18: Then Moses said: Now show me your glory. And Gods answer? And the Lord said, I
will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your
presence. Amen, so may it be gracious Lord.
What is Hermeneutics? There are a number of definitions
The study of the locus of meaning and the principles of interpretation (Tate, Biblical
The science of reflecting on how a word or an event in the past time and culture may be
understood and become existentially meaningful in our present situation (Braaten, History and
Defining the rules one uses when seeking out the meaning of Scripture (McKim, A Guide to
The goal of interpretation is to know the Authors/authors intended meaning as it is
expressed in the text (Johnson, Expository Hermeneutics: An Introduction)1
Hermeneutics is the work of properly interpreting the Bible. It comes from the Greek word
interpret. The student of the Word of God diligently studies and dissects the text (hermeneutics),
asking the question: What does the passage before me really mean? How is the real and essential
message of the Bible to be grasped? The student then unashamedly speaks the interpreted text to
the people (homiletics).
Scriptural Directives: Probably the best definition comes from Scripture.
2 Timothy 2.15: Paul tells Timothy to handle the Word of God aright rightly divided.
1. Handling Accurately: proper interpretation, to dissect correctly.
2. Be diligent: hard work and difficulties implied.
1 These definitions are taken from the main book I will use in this course: Graeme Goldsworthy, GospelCentered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation, 25.
3. Not ashamed: God will grant you a proper interpretation
2 Corinthians 2.17: Paul warns about false teachers who abuse the Word of God. Hermeneutics
helps us defend the truth of Gods Word. This is only one place in Scripture were Paul warns of
false teachers who will take the Word of God and misinterpret, leading to heresy and false
teaching. Paul tells how he speaks the Word or gospel with purity, clearness and in sincerity.
See also 2 Peter 3.14-16.
Origin of the Word: the word hermeneutics originally comes from the Greek god Hermes, who was
a winged messenger of the Olympian gods. It comes from the Greek word e rmhneu , ein to
interpret or translate (John 1.42)
Goal: to faithfully study the text so as to discern the meaning of the text intended by the original
author. It is to bring out to each new generation the same message from the text. Some interpret
it loosely to mean the way of reading an old book (the Bible) that brings out its relevance for
Laying the Foundation2
Necessity for Hermeneutics
There are a number of reasons why we need to rightly handle Gods Word. Before we look at
them, Goldsworthy makes an important statement: One key assumption that most Christians make
about the Bible is that the meaning of the text has significance, not only for the original hearers or
readers, but also for others, including us. Thus we recognize a process of moving from what it
2 Again, I will follow the outline and summarize the excellent teaching in Gospel Centered Hermeneutics.
meant then to what it means now. This may be thought of as beginning with a process of exegesis
of the text in order to understand what it originally meant. This is followed by relevant
hermeneutical procedures to bridge the gap between the text and us. Finally, there is the
application of the meaning to us and the relaying of it, perhaps across a further gap, to others. (27)
The point is the Word of God, while written in specific cultures and in certain times of history,
continues to have relevance for all time.
1. Bridging the Gap
What are gaps we must bridge?
1. Language gap accurate translations from Hebrews, Aramaic and Greek texts into our own
2. Culture gap:
3. History Gap: why did the author include certain stories and information in those stories?
How do historical events into the larger picture of Gods story?
4. Literature Gap: literary devices, etc
5. Textual Gap: we do not possess the autographs (original documents) so we must look at
textual variants and uncertainties concerning translations
6. The Intended reader/hearer gap: we are not the intended hearers in a sense. For
example, when Isaiah spoke to Gods people, he wrote to those who were about to be lead
away into captivity in Babylon. How is the Word of God now relevant to us?
2. Challenges of Communication
Goldsworthy tells us of another basic assumption: One of the most basic assumptions in
evangelical hermeneutics is that God has communicated by his word and that he is certainly
capable of doing this in a way that meets the purpose of effective communication. (30) There are
three aspects to communication we will see:
a. The Communicator: God is the communicator and he reveals Himself as the Triune God.
Here we have theology the study of God.
b. The Communication: Gods Word is the communication. Here we have salvation history.
c. The Receivers: Gods people. At this point we have how we are involved in Gods story-
line. It is also at this point that hermeneutics comes in as we seek to proclaim this Word
It is in this process of communication that we seek to understand what God is saying as He reveals
Himself throughout history. What are Gods intentions? What is the meaning of the text? How do
we receive the text?
There are certain improvable beliefs all people hold onto in their life called presuppositions.
Someone may ask you to prove the Bible is the Word of God or that the God of the Bible really
exists or that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth and the only life. Goldsworthy defines
presuppositions as unprovable assumptions about reality. Christians and non-Christians alike have
beliefs which guide our thinking and living.