What is Hermeneutics? 10 Things to Know + Why It Matters
“Hermeneutics 101….what is Hermeneutics and why in the world am I taking it?…” I wondered as I stared at my class schedule as a Sophomore in Christian college. I knew it was my Bible class for the semester, but not much more!
Call me a Bible nerd, but Hermeneutics quickly became one of my favorite classes that year and definitely not the snooze-fest I thought it would be! Although Hermeneutics can seem overwhelming I would encourage you to spend a few minutes learning about what it is and how it impacts your Christian walk.
1. What is Hermeneutics?
Hermeneutics is the study of interpreting the Bible. Pretty simple, right?!
It is a set of principles guiding Christians so when we read the Bible we are truly allowing God to speak and not twisting the words of God into something they are not.
2. Why do Hermeneutics matter?
You may wonder why Hermeneutics even matter? Why spend any energy on this at all? It is highly important to understand Hermeneutics as a follower of Jesus.
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”-Acts 17:11
Hermeneutics matter because people are sinful and sinful man can twist the words of the Bible into something God didn’t ever intend. Poor Bible interpretation can leave marks on people’s souls. It can promote or excuse abuse. It can condone sin that the Bible condemns.
As a follower of God, I want to be like the Bereans who didn’t just take Paul’s word for it, but searched the Scriptures to see if what was being said was true.
The pastor’s you learn from, the books you read, the podcasts you listen to, the instagram captions you read–can lead you astray. But if you understand Hermeneutics, if you understand Context, if you know the heart of God thanks to reading His Word and talking to Him through prayer–you’re not going to be led astray.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”-John 10:27
Two Big Types of Hermeneutics
Literal-Grammatical Hermeneutics is the most common way of understanding the Bible used today. It assumes the language in the Bible is literal, unless common-sense would dictate otherwise (aka using a figure of speech, word picture, etc.).
This method would look at the words in each passage of Scripture and seek to understand them as plainly as possible and in the same way you would seek to understand any other piece of literature.
The Grammatical-Historical hermeneutic also emphasizes understanding meaning through context–historical, literary, and cultural context are taken into account in understanding the meaning of the Bible.
You can get a full breakdown of this method here:
The other more common way of understanding the Bible is the Allegorical approach to hermeneutics. This assumes that most of the stories, instructions, and teachings of the Bible are allegorical, not literal.
RELATED ARTICLE: 7 WAYS TO UNDERSTAND BIBLE CONTEXT
6 Foundational Hermeneutic Principles
- The Bible is Supernaturally Understood — We need the Holy Spirit to interpret the Bible.
- Christological principle — Jesus is everywhere in the Bible and central to the story.
- Unity-Diversity principle — The Bible is full of diverse authors and types of writing, but has one united message.
- Scripture interprets Scripture — Understand each passage as part of the larger whole of the Bible. Look to other verses on the topic to help you understand what’s going on.
- Progressive revelation principle — Over time more and more of God’s true heart is revealed in the Bible. Think of the law Moses gave to the people of Israel in the wilderness vs. grace Jesus gives us through salvation, for example.
- Response principle — The Bible is not a textbook or historical archive, but a living Word designed to change how we live our everyday lives.
Where can I learn more about Biblical Hermeneutics?
Biblical Hermeneutics isn’t light reading but here are a few suggestions if you’d like to continue to grow your understanding.
Introduction to Biblical Interpretation
How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth
This is a great overview article of Jewish, Protestant and Catholic interpretations of the Bible.
Remind me again why this matters?
The entire scope of Hermeneutics is huge. You could spend a lifetime studying it and a second lifetime arguing about it.
My friend, do not get sucked down into that trap! If you start to feel overwhelmed or inadequate or like you need to sign up for a seminary class to understand or teach the Bible–remember this!
God wants to be understood and He will be understood.
If you want to grow your faith on a personal level through spending time reading the Bible and in prayer be sure to grab this FREE Quiet Time Bundle!
God has spoken in a whirlwind, through a donkey, in a burning bush, through His Son, Jesus, through the written Scripture, and through the tender whisper of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, definitely understand Hermeneutics so you can discern truth from error and not get “swept away in every wave of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14), and also tune your heart to hear His voice.
- Read His Word.
- Meditate on His character and promises
- Spend time in silence
- Worship Him
- Connect with God through fasting, lament, and serving others.
As for me, I am choosing to spend my lifetime doing the CLEAR things God has spoken to me. Love God, love others. Turn from sin. Walk as Jesus walked.