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The heart of hermeneutics

While some are stronger on the “back then” nature of the text, others are too quick to rush to a “for today” impact. Good Bible handling requires both mindset.

Photo: [link] Milk-Tea[/link], Unsplash CC0.

Something is missing in our hermeneutics

Something is missing.  Too much training in Bible handling is missing something critical.

Either we get the technical interpretation elements well: such as recognizing the distance between the world of the text and the world of the contemporary reader, and seeing the gaps that need to be crossed (linguistic, cultural, geographical, religious, etc.). 

Or, we dump the technical process and lose both textual accuracy and authority as we treat the Bible like an ancient source of contemporary devotional material.

To put that another way, while some are stronger on the “back then” nature of the text, others are too quick to rush to a “for today” impact.  Good Bible handling requires both a “back then” and a “for today” mindset.


We must cross the divide

The traditional inductive approach to the biblical text requires that we cross the divide.  We begin with Look!  This is the observation stage of seeing what is actually in the text.  What was written?  What does the text say?  Then we progress to Learn! 

This is the interpretation stage of making sense of the author’s intended meaning.  What did the text mean?  To look at the text and learn what it means requires that we cross a big gap and go “back then” in our minds.

But then we must also cross that divide to “today” and progress to Live!  This is the application stage of seeing the life impact of the text.  What difference does the text make to my life today?

So, we go back then to ask what does the text say?  And also, what did the text mean?  Then, having understood the meaning of the text, we then need to return to today and seek a biblically appropriate answer to what difference should it make?

Look — Learn — Live                                                                     

Each stage is critically important.


We tend to favour one part of the process

Some so enjoy the academic pursuit that they dwell in the learn stage and seldom let the text change their lives.  Others are so applicational in their approach that they seldom find out what a text really means before they start landing it in daily life.  (Perhaps fewer get stuck in the observation stage.  It seems like people are drawn to interpretation or application.)

However, even when people are well equipped to progress through each stage with a well-grounded “back then” followed by an appropriate and diligent “for today” progression, it still seems like something is missing in our hermeneutics.

Peter Mead is mentor at Cor Deo and author of several books. He blogs at Biblical Preaching




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