Hermeneutics notes

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Mr. McGowan



What is hermeneutics?

approach to hermeneutics

Literal verses Allegorical Interpretation

The Bible is Literature

How to Interpreted the epistles

How 2 Interpret the LAW

The use of Narrative in Expository Preaching

Interpreting the Book of Acts

Bridging the Grammatical Gap

Interpreting the Book of Acts

How to interpret The Gospel and parables

What is hermeneutics?


Hermeneutics – principles of biblical interpretation “The science and art of biblical interpretation”

Science – a mythological activity based off observation and study

Art – a skill acquired by study, experience, or observation (a system of principles and methods employed in that activity)


How does hermeneutics relate to other areas of Bible study?

            Exegesis – meaning of a specific passage

            Hermeneutics – determining the principles regarded regardless of the passage

  • Exegesis – 3rd person meaning – (hermeneutics)
    • What did the verse mean to the original audience
  • Devotional – 1st person aspect (Hermeneutics/ homiletics)
    • what does the text mean to me (proper application)
  • exposition – 2nd person (Homiletics)
    • how do I communicate what the text means to you

We need hermeneutics to interpret any form of communication.


  1. so we don’t become heretics
  2. so we can help others
  3. it is a reality of life. (there is always the possibility of misinterpretation)

Biblical examples of the need for hermeneutics:

  • Nehemiah 8:1-8 – need for proper interpretation
  • Acts 8:28


Difficult to understand the Bible Easy to understand the Bible
II Peter 3:16 – some of  the Bible is difficult to understand II Timothy 3:15-16 – children can understand
I Corinthians 2:14 – natural man received not the things of the spirit of God II Corinthians 1:13 – what I am writing to you can understand


What is easy to understand in the Bible? - The way of salvation is easy to understand

The essentials of salvation are plain and clear to those who use language and common sense properly.

  • not everything in the Bible is as clear as other things in the Bible
  • not everything is clear unto all people

What about Believers?

Difficult to understand the Bible Easy to understand the Bible
II Peter 3:16 Timothy 3:15-16
I Corinthians 2:14 II Corinthians 1:13
  Romans 14:12

Romans 14:12 – we must give an account for ourselves at the judgment

  • (God expects us to understand what he requires from us)
  • (God expects us to judge what teachers and preachers say)

II Peter 3:16 – unlearned can make mistakes

  • Study - we must study the Bible
    • II Timothy 2:15 – study to show thyself approved
    • John 5:39 – we must search
    • Proverbs 2:1-6 – God gives wisdom to those who search for it
  • Illumination – we need the Spirit
    • I Corinthians 2:14 – the spiritual condition of the interpreter effects the outcome
    • Illumination – when the Holy Spirit spreads light on the Bible for us to understand what they mean and how to apply it to us.
    • Ephesians 1:17-19
    • Psalms 119:18

If we study and always depend upon the Holy Spirit will we always come up to the right conclusion?


            We are fallible and being filled with Spirit does not give us infallibility.


            The Holy Spirit does not bypass our thinking he works through our thinking.

            When we pray for illumination not revelation.

            Revelation – God revealing his truth to people

            Unbelievers can come to some correct conclusions concerning the Bible

                        There is a limit to what a unbeliever can understand.

Basic approach to Hermeneutics



  1. Not arbitrarily rules, but self-evident observations of the nature of Human communication.

    1. how do we come up with the real meaning of a statement

Morton salt – when it rains, it pours

                                                              i.      What is meaning?

1.      The referent – who is this referring to

2.      The sense – what is said about the referent

3.      The intention – the truth that the author desires to convey

4.      The significance –the relationship between the authors true intention and other people


the task of interpreters is to find the meaning of a statement (intention of the author) and to transmit that meaning (Significance to others)

                                                            ii.      What is the context

1.      what are clues of when an author uses figures of speech ( not a perfect test)

Self-evident process

                                                          iii.      How do we know the authors intent

1.      the hermitical principles are not arbitrary rules but self evident observation based on the (Source of our self evident observations)

a.       nature of communication

b.      the way biblical authors themselves interpret scripture

2.      Our basic approach is to discover legitimate principles of interpretation based off the nature of communication – this will lead us to objective truth.

                                                          iv.      Can we come to a right conclusion from a wrong text?

1.      problems

a.       we don’t read all that the verse says

b.      failure to observe the context

                                                            v.      Why do we come to different conclusions

1.      differing theological dispensations

2.      differing degrees of giftedness

3.      differing perceptions of the authors intent

4.      we just don’t know enough to come to a correct interpretation

a.       I Corinthians 11:10 – women head covering

b.      I Corinthians 29 – baptism of the dead

5.      Real ambiguity (unclear)

a.       not everything is clear to all

b.      Jepthas daughter – was she killed

c.       why would God be unclear

                                                                                                                                      i.      they make us search the scriptures

1.      it tests us to determine our interest and love for the word of God

2.      as you are seeking it forces you to meditate upon the scriptures

3.      When you search out the truth makes it personal

4.      It provides reward for searching out the scripture

                                                                                                                                    ii.      it tests our love for one another (maturity, love, unity)

1.      how will we respond to a fellow believer with a different understanding

2.      it humbles us

                                                                                                                                  iii.      shows us our need to rely upon our pastor and reference books

Literal versus Allegorical Interpretation


  1. Definition of Allegory = hidden or secret remote from or unrelated to the odious or surface meaning of the text (The literal meaning is not the real meaning)  
  2. Reasons for allegory

    1. Derive meaning/relevance for Christians
    2. desire to explain problem passages
    3. to prove that New Testament concepts were taught in the Old Testament
    4. Avoid “embarrassing” incidents


All this was done to help prove the Bible is true, but they went a little to far.

  1. Excesses of allegory (Wrong reasons)  
    1. Appeal to Pagans
    2. Hide the meaning of the Bible from the common people

  1. Problems with allegorizing  
    1. No objective way to determine which interpretation is correct
    2. Scripture looses its authority (when practicing allegory)
    3. The true meaning of the Bible is obscured
    4. It leads to spiritual Pride (Only certain people are spiritual/ smart enough to end up at the Deeper meaning)


  1. Solution to Allegory (How to prevent allegorizing)  
    1. Recognize the historic reality of

                                                              i.      people

                                                            ii.      events

                                                          iii.      prophecies

    1. Determine the passages meaning in context #. How would the original audience have understood this
    2. Test your interpretation (What you come up with)

                                                              i.      Is the exegesis self contained (Does it make good sense of all the details that were there)


The Bible is Literature


a.       What is Literature?

                        ii.      The form or creative mode of expression

b.      What are the futures of literature?

                      iii.      Genre – something that is distinguished by the style and form.

1.      Old Testament

a.       Historical narrative (Genesis – Esther)

b.      Poetry (Job – Song of Solomon)

c.       Prophecy (Isaiah – Malachi)

2.      New Testament

a.       Historical (Matthew – Acts) 

b.      Prophetic Preaching (Romans – Revelation)

3.      other categories

a.       History

b.      Poetry

c.       Proverbial statements

d.      Drama – it did happen

e.       Epic

f.       Songs

g.      hymns – Psalms

h.      Philosophical discourses

i.        Legal material

j.        Stories

k.      Apocalyptic Writings

l.        Prophecies –foretelling

m.    Genealogies

n.      Parables

o.      Chronicles – official ruling of a king and his reign

p.      letters

q.      riddles

r.        allegories

s.       Romance

We have this variety because God likes variety! We also like variety

How 2 Interpret the epistles



       I.      Characteristics of an epistle

A.    it is an epistle, not a letter

                                                              i.      epistle – meant for posterity/ future generations (more formal) Rhetoric

B.     Authoritative

C.     Occasional – they were written for a specific occasion

                                                              i.      never designed to be a systematic theology

    II.      Challenges of interpreting the Epistles

A.    Cultural gap

                                                              i.      Matthew 22:1-14

1.      custom – the man thrown out would have been offered a robe to put over his clothes. He had rejected the garment that the king offered. (Salvation – I don’t need what God offers ill do it myself.)

B.     Cultural relativity

 How do we know what we should apply to our lives?

                                                              i.      Determining where the Bible should be applied to current life.

1.      Determine the reason for the command - (if the reason is universal)

a.       example (belief in capital punishment)

                                                                                                                                      i.      Genesis 9:6 – we are not under the law

1.      Reason for this commandment (man was made in the image of God

2.      Men and women are still made in the image of God.

2.      Additional revelation confirms – (The command or practice should be taken literally)

3.      The statement should be applied directly when it involves a moral issue

a.       I Corinthians 6:9-10

4.      Determine the principle that underlies the direct command or practice (properly apply it in our situation)

a.       John 13:4 - wash peoples feet

                                                                                                                                      i.      continued in I Timothy 5:10

                                                                                                                                    ii.      foot washing is a picture of cleaning the heart after salvation. this is something to do before we do the lords supper.

                                                                                                                                  iii.      What is the underlying principle? vs. 15 Christ tells us this to follow his example

How 2 Interpret the LAW


  1. Difference between Universal principles and Specific applications
    1. Different classification                                                               i.      Civil – laws to Israel as a nation

1.      example – when you harvest your field you must leave some for

                                                            ii.      Ceremonial

1.      examples

a.       sacrifices

b.      Passover

c.       Cleanliness

2.      often a picture of eternal truth

                                                          iii.      Moral (10 commandments)

1.      Idea behind it – God’s unchanging nature

                                                          iv.      How do we determine our principles of hermeneutics

1.      based on universal principles of commutation

2.      how biblical authors interpret scripture

a.       they correctly understood Old Testament passages meanings

b.      | Ancient Setting |

Eternal / universal Principle
 Modern Setting
Specific application
Specific application



3.      Context

a.       literally context

b.      the book as a whole

c.       the Bible as a whole

d.      cultural/historical context

The use of Narrative in

Expository Preaching


“Principlizing a biblical passage is, as we have argued in chapter 7, that procedure which seeks to discover the enduring ethical, spiritual, doctrinal, and moral truths or principles which the writer himself set forth by the way in which he selected his details and arranged the contextual setting of his narrative. Principlization seeks to bridge the “then” of the Text’s narrative with the “now” needs of our day; yet it refuses to settle for cheap and quick solutions witch confuse our own personal point of view (good or bad) with that of the inspired writer.” – Kaiser

  • A Bible verse cannot mean now what it never meant before
  • Where is your authority? – is it in the Bible or in you?
  • false ideas to illustrate the separation
    • Ebionism – Jesus is only Man
    • Docetisim – Jesus is only God
    • both of these approaches cut off other truths
  • good teaching and preaching must
    • present content of truth
    • suggest a reproducible method of Bible study

How do we uncover the universal principle?

In narrative

  • The Author’s Arrangement and Selection of Material
    • a narrative has a message that God wants us to get but it is not necessarily said in direct words
    • arrangement and selection of detail are key to the meaning

Nemiah example

      • Selection of incidents
      • arrangement indicates increasing need for spiritual discernment
    • problems
      • missing details * details are not always in chronological order
        • Example Matthew 4:3/Luke 4
          • the order is not the same
            • Luke 1 says that he wrote it in order
            • there is a reason for the difference in order and when we find the reason we can see the importance

* key factors

      • it is an accurate recording of facts
      • the primary concern is the theological meaning
    • purpose
      • to show God at work in his creation and among his people
      • usually the spiritual significance is implicit not explicit
        • implicit – not stated in so many words
        • explicit – the author wants us to come to the right conclusion as we analyze the details
    • Many times the main idea is found in the dialogue

Providence – God working through the normal course of human events (it encompasses the free decisions of others)

·         it encompasses consequences

·         it encompasses the evil actions of men against the righteous

Interpreting the Book of Acts


  • it is a narrative book
    • are the events Narrative or normative
      • narrative – describing what happened * normative – This is what you must do
    • differences
      • they did not meet in a church building
      • communal living
    • how do we know which is binding and which is incidental
    • The practices are not normative
      • God has a will and we need to seek his mind on every decision we make
      • Psalms. 81:10 – george mulers life verse
        • “trusted God to feed the orphans” is that really what it says? J
        • God reminds the children of Israel how he delivered them over and over again.
        • this verse does not only apply to George Mueler. Although in a certain sence God has not given to me the same promise that he gave to George Mueller.
        • There is a big difference in following someone’s actions and not their example
          • it can be a good thing
          • it may be based on good principles
          • it can be for Gods Glory
          • when you try to do what someone else did in the same way when you are mechanically doing the actions you will stumble and fall. It must be settled first “Is this God’s will for me to do”
          • the principle is the same but the application may be different
        • walking by faith may mean
          • doing things others have never done before
          • doing things you have never done before

 Bridging the Grammatical Gap


  • general hermeneutics – the overall approach to the Bible
  • special hermeneutics – how to define a section of the Bible
    • prophecy
    • types

  • how does inspiration affect interpretation
    • if God’s word is inspired than every word is important
    • if little things matter to God than they should matter to us

  • Meaning of words
    • Etymology – where the word came from
      • it is not good because words change
      • how does a word develop
        • words change meanings over time
    • to discover the meaning we find the usage
    • Hapax legomena – once spoken
  • Literality structure
    • Esther
      • Wrath of the king (against his queen)
      • Wrath of Bigthan and Teresh (against the king)
      • Wrath of Haman (against Mordecai)
      • Wrath of King (against Haman)

      • reversal of circumstances
      • book outline (Chisism)
        • | focus |

chapter 1 – opening/ background

          • chapters 2-3 – kings 1st decree
            • chapters 4-5 - clash between Haman and Mordecai
              • The King couldn’t sleep (6:1)
            • Chapters 6-7 Mordecai’s triumph over Haman
          • Chapters 8-9 Kings 2nd decree
        • chapter 10 epilogue
      • God used the wrath of men to work his will

Figures of Speech


Figure of speech – a word picture (colorful vehicle for presenting truth)

Difference between figures of speech and allegory

            Figure of speech – we interpret the words in their normal use. it is normal to take “it is raining cats and dogs” as it is raining hard

            Allegorical – you are not interpreting according to the words

Why does the Bible use figures of Speech?

  1. they add color or vividness #. they attract attention
  2. they make abstract intellectual ideas more concrete (make truth understandable)
  3. they aid in retention
  4. they abbreviate an idea
  5. they encourage reflection (think about it silly)

II Timothy 2:3-7  Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.  Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.

Figures of Speech

  • Simile – using like or as
  • Metaphor – not using like or as
  • Hypocatastasis – comparison by direct naming
  • Metonymy – substantiation of one word for another
  • Synecdoche – part for the whole
  • Merism – 2 contrasting parts to represent a whole “from the east to the west”
  • Hendiadys – one
  • Personification – giving human characteristics to inanimate objects or animals and treat them as people
  • Anthropomorphism – giving human attributes to God
  • Anthropopathism – giving human emotion to God
  • Zoomorphism – giving animal characteristics to God
  • Apostrophe – addressing an object as if it was a person
  • Euphemism – substation a mild expression for a inappropriate one
  • Ellipsis -
  • Zeugma -
  • Aposiopesis -
  • Rhetorical question -
  • Hyperbole -
  • Litotes -
  • Irony -
  • Pleonasm -
  • Oxymoron -
  • paradox -
  • Paronomasia -
  • Onomatopoeia -


How to interpret

The Gospel and parables


Theological biographies = Gospels

      (They do contain biographical info but they are not normal biography)

Each Gospel has a distinct theological aim (message)

·         They are not in chronological order

·         some have extended discourses

Most important: Death of Jesus Christ

  • Matthew 21-28 (focus on the last week)
  • Mark 11-16 (focus on the last week)
  • Luke 18-24 (focus on the last week)
  • John 12-21 (focus on the last week)
    • 13-19 (7 of those give one hour of his life)

A gospel is a passion narrative with an extended introduction – some guy said

Other Focuses of the Gospels

  • The Teaching ministry of Christ
    • Discourses – Teaching by explanation
      • Preaching
      • Public lectures
    • Miracles – Teaching by demonstration
      • miracles were done to teach people
      • Miracle – supernatural act that can only be done through the power of God
      • it occurs in the natural world
      • it is a demonstration of God’s control over his created world
      • Miracles are preformed to reveal truth about God

Example Mark 5:22-36

      he was showing that he not only could heal people from disease but he could bring back from the dead

      He is trying to teach Jarius to have more faith

Example John 4:46-52

      when we believe Christ it is as good as done.

      Faith is putting your confidence in what God said

      • Miracles are teaching a spiritual lesson
        • Christ  can not only heal physical problems but he can heal spiritual problems
    • Parables – teaching by illustration
      • Definition:
        •  a parable is an example of something that illustrates as spiritual truth * They are true to life stories (they are made up)
        • they are drawn from everyday life experiences, but they are designed to teach a spiritual lesson
      • Why did Christ teach in parables?
        • he wanted to conceal the meaning to those who did not follow him
        • he wanted to make truth clear to those who followed him.
      • Is Luke 11 a true story or a parable
        • Lazarus’s name was actually mention
        • it is not drawn from everyday experience
      • Steps to understand a parable
        • understand the cultural background
        • evaluate the context in which it is given
        •   Determine the central truth that is being taught
          • we must understand which details are important and which details are not important
        • Determine what details are incidental and which details are significant
          • Luke 15
          • Man à God the Father
          • younger son à Sinners who were coming to Christ for salvation
          • older son à Pharisees

Test info:

  • literal interpretation
    • events were literal people were literal people and prophecies will be fulfilled in the future * how do e find hermeneutical principles
    • observation of nature of communication
    • observation of how biblical authors interpret scripture
  • def of allegorizing
    • belief that the scripture have a hidden or secret meaning
    • no objective way to tell if it is correct
  • 4 reasons to allegorize
    • make ot revelat
    • explain problem passages
    • prove New Testament cosepes were taught int eh Old Testament
    • avoid embarsing insodents
    • appeal to pegans (make it more like pegan philosophy)
    • To withhold meaning from the common people
  • charasterics of ephisals
    • occasional
    • authoritiative
    • epistles not letters (designed for public and prosperity)
  • perspicuity – give tech definition
    • only applies to doctrine of salvation
    • Why study hermenuitc if perspeucity is true
      • not everything is clear
      • some things are hard to understand
      • there are differences between our langanges and cultures
      • God rewards those who seek after wisdom
  • will all believers come to the correct interpretain
    • not every believer depends on the spirit
    • Sin greaves the Spirit
    • even sprit filled believers differ because
      • differeing theological backgrounds
      • differing degrees of gifteness
      • perceptions of the authors intention
      • the presence of real ambiguity
  • what are the 4 principles for cultural elements
    • is the command universal
    • Does the practice involve a moral issue
    • does addional revelation restate or reinform this
    • what is the underlying principle and do the same conditions exist today

Test 2 info

o   know all the figures of speech

o   know what they are

o   know what they mean

o   will be asked to recognize figures of speech that are used in various Bible verses


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