The word has its root from the Greek god Hermes, the messenger god. He conveyed meaning or information. Hermeneutics is basically interpreting the Bible with an aim to applying it to today’s world.
The first task is to discover what the text meant in its original setting. We call this exegesis. The word means ‘to lead out of.’ We are going to try to allow the Bible to speak for itself as opposed to eisegesis.
Eisegesis is a barrier to good intrepretation. This means ‘to read into’ a text. This is coming to the Bible looking for it to support a meaning that we want.
The second task is to discover what the text means in a contemporary setting. This is the “So What” of Bible study.
Barriers to Good Hermeneutics
The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Fortunately, there are some very good translations so this is not a significant barrier at this point.
Most of the New Testament was written in between the years 39 AD to 90 AD. The Old Testament was written over a period of 2,000 years before that with over 50 different authors. That is a significant amount of time. Plus, the further away we move from an event, the harder it is to get a clear picture of what really happened.
We live in a western, democratic and individualistic culture. The eastern culture was (and is) highly communal and community living. The rights of the many are more important than the rights of the one in that culture. This is the context of the Bible.
It is impossible to come to the Bible neutral. We bring our heritage and background into the mix. We bring our predispositions, preunderstandings, or biases. It’s incredibly difficult to come to the Word unbiased.
A classic example of this was during the Civil War. Many folks in the South used Scripture to support the practice of slavery. Many others used the same Scriptures to fight against it.
Our temperment, educational background, and personality effects how we interpret the Bible. A Type A person is going to read the Bible differently than a Type B.
Two people can study the life of David completely different. One might camp in the Psalms focusing on the cave times of David. The other might run to the battle scenes and the crumbling of his empire.