Course: Biblical Hermeneutics
Lecture: Hermeneutics Introduction
I. Overview of the Course
The purpose of our course is to introduce students to a brief history of the English Bible. Nowhere in the curriculum before we organized the hermeneutics class, was there a place where every student would be getting an introduction to the history of the English Bible. It seemed incredible that a person could graduate from seminary without having some overview of , “How did we get this English Bible of ours?” So we will begin that. It is also a helpful introduction to the issue of hermeneutics .
We start tonight with a brief history of the English Bible and then we are going to seek to understand the goal of interpretation , what part presuppositions play in interpretation, the role of genre in interpretation, how to arrive at the meaning of an ancient text, as well as the present significance. The major goal of this course will be to master the technical hermeneutical vocabulary found in R. H. Stein’s, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible.
II. Recommended Reading
There are three texts: Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard, “Introduction to Biblical Interpretation”. That was out of print for awhile, but it is in print again; the second is “Stein’s Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible”; and the other is Paul Wegner, “The Journey from Text to Translation.” That is a really good text. It fills in a lot of things in this area that I could not find elsewhere.
A lot of books have been written on hermeneutics in the last 15 years. It is simply incredible to try to keep up with them. I think I can honestly say that of all the books I have read so far, there is none I agree with more than the “Stein” one, and that is why we are going to be using it. I think you will find it very user friendly and helpful.
III. Goal of the Course
By the end of this class, you will have an understanding of hermeneutics that will make clear just what interpreting the Bible is all about, an understanding you did not have before. I guarantee that. The best part of it will be to master a vocabulary of definitions. There will be 12 terms or so, expressions that we will carefully define. That will become the framework in which we will understand the issues and discuss them.
I will give definitions to these terms and there are other definitions that you can find elsewhere. But in this class we will always use the same definitions. It is kind of silly to talk about meanings when you have a different understanding of what that term means, and you talk at cross purposes. So we will have a specific vocabulary that we will use precisely time and time again and it will become second nature. You will find that will be very, very helpful.
By taking this course, you will arrive at an understanding of how the Bible was translated into the English language. We will talk about some of the various translations, their strengths and weaknesses. We will develop a conceptual framework in vocabulary, which explains the role of the author and reader. We will distinguish different genres of Biblical literature and understand the basic rules involved in that in those particular genres. Similarly, you don’t interpret a medical report the same way you interpret a love poem. The Bible is filled with different kinds of genres and there are different rules that the editors expected people would understand about them. But over the millennia , we have lost sight of some of the rules and some of the principles of these genres and we will re-learn them in class. We will seek to understand how to interpret various approaches .