In their work, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. define “hermeneutics” as “the task of explaining the meaning of the Scriptures” (39–40). Put simply, hermeneutics refers to how we study and interpret the Bible. As you might expect, there are many different ways you can approach studying the Bible, some of which are better than others. The benefit of hermeneutics, then, is to learn how to study the Bible well. This is something that will take a lifetime to grasp, with even the most accomplished theologians having barely dipped their big toe into the depths of God’s revealed Word. “There is profound irony,” note Richard Alan Fuhr, Jr. and Andreas J. Köstenberger, “in the fact that students earn PhDs writing learned tomes on narrow areas of biblical research, while a five-year-old can understand the basic message of the gospel and be saved” (3). However, pressing forward in the difficult work of “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) rewards you with a deeper understanding of what God is doing throughout the Bible and in your own life.
Hermeneutics arms you with the knowledge and abilities that will help you to understand and trust what the Bible teaches. “A careful system of hermeneutics,” writes Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, “provides the means for the interpreter to arrive at the text’s intention, and more importantly, to understand what God intended to communicate through human minds and hands” (63). The goal is to come to a better understanding of the intended meaning of the biblical authors, knowing full well that the true Author of the Bible is the Lord Jesus himself. As a result, when you practice hermeneutics, you are not only drawn farther into the Word of God but also closer to the God of the Word. The skills and disciplines that are involved aren’t simply cold, academic exercises. Rather, they are the means by which we keep our grasp of the content of Scripture within the context of Scripture. This entails observing the different literary genres, keeping in mind the original languages, and remembering the different eras in which these writings were compiled.
Hermeneutics is the learned art of connecting the dots between the Bible’s historical context, cultural references, and writing styles in order to discern how each of these elements aids our understanding of the God who makes himself known throughout the Scriptures. And therein lies the key: God wants to be known. “God,” writes Fuhr and Köstenberger, “is more intent on revealing himself to you than you are to get to know him” (19). Even though God’s Word is often labeled a confusing book, full of ancient civilizations, customs, locations, and dialects, there is a message God desires you to see and understand. Yes, there are mysteries within Scripture that often elude us, “the Bible,” Fuhr and Köstenberger continue, “is anything but exclusive in reach, its pages open to all who seek to know the truth in faith” (3). And since hermeneutics is an art, it’s something that you can develop over time. With patience and practice, unpacking the Bible’s rich, meaningful truths can become an easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable skill.
Richard Alan Fuhr, Jr. and Andreas J. Köstenberger, Inductive Bible Study: Observation, Interpretation, and Application Through the Lenses of History, Literature, and Theology (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016).
William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2017).
“A careful system of hermeneutics,” And therein lies the problem.