The word hermeneutics is said to have had its origin in the name Hermes, the Greek god (the god of art and eloquence) who served as a messenger for the gods, transmitting and interpreting their communications to their fortunate or often unfortunate recipients.
As a theological discipline, hermeneutics is the science and art of the correct interpretation of the Bible. It is a special application of the general science of linguistics and meaning. Seeks to formulate those particular rules which pertain to the special factors connected with the Bible. Science assumes that there are diverse modes of thought and ambiguities of expression among men accordingly. It aims to remove the supposed differences between the writer and his readers so that the meaning of the writer is truly and accurately apprehended by others.
In its technical meaning, hermeneutics is often defined as a science and art of Biblical interpretation. It is a science in that it can determine certain principles for discovering the meaning of a document and in that these principles are not a mere list of rules but bear an organic connection to each other. It is also an art because principles or rules can never be applied mechanically but involved the skill of the interpreter. Communication is the flexible and therefore mechanical and rigid application of rules that sometimes distort the time-meaning of a communication. To be a good interpreter one must learn the rules of hermeneutics as well as the art of applying those rules.
So biblical hermeneutics is the science and art of properly interpreting the Bible. To interpret means to correctly draw out and explain the meaning, the author’s intended meaning not an imaginary one.
The goal of this subject is to give the reader not only an understanding of the principles of proper biblical interpretations but also the ability to apply those principles in sermon preparation and delivery (Homiletic), teachings, or personal Bible study. The hermeneutical theory is sometimes divided into two subcategories; general and special hermeneutics. General hermeneutics is the study of those rules that govern the interpretation of the entire biblical text, which may appropriately take cognizance of the logical operations of the human mind, and the philosophy of human speech. Special hermeneutics is the study of those rules that apply to specific genres, such as parables, allegories, types, prophecy, etc.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS
- 1 God has spoken in Holy Scripture is the very heart of our faith and without this certainty, we should be left to the relativity and dubiousness of human knowledge. God has spoken But what has He said?
The primary and basic need of hermeneutics is to ascertain what God has said in the sacred scripture: To determine the meaning of the word of God. There is no profit to us if God has spoken and we do not understand what He said. Therefore, it is our responsibility to determine the meaning of what God has given to us in sacred scripture. Only through the rules of hermeneutics and the guidance of the Holy Spirit can we do this.
- 2. The Holy Spirit does not do all things for us, we have a part to play. The teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit is not, however, a magical shortcut to easy understanding of every Bible verse. There is what the Holy Spirit will not do for you. He will not necessarily make you a masterful Bible scholar just because you prayed for his leading. The Holy Spirit guides you into all truths and preserves you from errors with your proper knowledge of hermeneutical rules. Every time people strongly affirm to us that the Spirit of God has given them the correct interpretation of some Bible passages they think no one else has properly explained it. But these so-called “Spirit-given revelations” often contradict one another. Someone must be wrong! Then hermeneutics helps you to know the truth and the error.
- . We need to know the correct methods of biblical interpretation so that we do not confuse the voice of God with the voice of a man. In every one of those places where our interpretation is at fault, we have made a substitution of the voice of a man for the voice of God. We need to know hermeneutics thoroughly if for no other reason than to preserve us from the folly and errors of faulty principles of understanding God’s words.
- 4. To determine what God has said is a high and holy task. With fear and trembling each should be ever so careful of that which he has adopted as his method of biblical interpretation. Upon the correct interpretation of the Bible resets our doctrine of salvation, sanctification, eschatology, and Christian living, it is our solemn responsibility to know what God has said with reference to each of these.
Only a sound and trustworthy interpretation of the scripture record, therefore it is the root and basis of all revealed theology. Without it, systematic theology, on Dogmatic, would not be legitimately constructed, and would a fact be essentially impossible, for the doctrines of revelation can only be learned from a correct understanding of the oracles of God.
- 5. To breach the gap between our minds and the minds of the biblical writers, because of different cultural backgrounds, times geographical locations, languages, and ways of expression. Personal intercourse between individuals of the same nation and language is often difficult and embarrassing by reason of their different styles of thought and expression. Even the Apostle Peter found out that’s writing things that were difficult to understand 2Peter 3:18. The man of God and liberal culture lives and moves in a different world from the unlettered peasant, so much so that sometimes the ordinary conversation of the one is scarcely intelligible to the other.
- 6. Through the rule of hermeneutics we test the teaching of others. As Christian workers, we cannot escape the necessity of testing the teachings of other teachers. We can only do this fairly by examining the interpretation of the Bible according to some logical ways of hermeneutics. Certainly, many of the doctrinal variations in Christendom are due to differences in interpretations. Many groups and the Bible in other to find and support their teaching, yet they teach opposite doctrines because of matters of hermeneutics.
- 7. As Christian students and Christian workers it is our duty to understand the teaching of the Bible for ourselves and explain it to others. The discovery and explanation of hermeneutics take us into some very real problems. The Bible is not always there to explain. If we really wish to be consistent and to get at the truth throughout, we must have some safety rules to guide our study and teaching which hermeneutics provide us with guiding rules.