Biblical Hermeneutics
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Covenant Community School of Biblical Studies 
SBS 1024
Advanced Studies Course

Hermeneutics The word hermeneutic defined is the science of interpreting. It comes from the Greek word "hermeneutikos"

The PRIMARY METHODS of Biblical interpretation -

Allegorical Method The allegorical method of Biblical interpretation says the plain and obvious sense of Scripture hide the real spiritual truth of the Bible. When allegorizing Scripture, a passage of scripture with an obvious physical or literal meaning is illuminated by using a point by point comparison. This method has its roots in Greek philosophy and is used highly in Jewish writings and in Roman Catholicism. The promotion of this method is "Scripture is really saying this".

Example : Looking at the book of Job: Jobs three friends represent heretics; his seven sons represent the apostles; his seven thousand sheep represent the faithful people of God; his three thousand camels represent the depraved pagans.

Mystical Method The mystical method of Biblical interpretation say the plain and obvious sense of Scripture hide a multiplicity of spiritual truths in the Bible. It is like the allegorical method, only it leaves open many possibilities for interpretation and understanding. It generally mistakes application for interpretation and reads more into scripture that what is truly trying to be communicated. The promotion of this method is "Scripture is really saying several other things".

Example: To interpret one of the ten commandments "Thou shall not kill" may mean that you shouldnt literal physically end someones life. It may mean that you shouldnt hate them. Or it may mean that you should destroy their spiritual life (soul).

Devotional Method The devotional method of Biblical interpretation says the most important message is what God is saying to the interpreter through scripture. The personal application to the interpreter is the ultimate understanding of scripture. It becomes easy to lift scripture out of context and interpret for personal use or satisfaction. The promotion of this method is "The only important meaning is what scripture speaks to me".

Example: The passage in Jeremiah 29:11 might be interpreted by the individual as that God will only prosper himself or herself financially.

Rationalistic Method The rationalistic method of interpreting scripture is based on the presumption that the Bible is not the inspired Word of God. Thus, the Bible is interpreted through human reasoning, accepted logic, or by natural explanation. The supernatural is readily explained away. The promotion of this method is "Nature is the standard and reason is the guide."

Example: In John 11, a rationalist would say Lazarus did not really die, he was in a comma. Christ did not actually raise Lazarus from the dead.

Literal Method This method of Biblical interpretation declares that the plain evident meanings of Scripture are reliable. The words of Scripture communicate what God intended us to know. This means that scripture is written with language that is normal, customary, socially acceptable in the particular contexts in which it was conveyed. While a word may have more than one definition in a given text, it has only intended meaning. Almost all literalist believe the Bible is inspired by God. Often times spiritual implications are not perceived. The promotion of this school is "The Bible says what it says".

Example: In Revelation 20:5 the literalist would take the words one thousand years to mean exactly one thousand calendar years as we know them.

Spiritual Method With the spiritual method of Biblical interpretation, the Bible is seen as a book of spiritual illustrations designed to help us grow spiritually. Because God is our creator and the virtual author of Scripture, historical events do have spiritual significance, and certain figures of speech, such as types, symbols and allegories may have hidden meanings. Sometimes implications are overly emphasized. The promotion of this school is "The Bible is a spiritual book conveying spiritual truth".

Example: In Romans 2:28,29 the spiritual interpreter would say that all Christians are spiritual Jews.

Covenant Community School of Biblical Studies
P.O. Box 750491 
Dayton, Ohio   45475-0491