Biblical Hermeneutics
Section Two
Section One
Section Two
Section Three
Section Four

Covenant Community School of Biblical Studies 
SBS 1024
Advanced Studies Course 

The HISTORICAL PERIODS of Biblical interpretation

Apostolic Hermeneutics Apostolic hermeneutics utilized a prevailing use of the literal method. However, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the New Testament writers infallibly interpreted the Old Testament in their texts. Because Jesus Christ is the living Word, (God incarnate) He is considered to be the perfect interpreter. The experiential accurate account of His apostles who received the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit are considered inspired interpreters. The product was one of perfect balance between spiritual and literal methodology.

Patristic Hermeneutics Utilizing the facts of their recent history, these early church fathers and doctors (95 AD 600 AD) were interested in primarily defending and guarding their faith against heresy and corruption. There was a tendency to mix philosophy with Christianity that mixed allegorical methods into their hermeneutics, periodically producing branches of misinterpretations. During this time frame the New Testament scriptures were canonized and orthodox Christianity (standard determined doctrine) was established. Around 200 AD the School of Alexandria was established from which came the Western portion of Christianity. Around 325 AD the School of Antioch was established from which came the Eastern (Greek) and Coptic branches of Christianity.

Medieval Hermeneutics During this period of time, interpretations derived from earlier schools of hermeneutics were commonly filtered through the security of church tradition. When contradictions were detected between the writings of the earlier church fathers and that of scripture, typically the writings of the fathers were accepted above the authority of scriptures. Understanding or interpreting scriptures was considered a superstitious act of reverence only to be done by the clergy. Their methodology was strongly literal, but rarely used. Most interpretation was accepted from and through the past by the church fathers. The clergy and primary theologians generally connected four "senses" in their hermeneutical patterns; 1). Literal sense (the plain evident meaning), 2). Allegorical sense (The hidden theological meaning), 3). Moral sense (the hidden practical meaning) 4). Eschatological sense (the futuristic meaning).

Reformation Hermeneutics During this period there was more of an awareness of the gap between divine revelation and human reasoning. An emphasis was placed on the value of scripture and also of understanding it through the process of interpretation The theme "sola scriptura" (only scripture) was the standard before the new army of theologians accepting the Bible alone as infallible. The four-fold "senses" were quickly abandoned for a more literal method of interpretation. The Bible also become more readily available to the general public, so interpretation was not left to the clergy and theological scholars . (1517 AD 1600 AD)

Post-Reformation Hermeneutics During the post-reformation era interpretive skills became extreme in their literalism but also began to incorporate a more devotional methodology. Pietism emerged in this era affecting hermeneutic methods and dogmatism in the Christian church. Such principals of interpretation are: The Bible should be studied in its original languages; A knowledge of historical background must be gained; the Holy Spirit must apply the Word to the believer; the Bible should be studied devotionally and applied practically. Rationalistic methods of interpretation slowly crept into the church during the close of this era producing more liberal and less accurate interpretations of the Bible. (1600 AD -1800 AD)

Modern and Post-Modern Hermeneutics All methods of interpretation are used in the various branches of Christianity today in regards to the Scripture. The literal method probably still prevails in popularity but by a slim margin. Liberalism is a prevailing force amongst various schools of interpretation. Liberalism is the combination of all schools of thought that depart from the foundational elements of orthodox (accepted traditional doctrine) Christianity. The infallibility and inspiration of Scriptures is regularly challenged. The Bible is often considered to be the container of the Word of God rather than the Word of God, so hermeneutical skills are less desired and practiced. Because the post modern society foundationally questions all authority and adheres to very few absolutes, the Bible has a relative value rather than an authoritative cultural value.


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