As we continue in our hermeneutics study, it is important to discuss how we determine the meaning of a text.
Download Handout – Session 4 – The Meaning of a Text
Who Controls the Meaning?
- Who controls the meaning of a biblical text? There are two options:
- Authorial Intent: Meaning is determined by the intention of the author.
- Reader Response: Meaning is determined by the reader or by a community of readers.
- The author of any text is the ultimate authority of its meaning.
- We wouldn’t believe we could read a governmental sign or a financial charge and interpret it any way we chose.
- A text can have multiple meanings if the author intended to communicate those meanings.
- The most dangerous question to ask in a Bible study: “What does this passage mean to you?”
- It doesn’t matter what the Bible means to us but what it means to God.
- Be careful you don’t “over-spiritualize” a passage and miss the plain meaning of a text.
The Holy Spirit and Hermeneutics
- The Holy Spirit doesn’t teach a secret meaning of Scripture, but he reveals the intended meaning of Scripture.
- Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach and remind us regarding Scripture’s claims.
- But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (John 14:26).
Questions to Determine the Meaning of a Text
- AUTHOR: Who wrote the book?
- AUDIENCE: For whom was the book intended?
- CONTEXT: What is the context of the passage?
- BEFORE: What precedes the passage?
- AFTER: What follows the passage?
- TOTALITY: How does other passages interpret this passage?
Let’s Practice: Do some work on Matt. 7:1 by answering the questions above.