My hometown church family has been blessed with an incredibly awesome pastor. His name is Hod, and if I could describe him with only one word it would be “passionate”. That might sound cheesy, but if you knew him you would say the same. He is passionate for God, passionate for the Gospel, passionate for evangelism, and passionate for accurately teaching the word of God (…He’s also super passionate about coffee, but that’s another lesson for another day). I know at this point some of you might be a little annoyed, perhaps forming thoughts like:
“Accurate? Who is she to decide that this pastor is accurate?”
“I’ve been studying the bible for far longer than she has, how can she know what is accurate?”
God’s word isn’t meant to be accurate, it has many different interpretations.”
I can put myself in your shoes and understand where you are coming from. Heck, if I had never had a pastor like Hod I might be thinking some of the same things. But I promise you, that is not the case. Let me explain. In order to determine how to study the bible accurately, we must begin with a quote from Pastor Hod. “Who’s Hermen and what’s a neutic?”
My time on my passion project this week has been devoted to learning as much as I can about hermeneutical studying and then applying it to the book of Romans. This website offers a fair definition for hermeneutics by stating it is the, “interpretive lenses through which one reads the Bible.” It then goes a step further in identifying that hermeneutics is also the studying of interpretive lenses, or the studying of the studying if you want to be extra witty.
So what exactly are those interpretive lenses? They can be summed up in three words: author, audience, and purpose. Who wrote the book? To whom did they write it? Why did they write the book? It seems straightforward, but it is a difficult concept to grasp for many because utilizing hermeneutics means keeping the bible within its original context, and only after extracting the true meaning can one apply it to their own life.
This is where Jesus comes in. Just kidding (although not really because Jesus is all over the bible, woohoo!) I actually mean exegesis and eisegesis, which are two terms key to hermeneutical studying. They might sound very similar, but they are opposite in meaning. Exegesis is a God-centered approach to studying scripture, while eisegesis is man-centered. With the former, you become an exegete which is someone who expounds scripture in the detail of its original context. You carefully sift through the work, verse by verse, taking the time to learn the correct meaning behind it. It is an understanding that the book was written for you, not to you. The latter occurs when you infuse your own experience into the work, covering the original context with a personal interpretation. If it is not yet obvious, I will be exegeting the text to the best of my abilities.
Now to tie it all back into Romans. Before studying this book in any which way, I must establish the three lenses through which I will be interpreting it. The author is Paul (1:1) and he is writing to both the Jews and the Greeks of the Roman church (1:7). His purpose is found in 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith.” In other words, faith alone in Christ alone is justification. We are now ready to dive into the meat of the text. Next week I will be offering a commentary on Romans chapter one!
I will wrap up with a recommendation. Next time you’re having dinner with someone, go ahead and toss out the word hermeneutics. When they inevitably ask, “Who’s Hermen and what’s a neutic?” you can now explain it to them. Maybe even sprinkle in a little exegesis and eisegesis too. Not only do you get to share the truth of God’s word in the process (so much yes!), but it also makes you sound sophisticated. A true win-win.