Posted: September 18th, 2017
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Samuel Powell- BT 500 Forum 4
Grammatical-historical hermeneutic approach to Historical Criticism
The grammatical-historical hermeneutic approach has the ability to enhance the element of other approaches because it “attempts to uncover the meaning that a text would have had to its original human author and readers (1)”. I think this is most important for the Christian theologian as they attempt to present a holistic view of what the scriptures are saying, demonstrating, and referring to. I see that this method as helpful to the development of understanding and utilizing the historical critical approach to scripture, in opposition to those who object to utilizing information obtained from the historical critical method of the bible because they view it as not valid, suspecting information is gained and based on the scholars presuppositions. This tool is helpful to G. Maier who objects to historical criticism and quotes, “Historical criticism is inappropriate for a revealed text. If the Bible really is revelation, then obedience is called for, not critique (2)”.
Within the historical content of utilizing the grammatical-historical hermeneutic approach for understanding the historical critical analysis of scripture one may utilize the literal and nonliteral theory. This is literally important because it adds understanding to the text as it is applied in to common meaning of what it is referring to within the context of what is being applied by the author during the specific time, location, condition, and circumstance. It interesting what McCartney and Clayton writes, “Literalness” does not indicate the truth or falsity, not the precision of the statement. A literal statement can be false, or even fantastic (3)”. Here the importance is in the language that is being utilized, the culture, position of the author, the condition of the people and how does it relate to the authors intent as opposed to how it is interpreted by the reader.
And this speaks to the Redemptive-Historical Gap in the bible which refers not only to the distance between the different parts but also to the change in situations that took place in the OT, NT, and twenty-first century. The gap is not because of the Word of God was not in existence but because of the failure of humankind to acknowledge that the spirit of God was needed for redemption. I think it is the redemptive-historical gap helps us to understand the millions of miles of differences between the literal and nonliteral thinking enhanced by our presuppositions, resulting in our predetermined outcome. However, hopefully this grammatical-historical hermeneutical approach will help to keep our predetermined results and conclusions in check so that the word of God does not become a stumbling block by offending or misleading others.
1) McCartney, Dan, and Charles Clayton. Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1994.p.120.
2) Ibid, .305.
3) Ibid, .128.
Ambiguity in Interpretation
With each method of biblical interpretation the scholar deals with areas of ambiguity. This is especially noted with a Grammatical-Historical approach where the interpreter studies the word usage and the period when it was written. Lack of special care in understanding the time period and culture results in poor interpretation because the original language is not understood.
Some scholars believe this ambiguity makes understanding the Bible impossible. “If it is not possible to be certain of the Bible’s meaning, then it is meaningless to assert that the text of the Bible is itself inerrant. Biblical passages appear to have multiple meanings. It doesn’t really matter if one of them is true, if we cannot determine which is the valid one.”1 This evaluation goes against my understanding. Here Robinson is determining the inerrancy of the Scriptures by the meaning of the text. However, because we believe the Word inerrant, we also believe the various meanings of the text, that is, if they do not contradict the whole of Scripture.
According to McCartney and Clayton, “ambiguity is where more than one meaning is linguistically possible; inexactness is where the one meaning is not precise.”2 How can we encourage the acceptance of ambiguity and understanding it doesn’t negate the Bible’s validity?
1 B.A. Robinson. The Bible: Ambiguity vs. Inerrancy, http://www.religioustolerance.org/ine_none9.htm (accessed August 2, 2015).
2 McCartney, Dan; Clayton, Charles (2014-09-07). Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible (Kindle Locations 2888-2889). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.
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