Upon first encountering a hermeneutics course in 1993, I was immediately struck by the importance of the field. I began to study it seriously then, and have never stopped. When the opportunity arose to teach it on the seminary level, I jumped at the chance, and taught it through a couple of times. It was therefore a really rude surprise when I realized a few years ago that I knew some good principles, but I had no basis for them. I was interpreting the Bible with my feet firmly planted in midair.
There was a single insight that forced me back to the drawing board, forced me to reverse several important positions and to completely redesign my seminary hermeneutics course. That insight was simply this: Scripture teaches us how to interpret Scripture. Every hermeneutical principle is either taught by Scripture itself, or it’s purest fantasy, and people who get their hermeneutics from hermeneutics books don’t know what they’re talking about. This is basic authority-of-Scripture stuff, and it amazes me that it took me so long to see it. It amazes me even more that I could get all the way through 4 years of Bible college and a 4-year Th.M. program, both at pretty good schools, without somebody pounding it into my head. But so it goes, and there are probably a few of my former teachers out there thinking, “Kiddo, I tried to tell you….”
The Word is profitable for rebuke, God be thanked, and I at long last heard it. Happily, I had the chance to redesign my course to teach hermeneutics from the Bible itself, which was a real pleasure. Over the summer of 2008 I also had occasion to share a modified version of that course in the regular Wednesday-night services at a local church. The course syllabus, lectures and handouts are available for download below.
If you have questions, comments, disagreements, or other feedback of whatever variety, I’d love to hear from you. You can post a comment here on this page, or for a more private discussion, email me using the Contact Page. I look forward to hearing from you.
Living the Living Word Course Syllabus
Creation to Curse (pdf handout) (ALL pdf handouts in one file)
Contract and Law (pdf handout)
David (pdf handout)
Solomon (pdf handout)
Malachi (pdf handout)
Jesus (pdf handout)
Acts (pdf handout)
Paul (pdf handout)
Peter (pdf handout)
Hebrews (pdf handout)
I started out my adventure in biblical theology over 30 years ago with the supposition that the bible teaches hermeneutics. Not all hermeneutics (as you propose), but some hermeneutics. With that in mind I looked for said hermeneutics in the bible and thought I had found a good one in Isa. 28:9 and following: “Whom shall he make to understand doctrine . . . line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.” I’m not sure how I actually used that as a hermeneutic but in doing so I violated sound hermeneutics because I was engaging in eisogesis rather than exegesis. Silly me. The verses weren’t teaching hermeneutics, they were simply saying God would keep speaking to them, sometimes by using foreign armies, and when he did that they were being judged. It was a prophetic wake-up call, not a hermeneutic.
[…] most detailed take on this can be found in a course called Living the Living Word. I’d teach it differently — and probably a lot more simply — now, but the basic […]