Hermeneutics is critical because it’s the connection between God’s Word and its application. The single most influential class I took in seminary was hermeneutics. It did more to enrich my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word than any other subject.
There’s one topic I wish every believer would study. Even though I’m an apologist and have taught apologetics for nearly two decades, it has nothing to do with defending the faith (though it can help with that). It’s called hermeneutics, but it’s more commonly known as biblical interpretation. If I could, I would require every believer in the global church to learn its principles.
Now, I can almost hear the pushback. Hermen-what? It sounds like a dry, academic subject that has no practical value for my walk with God. It’s probably just for pastors, people say.
That’s just not true. Hermeneutics is an exciting topic because it helps us believers better understand what God is saying to us. You’re going read the Bible between now and the day you die, and what you read will define your theology, affect major life decisions, and determine what you teach others according to what you think it says. Hermeneutics is critical because it’s the connection between God’s Word and its application. The single most influential class I took in seminary was hermeneutics. It did more to enrich my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word than any other subject.
Let me illustrate how three key principles of biblical interpretation can help you understand a commonly misunderstood passage. It’s based on a verse that has fueled numerous skeptics to challenge the integrity of Jesus.
They claim that Jesus commands his followers to round up those who reject him and kill them. They cite Luke 19:27 where Jesus says, “Those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.” That doesn’t sound like the tender and compassionate Jesus we all know. What’s going on? The problem is entirely a hermeneutical mistake—people are misinterpreting the passage. Consider how applying the three keys to biblical interpretation clarifies the meaning and application of this passage.
Context: The first key to interpreting any biblical passage is to read the verses before and after the passage in question. The more you read, the better. That’s why we say at Stand to Reason, “Never read a Bible verse.” Always read the whole paragraph, the chapter, or the whole book. When this verse is read in context, you discover that Jesus is telling a parable about a nobleman and his servants. Parables, of course, are fictitious stories intended to illustrate a point. This story is about a nobleman who leaves ten minas with his ten servants and departs to be crowned king. His servants hate him, though, and send an envoy to petition against his appointment. After he’s crowned king, he returns to judge his servants on how they’ve invested his money. After rewarding the faithful servants, he punishes the unfaithful ones and then orders his enemies to be killed.