Welcome to the Crawl

Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.  Also, remember these conversation tips: 1) Be polite, and don’t take offense, 2) Say something if you don’t understand, 3) Ask “why” and speak up if you disagree (It’s not rude, it’s just a good conversation). Now, order a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

The Big Question: How do we know if one interpretation of the Bible is better than another?

The Main Questions

  • Read the definitions of exegesis and eisegesis. While distinct theoretically, can these two forms of interpretation be easily distinguished in real life? If yes, how so? If no, how can any interpretation be seen as valid?
  • What genres of literature are present in the Bible? Should genre change how you interpret the text. If yes, give an example. If no, why not?
  • Does human authorial intent matter for interpreting the meaning of a given Biblical passage? Why or why not?
  • Does a person’s spirituality matter for the validity of their interpretation of Scripture (i.e. if someone is more holy, does their interpretation of the text matter more)? Why or why not?
  • What academic tools should interpreters utilize to understand the Bible (e.g. archaeology, literary criticism, etc.)? Are academic methods always important for Scriptural interpretation?
  • Should the historical and contemporary experience of the Church (i.e. tradition) be a factor in biblical interpretation? If yes, can biblical interpretations legitimately change over time? If no, how can any interpretation be regarded as legitimate?
  • Considering the above discussion, what would be the marks of a good interpretation of Scripture? In other words, how would you discern if a interpretation is correct?

Key Definitions

  • exegesis [ ek-si-jee-sis ] // a critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially of the Bible. // dictionary.com
  • eisegesis [ ahy-si-jee-sis ] // an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter’s own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text. // dictionary.com
  • hermeneutics [ hur-muh-noo-tiks] // 1) the science of interpretation, especially of the Scriptures; 2) the branch of theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis. // dictionary.com

Important Scripture

  • Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. // 2 Peter 1:20
  • As he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. // 2 Peter 3:16
  • So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. // Isaiah 55:11
  • You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. // Matthew 5:38-39
  • All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. // 2 Timothy 3:16
  • Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. // Acts 17:11

Thoughts from Others

  • The broader problem is that a great deal of popular preaching and teaching uses the bible as a pegboard on which to hang a fair bit of Christianized pop psychology or moralizing encouragement, with very little effort to teach the faithful, from the Bible, the massive doctrines of historic confessional Christianity. // D.A. Carson
  • The truth is, it doesn’t matter what a verse means to me, to you, or to anyone else. All that matters is what the verse means! // John MacArthur, Jr.
  • Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought. // Augustine of Hippo
  • I urge not that we assume that love will provide a reliable foundation for knowledge but that we nonetheless keep the requirements of love of neighbor foremost in our interpretations of Scripture. We should consider, for example, love to be a necessary criterion (a minimum) when defending an interpretation of Scripture even if it cannot be a sufficient criterion that will guarantee ethical interpretation. // Dale B. Martin
  • The fact that our traditional method of extracting doctrine from Scripture does not work well on narrative does not mean that Bible stories do not send clear messages. Instead, it suggests that the way we apply our traditional method of interpretation is inadequate because we are ignoring too much of God’s Word. // Craig Keener
  • Although biblical religion is sexist, it is not reducible to sexism alone! It has also been dealing with human issues, such as estrangement and oppression and the hope for reconciliation and liberation. It has been doing this on male terms, failing to apply the same critique to women. Biblical feminists use these same liberating principles of the biblical tradition. But they make the principles say new things by applying them to sexism. // Rosemary Radford Ruether