The importance of hermeneutics

Good interpretation is vital to reading the Bible.

Kei-Lynn Wheaton, Staff Writer

Hermeneutics comes from the Greek word hermeneuō which means to translate or interpret. From a biblical perspective, this is the interpretation of the Bible. Some may rely upon church leaders to interpret the Bible for them as it seems like they might know best. However, it is crucial for Christians to learn proper hermeneutics so that they can interpret the Bible for themselves.


In his article on hermeneutics, Kieran Beville says “the study of hermeneutics is an important and relevant subject for every Christian. The world of the Bible is widely separated in its culture and customs from our world today.” It is important to be aware of the historical and cultural context when the Bible was written. These people had their own languages and customs that affected every part of their lives. Contextual interpretation is necessary to better understand the meaning.

 Proper hermeneutics also helps readers to interpret the Bible without bias. Whether a reader is aware of it or not, it is difficult to not read the Bible from their own perspective. A great example is the role of a woman within a household. Feminists today may call this restrictive and patriarchal against women. However, when culture is considered, this might not be the case.

 Also, Christians must be sure not to misconstrue the word of God. Dogmatics, doctrine and theological concepts all depend on proper hermeneutics.


There are three types of messages that the reader needs to know in order to conduct proper hermeneutics—locution, illocution and perlocution. Locution refers to what is being spoken or written. Illocution refers to the intention the speaker or writer has by using those specific words. Lastly, perlocution refers to what the speaker or writer envisioned the outcome or results to be for the intended audience.

 The reader should also know the various genres that are within the Bible. These genres include poetry, historical narrative, biography and so on. Knowing these genres when beginning to read will help with literal versus non-literal interpretation.


Unfortunately, there are numerous disagreements regarding the proper interpretation of certain passages in the Bible. One such passage involves the early chapters of Genesis. Biologos in its article on how to interpret the Bible state that the early chapters of Genesis are real events but are discussed using “largely figurative language.” Where the divide on this interpretation lies is the interpretation of “day” in Genesis. One side interprets it as a literal 24-hour day while the other interprets it as a long period of time. What both sides can agree on is that creation did occur as God details it.

 Healthy disagreement is perfectly fine—this is why proper hermeneutics is vital. Both sides are considering genre, language and cultural background while interpreting the scripture. Using resources such as commentaries, Bible charts, timelines and historical information aid in understanding and growing in God’s word.

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