Friday, March 07, 2008

Introduction to Hermeneutics, Part 4 of 4: Approaches

The following material is adapted from what I am teaching in the Cumberland Area Pulpit Supply ministry.




After reading and re-reading the Scriptures, it is helpful to have an approach to hermeneutics.  That is what this course is about, and we will deal with more specifics in future sessions.  But for now, you may want to keep in mind a structure to help you study God's Word, such as the two below.  These approaches help you read out of the text what is there instead reading your ideas into the text.


Observation, Interpretation, and Application


  • Observation – "What does it say?" (or, "What?")1 – Notice what is in the text and take notes.  Notice who the author is, why he is writing, to whom he is writing, what he is addressing, repeated words/concepts, etc.


  • Interpretation – "What does it mean?" (or, "So what?") – Based on your observations, proceed to interpret the text, explaining its meaning.  Interpret in light of the immediate context of the sentence, paragraph, book, testament, and whole Bible (literary context).  Also, examine its historical and cultural contexts.  Finding what it meant to its first audience is a necessary step to get on the bridge that connects the Bible's time and our time.


  • Application – "What does it mean for me/my hearers?" (or, "Now what?") – What does the text teach that we should do or obey?  How does it address us as sinners?  How does it point us to Christ?  How should our lives change as a result of having read the text?  How will I obey?


The CAPTOR Method (Dan Doriani)


This method is laid out in Dan Doriani's excellent book, Getting the Message (P&R, 1996).


  • C – Context (literary and historical)


  • A – Analysis (Is it discourse or narrative [story]?  Analyze accordingly.)


  • P – Problems (What is unfamiliar or confusing to you or unfamiliar or potentially confusing or unclear to potential readers/listeners?)


  • T – Themes (What themes are dealt with in the text?)


  • O – Obligations (A better word is application, which the author admits.  What does this text require of us?)


  • R – Reflecting on
    • the point of the text (Why is this text in the Bible?  What is the main point?)
    • the redemptive-historical connection (How does this text point us to Christ?  What is the place of this text within the big picture of the Bible?)


[1] The connections of these concepts in parentheses are drawn from Ramesh Richard, Preparing Expository Sermons.


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