Hermeneutics 1. Theory, Practice, and Application of Bible Study

Hermeneutics, Exegesis and Exposition, and Application

Tod Kennedy 2013

Scripture: 2 Timothy 2.15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Scripture: 2 Peter 3.16

As also in all his [Paul] letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Scripture: 2 Timothy 3.16-17

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Summary of Study and Teach

  1. Why does the author write this?
  2. What does it say?
  3. What does it mean?
  4. What should I do about it?

Topics to Study

  1. Introductory quotes and comments
  2. English Bible Translations
  3. Summary Chart
  4. Definitions
  5. Exegetical Process
  6. Application of Hermeneutics
  7. Teaching your study
  8. Selected references

Introductory Comments

Hermeneutics or the science of interpretation has been changing from discovering the biblical author’s one intended meaning based on an analysis of the grammar and the history of the time.

The emphasis in new hermeneutics shifts from finding the author’s one meaning to what does this mean to me. The meaning of the text becomes dependent on the reader’s personal application to himself.

New Hermeneutics does change things. It claims…

Our pre-understanding or what we bring to the text from our culture and background determines our interpretation.

We cannot know what the author meant.

It does not matter what the author meant. One interpretation, many applications is no longer true.

One interpretation, many applications no longer matters.

Interpretation and application are the same.

What the text means to me is what is important.

Bible translation is affected by emphasizing dynamic equivalence over formal equivalence.

  1. English Bible Translations

We must first have an accurate translation before we can have an accurate interpretation. We must have an accurate translation and interpretation before we can have accurate application.

Translation, Formal Equivalence vs Dynamic Equivalence

  • Word for Word (Formal)
  • Interlinear
  • NASB
  • AMP
  • ESV
  • RSV
  • KJV
  • NKJV
  • NET Bible?? Added to Wikipedia list
  • HCSB
  • NRSV
  • NAB
  • NJB
  • NIV
  • TNIV
  • NLT
  • NIrV
  • GNT
  • CEV
  • Living
  • Message
  • Thought for thought (Dynamic)

English Bible translations http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_and_formal_equivalence

Translators of the Bible have taken various approaches in rendering it into English, ranging from an extreme use of formal equivalence, to extreme use of dynamic equivalence.[5]

Predominant use of formal equivalence


Relationship between some formal equivalence Bible translations

Moderate use of dynamic equivalence

Extensive use of dynamic equivalence or paraphrase or both

Extensive use of paraphrase

Also see



3. Chart for quick view of hermeneutics, exegesis and exposition, and application


Exegesis and



Theory for Bible analysis and interpretation

Practice of Bible analysis and interpretation

Present day use in life from the one meaning


Find the author’s one meaning

Find application(s) to present day audience

Interpret by Grammar (syntax, morphology, semantics)

Because the author writes using the grammar of his time

Must have same or similar situation as the original author

Interpret by facts of history (history, culture, archaeology)

Because the author writes within the factual history of his time

Text based application(s)

  1. Definitions
    1. Revelation. The act by which God makes Himself and His will known to man. Revelation is either general or special. The written Word (Bible) is the only special revelation available today (Exodus 34.27; Isaiah 55.8-11; Daniel 7; 1 Corinthians 2.10; Galatians 2.2; Ephesians 3.3; many others).
    2. Inspiration. God the Holy Spirit so supernaturally directed the human writers of Scripture, that without waiving their human intelligence, vocabulary, individuality, literary style, personality, personal feelings, or any other human factor, His complete and coherent message to mankind was recorded with perfect accuracy in the original languages of Scripture, the very words bearing the authority of divine authorship. It is the process God chose to record His special revelation. The written Word is exactly as God wanted it, down to the very words and letters and is without error (Luke 24.44; 1 Timothy 5.18; 2 Timothy 3.16; 2 Peter 1.20-21). “Inspiration” is translated from the Greek, θεοπνευστος, literally meaning “God-breathed.“ “No progress has ever been made in formulating doctrine from the Bible when men have doubted the inspiration of the Scriptures in all its parts” (2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2 Peter 1:20–21. Chafer, VII, p.200-201).
    3. Inerrancy of the Scriptures. Scripture, having been inspired by God the Holy Spirit, is free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. Man’s sinfulness did not in any way introduce distortion or falsehood into God’s Word. Also, the absence of the original autograph of the Scriptures does not render the assertion of inerrancy invalid or irrelevant (Psalm 119.89; John 10.34-35; 12.49; Acts 1.16; 2 Timothy 3.16-17; Titus 1.2; 2 Peter 1.21).
    4. Infallibility of the Scriptures. Scripture, having been inspired by God the Holy Spirit, is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated (Isaiah 55.11; Matthew 5.17-18; 1 Peter 1.23-25).
    5. Sufficiency of the Scriptures. Scripture states that it is able to equip us for every good work. In addition, the Lord states that He has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the body of knowledge wherein His great and precious promises are recorded.
    6. Hermeneutics. The word “hermeneutics” is from the Greek verb `ερμενευω hermeneuo, which means “to explain” or “to translate.” and the noun `ερμενεια hermeneia, which means to translation, interpretation. “And they said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated [verb] means Teacher), where are you staying?” (John 1:38). “And to another, the interpretation [noun] of tongues.” Hermeneutics, though it can refer to any kind of interpretation, is the science of Bible analysis and interpretation. The purpose is to discover the one meaning of the author; and to find the author’s meaning the student must observe the normal, grammatical, and historical construction and background of the text.
    7. Plain Sense. “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.” David L. Cooper. http://www.biblicalresearch.info/page47.html
    8. Author’s meaning. The author meant to communicate what he wrote, and his meaning is the meaning meant for the reader and listener. Bible study is first of all to uncover the author’s meaning.
    9. Double Reference. A passage of Scripture may speak of two different events or people and they are separated by a long period of time, yet the two are blended into one context while the time gap is not stated. Psalm 22 speaks of David and his life. It also refers to the Greater David, Messiah. Not everything that is written happened to David. Some of the things were hyperbole—excessive to David’s life— and became true of the Greater David, Jesus. Another example is in Zechariah 9.9-10. It speaks of King Messiah coming. Verse 9 speaks of his first coming—he is just, has salvation, is humble, and riding on a colt. Verse 10 says he will cut off war, speak peace, and rule the earth—his second coming.
    10. Recurrence of subject matter. The author records an event and then records the same event with other details. It is not two different accounts. The second amplifies the first. Isaiah 11.1-10 with Isaiah 11.11-12.6 is an example. Isaiah 11.1-10 gives the rough picture of the first coming of the shoot from Jesse, Messiah—his character, his actions, and then his judgment, the change in creation, people seeking him. Isaiah 11.11-12.6 fills in details starting with the regathering of Israel and then the changes that the reigning Messiah will bring at his second coming. Ezekiel 38.1-23, another example, is the invasion by the Northern Army and its defeat while Ezekiel 39.1-16 repeats the story with other details. Isaiah 30 speaks of Judah’s alliance with Egypt while Isaiah 31 repeats with more details. Genesis 1.1-2.3 records the seven days of creation. While Genesis 2.4-25 gives more information about day six.
    11. A type is a God designed correspondence, similarity, or illustration of a future reality. A type looks ahead to the future. Genesis 3-4 with Romans 5.14, Adam was a pattern of illustration of Christ. Numbers 21.8-9 with John 3.14-16, The lifted up bronze serpent was an illustration of the coming savior on the cross. Be careful of seeing too many types in Scripture. They should be clear.
    12. Grammar. Grammar is the branch of linguistics that deals with syntax, the arrangement and function of words; morphology, the form of words; semantics, the meaning of words; and sometimes phonology, the sound of words. Syntax is the arrangement and function of words. Morphology is the form of words. Semantics is the meaning of words. Phonology is the sound of words.
    13. History. The Bible was written within a specific set of circumstances—the history of the time of the author. The Bible has recorded of events, people, and beliefs during the author’s lifetime. The interpreter must get inside the author: look through his eyes and see what he sees, hear what he hears, smell what he smells, read what he reads, and think what he thinks. He must interpret the passage as if he were living in the author’s world and looking over the author’s shoulder.
    14. Exegesis and Exposition. The practice of Bible analysis and interpretation in order to find the author’s one meaning. In order to do this, one must interpret based upon the principles of grammar and the facts of history at the time the author wrote.
    15. Application of the Scriptures. Applications are the moral and practical lessons that come from a correct understanding of the author’s meaning. A wrong moral lesson will result from wrong interpretation of the Scripture. There may be many applications from a passage, once the interpretation is correct.
    16. Illumination of the Scriptures. The coming to understand the one correct meaning and the many applications of the written Word through the ministry of the Holy Spirit combined with man’s study. The written Word comes from God, and God must illuminate and make clear and interpret and apply it (John 14.26; 1 Corinthians 2.12-13; 2 Timothy 2.15; 2 Peter 3.16; 1 John 2.27).
    17. Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. There are two main uses.
    • First, the NT author accepts the OT author’s inspired grammatical-historical one meaning and uses his one meaning. This is the exact meaning or literal meaning and fulfillment. Accepts the truth of the OT author’s one meaning as written. Does not read the OT through the eyes of the NT. This is the exact fulfillment of the OT prophecy (Matthew 1.23 with Isaiah 7.14; Matthew 2.5-6 with Micah 5.2; Matthew 2.5-6 with Micah 5.2).
    • Second, the NT author accepts the OT author’s inspired grammatical-historical one meaning and then under inspiration uses the words with another meaning or fuller meaning or similar meaning. Does not change the original meaning of the OT passage. Gives an additional, similar, or different meaning to the new setting than the OT has in its original setting. Applies the OT wording to the new setting. Bible interpreters do not have this inspiration and so do not have the liberty to give additional meanings or uses to the OT text. Jeremiah 31.15 with Matthew 2.17-18—mothers crying is the similarity. Joel 2.28-32 with Acts 2.16—the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the similarity. Hosea 11.1 with Matthew 2.15—God’s son left Egypt is the similarity; see Exodus 4.22-23. Isaiah 28.11 with 1 Corinthians 14.21-22—Assyrians speaking a foreign language to the Jews indicated to them that foreign taskmasters now ruled due to their disobedience. In Corinthians tongues (languages) indicated that new revelation and a new age (church) had come due to Israel’s rejection of their Messiah. Thomas calls this ISPA, inspired sensus plenior application. See Robert Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics, page 241, Kregel, 2002.
    1. Communication of the Scriptures. Communication is the process by which God transfers His message from the written Word to the soul and human spirit of man. God uses man (especially gifted communicators) in this process (Ezekiel 2-3; 1 Corinthians 12.28-31; Ephesians 4.11-16; Hebrews 5.11-14; 1 Timothy 4.11; 2 Timothy 4.1-5).
  2. The Exegetical Process emphasizes gaining and preparing the content of study and teach.
  3. Observe the Text—what it says?
  4. Why did the author write this?
  5. Interpret the text—what it means?
  6. Apply the text and answer so what? What to do?
  • History: The facts of history or historical background pertinent to the Bible section under study.
  • Observation: Note what the text say. Note the subject, verbs, phrases, people, places, ideas. This is the step to answer the questions who, what where, when, why?
  • Context: the relationship to the paragraph, chapter, book, argument of the book, other Bible books, to the Bible as a whole, and to God’s plan for creation. This includes a preliminary outline. Develop a title for each chapter and theme of the book and each chapter
  • Text: The determination of the wording of the manuscript that best reflects the original.
  • Grammar: The forms and uses of the language(s) at the time the Bible section under study was written (subject, verb, object, phrases, clauses, tenses, cases, use of the various grammatical forms, etc). This includes style, literary form, and poetry. Diagramming helps.
  • Lexical: The development, use, and meaning of the words.

Find the meaning of the words. The primary meaning comes from the word’s use in a context. Concordances, lexicons, word studies are readily available, but always see how a word is used in the context of the passage used.

Lexical includes figures of speech by which the author expresses himself in a special way. Important figures of speech include Simile, a comparison using like or as (Psalm 1:3 and 42:1). Metaphor says something is something else to imply a resemblance (Psalm 23:1; John 10:7, 11). Symbols are words that teach by representation (John 1.29).

Analysis and Synthesis: The investigation, explanation, and combination of the elements and parts of the whole. This will include an outline. This is the place in the process where everything is brought together.

Summary: A concise recapitulation of the Bible section under study. This includes a brief point by point, verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph summary

Doctrines and Applications: Develop the categories and principles of doctrine related to the Bible section under study. Be sure to make applications of the doctrines studied and include the applications in the study. Answer the questions, “so what?”

  1. Application of Hermeneutics, Exegesis and Exposition of the Bible

Basic Tools for Bible Study for English readers

  1. Bible
  2. Strong’s Concordance
  3. Bible Dictionary and English Dictionary
  4. One or Two Volume Commentary
  5. Notebook in which to record your study
  6. Things to consider in one’s study
  7. Study a Word Using Strong’s Concordance
  8. Reminders when one studies a Bible book
    1. Some interlinear Bibles available (not ranked in order of preference)
  • The NKJV Greek English Interlinear New Testament. Thomas Nelson Publishers. Majority Greek Text.
  • The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament. John R. III Kohlenberger. Zondervan.
  • The Interlinear NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Alfred Marshall. Zondervan. Critiucal Greek Text.
  • The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew/Greek/English. Jay P. Green, Sr. Received Text. Sovereign Grace Trust Fund.
    1. Concordance
  • Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance contains every word in the Bible (KJV). It gives a number code to each word so you can look it up in the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries in back of book

3. Bible Dictionaries

  • The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary
  • The New Bible Dictionary
  • Many others

4. Commentaries

  • The Bible Knowledge Commentary. DTS Professors. Victor Books
  • Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary. Radamacher, Allen, House, Editors. Nelson
  • Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible. Available on internet.

5. Note book for note taking–Organize notes by

  • Scripture
  • Category or General Topic such as Christ, Holy Spirit, Christian Way of Life
  • Alphabetical
  • Note taking helps one concentrate on the message.
  • Note taking helps one organize thoughts.
  • Note taking gives a record for the student to study, rewrite, and for reference.

6. Things to consider in one’s study

  • History
  • Context
  • Relationship and use of words
    • Noun, verbs, prepositional phrases, clauses.
    • Word forms such as tense, case.
  • Meaning of words
  • Related passages
  • Summary of meaning of the passage
  • Application
  1. Study a Word Using Strong’s Concordance
  • Select the word you want to study in the Bible.
  • Look in Strong’s for the word in your reference.
  • This will give you the Number for the Greek or Hebrew word.
  • Write down Strong’s page number and dictionary number.
  • Look up the dictionary number in the back.
  • Write down the definition.
  • Go back to the concordance (you wrote the page number) and find the word (you have the number).
  • Read through the verses that match the number and write down the best meaning for the word in the context under study.
  • Write out in a sentence or two the best meaning and point of the word in the passage under study.

7. Reminders when one studies a Bible book

  1. Read and reread and develop the initial theme for the book and each chapter. This is starting with the big picture or overview. Get the basic plan first like one building a house or one writing a book. Start putting titles for each chapter.
  2. Then develop the preliminary theme for the entire book from this study and eventually develop the preliminary argument of the author.
  3. Then work through paragraph, verse, words and structure to develop, support, and correct and improve the theme and argument of each chapter and book. The degree of detail depends upon the purpose for the study, the level of spiritual maturity of the audience, the time allotted for the study, and general common sense.
  4. Then one can develop pertinent doctrines, concepts, and applications that the author is teaching or referring to.
  5. This seems to be better, more enjoyable, more accurate, and better for application than beginning by plodding through each verse from start to finish without really knowing what the author is writing about.
  6. This does not mean to leave out the exegetical process. That process works in varying degrees throughout the study. At times it is very defined, organized, and recorded. At other times, especially when developing the themes and argument, it may be brief enough to understand the author.

In the preparation and teaching of a Bible lesson, message, or sermon the five steps below will help you. The eight principles or parts of the process beginning with history and ending with doctrine and application are the more detailed part of study, organize, simplify

  1. Study
  2. Organize
  3. Simplify
  4. Teach
  5. Repeat the above process in order to better understand the passage and to teach it better.

8. The Communication Process emphasizes the delivery of study and teach.

  1. Stay on Topic. If you have a subject or Scripture passage or a doctrine to teach, make sure you teach that. Do not wander from the topic.
  2. So what? Make sure the audience knows what you are teaching and why it is worthwhile to have listened. This is the application and answers the question, “so what?” The “so what” need not be limited to one idea or one point, but make sure the “so whats” are from the lesson.
  3. Organize and watch your Time. Keep within the anticipated time allotted. If the lesson will run over to the next class, make sure you bring the present class to a contained conclusion.

Remember, the teacher has the responsibility to transmit the meaning of the Scripture to the listener so that the listener understands and can apply the Scripture. So,

  1. Observe and Interpret, 1-6 of exegetical process
    1. What does the text say? 1-6
    2. What does the text mean? 1-6
  2. Why did the author write this? 1-6
  3. Summarize the argument and doctrine of the text, 7-8
  4. Doctrine and Application, so what? 8
    1. Doctrine or doctrines taught by the text. 9
    2. What should I do in response to the text? 9

9. Delivery

  1. Stay on subject matter
  2. Stay on points you are making
  3. Lead the audience through the text.
  4. Stay on time.
  5. Watch audience.
  6. Be flexible.
  7. Be expressive.
  8. Speak clearly.
  9. Encourage audience.
  10. Be natural.

Selected References to Consider (alphabetical)

  • Fruchtenbaum, Arnold. The Footsteps of the Messiah (San Antonio:Ariel Press, 1982) pp3-6.
  • Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1970)
  • Terry, M.S. Biblical Hermeneutics: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments (1885; reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1947)
  • Thomas, Robert L. Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old (Grand Rapids: Kregal Publications, 2002).