Biblical hermeneutics

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The Biblical hermeneutics is the science of understanding of biblical texts, an applied form of hermeneutics .

Questions about the correct understanding of the Bible, and thus the first hermeneutical considerations, can already be found in the Bible itself. “Do you understand what you are reading?” - this question from Philip to the official eunuchs from the Ethiopian royal court provokes the answer “How I can (because) if nobody guides me ”(Acts 8, 30 ff.).

Hermeneutics and Exegesis

Hermeneutics and exegesis must be distinguished from one another. Biblical exegesis describes the concrete interpretation of a certain biblical text, while hermeneutics illuminates the requirements and goals of the interpretation. The two behave similarly to language and grammar.

In the example above, when Philip explains the text to the eunuch, he is doing exegesis; His explanation is based on a certain hermeneutics: An Old Testament prophetic word is to be understood from the point of view of Christ. A rabbinical Jew would see it differently and would therefore interpret the text differently.

Basic hermeneutical assumptions

Several factors play a role in the interpretation of the Bible by the individual Bible reader. Some of these are deliberately applied rules, e. B. "Scripture shall be explained by scripture"; d. That is, when looking at a single passage from the Bible, one must also consider what the Bible says otherwise. In practical terms, this means that the dogmatic picture obtained from reading the Bible so far contributes to the interpretation of the Bible passage considered.

Tradition-conscious Christians would also like to consider the previous interpretation of Christianity. But even if z. For example, if the Church Fathers are not granted authority, Bible commentaries are often used - and this is also reflected in the previous understanding of Christianity.

Other factors often have an unconscious effect, such as the life experience and the psychological disposition (e.g. a tendency to be anxious) of the Bible reader. The motives for reading the Bible can also influence the interpretation, as well as the expectations and openness to allowing the text to sink in. Finally, the participation of the mind as an aid in “processing” affects all of these factors.

Anyone who interprets biblical texts without dealing with questions of hermeneutics quickly reaches their limits. Every interpretation of the Bible, whether at university or in the Bible study group, is influenced by conscious or unconscious theological assumptions. Such basic hermeneutic decisions lead e.g. B. to answer the question of how the resurrection reports are to be understood: as hallucinations, as subsequently developed myths or as historical events?

Even those who, unencumbered by all theology, simply believe that the entire text was dictated by the Holy Spirit and that one simply has to understand the text literally as it stands, establishes hermeneutical rules, whether he is aware of it or not . In order to achieve justifiable results in interpreting the Bible, however, it is necessary not only to have rules for the interpretation, but also to be aware of these rules.

These basic assessments concern the following areas:

  • Bible understanding and inspiration : How is the genesis of biblical texts assessed?
  • The cultural gap: The Bible text was written in a different language, comes from a different culture and from different time circumstances. B. Lydia is baptized "with her house" (Acts 16:15), the term "house" could mislead today's readers. Or, how do z. B. the wanderings of Abraham on a well-off Central European?
  • As regards the New Testament in particular: history of early Christianity and its environment: development of the Christian church and the theological directions, development of spiritual currents outside. So where is the concrete New Testament text to be classified?

The answers of individual denominations and individual theologians are very different. In any case, the Bible interpreters try to formulate their principles philosophically and theologically, even if decisions about the basic attitude are often made intuitively.

Biblical hermeneutics is divided into the hermeneutics of the Old and New Testaments for practical reasons . The unity of Scripture should not be disregarded, which is what the dogmatic doctrine of scripture strives for within systematic theology .

Positions of Biblical Hermeneutics

Individual evidence

  1. ^ So Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer in: Streitenberger: Die five Punkt , 2011, pp. 7-10 (“Preface: Why Christians Have Different Opinions”).
  2. ^ For a brief analysis of these four factors, see NT Wright : Scripture and the Authority of God . SPCK, London 2005, pp. 73-76.



Biblical hermeneutics discuss the general and specific requirements for understanding the Bible.

  • Klaus Berger : Hermeneutics of the New Testament . UTB 2035. Francke, Tübingen / Basel 1999, ISBN 3-7720-2263-4
  • Werner G. Jeanrond , Text and Interpretation as Categories of Theological Thought. (Hermeneutical studies on theology 23.) Tübingen: Mohr, 1986. ISBN 3-16-145101-5
  • Ulrich HJ Körtner : The inspired reader. Central aspects of biblical hermeneutics . Göttingen 1994, ISBN 3-525-01618-2
  • Ulrich HJ Körtner: Introduction to theological hermeneutics. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2006, ISBN 3-534-15740-0
  • Gerhard Maier : Biblical Hermeneutics . Biblical monographs. 1990. 3rd edition R. Brockhaus, Wuppertal 1998 ISBN 3-417-29355-3
  • Manfred Oeming : Biblical Hermeneutics. An introduction . Primus, Darmstadt 1998 ISBN 3-89678-316-5 The author presents the different ways of reading such as historical-critical method, socio-historical exegesis, canonical interpretation of scriptures, etc. one after the other and names the advantages and disadvantages.
  • Peter Stuhlmacher: On Understanding the New Testament. A hermeneutic . A generally understandable overview of the various directions of biblical hermeneutics, historical positions are also discussed. 1979. 2., revised. u. exp. Edition Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1986 ISBN 3-525-51355-6
  • Anthony C. Thiselton: New Horizons in Hermeneutics. The Theory and Practice of Transforming Biblical Reading . Zondervan, Grand Rapids 1992 ISBN 0-310-21762-8 (knowledgeable review by Schleiermacher, Gadamer, Ricoeur, Habermas, Iser and others)
  • Oda Wischmeyer: Hermeneutics of the New Testament. A textbook . New Testament drafts for theology 8. Francke, Tübingen / Basel 2004 ISBN 3-7720-8054-5
  • Jörg Schreiter: Hermeneutics - Truth and Understanding. Presentation and texts. Akademie-Verlag Berlin 1988, ISBN 3-05-000664-1
  • Pierfrancesco Stagi, Ermeneutica e religione. La storia e il futuro dell'ermeneutica contemporanea . Stamen University Press, Roma, 2013. ISBN 9788890850264 .

Method books

Method books describe the process of interpreting the Bible step by step. Further literature under Biblical Exegesis .

Old testament

  • Maimonides : Leader of the Undecided , ISBN 3-7873-1144-0
  • Odil Hannes Steck: Exegesis of the Old Testament. Guide to the methodology. A workbook for proseminars, seminars and lectures . 14th, through u. exp. Aufl. Neukirchener, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1999 ISBN 3-7887-1586-3 (still the standard work, without the newer approaches)
  • Helmut Utzschneider / Stefan Ark Nitsche: workbook literary biblical interpretation. A methodology for the exegesis of the Old Testament . Kaiser / Gütersloher Verlagshaus, Gütersloh 2001 ISBN 3-579-00409-3 (includes the newer "synchronous" methods)
  • Manfred Dreytza, Walter Hilbrands , Hartmut Schmid : The study of the Old Testament. An introduction to the methods of exegesis . Biblical monographs 10. 2., revised. Ed. R. Brockhaus, Wuppertal 2007 ISBN 3-417-29471-1
  • Siegfried Kreuzer, Dieter Vieweger, Friedhelm Hartenstein, Jutta Hausmann, Wilhelm Pratscher: Proseminar I. Old Testament. A work book . Verlag W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2. Erw. Edition 2005 ISBN 3-17-019063-6 (presentation of the classical exegetical methods with additional articles on: biblical archeology, sociological and socio-historical interpretation, iconography, feminist exegesis, depth psychology and textual interpretation)

New Testament

  • Sönke Finnern, Jan Rüggemeier:  Methods of New Testament Exegesis. A textbook and workbook  (up-to-date in narrative science, didactically structured, comprehensive, offers an integrative overall model of text interpretation), UTB 4212, Tübingen 2016, ISBN 978-3-8252-4212-1 .
  • Thomas Söding: Ways of interpreting scriptures. New Testament method book . Among employees v. Christian Münch. Herder, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 1998, ISBN 3-451-26545-1 .
  • Wolfgang Fenske : Workbook on the exegesis of the New Testament. A proseminar . Kaiser / Gütersloher Verlagshaus, Gütersloh 1999, ISBN 3-579-02624-0 .
  • Heinz-Werner Neudorfer, Eckhard J. Schnabel (ed.): The study of the New Testament . Volume 1: An Introduction to the Methods of Exegesis . Biblical monographs 5. Brockhaus, Wuppertal; Brunnen, Gießen / Basel 1999, ISBN 3-417-29434-7 .
  • Martin Meiser, Uwe Kühneweg u. a .: Proseminar II. New Testament - Church history. A work book . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart / Berlin / Cologne 2000, ISBN 3-17-015531-8 .
  • Grant R. Osborne: The Hermeneutical Spiral. A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation . InterVarsity, Downers Grove 1991, ISBN 0-8308-1288-1 .
  • Heinrich Zimmermann : New Testament methodology. Presentation of the historical-critical method . 7th edition. v. Klaus Kliesch. Catholic Biblical Works, Stuttgart 1982.

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