The Necessity of Sound, Biblical Exegesis

I’ve got to tap the brakes and downshift so that I can take a momentary detour in my response to the website “God is imaginary“, so that I can take time to explain one particular term that I have been using throughout this series. That term is the principle of biblical exegesis, which is necessary to fully understand what a particular passage is trying to relate.

Context. Context is necessary to establish what is going on in and around a particular passage. This has to do with a passage’s particular setting. the conditions to which the passage is referring, the historical cultural significance to what is being described, and the type of literature that the passage is constructed in: poetry, prose, commentary, etc.

Language. The original text of the Bible consists primarily of Hebrew, Greek, and contains some Aramaic. Each of those three languages have certain grammatical features that, when translated into another language, can be lost but are necessary to understand what the original authors were attempting to communicate to the readers in the original languages. So much of what we mean when we are communicating is contained not only in the mere words we are using, but in the order, the tenses, the voice that we are using, we realize just how easy it is to be misunderstood, and how careful we are, sometimes, to choose our words, it is only fair to give the men who wrote the books that comprise the Bible the same respect.

One of the biggest issues in the matter of language, especially the biblical languages, is how they are translated into another language, especially English. Because words have meanings, and specific words have polarizing effects (words like kill, rape, slave), there are visceral reactions when these words appear in translations of the text that the original authors never meant to be understood, especially in the ways in which they are superficially understood today. It is unfair to the text of the Bible to read into the words that have been translated the mere meanings that the words as we understand them. If we are to be fair, not only to ourselves but to the biblical writers, we have a responsibility to understand what they meant, not how we take them to mean.

Finally, application. Superficial readers of the biblical texts will often attempt to draw out superficial meanings, something I’ve dealt with in posts like this, without understanding the first two principles I mentioned earlier. I’ve mentioned that it is necessary to know how to read the Bible, most critics of the Bible simply do not know how to handle the text, but do so in such a ham-fisted, mean-spirited manner that they actually encourage ignorance rather than knowledge. What I mean to say is that these critics will often draw some application out of a text that the writers would never intend. It is simple dishonesty on their part.

It’s pretty simple to understand something the Bible teaches: those who love truth will respond to truth positively, and those who hate it will respond negatively. I hope that this post will clear up any confusion that may exist, and will lay a foundation that will encourage a better, more thoughtful understanding of the Scriptures.

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18 comments

  1. […] Well, which biblical texts is she referring to? If you follow her link, it takes you to her blog, where she talks about it, but doesn’t seem to understand the difference between prescriptive and descriptive biblical texts, thus drawing a fallacious conclusion that because that is how people thought and acted then that is what they believe now. Sorry Valerie, that is not how it works. […]

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