Hermeneutical Virtues


What personal qualities are the most important as a pastor or teacher studies the Bible week after week? I offer five of the twelve virtues listed by Kostenberger and Patterson in their book, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation.

All twelve virtues listed by the authors help the process and habit of exegesis a reality. Thank God we have a lifetime to pursue them. I choose five to focus on: be spiritual, sensible, and seasoned; be intentional and deliberate; and be committed.

Be Spiritual

First of all, be spiritual. Unless the Holy Spirit leads us, unless we obey, we’re coloring with chalk that will disappears in the rain.

More than that, we’re studying God’s word. Hermeneutics equips us to better understand what we’re studying. As expositors, we mustn’t forget we’re but interpreters of a divine message. If God does not speak through us, we’d best not speak at all.

Also, God’s word is for all people. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to “teach you all things.” (John 14:26.) Which is more important – the abundance of tools available for Bible study? Or our God-given tutor in His word?

Yes, sound biblical exposition is a necessary discipline. We need a plumbline to measure false doctrine against. Not all who claim to speak of the Spirit tell the truth.

Be Sensible

Secondly,  be sensible. In Sensible Shoes, Sharon Garlough Brown tells the story of four women on a spiritual course to bring them closer to God. They’re advised to “let go of the things that clutter our lives. As you begin the journey, notice what distracts and hinders you. Notice what competes for your affection and attachment to Jesus.”

Doesn’t that sound like a sensible approach to our Bible study? We don’t need a trendy theology, but rather a practical, time-proven approach to studying God’s word.

Whenever we notice something new in scripture, we must ask, “is this new insight sensible? Does it fit in with what I know of God’s revealed word? Does it fit the cultural and historical background? Does the syntax and semantics of not only the English, but also the Greek or Hebrew support this insight?”

Be seasoned.

I have been seasoned by things like age and life experience as a single mom raising a child with an emotional disorder. Others have gone through differing circumstances. Whatever our backgrounds, through them, we develop a strong foundation in Bible knowledge and experience.

Having said that, theological issues abound, and it’s difficult to keep up with them all. Seasoned expositors understand what they believe and why,  so they can intelligently discuss contrasting theories with courtesy, respect and openness. They must also be open to change if warranted. The best guard against false doctrine is a solid foundation in biblical truth.

Paul’s second letter to Timothy also speaks of the importance of seasoning: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2)  We must be ready both when we’re expecting opposition—and when we’re not.

Be Intentional and Deliberate.

The Bible scholar learns to keep God’s words (Psalm 119:4-8)  through memorization, meditation, contemplation and application ( Psalm 119:11,15), with eyes that are spiritually open (Psalm 119:18),

 The author uses this religious language to characterize the speaker as someone who has internalized Torah so completely that it shapes his speech. Because the words are traditional, they resonate with the beliefs of the pious and this resonance increases the rhetorical effectiveness of the psalm.

Also consider 1 Peter 1:10. “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care.” How can we do less?

Be Consistent

Finally, be consistent. Like Joshua and David, we should meditate on the law day and night. (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2) We approach the Bible as both the source of understanding and worship of God; but also as the divinely-inspired book that requires the best skills we can bring to its interpretation. Not only must we be consistent in our study, but also in personal application and public proclamation.

The hungrier a person is for the Lord, the more they will practice these virtues. We’re most likely to lose focus when we allow the weeds of the urgent to squeeze out the urgent.

Darlene Franklin is a million-books-sold Christian author. An occasional contributor to Pastor Resources, she has enrolled in the Ph.D. in Biblical Exposition at Liberty University. This article stems from her coursework.  www.DarleneFranklin.com

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