Scriptural Hermeneutics

This is an excellent quote from Richard Hays on hermeneutics after exegeting 2 Cor 3:1-4:6 in Echoes of Scripture, ch. 4:

The meaning of Scripture is enacted in the Christian community, and only those who participate in the enactment can understand the text. Consequently, the transformation of the community is not the presupposition but also the result and proof of true interpretation. Where God’s spirit is at work, the community (“we all”) is being transformed into the image of Christ and liberated to see, when they read Scripture, that the old covenant prefigured precisely this transformation. (Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, 152)

The quote sums up a number of what I consider to be essential characteristics of a biblically grounded hermeneutic:

  1. Textual – A Christian reading of the Bible pays attention to the words, sentences, paragraphs and books of the Bible in detail (this is not explicit in the quote but it is from the context of the entire chapter)
  2. Pneumatological – A Christian reading of the Bible is rooted in a recognition of the Spirit’s inspiration of the text and in a reliance on the Spirit for understanding (illumination)
  3. Christotelic – A Christian reading of the Bible understands that the purpose of the Scriptures is not only to reveal Christ but to transform his church into his image through the Spirit
  4. Communal – A Christian reading of the Bible takes place in the context of the community of the faithful, the church
  5. Transformational – A Christian reading of the Bible is not only concerned with information but with transformation, namely into the image of Christ
  6. Holistic – A Christian reading of the Bible regards both the Old and New Testaments as the true, complementary, and complete revelation of God through Christ that are to be read in the above ways

Am I missing anything else?

3 thoughts on “Scriptural Hermeneutics

  1. I think that it well sums up the Catholic understanding of Scriptural interpretation, also! Presumably the major difference would be that of the ecclesiology in what we both mean by the Church, and how the Spirit works in and through her.

    Pope Benedict said it this way:
    “Here we can point to a fundamental criterion of biblical hermeneutics: the primary setting for scriptural interpretation is the life of the Church. This is not to uphold the ecclesial context as an extrinsic rule to which exegetes must submit, but rather is something demanded by the very nature of the Scriptures and the way they gradually came into being. “Faith traditions formed the living context for the literary activity of the authors of sacred Scripture. Their insertion into this context also involved a sharing in both the liturgical and external life of the communities, in their intellectual world, in their culture and in the ups and downs of their shared history…The Bible is the Church’s book, and its essential place in the Church’s life gives rise to its genuine interpretation…..Saint Jerome recalls that we can never read Scripture simply on our own. We come up against too many closed doors and we slip too easily into error.”

    I’d highly recommend his post-synodal apostolic exhortation, “Verbum Domini,” if you haven’t already perused it– he makes some very relevant points there…

  2. “To be ignorant of Scripture is to be ignorant of Christ.”

    Understanding what the words of Scripture properly say (the task of exegesis), is intrinsic to having “extra-Jesus”.


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