Do you use the historical-grammatical method?

(Laura) #1

I know there are many threads here about how to interpret specific biblical texts, but I was wondering in a broader sense whether those who hold an EC view tend to also hold to the historical-grammatical method of hermeneutics or not.

I’m curious because I’ve seen young-earth-oriented organizations and churches make a big deal about using this method as opposed to others, so I don’t know whether it’s much of a distinctive as far as origins go, or whether different groups tend to simply apply the historical-grammatical method in different ways.

Or do you not think about it much at all? :smiley: I really don’t know that much about hermeneutic labels (I went to a secular university), although that doesn’t mean I don’t use hermeneutics.

(George Brooks) #2


It is interesting that you ask this question … the Wiki article on this topic points to a pronounced difference between the Evangelical Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox!

Protestant Evangelicals Tend to Seek ONE Meaning
The historical-grammatical method is a Christian hermeneutical method that strives to discover the biblical authors’ original intended meaning in the text.[1] It is the primary method of interpretation for many conservative Protestant exegetes who reject the historical-critical method to various degrees (from the complete rejection of historical criticism [by] some fundamentalist Protestants to the moderated acceptance of it in the Roman Catholic tradition since Pope Pius XII),[2] in contrast to the overwhelming reliance on historical-critical interpretation, often to the exclusion of all other hermeneutics, in liberal Christianity."

Orthodox Church looks for spiritual/allegorizing Meanings
“The Orthodox Church primarily employs a spiritual, allegorizing hermeneutic heavily dependent on typological connections drawn by New Testament writers and the church fathers of the first several centuries of Christianity.[[3]]

Roman Church Looks for Four (4) Meanings
“The Roman Catholic Church divides hermeneutic into four senses: the literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical; however, interpretation is always subject to the Church’s magisterium.”

"The process for determining the original meaning of the text is through examination of the grammatical and syntactical aspects, the historical background, the literary genre as well as theological (canonical) considerations.[4] The historical-grammatical method distinguishes between the one original meaning of the text and its significance. The significance of the text is essentially the application or contextualization of the principles from text.

"The aim of the historical-grammatical method is to discover the meaning of the passage as the original author would have intended and what the original hearers would have understood. The original passage is seen as having only a single meaning or sense. As Milton S. Terry said, “A fundamental principle in grammatico-historical exposition is that the words and sentences can have but one significance in one and the same connection. The moment we neglect this principle we drift out upon a sea of uncertainty and conjecture.”[5] "

(Laura) #3

I noticed that, and found it very interesting – an example of how the differences among the different branches of Christianity involve more than just “tradition.”

I guess I’m not surprised that in this view the original passage is seen as having only one meaning – maybe that’s one reason why there are so many different ways to interpret the book of Revelation, from completely allegorical to seeing just about everything as something that will happen someday.


My Episcopal church’s Adult Christian Formation class recently went through most of Exodus using the traditional four senses of Scripture, so it isn’t just Roman Catholics who use it.

(Christy Hemphill) #5

I think of it a lot like inerrancy, in that it “depends.” Historical-grammatical hermeneutic means different things to different people. If someone says they like it, I’d be interested in hearing what he or she would say if you asked “opposed to what?” If people say they didn’t like it, I’d be interested in hearing how they define their own approach. I think people have very different ideas of what it means and what it contrasts with.

(Jim Lock) #6

@Elle Oh happy day! A Social Sciences post…and I’m not familiar with that particular school of historiography…judging from some definitions that others (@gbrooks9) posted, I use that tool pretty extensively. Intention matters quite a bit in determining context. Having said that, I can’t help but think this is one of those issues with which the two camps tend to talk past one another. Perhaps because absolutely PROVING intent is likely impossible. I’m thinking specifically of the passage in Revelation describing the woman and the dragon. The passage clearly mirrors a Greco-Roman myth and so I would argue that John’s intent was use a common mythos to remind his readers how they are to be set apart. (I’m not quite sure what the key differences between the stories are…but I’m convinced they are there.) Now, John’s stated intent appears to be that of explaining a vision of the future…thus I might find myself in an argument in which we are both arguing intent with solid evidence. I have a hunch that hermeneutical conversations about the intent of Genesis go much the same way. ____. __

(Christy Hemphill) #7

I think the whole idea of “only one intended meaning” flies in the face of what we know now about communication theory. Some forms of communication (including most symbolic or figurative language and irony) are intended to provide “weak guidance” and leave open a variety of implicatures. The openness is part of the nature of the authorial intent of those forms. I don’t see how the traditional views of historical-grammatical method acknowledge this.

(Laura) closed #8

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