How to Interpret the Bible – Week 2: What is the Goal of Interpretation? – Hermeneutics and Presuppositions

John Carter – February 11, 2018

The aim of good interpretation is not uniqueness;
one is not trying to discover what no one else has ever seen before.[1]


  • James 3:1 – Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (ESV)


  • Simple Goal: Understand the message of the Bible
  • Fuller Goal: To properly understand the text as intended by its earthly and divine author, resulting in obedience to the Gospel.


  • Presuppositions are the things we know or believe to be true before we even read or engage in studying the Bible.
  • A Presupposition is “is an assumption that forms the beginning point of any study.”[2]
  • Presupposition: (1) “the Bible is true and that is, in fact, our only absolute standard of truth;” (2) “the God who is spoken of in the Bible exists, and that he is who the Bible says he is: the Creator of heaven and earth and all things in them.[3]
  • Preunderstanding, Presuppositions, and Objectivity[4] – We all approach the Bible with information already formulated in our heads. This is not a problem until we allow what we already know or believe to determine what the author is trying to communicate. The problem with presuppositions is not that we have them, but when we do not realize that we have them.
  • Objectivity is not possible. Everything has a bias. Even the Bible is biased towards God. You believe what you believe about the Bible because of your upbringing (informal training)
  • Questions to Challenge/Determine our Presuppositions
    • Is my culture correct? (You are a product of your culture)
    • Who determines the meaning of the text? “The author of a text is the ultimate arbitrator of its meaning.”[5]
    • Is the Bible primarily all about Jesus? Andy Stanly has said that he “does not believe Jesus because I believe the Bible. I believe the Bible because I believe Jesus.
      • Luke 24:25-28
      • 1 Peter 1:10-12
      • John 20:31
      • 1 John 5:13
    • Is Truth real? Is Truth knowable?
      • John 18:36-38
      • John 14:6
    • Is the Bible relevant to me? Approach the Bible on its own terms
      • 2 Timothy – What I have entrusted
      • 1 Peter – These have written down for you
      • 2 Timothy – all scripture is God-breathed
      • Daniel – Seal these for a later generation
    • Our presuppositions form our hermeneutic


  • Hermeneutics is “the study of correct methods of interpreting texts.”[6] (Theory)
  • Narrowly Hermeneutics is “seeking the contemporary relevance of ancient texts.”[7]
  • Exegesis is “the process of interpreting the text of Scripture.”[8] (Practice)
  • “The first task of interpretation is called exegesis. Exegesis is the careful, systematic study of Scripture to discover the original intended meaning.”[9]
  • Exegesis is the process of interpretation. Hermeneutics is the approach you take to interpretation.
  • “It is difficult to give rules for hermeneutics.”[10] – This is because your rules are your hermeneutic.


  • Consider the task: Interpretive Journey[11]
    • Step 1: Grasping the Text in the biblical town. That did the text mean to the original audience?
    • Step 2: Measure the width of the river to cross. What are the differences between the biblical audience and us? (Not all texts are equally distant from us)
    • Step 3: Cross the principlizing bridge. What is the theological principle in this text?
    • Step 4: Grasp the text in our town. How should individual (and the community of) Christians today apply the theological principle in their lives?
  • Consider the Community
    • 2 Peter 1:20
    • 1 Timothy 1:3
    • Historical Interpretation (Church History)
  • Consider the Impact. How you interpret the Bible is affected by
    • Intro to the Christian Faith (BFM 2000 & 9 Marks)
    • Biblical Interpretation (Hermeneutics)
    • Missiology & Evangelism
    • 4/5. Systematic Theology I & II
    • Apologetics, Philosophies & Worldviews
    • 7/8. Biblical Theology (OT/NT)
    • Church History
    • How to Teach
  • John’s Basic Presuppositions
    • My culture is not correct.
    • The author determines the meaning of the text.
    • The Bible is primarily all about Jesus.
    • Truth is real and knowable.
    • The Bible relevant to me.

[1] P.17 – How to Interpret the Bible

[2] P.1252,  – Systematic Theology Wayne Gruedum

[3] P.26 – Systematic Theology Wayne Gruedum

[4] P.87-96 – Grasping God’s Word

  • [5]130 – 40 Questions…

[6] P.1244, 109 – Systematic Theology Wayne Gruedum

[7] P.29 – How to Interpret the Bible

[8] P.1241, 109 – Systematic Theology Wayne Gruedum

[9] P.23 – How to Interpret the Bible

[10] P.31 – How to Interpret the Bible

[11] P.179 – Grasping God’s Word