How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
Jeffrey A. D. Weima

The Necessity of Biblical Hermeneutics

  • "We don't need rules (hermeneutics) to understand the Bible. All you have to do is simply read it and do what it says!”
  • Song: "God said it, I believe it, And that settles it for me!”

Response #1: Affirm the Perspicuity of Scripture
  • Historical understanding of the term "perspicuity”: Although the Reformers affirmed that Scripture was perspicuous or clear, they did not mean that every thing in the whole Bible was simple or easy to understand (Protestant Reformers: Zwingli, Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, Calvin)
    • Peter wrote of Paul's letters, "There are some things in them hard to understand...” (2 Peter 3:16)
    • Scripture may need to be explained: "Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. 'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked. He answered, "How can I unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:30-31)
  • A "restricted” or "narrow” sense of the term perspicuity: the term "perspicuity” not applied to everything in the Bible but limited to those things that must be known for salvation.
"I admit, of course that there are many texts in the Scriptures that are obscure and abstruse, not because of the majesty of their subject matter, but because of our ignorance of their vocabulary and grammar; but these texts in no way hinder a knowledge of all the subject matter of Scripture” (Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, response to Erasmus)

"All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” (Westminster Confession, 1643-1648, Chapter 1, Article 7)

"Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own” (Guido de Bres, Belgian Pastor, Belgic Confession, 1561, Article 2)

Response #2: Affirm the Necessity of Biblical Hermeneutics
An easy understanding of the Bible is hindered by several "gaps” that exist between the Bible and us, thereby requiring the use of hermeneutics.
  • Historical Gap
  • Cultural Gap
  • Philosophical Gap
  • Linguistic Gap
"Hermeneutics is needed, then, because of the historical, cultural, philosophical, and linguistic gaps that block a spontaneous, accurate understanding of God's word” (Henry A. Virkler, Hermeneutics. Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981; 2nd edition 2007, page 20).

Response #3: All people already have a hermeneutic!
  • Key issue: What kind of hermeneutic do they have?

Last modified: Tuesday, August 7, 2018, 10:30 AM