Historical-grammatical method

Historical-grammatical method

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The historical-grammatical method is a Christian hermeneutical
Biblical hermeneutics
Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible. It is part of the broader field of hermeneutics which involves the study of principles for the text and includes all forms of communication: verbal and nonverbal.While Jewish and Christian...

 method that strives to discover the Biblical author's original intended meaning in the text. It is the primary method of interpretation for many conservative Protestant exegetes who reject the so-called historical-critical method used by mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. The other main branch of Christianity, the Eastern Orthodox church, uses primarily a spiritual, allegorizing hermeneutic heavily dependent on the Christian fathers of the first several centuries of Christianity. 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.
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 original meaning of texts

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."

Many practice the historical-grammatical method using the inductive method, a general three-fold approach to the text: 1) observation, 2) interpretation, and 3) application. Each step builds upon the other, and so they follow in order. The first step of observation involves an examination of words, structure, structural relationships and literary forms. After observations are formed, then the second step of interpretation involves asking interpretative questions, formulating answers to those questions, integration and summarization of the passage. After the meaning is derived through interpretation, then the third step of application involves determining both the theoretical and practical significance of the text, and appropriately applying this significance to today's modern context. There is also a heavy emphasis on personal application that extends into all aspects of the practitioner's life. Theologian Robert Traina, in his 1952 Methodical Bible Study, wrote that "the applicatory step is that for which all else exists. It represents the final purpose of Bible study."

Technically speaking, the grammatical-historical method of interpretation is distinct from the determination of the passage's significance in light of that interpretation. Taken together, interpretation of the passage along with determining the meaning defines the term (Biblical) hermeneutics.

Proof-text method

In the proof-text approach, verses and short sections of text are used to support a particular topic or position. Compared with the historical-grammatical method, interpretations based on the proof-text method are often isolated from the context surrounding the verse. Critics claim it often neglects the historical setting and type of literary genre. They also claim that the proof-text approach can be utilized in support of heterodox teachings, and that applications tend to be allegorical in nature.

Reader-response method

In the reader-response method, the focus is on how the book is perceived by the reader, not on the intention of the author. For those who regard the text as divinely inspired and seek to determine the intention of the divine author tend to stay away from this method because of the many interpretations, often contrary to scripture, that arise from a reader response of the text without any formal foundation of the text.

Historical-critical method

The historical-critical method is used by academic Bible scholars in universities, including many Roman Catholic and Protestant institutions. The method utilizes higher criticism in an attempt to discover the sources and factors that contributed to the making of the text as well as determining what it meant to the original audience. Scholars who use the historical-critical method treat the Bible as they would any other text. Historical-critical scholars as such are also typically less interested in determining what the text means for people today. For these reasons some traditional scholars and conservative Christians tend to reject the method, although even many of these use aspects of it that naturally overlap with the historical-grammatical method (such as attempting to determine what the original author meant when he wrote the passage in question).

See also

  • Biblical genre
    Biblical genre
    A Biblical genre is a classification of Bible literature according to literary genre. The genre of a particular Bible passage is ordinarily identified by analysis of its general writing style, tone, form, structure, literary technique, content, design, and related linguistic factors; texts that...

  • Biblical hermeneutics
    Biblical hermeneutics
    Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible. It is part of the broader field of hermeneutics which involves the study of principles for the text and includes all forms of communication: verbal and nonverbal.While Jewish and Christian...

  • Biblical inerrancy
    Biblical inerrancy
    Biblical inerrancy is the doctrinal position that the Bible is accurate and totally free of error, that "Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact." Some equate inerrancy with infallibility; others do not.Conservative Christians generally believe that...

  • Biblical literalism
    Biblical literalism
    Biblical literalism is the interpretation or translation of the explicit and primary sense of words in the Bible. A literal Biblical interpretation is associated with the fundamentalist and evangelical hermeneutical approach to Scripture, and is used almost exclusively by conservative Christians...

  • Biblical theology
    Biblical Theology
    Biblical theology is a discipline within Christian theology which studies the Bible from the perspective of understanding the progressive history of God revealing Himself to humanity following the Fall and throughout the Old Testament and New Testament...

  • Covenantalism
  • Dispensationalism
    Dispensationalism is a nineteenth-century evangelical development based on a futurist biblical hermeneutic that sees a series of chronologically successive "dispensations" or periods in history in which God relates to human beings in different ways under different Biblical covenants.As a system,...

  • New Covenant Theology
    New Covenant Theology
    New Covenant Theology is a Christian theological system which teaches that the Old Testament Laws have been fulfilled and abrogated or cancelled with Christ's death, and replaced with the Law of Christ of the New Covenant. It shares similarities and yet is distinct from Dispensationalism and...

  • exegesis
    Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term "Biblical exegesis" is used...

  • hermeneutics

  • Higher criticism
  • Postmodern Christianity
    Postmodern Christianity
    Postmodern Christianity is an outlook of Christianity that is closely associated with the body of writings known as postmodern philosophy. Although it is a relatively recent development in the Christian religion, some Christian postmodernists assert that their style of thought has an affinity with...

  • Summary of Christian eschatological differences
  • Systematic theology
    Systematic theology
    In the context of Christianity, systematic theology is a discipline of Christian theology that attempts to formulate an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the Christian faith and beliefs...

  • Textual criticism
    Textual criticism
    Textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts...