Historical-grammatical method


Historical-grammatical method

The historical-grammatical method, also referred to as grammatico-historical or grammatical-critical, is a component of Biblical hermeneutics that strives to find the intended original meaning in the text. [ Cite book
publisher = Baker Book House
isbn = 0801034132
last = Elwell
first = Walter A.
title = Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
location = Grand Rapids, Mich.
date = 1984
] This original intended meaning of the text is drawn out through examination of the passage in light of the grammatical and syntactical aspects, the historical background, the literary genre as well as theological (canonical) considerations. [Cite book
publisher = Academie Books
isbn = 9780310341604
last = Johnson
first = Elliott
title = Expository hermeneutics : an introduction
location = Grand Rapids Mich.
] The historical-grammatical method distinguishes between the one original meaning and the significance of the text. The significance of the text includes the ensuing use of the text or application.

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." [Cite book
publisher = Zondervan Pub. House
last = Terry
first = Milton
title = Biblical hermeneutics : a treatise on the interpretation of the Old and New Testaments
location = Grand Rapids Mich.
date = 1974
page 205
]

Many practice the historical-grammatical method using a general three-fold approach to the text: 1) observation, 2) interpretation, and 3) application. [Cite book
publisher = [distributed by] Biblical Seminary in New York
last = Traina
first = Robert
title = Methodical Bible study : a new approach to hermeneutics.
location = Ridgefield Park? N.J. ;;New York
date = 1952
] [ Cite book
publisher = Moody Press
isbn = 0802407439
pages = 349
last = Hendricks
first = Howard G.
title = Living by the Book
location = Chicago
date = 1991
] 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." Cite book
publisher = [distributed by] Biblical Seminary in New York
last = Traina
first = Robert
title = Methodical Bible Study: A New Approach to Hermeneutics
location = New York
date = 1952
pages = p. 217
]

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, both define the term (Biblical) hermeneutics. [Cite book
publisher = Baker Book House
isbn = 0801034132
last = Elwell
first = Walter A.
title = Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
location = Grand Rapids, Mich.
date = 1984
p. 565
]

Comparison with other methods of interpretations

Proof-text method

In the proof-text approach, one uses verses or short texts to support a particular topic or position. Compared with the historical-grammatical method, interpretations based on the proof-text method often neglect the context of the verse, the historical setting as well as the type of literary genre. The proof-text approach is also susceptible to heterorthodox teachings. Applications of certain texts also tend to be allegorical in nature. [Cite book
publisher = Zondervan
isbn = 0310530903
pages = 298
last = Kaiser
first = Walter C
title = An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning
location = Grand Rapids, Mich
date = 1994
p. 31-32
]

Reader-response method

In the reader-response method, the major determinant for meaning derives from the reader and their particular opinions, attitudes and reactions. Compared with the historical-grammatical method, the reader-response approach minimizes or ignores authorial intent, grammatical considerations and the historical setting. Without any basis of meaning on authorial intent, subjective interpretations in the reader-response method are "on an equal footing" and does not have any basis for validity. [Cite book
publisher = Zondervan
isbn = 0310530903
pages = 298
last = Kaiser
first = Walter C
title = An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning
location = Grand Rapids, Mich
date = 1994
p. 32-33
]

Comparison with historical-critical method

The historical-grammatical method has sometimes been compared and contrasted with the historical-critical method. Both methods seek first to understand the original meaning of the text. There are two main differences:

# The historical-critical method is a standard set of techniques for understanding ancient texts. The historical-grammatical method is used only in Bible study.
# The historical-critical method includes looking at other texts from the same time period to understand the meanings of words and phrases. The historical-grammatical method looks strictly at other biblical uses of the word or phrase.

Both of these differences in method stem from historical-grammatical proponents' belief that the Bible is not like other texts, and should not be treated like them.

ee also

*Biblical genre
*Biblical inerrancy
*Biblical literalism
*Biblical theology
*Covenantalism
*Dispensationalism
*Higher criticism
*Postmodern Christianity
*Summary of Christian eschatological differences
*Systematic theology
*Textual criticism
*Historical-critical method

References


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