Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics 07 The Grammatical and Historical Principles 334

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The Grammatical Principlebiblical hermeneutics

Grammar and syntax are important components to good Bible study.  It’s no secret that the Bible was written in Hebrew Greek and Aramaic.  Because of this we now have hundreds of Bible translations available in nearly every language on the planet.  Some of these translations are good and many of them are not.  It becomes important to first find a good English translation (KJV hint hint) and then get yourself some good lexicons and dictionaries.  Understanding the meanings of the Greek or Hebrew words can help flush out the meaning of a given text.

Grammatical mistakes do happen.  The Watchtower is notorious for messing with the grammar and syntax of the Bible to make it fit their theology.  One instance is at the beginning of the book of John.  Instead of saying “the word was God” the New Word Translation (Watchtower Bible) says “the word was a God”.  That’s a huge difference.  They actually create new grammatical rules for the purposes of getting this particular translation.  Another grammatical goof of the Watchtower is to move the comma in Luke 23:43, from before the word “today” to after “today”.  This change completely changes the meaning of the sentence.  Jesus was telling the man on the cross next to him that he would be in paradise today.  This does not fit with the Watchtower doctrine of soul sleep, so they modified the grammar of their version of the Bible.

Luke 23:43  And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Good hermeneutics always includes watching grammar and syntax.

The Historical Principle

Another important principle of hermeneutics is the historical principle.  The Bible has been written in a way that any culture from any time period can understand and apply its truth.  Nonetheless, we can understand so much more when we have a grasp of the historical backdrop of a given text.

Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan.  At face value we have a story about a Samaritan man who helps a Jew that has been beaten.  This story illustrates who our neighbor is (everyone) and that we should love them as we would love ourselves.  That’s great but if we understood more about what a Samaritan was it makes the lesson so much better.  After Assyria had conquered the Northern kingdom of Israel many Assyrians had moved into the seized land.  As the years progressed, the Assyrians intermarried with the surviving Jews.  Don’t forget, the Jews were strictly forbidden to marry non-Jews.  The resulting generations were referred to as the Samaritans and were despised by the Jews in the southern kingdom of Judah.   In the parable, we have a Samaritan man who was hated and treated like dirt by the Jews all of his life and yet he is the one who helps out his Jewish neighbor.  This Samaritan saves the life of someone who he should justifiably consider his enemy.  That’s powerful!  That puts a whole new spin on who our neighbors are.  As you can see, the historical principle is a great hermeneutic to help us get a better understanding of God’s word.

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