FASTLY - Faith & Science Teaching

Part 3: Big Questions


3. Hermeneutics


The goal for this lesson is to show students why hermeneutical approaches matter.

It might be helpful to be familiar with resources on biblical hermeneutics, such as Leland Ryken’s How to Read the Bible as Literature or Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard’s Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, before teaching this material. If you come to this course from a science-teaching role, consider involving a colleague who teaches Bible or inviting a guest presenter with expertise in this area.

You can initiate a brief discussion in class to raise the issues with questions like:

  • Are there wrong ways to interpret Scripture?
  • What might they be?
  • What makes a hermeneutical approach wrong—or right?
  • How do we distinguish right ways from wrong ways?
  • Can you think of any examples of wrong interpretation?

It’s likely that students will struggle to articulate their views at this point, which is fine.

You can move the discussion forward by introducing students to one or more examples of problematic uses of the Bible. Examples used by our pilot school included:

Discuss what factors might have led to these interpretations. How does our reading of the Bible get mixed up with our own self-interest, our cultural prejudices, and our assumptions about how the world works?

The book Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays is one example of a book that wrestles with the question of how to interpret the Bible well. It suggests the following four steps to interpreting a passage:

  1. Seek to understand what the passage may have been saying to its original audience, in their own context. This will involve several readings of the text, making as many observations as possible.
  2. Consider differences between the biblical audience and their context and ourselves. Consider how our modern context and their ancient one might be separated by time, location, culture, setting, historical developments, and language use.
  3. Consider any theological principles in the text. Consider similarities between the ancient context and ours—what might have remained true. There may be multiple principles implied in a text.
  4. Apply the principles to our context today, whether to individuals or communities.

Explain these steps to the class; help them consider how, in light of them, the problematic readings just examined fell short.

If time allows, let students try to work through the four steps with a biblical passage; our pilot school students used Romans 12:1-2. Emphasize that the point is not that a few quick tips resolve all questions in biblical interpretation. Instead, the point is simply to begin considering some of the processes that might be involved in carefully relating the text to present experience.

Next Topic:
Biblical Passages