Early Brethren Hermeneutical Perspective -- By: Andrew S. Hamilton

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 35:0 (NA 2003)
Article: Early Brethren Hermeneutical Perspective
Author: Andrew S. Hamilton

Early Brethren Hermeneutical Perspective

Andrew S. Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton (MDiv from ATS, 1998) also has the degree MPhil for the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and is an adjunct professor at ATS.

“So then, if some more brethren wish to begin
this high act of baptism with us out of brotherly unity
according to the teachings of Christ and the apostles,
we announce in humbleness that we are interceding
together in prayer and fasting with God.”1 -Alexander Mack


The purpose for this paper is to define the hermeneutical perspective of the Early Brethren, which I will argue has been affected essentially by both Radical Pietism and Anabaptism. Therefore, this chapter will define and describe Radical Pietism and Anabaptism and their contribution to the Brethren identity. Special attention will be given to Vernard Eller’s argument that the Brethren identity is a dialectic tension between Pietism and Anabaptism. I will argue that it is not necessary to describe the Brethren identity as a dialectic tension, nor is it appropriate to describe them as Anabaptist over against Pietist and vice versa. Finally, in this paper I will describe the Early Brethren Bible reading method that extends out of their identity.

Hermeneutical Perspective Explained

Before this chapter can adequately answer the question, “What is the Early Brethren hermeneutical perspective?”, we must first specify what is meant by “hermeneutical perspective.” The phrase is made up of two distinct and significant terms which connote context and identity. The first term, “hermeneutical,” denotes both the act of interpretation and that which affect one’s interpretation. The term Ahermeneutic(al)” has been described as referring to the principles people use to understand or interpret communicative messages regardless of form.2

The second term in the above phrase is “perspective.” While “hermeneutical” refers primarily to the means of understanding, “perspective” refers to all contextual experience which affects the process of understanding. It can be

understood as synonymous with “point-of-view,” as the

    Oxford Concise English Dictionary
defines it as “a position from which a thing is viewed,” or “a particular way of considering a matter.”3 A “perspective” or “point-of-view” consists of the values, presuppositions, and biases held by the relevant individual or community.

When used in tandem, as is th...

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