Major Tasks of an Evangelical Hermeneutic: Some Observations on Commonalities, Interrelations, and Differences -- By: Richard N. Longenecker

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 14:1 (NA 2004)
Article: Major Tasks of an Evangelical Hermeneutic: Some Observations on Commonalities, Interrelations, and Differences
Author: Richard N. Longenecker


Major Tasks of an Evangelical Hermeneutic: Some Observations on Commonalities, Interrelations, and Differences

Richard N. Longenecker

Wycliffe College, University Of Toronto

An evangelical hermeneutic is involved in three major tasks: an interpretive or descriptive task, a transformational task, and a contextualization task. At the heart of all three is the Good News of God’s redemptive activity in human history on behalf of all people. So there are interrelations between these tasks. There are, however, also distinctive differences. This article seeks to sensitize Christians to the commonalities, interrelations, and differences inherent in these three hermeneutical tasks and to offer an overview as to how these tasks should function in an evangelical theology.

Key Words: hermeneutics, interpretive, transformational, contextualization, normative, trans-cultural, cultural, exegetical procedures

Hermeneutics—the theory, method and practice of how to read, understand, and use biblical texts—is at the heart of Christian identity, has profound effects on the formulation of Christian theology, informs every aspect of Christian living, and gives guidance to the church’s proclamation and mission. It is, in fact, foundational for every reading of Scripture, every expression of Christian conviction, and all Christian living, whether personal or corporate.

Hermeneutics is a vast and extensive subject. It can hardly be treated adequately in such a short presentation as this. Nonetheless, the three major tasks of an evangelical hermeneutic may here profitably be highlighted, with some observations made with respect to their commonalities, interrelations, and differences. Elsewhere I have written in some detail about the NT’s use of the OT and its normativeness for us today in our reception and contextualization of the

Christian gospel.1 All I want to do here is to offer something of a position paper that sets out an overview of my own understanding of a proper evangelical hermeneutic—suggesting in the process what I believe to be a viable set of answers to the question I posed long ago in my 1969 Tyndale lecture, which appeared as the lead article in the 1970 issue of Tyndale Bulletin: “Can we reproduce the exegesis of the New Testament?”2

The Interpretive / Descriptive Task

The first task in the hermeneutical enterprise is to understand the words, thoughts, and intentions of the biblical writers in their particular contexts. This is the vitally important interpretive or desc...

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