Hermeneutical Problem? Homiletical Opportunity! -- By: R. Larry Overstreet

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 15:1 (Spring 2018)
Article: Hermeneutical Problem? Homiletical Opportunity!
Author: R. Larry Overstreet


Hermeneutical Problem? Homiletical Opportunity!

R. Larry Overstreet

R. Larry Overstreet served as professor of New Testament at Corban University School of Ministry in Tacoma, Washington, and is now adjunct professor at Piedmont International University in Winston- Salem, North Carolina. [email protected]

Hermeneutical problems are part and parcel of biblical interpretation and exposition. Preachers from differing theological viewpoints (such as Dispensational or Covenant Theology), and from divergent denominational affiliations (such as Presbyterian or Baptist) face hermeneutical problems. Those who preach texts with hermeneutical problems must resolve them in such a manner that the biblical text is preached with both integrity and relevance to contemporary listeners. This article demonstrates that hermeneutical problems can become homiletical opportunities.

Various authors consider the subject of hermeneutics.1 To these can be added scores of journal articles, commonly focusing on particular issues, or texts, of interpretation. These sources provide valuable assistance toward interpreting, and sometimes for applying, the Scriptures. A reoccurring omission in them, however, is how hermeneutical problem texts can be effectively preached to a contemporary audience.

This article will consider six representative types of hermeneutical problems preachers will encounter in their ministries: language issues, obscure texts, synonymous words, theological difficulties, textual difficulties, and difficult prophetic passages.2 Guiding principles are presented to show how each of these types can be confidently preached so that God’s people are edified and brought into a closer walk with him. In this process pastors should remember that preaching to a church congregation is different than writing

a scholarly article for a journal, or preaching to students in a college or seminary chapel. The first problem to consider is that of language issues.

Language Issues

Hermeneutical Problem

Hermeneutics books consider various types of language issues. Many church attenders will be familiar with some of these (even if they cannot identify the precise terms) and will understand them with little difficulty. For examples, a preacher will pay attention to such items as:

(a)Simile, which is an explicit comparison using “like” or “as.” For example, Jesus said, “I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3).

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