Its very important to view the Scriptures not just as history, but as the word of God. It's God's revelation to humanity of His will, His dealings with His creation and His eternal plan for creation. Therefore all of Scripture is actually a message from God. A message which He wants all of humanity to hear, understand and believe. This is achieved through the preaching of the Gospel. Which is why it's of at most importance for those who preach the Gospel to understand the context of the writings in Scripture in order to be able to preach the true Gospel as the apostle Paul puts it "rightly dividing the Word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). In order to be very successful at this on would have to overcome a number of obstacles, such as understanding the original language used to write the records in Scripture, the culture of the Bible writers, the circumstances which they wrote under and for what purpose they wrote for etc. All of Scripture is an inspired revelation from God. A revelation is an uncovering or unveiling so that all can see alike what was previously covered or hidden. Since God is using human language to make His will known, it's important to understand the words and phrases used by the authors of Scripture as they were moved by the Holy Spirit to write those letters. The New Testament was written in ancient Greek. The Greek language is very specific in its words, more specific than the English words. This raises the importance of knowing and understanding the original words in Scripture in order to gain a much better understanding of the passage of Scripture. There are a lot of contradicting teachings today from the pulpit. Many Christians today can't seem to agree on every subject of Scripture as if there are different Bibles out there that teach different things. It's a well known fact that it isn't so, all the different translations of the Bible say the same thing. There may be a difference in wording there and there, but the context remains the same. Therefore there can't really be any excuse for conflict over what the Bible says on any given subject. This can be achieved when individuals make up their minds to put the least effort in understanding the words in the Bible in their original languages.
Principles of Word Study
Interpret - This word as we use it means to state the true sense of God's message as He expresses it. This is to give the reader the exact statements of Scripture without changing anything to prove every question discussed. Changing the meaning of what is written to suit a particular theory is one of the sources of error and false doctrines. The Bible is clear in itself, when all false theories and changing of Scripture is abandoned. What God says is always clear in itself. Interpretation is giving the sense and meaning, while translation is the rendering from one language to another by the equivalent words and phrases. By merely understanding the meaning of the words is not enough. When the words are put together, the gist of the context can be attained. A good interpretation is when the Scripture is not changed, but taught as it appears in the Bible.
Apply proper Biblical hermeneutics - Hermeneutics is the art of interpretation and explanation. It also means expounding something, in this case it's expounding literature to make it understandable. Since the Bible is written in human language, it must be interpreted like all other literature. Jesus Christ and His disciples have made hundreds of quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament, the phrase "It is written" is held as all that is necessary to prove the sense of God's message.
Proper exegesis - This is unfolding the meaning of a passage in Scripture. This expressing exactly the mind and thoughts of another person and it can be done over and over again. Since the Greek language is so specific in its wording, a word that may only be available in one word in the English language, may be available in a range of other words in the Greek, for example the word love in English just means love; but the context of the phrase or sentence will explain exactly what kind of love. In the Greek there are those specific word for the different kinds of love. Therefore it's vitally important to know the precise meaning of a word.
Establish the context - Words on their own don't provide a complete meaning, they are just words. But when these words are put together, a message begins to come across. As one gets the some knowledge of the context, the meaning of the words will become much more clearer.
The above principles are the most important steps to take when one wants to conduct a successful exegesis.
The Complexities of Meaning
Entailment meaning, has to do with a word or an idea that has some type of conclusion.
Emotive meaning applies to a word or phrase that caries emotional force. For example when Jesus asked Peter if he loved him three times, Jesus used different Greek words for love, that have a different shade of meaning for love.
Significance meaning refers to a term that takes on another meaning when brought into another, for example the New Testament completes the Old Testament (cf the New Testament and the Old Testament).
Encyclopedic meaning denotes all the possible meanings that a word may have.
Grammatical meaning refers to the grammatical role of a word.
Figurative meaning indicates the use of the association it makes. For example when Jesus told the disciples to dust themselves when ever they are not welcomed into a place when preaching the Gospel, he isn't literally meaning that they should dust of any dust off themselves, but this merely means to move on to another place to preach the Gospel.
Basic Procedure for New Testament Word Analysis
Firstly, selection of terms - There are certain words that aren't clear in the English translation that can be closely observed in order to get clearer idea of intended meaning. There are certain words and expressions and how they are used in Scripture that should be understood correctly in order to have a proper understanding of certain passages in Scripture. For example the Greek word aion means "an age" or "period of time," whether long or short. In this case they are numberless ages.
There are ten Hebrew and Greek words in Scripture translated by our one word "world." The Greek word kosmos means "order," "regularity", "arrangement" and "social system." The Greek word oikoumene means "the inhabited Earth," or "the world of men." Sometimes it is used to refer to only a part of the inhabited Earth, such as the Roman Empire (Lk. 2:1; Acts 11:28). The Greek word aionios means "unknown time," "time out of mind," "eternity," "always," "perpetual," and "forever."
The above examples show the importance of doing a proper word to word analysis in order to get the correct meaning of a word or phrase.
Secondly, words that have apparent synonyms and antonyms are good candidates. Thirdly, words that are used rarely or only once are also good candidates. Fourthly, figures make a good choice, since their precise meaning is often not transparent. The most crucial words, however, are those terms that are either repeated or that bear the conceptual weight of a passage.
Stages of Word Study
A diachronic word study includes four distinct stages, each of which utilizes a certain tool or set of tools. The examination of terms used during the classical Greek period (900 B.C. -330 B.C.) requires the use of the Liddel-Scott-Jones lexicon. Next one enters the Hellenistic or koine period (300 B.C - A.D. 330). Here one will consider three groups of material: LXX, popular non biblical sources, and the New Testament.
The goal at this level is to establish the various senses the term has and to date them by determining if in fact they are classical or koine uses. Classical usage occurs before about 300 B.C.
Hellenistic Biblical Usage
In this step one studies the use of Greek terms in the LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. This requires a knowledge of Hebrew.
Hellenistic Nonbiblical Usage
The objective in this phase of study is to trace the variety of meanings a given term has within the time period of 330 B.C. In some cases, the study of terms in the koine period will surface new meanings. However, the koine sources will supply information about the common understanding of terms in the period contemporary to the New Testament writings.
Hellenistic Biblical Usage (New Testament)
The objective of this phase of study is to determine the meaning of a term in the New Testament.
Common Fallacies Made In Word Analysis
The etymological fallacy, also known as the "root fallacy," assumes that the meaning of a word is governed by the meaning of its root or roots. It may assume that what a word originally meant is what a later author meant by the term. Though the sense may be related, it is not certain that an author cites a term with a knowledge of the meaning of its component parts. Thus it is best not to appeal to etymology unless contextual factors make it clear the author is aware of this meaning.
Illegitimate totality transfer assumes that a word carries all of its senses in any one passage. However, linguists agree that the "correct meaning of any term is that which contributes the least to the total context." One of the implications of this error is that technical meaning or unusual meanings for terms need to be determined contextually rather than imported from other contexts.
Another error is the problem of semantic anachronism, in which a late meaning of a word is read back into an earlier term. What contributes to this error is the way the church today uses biblical terminology.
Semantic obsolescence is when one assigns to a term an early meaning that is no longer used. In New Testament word study this would be the same as giving a classical Greek meaning to a first-century koine term.
The prescriptive fallacy limits argues that a word has only one meaning and means the same thing in every passage.
The word idea fallacy assumes that the study of a term is the study of an idea. But the study of a concept is broader than word study, and many terms can be related to a single concept.
The referential fallacy limits meaning only to a specific referent. When Old Testament prophets, for example, characterized the return from exile as a "new exodus," they applied an earlier image of the Old Testament to their own experience.
Verbal parallelomania refers to the practice of some biblical exegetes who claim that the presence of the same term in several different contexts automatically indicates conceptual parallelism, borrowing of terms, or literary dependency.
Perhaps the most serious error is the selective evidence fallacy wherein one cites only the evidence that favors the interpretation one wants to defend.
Checking Other Authorities
This concludes the final step of the process of word analysis. Lexical analysis is demanding but necessary. Through lexical study the barriers that hinder one's understanding of the meaning of terms are often overcome or significantly lowered.
Conclusion (Topic 1)
It's vividly clear that there is a great mountain to climb over in order to successfully carry out word analysis in the New Testament. This is a great responsibility that every exegete must accomplish if the word of God is to be rightly expounded. To be a faithful exegete is a great responsibility and will be greatly rewarded by God, but to be an eisegete (one who is faulty in the explanation of Scripture) may mean the loss of the soul of the interpreter as well as of those who follow him.
Topic 2: Sociology And New Testament Exegesis
According to the dictionary, sociology is the study of the development and structure of society and social relationships. The Old and New Testament didn't just fall out of Heaven to Earth. All the events in the Bible were events that really took place on Earth during the Biblical days years ago within different societies. Real people were involved in all the activities of Scripture. The miracles were as real as we see some miracles occurring today. There where societies and social orders all over the Earth. Out of some of the social activities even wars that occurred where recorded. Some where recorded by historians in those days like Philo, Josephus and Talmud. Other recorded events made the cannon, which is the Bible as we now see it, being a library of 66 books. All of the books in the Bible were recorded by men of different ages, born thousands of years apart and some of them never met each other who were under the direct unction of the Holy Spirit. These were fellable men who recorded the infallible truths of God by His Spirit.
What's very important is that the events of the Bible took place within society.
Social Description In The New Testament
The New Testament social world had a social order more or less as we have today, except the fact that we are much more technologically advanced. The Bible talks about events that took place at certain geographical areas which it names. The Bible gives names of towns, rivers, mountains, countries etc. Political activities are mentioned in Scripture. The names of political heads are given and names of kings. Economic life of the people in general and people in specific are mentioned, we hear of the rich and the poor and the kind of businesses some of them were involved in. Different religious practices by different people are recorded in the Bible. Daily activities of certain people are briefly discussed in Scripture.
There are certain books that have been released such as "The New Testament Environment" and "The New Testament In Its Social Environment." This later work gives less attention to religious practices and political history and more to descriptions of daily life, but otherwise the shift is more one of terminology than substance. The separation of sociology and theology can be seen bit by bit as time goes by. It's vitally important to know and understand the lifestyles and social order of the New Testament people in order to get a better understanding of the context of the New Testament. The background activities of New Testament Scripture cannot be ignored at all.
The Bible has human elements, literary and grammatical construction, history, literal, and intended meaning. There is so much light that extra Biblical writings shed on what is in the Bible as far as some of the social activities of the day, political and economical conditions and many other activities of those days. When Jesus took on a human flesh, the Son took on sociological as well as physical attributes, and they formed boundaries for his ministry. Likewise, the whole of the early church phenomenon very naturally took on many of the attributes of other religious movements. This doesn't tarnish its uniqueness nor diminishes the role of God's Spirit in giving guidance to Christians. If indeed God's Spirit is in control, is to be sought in the power evident in transformed lives and not in the particular forms of expression that those lives embody. God is working through the Church in order to change society in every way possible for the good and bring it to the knowledge of the truth.
The Importance of Sociology and Ministering
Tradition says that the early church started of by helping in solving a social challenge of burying the dead in order to minister by showing love and concern for the less fortunate in society.
The Social Level of the First Christians
In the New Testament world, classes as we know them were not recognizable, and social levels were not measurable in terms of income. When people at this time thought of a poor person, they thought of a poor person, they thought of one who had lost their livelihood, not one who had a low income. The early Christians where involved to some extent with some social activities, like helping the poor, feeding the poor, caring for orphans and widows.
The Advance of Christianity in the first Century
Another important sociological model which builds on the discussion of social levels considers the roles of relative deprivation and cognitive dissonance in the origin and propagation of the Christian message. Use of the former term represents a modification of the earlier view that early believers were attracted to the movement because they were deprived.
Integrating Sociology and Theology
Sociological method will increase the accuracy with which exegetes view the biblical world. The sociologist working with the New Testament is interested primarily in what the text meant to its original audience. He is on guard against reading his modern word definitions or his application of models, his commitment to the biblical point of view will give new impetus to cautious and thorough portrayals of the ancient world.
Sociological method does not involve evacuation of the truth, historicity, or veracity of the text. This is difficult for some to acknowledge. Early twentieth-century liberalism provided a major impetus for the application of sociology to theology, and even now Marxists and others with left- wing political perspectives fin the approach useful to further their agendas. Modern university professors sometimes use sociological terminology to debunk Christian truth claims. But all of this are examples of bad sociology, not proof that sociology is bad. The objective of sociologist is to describe as accurately as possible, how groups behave. To the extent that he does his job well, he avoids an assessment of how they should behave. A Christian sociologist who studies modern cults must obviously distinguish between the beliefs he holds.
Sociological method does not require the conclusion that human behavior is determined solely by social factors. What the sociologist describes as "social determinants" are not necessarily the ultimate determinants. The problem of sorting out ultimate determinants is analogous to the tension between free will and predestination. Descriptions of group activity may be a way of speaking, on the human plain, about how God works his will in the world. Furthermore, the conclusion that a particular group is likely to act in a certain way does not mean that all individuals within the group will act that way. With that understanding, sociology remains descriptive with regard to individual action.
Sociology does not prelude the uniqueness of Christianity. Any comparative study of religion will bring about a crisis of faith as a believer encounters for the first time beliefs and practices, even apologetic methods.
Areas For Research
Geography. The movements of peoples of the land can give a lot of insight to the study of a passage in Scripture. Geography initiates and limits the nature and extent of political history. For example, lets take an analysis of the conquest of Canaan. It shows that all the cities overrun lay in the highlands, while the plains and valleys, where Canaanite chariots could turn the tide of any battle, remained outside her control.
Politics. It is very helpful when studying the historical accounts (such as the history of Israel or the life of Jesus) to know something of the political developments behind the accounts. For instance, the prophets wrote within the context of the largr political arena, and much of what they said can be understood better when interpreted in light of those developments.
Economics. Every culture may be defined somewhat on the basis of its socioeconomic situation. There are several difficulties, however, in tracing the economic background of any given are. It is quite difficult to make a qualitative analysis of the trade situation during the time of Solomon or of Christ when one does not possess specific quantitative data on the movement of materials or artifacts.
Military and War. The term war is found is found hundreds of time in the Old Testament alone. It is interesting to trace the history of Israel from the military standpoint. For instance, Abraham's defeat of the four kings with only 318 men (Gen. 14) has been called impossible from a military standpoint. When David defeated a sizable Syrian force with a thousand chariots (2 Sam 10:17-21) he did not keep the chariots, probably because he felt they would do his forces little good.
Cultural Practices. Family customs, such marriage ritual or educational practices, are critical. For instance, Israel practiced "endogamy," with marriage to non-Israelites excluded. This was true even in the patriarchal period (Gen. 24:4; 28:1-2). Great stress was placed upon ancestry, for it became crucial to ensure the purity of family lines. Ancient education was geared to preserving the scribal and ruling classes, with the emphasis upon rote memory and imitation. For the Hebrew, however, this was a religious duty required of all and the daily life of the family was conceived as an instrument of religious education.
Religious Customs. This area controlled every aspect of the daily life of the people. Every activity carried religious overtones, and the modern dichotomy between religious and secular simply did not exist. A brief perusal of prayer practices may demonstrate the value of this. In the first century the Jews prayed three times a day and recited the Shema (Det. 6:4, 5-9; 11:13-21) in the morning and evening. Jews normally prayed standing and knelt or prostrated themselves only at solemn times.
The above points show the importance of doing some deep searching in many background areas in order to gain a better understanding of passages. The social lifestyles of the people during the biblical days shouldn't and cannot be overlooked if a proper understanding is to be gained by the exegete of Scripture.