ML507 Biblical Hermeneutics The Search for Meaning: Understanding Biblical Interpretation. Course Syllabus

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1 ML507 Biblical Hermeneutics The Search for Meaning: Understanding Biblical Interpretation Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Ph.D., Professor Course Syllabus a service of ministries ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.

2 Course Description Welcome Welcome to The Search for Meaning: Understanding Biblical Interpretation, an online course designed to expand your understanding of biblical hermeneutics. The term hermeneutics can be intimidating. It sounds academic and is foreign to most of our vocabularies. However, the act of interpretation is as common as communication itself. Whenever someone speaks, a listener interprets what the speaker means. But what is interpretation when we apply it to reading the Bible? How can we legitimately and effectively interpret the Bible? This course will instruct in various parameters for biblical interpretation and will show how specific methods are applied to Bible study. This course is for your personal enrichment only, and is not offered in this format for academic or continuing education credit. Program Information This course is also offered in expanded form through Christian University GlobalNet (CUGN) as part of its Diploma in Biblical Studies and Master of Arts in Religion programs. If you are seeking academic or continuing education credit, please visit our CUGN website at for more information. Course Objectives Upon completion of the course, you should be able to do the following: Understand the characteristics of a good interpreter of Scripture. Defend your position on whether a passage of Scripture can have only one or multiple meanings. Describe the basic assumptions of the liberal schools of higher criticism of the Bible. Articulate particular biblical theologies that provide argument for the unity for all of Scripture. Identify and interpret literary devices used in biblical narratives. ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 2

3 Formulate teaching or preaching outlines of biblical narrative passages. Appreciate the depth of understanding of Scripture that can be reached by a more complete understanding of poetry, proverbs, and allegory. Recognize key interpretive clues as you approach the study of prophetic passages of Scripture. Defend the relevance of the Old Testament for today s world. Understand the importance of context in correctly interpreting Scripture. Cite numerous principles to be applied in seeking theological truths from Scripture. Develop an attitude of both confidence and caution in interpreting Scripture doctrinally. Explain the right relationship between authorial intent and the role of the reader in determining the meaning of a text. Show how cultural aspects of the Bible can be used to teach overarching truths. Discuss the concept of principlized application of Scripture to contemporary issues. Commit to a regular practice of devotional Bible reading, prayer, and meditation. Course Lecturer Course Lecturer: Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. is President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 3

4 Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. has been a powerful Christian influence since his call to ministry at the age of 15. Born on a rural farm in Pennsylvania, Dr. Kaiser is a respected teacher, scholar, and visionary leader to the evangelical community. During his career, he has been a renowned teacher at Wheaton College, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, as well as lecturing and preaching at other various schools, organizations, and churches across the country. In 1958, he was awarded a prestigious Danforth Teaching Fellowship and two years later was named Junior Teacher of the Year for Wheaton College. In 1977, he served the greater church acting as the President of the Evangelical Theological Society. In 1993, Dr. Kaiser was named the Distinguished Colman M. Mockler Professor of Old Testament Studies by Gordon-Conwell. Perhaps even more influential in leadership, Dr. Kaiser helped shape Trinity by adding five Ph.D. programs during his tenure as Academic Dean and Senior Vice-President for Education. His time as President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary was equally impacting with enrollment increasing from 900 students when he arrived to over 2,200 when he retired. An expert in Mediterranean and Old Testament Studies, Dr. Kaiser has had a profound effect on biblical scholarship as well as training of laity. He is often consulted for his expertise by various Christian publications and organizations and has served as an advisory editor for Christianity Today for years. The following are some of the many books written by Dr. Kaiser: The Promise Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Zondervan) The Messiah in the Old Testament (Zondervan) Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching (Baker) Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament (Baker Academic) The Majesty of God in the Old Testament: A Guide for Preaching and Teaching (Baker Academic) Recovering the Unity of the Bible: One Continuous Story, Plan, and Purpose (Zondervan) What Does the Lord Require? A Guide for Preaching and Teaching Biblical Ethics (Baker Academic) ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 4

5 Education: B.A. Wheaton (Bible) B.D. Wheaton (Theology) M.A. Brandeis University Ph.D. Brandeis University (Mediterranean Studies) Course Contributors: ChristianCourses.com utilizes the radio and television teams of RBC Ministries to enhance the students educational experience. This course uses two videos from the Day of Discovery television program. The expert contributors to these programs are listed as follows: o o o o o o o Darrell Bock, Ph.D. (University of Aberdeen), Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary Mart De Haan, Litt.D. (Cornerstone University), President RBC Ministries Jimmy De Young, Ph.D. (Louisiana Baptist University), Journalist and Conference Speaker Paul Maier, Ph.D. (University of Basel), Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University Richard Abanes, Ph.D. (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Professor of Archeology and Biblical Studies for Azusa Pacific University Charles Ryrie, Ph.D. (University of Edinburgh, Scotland), Former Dean of Doctoral Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary Daniel Wallace, Ph.D. (Dallas Theological Seminary), Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary Course Methods Throughout this course, a number of methods will be used to engage you in learning and processing information, interacting with other students, and applying the learning to your life. These methods include the following: Media/Materials Audio lectures: The primary course content will be delivered via audio lectures, including the full transcript of each lecture. A guided outline to assist you in note taking is also made available in PDF format. ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 5

6 Interaction Whether we are sitting in a traditional classroom or studying from a distance, we all benefit from interaction and collaboration with one another. In order to meet this need in distance theological education, ChristianCourses.com offers structures and resources to encourage effective community interaction in this course. The Online Interactivity Forum fosters peer-to-peer interaction in a global, threaded discussion. Reflection Through journaling and the use of interactive exercises, we provide many opportunities for you to reflect on what you have learned, what you believe, and where you are challenged. The goal of these reflections is personal spiritual growth and transformation. Web Journal Many of the assignments ask you to record your thoughts in a Course Journal. You may use a paper notebook for this, or, as an alternative, you may use the Web Journal to record thoughts and reflections as you go through the course. Web Journal entries can be viewed only by you and by the site administrator, but are not graded. Lesson Objectives At the end of each lesson, you should be able to accomplish the objectives listed below. Lesson 1: What is Biblical Interpretation? Define the term hermeneutics. Explain the need for special hermeneutics for specific portions of Scripture. Cite several limitations of hermeneutics in the study of the Bible. Describe the characteristics that a good interpreter of Scripture should have. List and describe basic resources necessary for credible interpretation of the Bible. Develop a desire to understand the accurate and entire message of any particular text of Scripture. ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 6

7 Lesson 2: A Short History of Interpretation Articulate your position on whether a passage of Scripture can have only one or multiple meanings. Explain ways in which knowledge of the history of interpretation can enhance understanding of Scripture. List and describe several Jewish schools of interpretation of Scripture. Expound on Augustine s concept of a fourfold interpretation of biblical texts. Explain how a clear biblical hermeneutic influenced the 16th century reformation. Describe the basic assumptions of the liberal schools of higher criticism of the Bible. Lesson 3: Basic Principles of Interpretation Articulate particular biblical theologies that provide unity for all of Scripture. Illustrate ways in which the purpose of a specific book of the Bible can be ascertained. Explain the importance of the concept of pericopes in biblical interpretation. Define and illustrate both verbal and real parallel passages of Scripture. Apply the grammatical-historical approach to biblical interpretation. Lesson 4: Interpreting Narratives or Stories Recognize the general structure of narrative passages of Scripture. Identify and interpret literary devices used in biblical narratives. Understand the characteristics of and significance of a homiletical keyword. Establish the meaning of any given biblical narrative. Formulate a teaching or preaching outline of a selected biblical narrative passage. Support with credibility the historicity of the biblical accounts. ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 7

8 Lesson 5: Interpreting Poetry and Wisdom Understand the importance of poetic techniques in communicating meaning. Identify uses of various types of parallelism in Hebrew poetry. Discern and apply various literary techniques used by biblical writers in order to add emphasis. List and explain numerous characteristics of a biblical proverb. Understand both the opportunities and the pitfalls of teaching biblical allegory. Appreciate the depth of understanding of Scripture that can be reached by a more complete understanding of poetry, proverbs, and allegory. Lesson 6: Interpreting Prophecy Understand the importance of properly interpreting biblical prophecy. Explain two ways in which the term prophecy is used in Scripture. List and explain seven characteristics of biblical prophecy. Discuss three schools of though related to interpretation of end-times prophecies. Provide possible reasons for the diversity in interpretation of biblical prophecy. Recognize key interpretive clues as you approach the study of prophetic passages of Scripture. Lesson 7: The New Testament Use of the Old Testament Understand the importance of context in correctly interpreting Scripture. Argue for the continuity of the Bible throughout both Old and New Testaments. Defend the relevance of the Old Testament for today s world. Describe some key Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Commit to understanding and expounding the entire text of Scripture, not just the New Testament. ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 8

9 Lesson 8: The Theological Use of the Bible: Putting It All Together Provide examples from Jesus life that support the doctrinal value of Scripture. Use examples from the writings of Paul to support theological interpretation of the Bible. Cite numerous principles to be applied in seeking theological truths from Scripture. Apply correctly the concept of antecedent theology to seeking doctrinal understandings from Scripture. Develop an attitude of both confidence and caution in interpreting Scripture doctrinally. Lesson 9: Contemporary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation Define the historical-critical method of interpreting the Bible. Evaluate both the New Hermeneutic and New Criticism and their respective roles in biblical understanding. Explain the right relationship between authorial intent and the role of the reader in determining the meaning of a text. Understand specific gaps between teaching and practice of some of those who want to allow meaning to be determined solely by the reader. Illustrate the importance of approaching Scripture with the correct hermeneutic. Lesson 10: Interpreting the Cultural Aspects of the Bible Explain how the concept of culture applies to the receiving of and transmission of the biblical text. Identify numerous elements in Scripture that are clearly cultural. Show how cultural aspects of the Bible can be used to teach overarching truths. ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 9

10 Delineate several principles to apply in cultural interpretation of the Bible. Recognize how your own context and culture affects your understanding of Scripture. Lesson 11: When the Bible Doesn t Address Our Questions List some contemporary ethical or lifestyle questions that are often asked, but are not directly addressed in Scripture. Provide justification for being able to find direction on contemporary issues from Scripture alone. Respond to the argument that Jesus used liminal imagery that allows us to go beyond it in our application. Identify and refute some theological theories that allow reinterpretation or extension of the biblical text to apply to modern issues. Discuss the concept of principlized application of Scripture to contemporary issues. Lesson 12: Interpreting the Bible Devotionally Define the term devotion as it relates to the Christian life. Adopt a means by which you can deal with passages of Scripture that are difficult to understand. Defend the need for consistent Bible study even if the text seems confusing or intimidating. Understand the role of the Holy Spirit in devotional reading of Scripture. Define and illustrate the practice of Christian meditation. Commit to a regular practice of devotional Bible reading, prayer, and meditation. ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 10

11 Course Requirements Textbooks: Recommended (Not required but highly recommended) Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. and Moises Silva. Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, Available at estore. Recommended (Not required but highly recommended) Why Trust the Bible? Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, Available at estore. You may choose to use our online store available on our website to order your textbook. Shipping is available to international students, but please place your order early enough to allow adequate time for delivery. When available, you may also consider downloading the textbook to an ereader. Bible reading/study: Bible reading references and the textbook used in this course should be read completely at least once and journal responses to questions are to be recorded in your journals. Each assignment should be read in the context of the lesson that covers that particular passage or topic. Audio lectures: Each of the lessons in this course contains an audio lecture of approximately 40 minutes in length. These instructional lectures can be listened to as many times as needed. The content is also available in a text file (PDF) for students who can benefit from these alternative media. Lectures in this course are titled as follows: Lecture #1: Lecture #2: Lecture #3: Lecture #4: Lecture #5: Lecture #6: Lecture #7: What is Biblical Interpretation? A Short History of Interpretation Basic Principles of Interpretation Interpreting Narratives or Stories Interpreting Poetry and Wisdom Interpreting Prophecy The New Testament Use of the Old Testament ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 11

12 Lecture #8: Lecture #9: Lecture #10: Lecture #11: Lecture #12: The Theological Use of the Bible: Putting It All Together Contemporary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation Interpreting the Cultural Aspects of the Bible When the Bible Doesn t Address Our Questions Interpreting the Bible Devotionally Lecture outlines: In order to facilitate note taking and learning, you are provided an outline for each lecture. We suggest that the outline be printed or reviewed prior to listening to the lecture as it will serve as a guide for the professor s train of thought and for note taking. Video presentations: ChristianCourses.com utilizes the radio and television teams of RBC Ministries to enhance your educational experience. This course uses the following two videos from the Day of Discovery television program: Where Did the Bible Come From? Has the Bible Been Corrupted? Links will be provided to theses videos in Lessons 1 and 2 of the course. Additional reading: You may choose to read supplementary materials for many of the lessons. The following bibliography was provided by the professor at the time the course was created and may be used in part or in whole for your further study: Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, Inc, 1981). Bullinger, E. W. Figures of Speech in the Bible Explained and Illustrated (1898, reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968). Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003). Hirsch, E. D. Validity in Interpretation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967). Kaiser, Walter, Jr. C. Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Teaching and Preaching (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981). ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 12

13 Scalise, Charles J. From Scripture to Theoogy: A Canonical Journey into Hermeneutics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996). Terry, Milton S. Biblical Hermeneutics: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. (1885; reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974). Virkler, Henry A. Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation. Second edition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007). Vocabulary: Throughout the course you will find terms necessary to the understanding of the subject matter presented. You should become familiar with any unfamiliar words and their meanings as a requirement of this coursework. Quizzes You will take a 10-question, multiple choice and/or true/false quiz at the end of each lecture. Since this course is not offered in this form for academic or continuing education credit, the quizzes are provided only as a tool to gauge your understanding of the content. No academic or continuing education credit will be provided. If you have interest in academic credit, see our website at There is a remediation feature built into all quiz questions that allows you to review questions you missed and locate the specific section of the lecture or reading from which the question was drawn. Once you have reviewed the question again, you can attempt an answer a second time, and if you are correct, receive half of the normal credit for that question. If you do not attempt an answer the second time, you will not receive credit for that question. The quizzes are automatically graded. Online Forum You will interact with other students worldwide in an ongoing asynchronous threaded discussion of several course topics in each lesson. In order to get the fullest benefit from the forum, you are asked to interact online based on discussion questions provided for each lecture. Additionally, you should return to the forum from time to time during the course to see how others respond. As you take advantage of this opportunity, you will develop critical thinking skills through personal interaction with the content of the course and the responses of ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 13

14 others within a diverse community of learners. Personal Reflection and Evaluation To integrate academic studies with the walk of faith, you are asked to reflect on the content of the course and evaluate your life in light of what has been learned. The following questions will guide your reflection process: Step 1: Step 2: Step 3: Step 4: Review Think about the material you have studied in this course. Then ask these questions: What are one or two things you learned that you did not know before this study? What was there in the teaching that made you look at the Bible or something in the Bible in a new way? Assess Think about your life, both past and present. Given the insights or understanding that you gained in this course, what changes do you need to make in the way you think or behave? Apply What specific steps will you take in order to put these positive changes (from Step 2) into practice in your life? Record Write your responses to the above reflections in your journal (web, notebook, or computer) Notes Regarding This Syllabus This syllabus is designed to provide learners with an overview of the course. Specific assignments are contained in each lesson. ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 14

15 a service of ministries ChristianCourses.com and RBC Ministries. All rights reserved. Page 15

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