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Biblical Hermeneutics and Biblical Interpretation

The Future of Biblical Interpretationbook cover

Stanley Porter and Matthew Malcolm, eds., The Future of Biblical Interpretation: Responsible Plurality in Biblical Hermeneutics (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2013), 31–32.


Stanley Porter says there are many volumes that equate “biblical hermeneutics” with “biblical interpretation.”

They no doubt are related, but are they to be equated?



I think not.

Hermeneutics is much broader in scope. Hermeneutics involves not just elements of interpretation, but what it means to be an interpreter–what are the assumptions, preconditions, felicitous conditions, activities, prior commitments and human components, among other things, that enter into, and even govern, any act of human understanding, whether its object be language, culture, the physical world, even texts and much else.

Porter says “biblical interpretation” is more specific.

Interpretation includes the processes and techniques involved in interpretive acts, especially, but not exclusively, of texts.

But Hermeneutics itself need not involve interpretive method or practice.

Biblical interpretation no doubt is predicated upon–whether knowingly or unknowingly–a hermeneutic.

This may seem like a pedantic debate, but I think it has some importance.

Most seminary curriculum have a course included called “Hermeneutics.” But many of these classes actually teach biblical interpretation.

This is natural, for biblical interpretation falls under the category of hermeneutics, but if there is no hermeneutics actually taught, then it is like teaching someone how to frame a house without first establishing the foundation.

It is important to understand that these two are distinct, and students are impoverished if they are only getting biblical interpretation, and not biblical hermeneutics.

 This post was first run on Patrick’s blog, Ad Fontes.


About Patrick Schreiner

Patrick Schreiner is Assistant Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Western Seminary. He completed his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy at The Southern Baptist Seminary. In addition to his pastoral ministry experience, Patrick also enjoys writing. You can follow Patrick's journey and his thinking online at his blog, Ad Fontes. You can also follow him on Twitter.