Hermeneutics Defined

By Ed F. Sanders

Jesus "explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures"
(Lk 24:27 - KJV)


The word in the NT Greek text translated “explained” in the KJV1 is the verb diermeneuo: (diermeneuo) from dia- ‘through’ and hermeneuo- ‘explain, interpret’. In this verse the expanded translation of diermeneuo would be: to interpret fully; to reveal or unfold the meaning of what is said, explained, or expounded.

Dr. Bernard Ramm in his book on interpreting the Bible2 defines hermeneutics:
“Hermeneutics is the science and art of Biblical interpretation. It is a science because it is guided by rules within a system; it is an art because the application of the rules is by skill, and not by mechanical imitation. ...Protestantism takes only the Bible as authoritative, there is no secondary means of making clear the meaning of the Bible. Therefore, we know what God has said by the faithful and accurate interpretation of the Scriptures.”

“This is the primary and basic need of hermeneutics: to ascertain what God has said in Sacred Scripture; to determine the meaning of the Word of God. ...In every one of those places where our interpretation is at fault, we have made substitution of the voice of man for the voice of God.”


The Grammatical-Historical method is the standard for interpretation by conservative Bible scholars. Dr. Roy Zuck explains:
"When we speak of interpreting the Bible grammatically, we are referring to the process of seeking to determine its meaning by ascertaining four things:
(a) the meaning of words (lexicology),
(b) the form of words (morphology),
(c) the function of words (parts of speech),
(d) the relationships of words (syntax)"3

(1) The ESV and HCSB translates "interpreted", the NKJV has "expounded".
(2) Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, p. 1-2
(3) Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth, Victor Books, 1991, p. 100.