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C. Biblical
Randy Flores, SVD
Theology 121
Ateneo de Manila University
“Do you understand what you are
Philip and the
Read the story in
Acts of the
Apostles chap 8
The three “worlds” in Biblical Interpretation
World of the Author
World of
the Text
World of
the Reader
The Two-Fold Sense of the Sacred Scripture
 Literal
Sense – What the author
intended as the meaning of the text.
 Spiritual Sense – A meaning that the
text poses in the light of God’s
revelation in Jesus Christ.
Clarification of Terms
 Biblical
– Is also Biblical Hermeneutics
– “hermeneutics” is from the Greek word,
“hermeneuo”, “to translate, interpret,
expound, put into words, express, write
about, speak clearly, articulate”
– In the strict sense
 the
science or art of interpretation
 the methodology of interpretation
Hermes, the
messenger of
the Greek
 Hermeneutics
is the “interpretation
of a written record (text) to uncover
what the text is telling us in
language understandable to human
beings” (by Prosper Grech, 1988).
 “Exegesis”
– From the Greek word, exegesis meaning
“statement, narrative, explanation,
– Analysis of the written text to uncover
the original meaning as the author
originally intended.
 Biblical
interpretation is the task
of the theologian,
 while exegesis is for the biblical
specialist (exegete) who explains
both theological and non-theological
materials and offers his work for the
use of theology” (Grant – Tracy,
Useful References on Biblical Interpretation
Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the
Bible in the Church (1993).
George Montague, Understanding the Bible. A Basic
Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Pasay: Paulines,
Maria Ko Ha-Fong, “Reading the Bible in an Asian Context”
Bulletin Dei Verbum 40/41 (1996).
Robert Grant – David Tracy,A Short History of the
Interpretaion of the Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress, 3rd ed.,
Gerry Tapiador, The Mysterious Seed: A Simplified Manual
on the Tools and the Principles of Interpreting the Bible
(Makati: St. Paul, 1988)
Erlinda Bragad0 – Arnold Monera, Kaloob: Interweavings on
the Christian Story (Manila: DLSU, 1997).
1. The Historical Critical-Method
What is it?
It is the scientific study of ancient texts.
 It is “historical” because it deals with
ancient texts, their historical contexts and
circumstances in which these were
composed and edited, and the process by
which the final form of the texts came to
 It is “critical”, not that it criticizes as one
looking for errors, but that it uses
scientific criteria to judge the text as
objectively as possible about its historical
and literary aspects.
Origin and Brief Historical
 The
method was first used by Greek
philologians and commentators of
antiquity to establish the best text of
the writings of Homer.
 It
was adopted by the Church
Fathers like Origen, Jerome and
Augustine in their study of the
Hebrew and Greek forms of the Old
St. Jerome, patron saint of biblical
It was refined during the time of the
Renaissance humanists (14th cent. – 15th
cent.) whose emphasis is on the “return to
the sources” (recursus ad fontes) and so
the study of the neglected ancient biblical
languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic)
came to the fore.
The Reformers (16th cent.), Martin Luther
(1485-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564)
applied the method in their study,
lectures, and homilies on the Old
Martin Luther
 At
the time of the
Enlightenment (17th - 18th
centuries), still further
refinements were made to the
method. Textual criticism
became a scientific discipline.
More valuable ancient
manuscripts were discovered.
 Bible
in the period of Enlightenment
(17th cent- 18th cent.)
– Rise of Rationalism and Scientific
 Baruch
Spinoza (1634-1677) questioned the
historical reliability of many biblical
 Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was brining a
wholly new way of understanding the
universe itself
 John Locke (1632-1704) affirmed that
reason alone must be the judge of all truth
 Auguste Comte (1798-1857) founded
Positivism (“the law of the three stages” –
 Discovery
of classical texts and
languages and valuable ancient
Baruch Spinoza
Auguste Comte, father of modern
Example: A new edition of the
Greek New Testament came out,
an edition NO longer based on
the traditionally received Greek
text (called “Textus Receptus”)
but based on older and superior
manuscripts recently uncovered.
 Read the file Textus Receptus!
 From
19th Century onwards, the
scientific and critical interpretation of
the Bible gained importance and
later on it was accepted in the
Roman Catholic Church. Today, this
method is better known as as “the
indispensable method of biblical
Goal(s) of the Method
 1.
Determine the authentic meaning
of the biblical text as a literary
document (or the “literal sense”).
 2. Determine the historicity (or lack
thereof)—the extent to which the
factual is present in an author’s text.
Advantages of this Method
1. Check and balance of the two
extremes: Fundamentalism and texts
as merely good human interest
– Fundamentalism: Everything in the
Bible actually happened and words
actually spoken.
– Good human interest stories: wonderful
stories with little or no historical
foundations (like the Ilocano epic, Lamang).
2. Check and balance of other modern
--Ideological interpretation: Using the
Bible to promote certain ideological views.
--Post-modernism or deconstructionism:
awareness that history relativizes people,
places, event, texts, etc. Hence, all
interpretations are colored by the
interpreter. All interpretations are
subjective. Meaning is only meaning for
Various Forms of the Method
 1.
Textual Criticism
– The study which seeks to establish,
according to fixed rules, a biblical text
as close as possible to the original.
– This is based on the testimony of the
oldest and best manuscripts, papyri,
ancient versions, and texts quoted by
the Church Fathers in their writings.
Oldest complete manuscript or copy of the
Old Testament
Leningrad Codex,
10th century A.D.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Discovered in 1947
 Copies (fragments)
of the Old
 Manuscripts are
dated from 1 B.C.
to 1. A.D.
Fragment of the Book of
Map of Modern
Modern Israel
Qumran Caves
Isaiah Scroll
(found at one of the Qumran caves)
New Testament Manuscripts
(copies of the original text)
Oldest manuscript
 2nd century,
papyrus fragment
of the Gospel of
Codex Vaticanus
One of the oldest (4th century) complete
manuscript of the New Testament
Also contains a copy of the LXX
Codex Sinaiticus
Another 4th
century complete
manuscript of the
New Testament,
also contains the
 2.
Philological criticism
– The linguistic and grammatical analysis
of the text.
– Aim: to know the meaning of a word or
expression in the bible by comparing it
with the languages of Ancient Near
A Text of a Ugaritic Language
 3.
Form Criticism
– It identifies what kind or type of
literature is the text and the its social
text from which it emerged.
Some Literary Forms in the Bible
Myths (Gen 1)
Legends (Gen 13)
Epics (Exod 14:15-31)
Elegies (2 Saam 1:19-27)
Poetry (Judith 16:1-17)
Parables (2 Sam 12:1-4)
Narratives (Book of Tobit)
Letters (Romans 2:1-16)
Fiction (Book of Jonah)
Apocalptic (Book of Daniel and Book of
 4.
Source Criticism
– The study of the different materials
(both oral and written) the writer's)
used in making his text in order to
explain the apparent contradictions or
discrepancies in the text.
 5.
Redaction Criticism
– It concentrates on how and why the
author(s) wove together history,
traditions, stories to suit a particular
audience—the individual authors
brought together (“redacted” or
“edited”) these materials to produce a
composite written work.
2. Some Contemporary
Approaches of Biblical
Rhetorical Analysis:
 It
investigates the “spoken” quality
of the text, the impact on the
influence of the text on the people
who listened to it.
 Example: the hyperbolical and
emphatic speech of Jesus in Mt 5:2930.
Narrative Analysis:
 studies
how the text tells a story in
such a way as to engage the reader
in its “narrative world” and the
system of values contained therein.
 See Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical
Narrative (USA: BasicBooks, 1981).
 E.g. The narration of a powerful story
by Nathan to David (2 Sam 12)
The Sociological Approach
the investigation of the social
conditions out of which the writings
recorded in the Bible took shape.
 Example: what were the social
conditions and political problems
during the writing of the Gospel of
The Approach through Cultural
Anthropology –
 It
seeks to define the characteristics
of the different kinds of human
beings in their social context, their
culture and their social values.
 e.g. What is “honor and shame” in
the Bible?/ The wedding at Cana in
John 2
Wedding at Cana
By Duccio Buoninsegna
The Psychological and
Psychoanalytical approaches –
 They
strive to understand the bible
in terms of the experience of human
life, the norms of human conduct
and behavior.
 E.g.
What is the meaning of
“sickness” in the Bible?
What is the psychological profile
of Jesus?
The Liberationist Approach
– It seeks a reading of the text drawn
from the situation of the people as it is
lived here and now. If people lives in
circumstances of oppression, one must go
to the Bible to find there nourishment
capable of sustaining the people in its
struggles and its hopes.
 E.g. The meaning of Exodus as liberation
from oppression; from unjust social
by Marc Chagall
The Feminist Hermeneutics
– the bible is read from the perspective of
the struggle for the rights of women.
The goal is liberation of women and the
acquisition on their part of rights equal to
those enjoyed by men.
 e.g. Gal 3:28 against texts which tends to
undermine the rights of women
Sir 25:24 vs. Rom 5:12
Galatians 3:28
 There
is neither Jew nor Greek, there
is neither slave nor free person,
there is not male and female; for you
are all one in Christ Jesus.
Sirach 25:23-25
 In
woman was sin's beginning, and
because of her we all die.
 Allow water no outlet, and be not
indulgent to an erring wife.
 If she walks not by your side, cut her
away from you.
and Eve
by Marc
Romans 5:12
 Therefore,
just as sin came into the
world through one man, and death
came through sin, and so death
spread to all because all have
 Rabbinic
exegesis or commentary.
 Two Kinds of Midrash
– Halaka
 Practical
application of the sacred text to
everyday life (of a legislative nature).
– Haggadah
 Edification
of the faithful in the form of
homily (use of stories).