Zuck Role Holy Spirit in Hermeneutics

Zuck – The Role of the Holy Spirit in Hermeneutics

Zuck-The Role of the Holy Spirit in Hermeneutics is an excerpt from Bibliotheca Sacra on the Holy Spirit helping us understand Scripture

Zuck-The Role of the Holy Spirit in Hermeneutics is an excerpt from Bibliotheca Sacra on the Holy Spirit helping us understand Scripture

by Roy B. Zuck

Bibliotheca Sacra 141 (1984): 120-129.

[Roy B. Zuck, Associate Academic Dean, Associate Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary]

Hermeneutics, the science and art of biblical interpretation, is of primary concern to evangelicals because of their commitment to the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. The task of Bible interpreters is to seek to ascertain the meaning of Bible passages to their original hearers and readers and to determine how that meaning relates to readers today.[1] Biblical scholars have wrestled and are wrestling with serious hermeneutical issues but comparatively little attention has been given to the Holy Spirit’s role in hermeneutics.

Since inaccurate interpretation of Scripture can lead to improper conduct, one must be sure he is interpreting properly. Adequate application of truth builds on an adequate understanding of truth. A distorted meaning of a Bible verse or passage may result in misguided living.

The Holy Spirit, as the  (“Helper”; John 14:16, 26; 15:26 ), is available to help believers ascertain the correct meaning of the Bible’s statements, commands, and questions. He is involved in the hermeneutical process because He is “the Spirit of truth” who, Jesus said, “will guide… into all truth” (John 16:13). And as Paul wrote, “We have… the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Cor 2:12). John wrote, “His anointing teaches you about all [spiritual] things” (1 John 2:27). Probably “anointing” refers to the Holy Spirit; by metonomy the act of anointing stands for what is given in the anointing, namely, the indwelling Holy Spirit.

However, the Holy Spirit’s involvement in teaching believers and guiding them in the truth raises some thorny questions: If true learning comes by the Spirit’s inner working, does this mean that one’s understanding of Scripture is ultimately a subjective matter? If a person senses the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart, does he automatically know the correct view of a Bible verse? If the Spirit interprets the Word privately to individual believers, how can one determine the correct view among several conflicting interpretations? If two people profess to be taught by the Spirit and yet hold differing views on some scriptural passage or issue, which view is valid?

As Moule put it, “the blessed Spirit is not only the true Author of the written Word but also its supreme and true Expositor.”[2] But the question remains as to how the meaning of God’s authoritative Word can be accurately discerned amid conflicting interpretations. If human interpretations confuse the clarity of the Word, is the Bible no longer authoritative? Is a person inconsistent if he allows the right of private judgment and at the same time claims that his interpretations are right and another’s wrong?

Is the Bible not clear in its meanings? Can only a select few have insight into the meaning of Scripture? Are the “deep things of God” and His “thoughts” (1 Cor 2:10-11) understood only by some Christians? Can a Christian claim infallibility for his interpretation of a Bible passage simply by affirming that the Holy Spirit “taught” him that meaning?

In what sense does the Holy Spirit give insight into the Bible’s meaning? Does such “light” come suddenly? Or is it the result of study? If insight comes from study, can the Bible’s meaning be ascertained by rational processes apart from the Holy Spirit?

How does the Spirit’s role in interpretation relate to His work in illumination? Are the two functions the same? If not, how do they differ?

Zuck-The Role Of The Holy Spirit In Hermeneutics
Zuck-The Role Of The Holy Spirit In Hermeneutics
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