Exegesis Homiletics

I am currently preparing a course that I will be teaching at the end of October – Hermeneutics for Preaching.  I came across this very important reminder in Grant Osborne’s Hermeneutical Spiral (p343):

“The hermeneutical process culminates not in the results of exegesis (centering on the original meaning of the text) but in the homiletical process (centering on the significance of the Word for the life of the Christian today).”

To some of us it is obvious that there must be a direct link between exegesis and homiletics, but we all need the reminder.  C.R.Wells, in Interpreting the New Testament (edited by Black and Dockery, pp506-523), writes the final chapter on interpretation and its connection to preaching.  He warns of some critical approaches that will produce “tempting” content for sermons, but content that should not be included.  However, critical methods that deal with the “text-as-is” have great potential as tools of the preacher.  According to Wells, “Every preacher should and must be a critic, but no preacher should ever forget that critical study serves homiletics.”

Accurate interpretation governs expository preaching.  So two simple implications:

1. Don’t allow interpretation and exegesis to be an end in itself. Study in God’s Word must run its course, not only to personal application, but to communication for corporate application.  If you have opportunity and ability to preach the Word, do it.  If you don’t, then find another way to share the truth and its implications with others.

2. If you ever preach, then be an ever-improving interpreter and exegete of God’s Word. Don’t try to preach without the foundation of biblical interpretation under your efforts.  Preaching is more than sharing the fruit of exegetical work out loud, but it cannot be less.  Skill in communication, relevance in content, personal spirituality and prayerful preparation are all important, but without effective biblical interpretation undergirding your messages, don’t call it preaching.

4 thoughts on “Exegesis Homiletics

  1. Peter,

    I think you’re two implications are excellent and thoughtful reminders for us all. However, I do not think this is what Osborne was getting at in his work. In fact, I think his conclusions are damaging to what you’re hoping to accomplish.

    The overall hermeneutical task is jeopardized by Osborne’s repeated call for incorporating relevance and application early in the process. I believe this contributes to the denigration of any objective meaning in the text. Osborne makes a backward claim that “The attack on objective interpretation has a certain validity. Hermeneutic theorists in the past have all too easily ignored the central importance of the reader in the interpretive process” (pg. 386).

    Peter, I think you are rightly arguing for the rightful place of application however I don’t think you are promoting the “the central importance of the reader.” If I have misread you please correct me.

    I am so thankful for your blog and its practical “meat” for preachers.

  2. Thanks for the helpful comment Paul. If “the central importance of the reader” brings the reader into the process too early, then no I am not promoting that. Obviously the reader is a key player in the hermeneutical process, but the goal of objectivity must be pursued for the sake of understanding authorial intent. Discussions of where meaning is to be found are critical. The author’s intended meaning, as evidenced in the genre, structure, syntax, grammer, word choice of the text, must be the goal. Application must have a place in the exegetical / hermeneutical process, but again, the sequence is vital – understanding what it meant must precede consideration of what it might “mean for us.”

    (I understand the discussions about whether application should be included in the specific fields of hermeneutics and exegesis. While sensitive to the issues involved in those discussions, my goal is to point out that Bible Study must include application, whether or not hermeneutics and exegesis are given more narrow definitions.)

    In this particular post I am open to the charge of selectively using a quote from Osborne without paying full attention to the broader context! (Don’t do this in Bible study!) As I wrote in the post, I am preparing a course on hermeneutics, and was dipping into Osborne for another purpose . . . I stumbled across the quote and voila! – potentially a bad example of how to read written communication. Ironic! 🙂

    Thanks for the kind words about the site, Paul!

  3. Sounds like a very interesting course. Any chance the material will be placed online? I’d love to have to access to it.

    Thanks, Peter!

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