Exegesis and hermeneutics are two of the most popular interpretation tools scholars use today. They are mainly used to study and understand sacred books but have many other applications as well. Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation, while exegesis refers specifically to the critical explanation of a text. This article will explore the difference between hermeneutics and exegesis and discuss how they can be used to decode sacred texts.
What is Hermeneutics?
Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation, especially scripture. It is a tool used to understand the hidden meaning behind a text. In simple terms, hermeneutics is like a key that opens the door to the true meaning of a text.
The main goal of hermeneutics is to discover the truths and values expressed in the text. For instance, hermeneutics can be used to decode the Bible. There are four different hermeneutics or ways of interpreting the Bible. These are the literal, moral, allegorical, and anagogical methods.
The literal interpretation of the Bible is the most common hermeneutical method. This approach takes the text at face value and interprets it in its simplest form.
The moral interpretation of the Bible looks at the ethical and spiritual lessons that can be obtained from the text.
The allegorical interpretation sees the Bible as a collection of stories with hidden meanings.
Finally, the anagogical interpretation looks at the Bible as a book that can be used to understand the afterlife.
What is Exegesis?
Exegesis is a detailed examination and interpretation of a text, usually scripture. It is the process of discovering the original meaning of a passage. It is a method that Jews and Christians have used as they attempt to unravel all hidden truths in the religious books. To understand religions, followers need to decode the religious books. This will help them understand the rules and regulations of their faith.
The application of exegesis follows three steps, namely context, following rules, and applying them. The context stage involves reading the surroundings text and then paying attention to language rules. For instance, the Bible was not written in modern English, so there is a need to understand the cultural background of the language used and its rules. It also means that the author’s intention is vital in studying texts.
Similarities between Exegesis and Hermeneutics
The similarity between exegesis and hermeneutics is that both concepts are used to interpret texts. Also, their original use was inclined to understanding sacred texts such as the Bible and Quran. The main goal of exegesis and hermeneutics is to “arrive at biblical truths and values.” Through exegesis and hermeneutics, one can comprehend the intent behind certain scripture by delving deep into the context and author’s intention. This also means they try to bring about an unbiased interpretation of texts. Another similarity is that they are both used as interpretation tools when analyzing complex texts, especially in religious studies.
Difference between Exegesis and Hermeneutics
The difference between exegesis and hermeneutics is that exegesis is an interpretation aspect under the scope of hermeneutics. All exegesis approaches are hermeneutics, but not all hermeneutics are inclined to exegesis.
Biblical exegesis is the interpretation of the sacred book. Hermeneutics is the study and establishment of the principles by which it should be interpreted. [Source].
Exegesis is the “discipline of extracting, grammatically, out of the text what it says,” while hermeneutics is the “science of interpreting, based on what the text says, what it means; followed by validating that interpretation of what it means (e.g., “Scripture interprets Scripture), and then discerning the significance of that validated meaning”
The four steps in the application of hermeneutics are laid out as the following:
- What does the text say? (Exegesis)
- What does it mean? (Interpretation)
- How do I know that’s what it means (Validation)
- Now that I know what it means, so what? (Significance / Application).
Hermeneutics is the “science of determining from a (Bible) text what is being said + what the author meant + what this now means for us,” while exegesis is a part of “Hermeneutics focusing on what was said (including textual criticism) + what the author meant”.