Engaging Exposition (15): Developing the Main Idea of the Text
By way of summary, we have noted the following as essential components of steps one (studying) and two (structuring) of the hermeneutical process:
1. Study the book as a Whole.
- Consider the questions of date, authorship, recipients, and purpose (general matters of introduction.)
- Develop an outline of the entire book (study Bibles and commentaries will be helpful.)
- Examine the relationship of the passage under consideration in both its near and far context.
2. Establish the Best Textual Base Possible.
- Use the original languages if you can.
- Compare various versions and translations.
3. Investigate the Text Linguistically (e.g. word by word within its context and semantic range)
- Make a lexical (definitional) study of crucial words.
- Research the passage for key words, phrases, and ideas.
- Track the verbs!
- Cross reference.
4. Determine the Genre of the Discourse
- What is the literary type (history, poetry, prophetic, apocalyptic)?
- What literary devices are used?
- Is there any indication of the life situation from which the material came?
5. Analyze The Structure Of The Passage
- Determine if the material constitutes a literary unity.
- Is there a logical sequence of ideas present?
- Isolate the basic themes or emphases.
- Outline the text you are studying. Use the outline as the framework for your teaching.
We can also highlight some of the basic interpretive rules we discovered that must constantly guide us in the hermeneutical/homiletical construction process.
- The context rules when interpreting the text.
- The text must be interpreted in light of all Scripture.
- Scripture will never contradict itself.
- Scripture should be interpreted literally (or “naturally” according to its genre.)
- Do not develop a doctrine from obscure or difficult passages.
- Discover the author’s original intended meaning and honor that meaning.
- Check your conclusions using reliable resources.
Now, at this point we want to introduce a diagram that provides an overview of where we have been and where we are. It should help you get a grasp of the “big picture” of sermon development.
In our pyramidic diagram you can see a number of interesting points and parallels.
1) The hermeneutical and the homiletical beautifully balance one another.
2) Steps 2 and 6 complement each other, as do steps 3 and 5.
3) If the hermeneutical aspect of sermon development is done well, the homiletical component will naturally follow because the latter should flow from the former.
4) This method is simple and easily transferable to others we might teach and instruct in building biblically faithful expository sermons.
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