Hermeneutics

Dictionary.com

noun (used with a singular verb)
  1. the science of interpretation, especially of the Scriptures.
  2. the branch of theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis.

Etymonline.com

“art of interpretation, the study of exegesis,” 1737, from hermeneutic; also see -ics.

“interpretive,” 1670s, from Latinized form of Greek hermeneutikos “of or for interpreting,” from hermeneutes “interpreter,” from hermeneuein “to interpret (foreign languages); interpret into words, give utterance to,” a word of unknown origin (formerly considered ultimately a derivative of Hermes, as the tutelary divinity of speech, writing, and eloquence).


Discussion/Explanation

From the above, we can see that hermeneutics is a key area of study within exegetical theology.

Differing hermeneutical approaches are clearly seen when dealing with topics such as the end times. One interpreter may take a more literal interpretation whereas another a more figurative approach.

Other key components of interpretation include interpreting texts in their historical setting, considering the grammar used, and in the surrounding context of the text.

Failing to consider such things has lead various people over the years into all sorts of conflicting beliefs and even heresy. This is not to say there cannot be legitimate conflicting views on how to interpret a particular text (as seen above) but such differences still end up having more in common because of applying an overall consistent hermeneutic. Those who fall into heresy tend to insist on their own view rather than what makes sense &/or flat out ignore other areas of Scripture that they should have considered before standing on their chosen view.


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Exegetical Theology

Dictionary.com & Etymonline.com

— see Exegesis —     also    — see Theology


Discussion/Explanation

It is all that explains and interprets the Holy Scriptures in the study of theology.

This area of study involves the study of ancient languages like Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic in order to study the Scriptures from primary sources – the original/early manuscripts of the Bible.

This also includes archeology and study of the canon of Scripture. Archeology in the study of ancient cultures and people surround the original writings. Canon in the study of the process involved in bringing the various books of the Bible together into the Bible as we know it today which was also against a historical background.

Exegetical theology therefore also includes criticism of the Scriptures and, by relation, the interpretation. This probably becomes obvious to you as you stop to think about what would be logically involved in the above-mentioned elements.

In the end, this is a very important branch of theology as it directly connects to historical theology in its studies and therefore directly impacts practical theology. Biblical theology becomes closely tied with the work carried out in exegesis such that it isn’t uncommon for people to argue biblical theology to be little more than part of exegetical theology (more on this later).


Source/Link for Additional Reading:

http://www.biblicalcyclopedia.com/E/exegetical-theology.html


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Dogmatics

Dictionary.com

noun (used with a singular verb)
  1. the study of the arrangement and statement of religious doctrines, especially of the doctrines received in and taught by the Christian church.

Etymonline.com

1670s, from Late Latin dogmaticus, from Greek dogmatikos “pertaining to doctrines,” from dogma (genitive dogmatos) “opinion, tenet,” literally “that which one thinks is true,” from dokein “to seem good, think” (from PIE root *dek- “to take, accept”). Related: Dogmatical (c. 1600).


Discussion/Explanation

These are the official doctrines of the church.

The study of dogmatics involves these recognized doctrines and is sometimes mixed up with systematic theology. This fact is in large part because people have a tendency to use dogmatics and systematic theology interchangeably – though they are not the exact same. A key difference is whether or not there is official sanction by the church of the doctrine.


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Confessions

Dictionary.com

noun
  1. acknowledgment; avowal; admission: a confession of incompetence.
  2. acknowledgment or disclosure of sin or sinfulness, especially to a priest to obtain absolution.
  3. something that is confessed.
  4. a formal, usually written, acknowledgment of guilt by a person accused of a crime.
  5. Also called confession of faith. a formal profession of belief and acceptance of doctrines, as before being admitted to church membership.
  6. the tomb of a martyr or confessor or the altar or shrine connected with it.

Etymonline.com

late 14c., confessioun, “action of confessing, acknowledgment of a fault or wrong,” originally in religion, “the disclosing of sins or faults to a priest as one of the four parts of the sacrament of penance,” from Old French confession (10c.), from Latin confessionem (nominative confessio) “confession, acknowledgement,” noun of action from past-participle stem of confiteri “to acknowledge” (see confess).

An Old English word for it was andettung, also scriftspræc. Meaning “that which is confessed” is mid-15c.  Meaning “a formula of the articles of a religious faith, a creed to be assented to” is from late 14c. In the common law, “admission or acknowledgment of guilt made in court or before a magistrate,” 1570s.


Discussion/Explanation

The descriptions above do a great job of describing this term. I do want to highlight a few points.

The term reads “confessions” rather than “confession” as this post is truly aimed at what is also called “confessions of faith”. Creeds are related to this term.

The second part of the etymonline description speaks on this point. I want to add that each confession that arose was primarily in response to opposing beliefs at the time of writing. Typically, these opposing beliefs were heresies and the confession arose as a written document of faith that clearly defined what the faith was in contrast. The Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed are examples that arose during such times.

These creeds served as summations as well as building blocks to more comprehensive writings more commonly called a “confession of faith”. As such, creeds have gone hand-in-hand with confessions though you won’t hear a church recite an entire confession as they are often book-length whereas a creed is much shorter (a summation as said earlier).

Some common confessions would include:

  • The Westminster Confession of Faith
  • The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith

These confessions were never meant to replace the Scriptures and often quote them and give references to specific passages. They serve as teaching tools and clarifying tools as they often pull together the greater context of the counsel of God found in His word (the Bible).


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