9. What does the term “grammatical-historical hermeneutic” mean, and why is it important?

In 1515 AD, Martin Luther rejected the elaborate four-fold hermeneutic that had been predominant throughout the Medieval centuries, and which led to some very far-fetched allegorizing of the bible, leaving scriptural interpretation in the hands of the experts, who alone were capable of figuring out the secret things that bible passages really meant. This would eventually lead to the great Protestant Reformation, which is therefore, most fundamentally, a hermeneutically-driven struggle. In place of this allegorical hermeneutic, Luther proposed what he termed a “grammatical-historical” hermeneutic.

According to Luther's new hermeneutic, which was actually just the recovered hermeneutic of the earliest Church Fathers, each bible passage had one basic meaning, which was firmly rooted in historical truth, and related accurately according to the common principles of human language. Thus, it was “historical,” relating real, interconnected historical events, that must be acknowledged and understood before the various teachings of the bible could make sense or have application; and “grammatical,” using language the way any normal person would. This grammatical-historical hermeneutic is absolutely vital, for it tethers the truth of the scriptures to real, historical events, that have a real impact on our life; and it gives us a way to study the scriptures with confidence, according to well-established dictates of human language.

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