THE HERMENEUTICAL CIRCLE | Understanding Our Checked Baggage

“We’ve got to make room in the baggage we carry for the understanding of what God is trying to tell us.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep I Said It!

In late 2020 I was moved to commence graduate studies. My mind raced in a circle as to whether I should focus my time pursuing an MBA to further my professional career or enter a graduate-level Christian studies program to personally further equip me with knowledge in biblical and theological learning to enhance my Christian faith and witness. Well, after praying on it, a pursuit of investing money and time into a limited professional career did not outweigh the ROI of a personal pursuit and an eternal investment in God’s Kingdom. So since January 18, 2021, instead of reading one of the #1 books for MBA students, “The Lean Startup” I have received the opportunity to read new insights into biblical hermeneutics and ways in which interpretive models can help in my biblical understanding and interpretation. That pursuit has led me to look closer at this process of understanding called “The Hermeneutical Circle” and a question posed in Chapter 3 of the book titled, “Biblical Hermeneutics Five Views.” In the chapter, The Philosophical/Theological View” authored by Merold Westphal, the question was posed “What is going on, often behind our backs, when we interpret texts and other phenomena?” 

What Is the Hermeneutical Circle?

Hmmm, to get a better understanding of what the heck is going on behind my back, I wanted to settle on what’s first in front of me and my basic understanding of the hermeneutical circle. With that, I came to the understanding that the hermeneutical circle is about taking a body of scriptural text – meaning that text that has a concept or has a message – and breaking that text into the smallest parts by taking each one of those parts and relating it to the overall concept or the big picture of the text itself. What I believe is that by going through the hermeneutical circle I will gain a higher level of understanding of a certain concept of the Scripture.

But What about My Presuppositions to Scriptural Text?

I believe that my seminary Professor, Dr. Casey B. Hough, put it best when he said, “. . . none of us are ever unbiased, uninfluenced interpreters of the text. Every one of us reads the text with cultural, historical, and emotional baggage.” I think of navigating my own biases in biblical interpretation as to when I used to navigate my way to baggage claim after getting off a business flight. Often after a long business flight, I would navigate to the airline’s VIP lounge for a beverage and a snack and take a moment to unwind before picking up my checked baggage. Similarly, when it comes to reading and interpreting the text, there are times when we need to wait a while before we go to baggage claim to retrieve our cultural, historical, and emotional baggage. Before I fully settle on the specific biblical interpretation I realize that I need to not only become acquainted with the ancient biblical culture that is assumed by the texts, but I must also read the Bible from the macro-level perspective in which the text was written. I do not doubt that reading the Bible from its context will not only help me to understand what the Bible is speaking to but will also provide what genuine messages God wants to tell me. Checking my cultural, historical, and emotional baggage not just helps my Christian faith, but also helps those around me to have a logical understanding of the Bible and Christianity.

Published by #ToddCPittman

I am a member of the Channel of Grace Worship Center (CoG) in Edgewood, MD, under Lead Pastor Kenneth Harper. Previous to joining the CoG family, I enjoyed the fellowship of Covenant Living Fellowship in Randallstown, MD, under the direction of Pastors Donald & Danielle Lewis and Christ the King Church in Dacula, GA under Pastor Marion Sailor. I am a proud father of four and husband to Dr. Yolonda Sales-Pittman. Following undergrad at Syracuse University, I am currently pursuing my Master of Divinity (M.Div) at Luther Rice College & Seminary. VISIT |

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