Principles of Biblical Hermeneutics by J. Edwin Hartill


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Professor of Bible Northwestern College, Minneapolis, Minnesota






The Bible and the Bible Student 4
The Dispensational Principle. 12
The Covenantal Principle. 19
The Ethnic Division Principle. 28
The Discrimination Principle. 33
The Predictive Principle. 42
The Application Principle. 52
The Typical Principle. 57
The Principle of Human Willingness in Illumination. 83
The First Mention Principle. 85
The Progressive Mention Principle. 89
The Full Mention Principle. 94
The Context Principle. 98
The Agreement Principle. 104
The Direct Statement Principle. 111
The Gap Principle. 115
The Three-fold Principle. 116
The Election Principle. 118
The Repetition Principle. 119
The Synthetic Principle. 126
21.The Principle of Illustrative Mention. 130

The Double Reference Principle. 131
The Christo-Centric Principle. 132
The Numerical Principle. 135



Every man’s learning is dependent upon the knowledge of others. I am thoroughly aware of this as I have compiled these notes. It is impossible to present, with them, a correct bibliography, or honest credit to all from whom I have gathered facts and inspiration for study.

However, I wish to acknowledge in particular the large part the late Dr. R. L. Moyer played in giving me my basic training and a desire to search the Scriptures. Much of the outline of this book is in the original form which Dr. Moyer used in his Hermeneutics class at Northwestern.

I trust that as you study these principles, your understanding of the Word and your love for its truth may deepen, so that you may more ably pass it on to others.

September, 1947

Dr. J. Edwin Hartill

biblical hermeneutics hartill


1. The Bible and the Bible Student


Hermeneutics is a science of interpretation and termination. The word is derived from a Greek god, Hermes, who was the messenger and herald of the gods, and the interpreter of Jupiter. Biblically, Hermeneutics is a science of interpreting the Bible.

Aim – to make known the different principles of Bible study which must be followed if one is to be a student of the Word of God, and desires to know the Word of God and how to handle it aright.

The Bible

  1. Designation
  2. The Bible.

Our English word “Bible” comes from the Greek words “Biblos” and “Biblion” which mean “the Book.” It is not called “Biblos” because there are sixty-six books, but because of its preeminence over all books. It is named The Book in Ps. 40:7, and Heb. 10:7.

There are apparent discrepancies in the Bible but that doesn’t mean the Word is untrue. The mistakes were man’s errors in translating the Bible. There is one Book and One Person, the Christ.

This title was given us by John Christianson of Constantinople. (398-404 A.D.)

  1. The Word of God.

Heb. 4:12, “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” II Cor. 2:17; Mk. 7:13; Rom. 10:17; I Thess. 2:13.

Of all the names given to the Bible this title is perhaps the most significant and impressive. It signifies di­vine authority and is used frequently in the O.T., and about forty times in the N.T.

III. The Scripture or Scriptures.

The Bible is called “the Scripture” in Mk. 12:10, 15:28; Lk. 4:21; Jn. 2:22, 7:38, 10:35; Rom. 4:3; Gal. 4:30; II Pet. 1:20. It is called “the Scriptures” in Matt. 22:29; Mk. 12:24; Lk. 24:27; Jn. 5:39; Acts 17:11; Rom. 1:2; II Tim. 3:15, and II Pet. 3:16.

This designation is found once in the O.T. in Dan. 10:21. It was used more frequently in the early church than it is at present. Some fifty-two times the title is found in the N.T. It comes from a Latin word meaning “writing.”

  1. The Old and New Testament.

The word “testament” means covenant, and by this term God designated the relation that existed between Himself and His people. “Testament” is used thirteen times in the Authorized version, but is translated “covenant” in the Revised version.

The O.T. or Covenant was given at Mt. Sinai and concerns the Jewish race. The N.T. or Covenant was made in the upper room and concerns believers. This was sealed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Heb. 9:15 “And for this cause he is the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” II Cor. 3:6, 14; Lk. 22:20; I Cor. 11:25; Heb. 12:24.

  1. The Oracles.

Oracles originally meant the place where the Word of God was kept and from which it was communicated. It also has the thought of a person proclaiming the Word. This designation is found approximately fourteen times in the O.T. and 4 in the N.T. II Sam. 16:23; Ps. 28:2, Acts 7:38; Rom. 3:2, Heb. 5:12; and I Pet. 4:11.

  1. The Way.

This designation is seldom used. It is found in the N.T. as a title of Jesus Christ. It reveals the way in which obedient followers must walk.

VII. Precepts.

Prescribed truths. It means “placed in trust” and has to do with the conduct and conscience of man. Ful­filling of precepts brings enjoyment of the promises.

VIII. Statutes.

This means fixed obligations and comes from the root meaning “to engrave.” These statutes are fixed and engraved by the hand of God.

  1. Commandments.

God’s word is given with authority and lodged with us as a trust. Not to obey the word of God is an act of rebellion.

  1. Judgments.

His judgments were made in infinite wisdom. By them we must judge, and by them we must be judged. The Bible is a guide which is just and right.

II Tim. 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

If every scripture is inspired by God obviously there can be no scripture which isn’t inspired by God.

  1. The meaning of Inspiration.
  2. It is more than human genius. We sometimes read of the inspiration of Shakespeare. This is false for his was human genius not inspiration. Divine inspiration appears only in the Bible. Shake-speare quoted from the Word of God over 500 times. The Bible is more than human genius; there is no degree in inspiration.
  3. More than Illumination.

Illumination refers to the influence of the Holy Spirit; this is common to all Christians, which enables them to understand spiritual truths. Spiritual illumination is conditioned by yielding to the Holy Spirit.

  1. More than Revelation.

There are two kinds of records in Scripture:

  1. Record of truth directly revealed by God.
  2. Record of events that occurred in the writer’s experience. Inspiration superintends the communication of all truths.
  3. Inspiration means literally “God-breathed;” it is the breath of God expressing itself through a chosen instrument – a human personality.

We cannot explain the manner in which the Holy Spirit enabled the writers to accomplish the task, but we believe it.

II Pet. 1:21 – “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

  1. The extent of Inspiration.

We believe in full inspiration; we reject partial inspiration. There are those who say that the Bible contains the Word of God. We believe that the Bible IS the Word of God.

All scripture is God-breathed, and this means that no scripture is inspired more than any other scripture.

Daniel wrote words given him by divine inspiration that he could not understand. Notice Dan. 12:8, 9. In II Sam. 23:2 we read, “the Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.” Other scriptures are: I Pet. 1:10, 11; Exod. 20:1; Exod. 24:4; Exod. 35:1; Isa. 1:2; Jer. 1:4; Dan. 9:21; Dan. 7:1; Amos 1:1; Rev. 1:1.

III. Proofs of Inspiration.

  1. Proof of Scripture itself.
  2. Its preeminence in literature.
  3. Its preservation.
  4. Its transforming power.
  5. Its unity throughout.
  6. Its scientific accuracy.
  7. Proof of the spade of Archaeology.

Over 5,000 places, spoken of in Scripture, have been found by the archaeologists.

  1. Proof of fulfilled prophecy.

Example: Ps. 22.

  1. Into testaments.

Old and New Testaments.

  1. Into books.
  2. English division of the Old Testament (39).
  3. Pentateuch 5
  4. History 12
  5. Poetry 5
  6. Prophecy 17
  • Major 5
  • Minor 12


  1. Hebrew division of the O.T. (24 books).

The Hebrews never spoke of I and II Samuel or I and II Kings until the translation of the Septuagint Bible in 285 B. C. When seventy Jews began to translate into the Greek, they found that it took so much space, that they divided some books into two books. Poetical books were not di­vided. Luke 24:44 tells of the O.T. division.

  1. English division of the N. T. (27) .
  2. Historical 5
  3. Epistles 21
  4. Prophecy 1

III. Into Chapters.

There are 1189 chapters in the Bible, and they are man-made. Credit for this is given to Stephen Lang- don who died in 1227. Originally chapter division was thought to have been done by Cardinal Sancto who died in 1263, but Stephen Langdon is still given credit for the work.

  1. Into Verses.

There are 31,163 verses in the Bible. This division is also man-made, and was done in 1550 A.D. by Sir Robert Stevens. The Geneva Bible, printed in 1560, was the first Bible to be printed in verse form. The Revised Version of 1881 has not the verse division. There are 3,566,480 letters in the Bible.

A birds’ eye view of the Bible will be a great help in the understanding of the Word.

  1. History – God’s history of the past.
  2. Heavens and earths were created.
  3. Satan’s first rebellion.
  4. Earth prepared for man.
  5. The headship of the first man.
  6. Man’s subjection to Satan.
  7. Mankind dealt with as a whole.
  8. Construction of Babylon.
  9. Israel called and blessed.
  10. Times of the Gentiles.
  11. The first advent of Christ.
  12. The ministry of Christ covers life and death.

12.Church called out.

  1. Prophecy – God’s Reve­lation of the future
  2. Church called up.
  3. The ministry of the AntiChrist.
  4. The Second advent of Christ.
  5. The times of the Gentiles – close of Tribulation.
  6. Israel recalled and given blessing.
  7. Destruction of Babylon.
  8. Mankind dealt with as a whole.
  9. God’s subjection of Satan.
  10. The headship of the Second Man (Christ).
  11. Earth perfected for man.
  12. Satan’s final rebellion.
  13. The new heavens and new earth.
  14. Heaven and Earth were created.

Gen. 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

This was the world that then was.

II Pet. 3:6 “Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.”

There is no date, information, nor calendar for original creation. We must distinguish between create and make. Out of nothing by the word of His power, the heavens and earth were created. This is an appeal to faith, not reason. Reason can never discover who God is. God reaches our reason through our faith, and not our faith through our reason.

  1. Satan’s first rebellion.

Gen. 1:2 “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of THE WATERS.”

“Was” is translated “became” in verse 2.

Isa. 45:18 “For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited; I am the Lord, and there is none else.”

  1. Earth prepared for man – Gen. 1:2 – 2:3.

In verse 2 we begin with the Spirit brooding over the face of the water.

  1. The headship of the first man.

Adam was first as man but second in person, for Satan was a headship also. The bless­ing of God rests upon the renewed creation.

  1. Man’s subjection to Satan – Gen. 3.

The one who marred the first creation, mars the new creation. Adam identifies him­self with Eve’s sin and sin enters into the human race. Jesus identified Himself with our sin, and brought salvation into the world. Written in the close of the chapter is the provision of a covering for sin in the skins of animals slain. Blood was shed. The entire race was brought into subjection to Satan.

  1. Mankind dealt with as a whole.

Gen. Chs. 4-11:

4 – Result of sin in world.

5 – Death reigning.

6 – Corruption reigning on the earth.

7 – Beginning of the flood.

8 – Flood at its height.

9 – Flood at its end.

10 – Man’s dominion and responsibility – 9:25,26.

  1. Construction of Babylon Ch. 11.

Idolatry instituted.

  1. Israel called and blessed.

You must properly place Israel if you want to understand the Word.

  1. From call of Abraham to the Exodus.
  • Abraham
  • Isaac
  • Jacob
  • Joseph
  1. From Exodus to death of Joshua.

Joshua fully established in the land.

  1. The Judges.
  2. The Kings.

The Captivities.

Jer., Ezek., Obadiah, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah.

  1.       Times of the Gentiles.

The period of time during which Jerusalem is politically under Gentile supremacy. Lk. 21:24.

  1. The first advent of Christ.

Gal. 4:4,5 “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

  1. The ministry of Christ covers life and death.
  2. Church called out.

Church is a company composed of both Jews and Gentiles.

Romans – Justification.

Corinthians – Church.

Galatians – Liberty from the law.

Ephesians – Heavenly character.

Philippians – Walk of church.

Thessalonians – Hope.

Jude – Church earnestly contends.

Timothy, Titus, Philemon – Danger from what might be called Gentile idolatry.

Hebrews, James, Peter – Danger from what might be called Jewish apostasy.

I John – Nature of fellowship.

II John – Limits of fellowship – excludes.

III John – Extent of fellowship – includes.

  1. Prophecy – God’s revelation of the future.
  2. Church called up. I Thess. 4:16,17 (rapture) .

This has to do with every believer in Christ.

  1. The ministry of the Anti-Christ. Christ was the truth; he (anti) is the lie.
  2. The second advent of Christ.
  3. He came to the manger.
  4. Now He comes to the throne.
  5. The times of the Gentiles – close of Tribulation.
  6. Israel recalled and given blessing. Isa. 11.

Jer. 32:33 “And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.”

Ezek. 36:37 “Thus saith the Lord God, I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock.”

Rom. 11.

  1. Destruction of Babylon (city razed).
  2. Mankind dealt with as a whole.

Matt. 25:31,32 “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.”

Joel 3:12 “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat, for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.”

  1. God’s subjection of Satan.

Rev. 20:1-3.

  1. The headship of the second man (Christ).

Isa. 2:11; Micah 4; The Millennium (1,000).

  1. Earth perfected for man.
  2. Satan’s final rebellion. Satan is loosed from his prison and deceives the people.
  3. The new heavens and new earth.

In Peter – “The heavens arid earth shall pass away.”

In John – “A new heaven and a new earth.”

biblical hermeneutics hartill

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