A Meeting with Herman U. Ticks

The first time someone ever asked me about hermeneutics, my reply was something to the effect of “I’ve never met him!”  Even when I realized what it was, I figured it was strictly for high-brow theologians and scholars well beyond the grasp of ordinary laypeople.  However, basic hermeneutics helps us understand the context of the Bible, and is vital to all people who desire to know the intended meaning of the biblical text, especially at the word and sentence level.

While there are many tools within a hermeneutical toolbox, most of them focus on how a passage of Scripture is read.  The details contained within a passage lay the groundwork for the entire hermeneutical process.  According to J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, the “first step in grasping a biblical text is to observe as many details as possible.”[1]

With this in mind, the scope of this discussion strictly focuses on the details provided at the sentence level of the text in Acts 1:8, without providing an interpretation or a method of application.[2]  In doing so, the scope will focus on various aspects of sentences to narrow the focus on the details of each sentence, such as word repetition, contrasts, comparisons, lists, cause/effect, figures of speech, conjunctions, verbs, and pronouns.

This passage identifies the power associated with the Holy Spirit coming on an individual.  The word “but” indicates to the reader that this train of thought is linked to those in preceding verses, or rather a continuation of a conversation already in progress. “You” is repeated twice and refers to the apostles chosen by Jesus, as indicated in Acts 1:2.  Essentially, the author, Luke, relays Jesus’ instructions and insights on what to expect when the Holy Spirit comes on them.  The repetition of this pronoun maintains the focus on the apostles, indicating that they were the ones that would receive this power.

Luke also implies an underlying contrast that separates the power of the Holy Spirit from the apostles’ existing human power.  In other words, this power would be different than their existing power.  There is also a cause and effect mentioned, in which the Holy Spirit (cause) will give power (effect) when He comes on them, as well as how the cause empowers them to be witnesses to the world (effect).  In addition, the use of verbs in the future tense signifies that the cause or effect has not yet occurred, and can be viewed as a prophesy not yet fulfilled.

Luke also repeats the conjunction “and” which portrays a sense of recurrence and wave-like effect of this promised power.  In the words, “you will be my witnesses,” Luke presents an imperative supplemented with an active verb in the future tense, which is likened to a command.  Finally, Luke annotates a list of places where the apostles would execute this command.  His use of “and” indicates a continuous action of witnessing, which is further emphasized by the last phrase of “to the ends of the earth.”

This method of analyzing the text of a passage, with a strict focus on the sentence level, allows one to dig deeper into the meaning of the text.  In addition, it also provides a structured method of analysis, or interpretation, that keeps the objectivity of the interpreter focused on extracting the real meaning of the text.

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[1] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 53.

[2] The New King James Version translation was used for this discussion.

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