Two terms that get thrown around on this site a lot are 'hermeneutics' and 'exegesis.' To the layman, what exactly do these terms mean?
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Both terms relate to how a person translates the symbols in a document into a meaningful thought. Depending on how one approaches a given set of symbols, different meanings can be made.
In at least one classic example, consider:
As word-based people, we want to insert spaces. But, do we insert them as:
How you do is based on your perception.
At its most fundamental, hermeneutics attempts to systematize both how people add meaning (Sapir-Whorf, Act-Theory, etc. etc. etc.), and attempts to suggest some basic principles that guide how it should be done. For example, some commonly agreed upon hermeneutics:
And, further things like that. The question of inspiration also comes up a lot.
Finally, exegesis is a method that one uses to literally "draw meaning out" of a text. Given a small bit of Scripture, a preacher doing good exegesis will extract the core meanings out of the text, as opposed to writing his particular meaning into a text. (This is often derivisely called eisegesis for 'writing into')
Some activities that typically happen in good exegesis relate to good hermeneutical principles:
These principles seek towards one aim- arriving at a common consensus on what a verse really is supposed to "mean" regardless of the biases one might have in approaching the text in the first place.