We can understand in Protestant circles that Biblical Hermeneutics are important; for without such methods of interpretation the Scripture becomes “hard to understand” in many portions & passages.

The definition of Hermeneutics according to Wikipedia is:

“Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible. It is part of the broader field of hermeneutics, which involves the study of principles of interpretation, both theory and methodology, for all forms of communication, nonverbal and verbal.”

Some Christian’s assume illumination is all we need, yet the production of sermons, books, and seminary classes exist with respect to principles of interpretation, and yet we have this passage on illumination:

“But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.

For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” ‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭2:10-16‬

We have a great example of the type of approach the elders at the living hope Baptist church have explained here:

"The one this post is about is what I call “the Holy Spirit is my hermeneutic”. It is often restated in one of two extremes. The one extreme is where, instead of actually reading the Holy Spirit inspired Word of God, the person simply claims that “the Holy Spirit told me” in some direct way, and that is enough for them to believe they know what God has said. The other extreme of this approach to Scripture, is the boast of “I don’t need my elders, or good Christian books, or those of the faith who have gone before us, because I have the Bible and the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit alone is my teacher.

source: https://livinghopebaptist.co.za/the-holy-spirit-is-not-a-hermeneutic/

Such a mentality of the Holy Spirit alone being our teacher, is it warranted?

We also read of true Christians “tasting the Good Word of God and the powers of the age to come” Heb 6:4-5) which aids in our understanding that the Bible is the Word of God. So despite all of this illumination, here is my question:

Q: According to Protestantism, why are Hermeneutics necessary if we have the Holy Spirit?

Related: What role does the Holy Spirit play in hermeneutics?

  • "Necessary", but necessary for what? The word doesn't mean anything without a specific context. May 4, 2022 at 21:50
  • @RayButterworth Thank you for helping me see the “hole”, made some edits.
    – Cork88
    May 5, 2022 at 1:11
  • Have you seen some Protestants say that the Holy Spirit will perfectly explain everything in the Bible to us? Unless you have, this question seems unmotivated.
    – curiousdannii
    May 5, 2022 at 3:08
  • @curiousdannii that passage in John most likely referred to the apostles originally. And the passage in 1st John about “knowing all things” doesn’t negate Ephesians 4:11 with pastors & teachers being in the church to “teach”.
    – Cork88
    May 5, 2022 at 3:09
  • @curiousdannii we read here: “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭NRSV‬‬. &: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” ‭‭John‬ ‭14:26‬ ‭NRSV‬‬ It would appear that John 14:26 is in relation to the Apostles primarily. Now compare them with verses like: Titus 1:5-9, &: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching;” ‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭5:17‬
    – Cork88
    May 5, 2022 at 3:14

1 Answer 1


First step: listening / reading the Bible with the mind

Protestants believe in the "perspicuity" and "clarity" of Scripture, so that anyone who hears or reads the Biblical testimony about God and Jesus through His prophets, apostles, and gospel writers can understand the gospel, the message of salvation.

Second step: Holy Spirit illuminating the reader and giving grace to believe

Holy Spirit role is separate, comes under the heading of "authority" of Scripture, making the claim already understandable by the person's mind to be accepted as authoritative by the person's heart. Protestants believe this Holy Spirit's role of illumination is necessary.

Then it is ALSO the Holy Spirit that gives us the grace to believe. This grace to believe makes a person to consciously take the step of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is step that demons don't take. They understand but they don't have faith (James 2:19) because they clearly don't have the Holy Spirit in them.

Third step: responding in sanctification

What's next?

Faith prompts the new believer to want to respond. Should one get baptized? What does exactly following Jesus mean? What commandments to obey? How about spiritual gifts, is it still available today? What exactly does the Lord's supper mean: is it symbolic or real presence? Which denomination is "right"?

To answer all these questions the believer needs a certain "hermeneutics" that form the principles of "exegesis" to interpret his/her reading the Bible appropriately, which in turn require some knowledge of the historical context of the Bible, the rules of interpreting the Old Testament in light of the New Testament, how to resolve apparently conflicting passages, etc. This is usually an intellectual process, something taught formally in seminary, or through Bible self-study under the direction of a Bible study textbook or led by a pastor.

In Protestantism, this third step of "response" is less critical in the larger scheme of a person's salvation compared to the second step where the Holy Spirit illumination to accept the authority of the Bible is critical to lead the believer to declare faith in Jesus which what brings the justification of the believer in the eyes of God: "justification by faith alone", the sola fide of Protestantism. In contrast, the "response" is the sanctification process which some Protestants believe in monergism where the Holy Spirit works on us without needing our "work".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .