In discussions about hermeneutics, there are often questions related to what is the difference between hermeneutics and exegesis. In this article, I focus on this matter from different sources to see what is the difference between hermeneutics and exegesis.
When we are asked about the difference between two things, we should always have a clear definition of each one so that we can point out their differences. Previously we published a rather lengthy article about the definition of hermeneutics. From that post, we can define hermeneutics as like this from Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies:
“Hermeneutics is the discipline concerned with understanding and explicating what is not immediately intelligible. It operates in the first instance within a given tradition, when the accidents of time and change have rendered access to the meaning of texts problematic and in need of explication. It can also be applied across languages and cultures. Viewing translation in relation to hermeneutics highlights the contiguity of intra- and interlingual translating as the negotiation of difference and otherness. As an interpretive practice translation is framed by hermeneutic concerns.”
What is Exegesis?
As points out clearly on a question on this matter on Quora, Exegesis is mostly associated with the history of a text. and exegesis uses some tools like translations, dictionaries, and commentaries to systematically discover the original and intended meaning of a text. This process is to find out what the first readers got from a certain text. Exegesis means going back in history to the original author and audience. This term is mostly associated with scriptures and especially Bible studies that what these text meant in their contexts.
This is very important, because to understand and determine the meaning which God intended for us in present modern world, should be dated back to its own context and we should first be able to say what God meant for the people at the time of text creation (please check out our article on the definition of Text).
The difference between hermeneutics and exegesis
As we mentioned, hermeneutics is mostly associated with the principles of interpretation, mostly with philosophy and science of interpretation. And what was exegesis again? a way of going back in the history to get the original meaning. Here we can say that hermeneutics is kind of an umbrella term for multiple techniques that exegesis is one of them.
So we can say that hermeneutics is a science and field of study which studies principles of interpretation and about ‘how’ to interpret, but exegesis is the act of interpretation and drawing a meaning of out the text. Hermeneutics is mostly about using models and principles of interpretation to see what a text means here and now:
Hermeneutics not only integrates exegesis (the study of the Bible to understand a passage in its ancient context), but also employs models for applying a biblical passage to a modern context. The focus of exegesis is the text. The focus of hermeneutics is matter like exegesis… why do we do it? how do we do it? how should we do it? So Biblical hermeneutics is the science (or rules) one applies when going from “exegesis” to“interpretation.” (Godwin Goziem Jireh)
So that’s it! we now have at least one general understanding about the difference between hermeneutics and exegesis.