This article tries to answer one simple question: What is hermeneutics? This article is a comprehensive article on the definition of hermeneutics and we bring and mostly summarize other resources about hermeneutics and those who defined this term. This is like a roadmap for you to get familiar with the definition of hermeneutics. In this article, I tried my best to gather whatever I find regarding hermeneutics definition and provide a general comprehensive understanding of the term from different perspectives and how it relates to translators main working material: Text
Hermeneutics takes its name from the ancient Greek god Hermes, who ran messages between the gods and between gods and mortals that certainly needs translation! The ancient Greek verb hermeneuein means to interpret, explain, narrate, clarify, and translate.
First I want to start with what is hermeneutics in general-purpose dictionaries.
What is hermeneutics in the eyes of Dictionaries!
Dictionary.com defines hermeneutics as:
- the science of interpretation, especially of the Scriptures.
- the branch of theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis
Merriam-Webster online defines hermeneutics as:
- the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as of the Bible)
- a method or principle of interpretation
As the third one, I want to give a definition of hermeneutics by Oxford Living Dictionary (online):
- as an adjective: Concerning interpretation, especially of the Bible or literary texts.
- as a noun: A method or theory of interpretation.
What do we get from all these definitions of hermeneutics from dictionaries? By comparing all results, we see a few words and phrases repeat: Interpretation, Holy texts, especially Bible. So until now, we know that actually, hermeneutics refers to a way of interpretation that mostly deals with holy and especially Biblical texts.
But these dictionary definitions are not enough to completely answer our question: What is hermeneutics? Let’s get some deeper and specialized, let’s hear what encyclopedias say about definition of hermeneutics
Definition of hermeneutics by Encyclopedias
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines hermeneutics in a simple form:
“Hermeneutics as the methodology of interpretation is concerned with problems that arise when dealing with meaningful human actions and the products of such actions, most importantly, texts. As a methodological discipline, it offers a toolbox for efficiently treating problems of the interpretation of human actions, texts, and other meaningful material. Hermeneutics looks back at a long tradition as the set of problems it addresses have been prevalent in human life, and have repeatedly and consistently called for consideration.”
Encyclopedia Britannica is another credible source that reads as follows:
“the study of the general principles of biblical interpretation. For both Jews and Christians throughout their histories, the primary purpose of hermeneutics, and of the exegetical methods employed in interpretation, has been to discover the truths and values of the Bible.”
Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, a more specialized encyclopedia on translation studies has an entry dedicated to hermeneutics and defines it as the following which is more interesting for us translators:
“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.”
Why is Hermeneutics important for translation?
The answer to this question seems so obvious after giving some definitions of Hermeneutics. How there can be a translation without interpretation and understanding? But how do we understand?
This article was just about the definition of hermeneutics and more is to come in the future about hermeneutics.