Two technical but related interpretative tools for biblical analysis are exegesis and hermeneutics. In the exposition of Scriptures, we attempt to explain biblical passages based on the direct meaning intended for the readers. An explanation of a biblical text depends on knowledge of the people and period's language, context, culture, and history. Once we are well-grounded in the literal experience narrated, we can then apply the message or the transformative idea or principle behind it to our present-day witness to the faith. The interplay of exegesis and hermeneutic is the way Jesus used the scriptures of the Old Testament from Prophet Isaiah about the past to himself in the present in the Gospel of today's mass. Jesus makes meaningful and effective here and now his understanding and interpretation of the Old Testament texts from Isaiah.
Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah 61 handed to him in the synagogue and declared that his life fulfills the prophetic words of Isaiah in a new way: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor...." (Lk 4:18). So then, applying the biblical methods of exegesis and hermeneutics, Jesus said to his audience, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21).
In dedicating his account of the life of Jesus to "most excellent Theophilus," Luke also addresses contemporary Christians reading the New Testament texts he wrote in "an orderly sequence." We, too, are Theophilus, lovers of God and beloved by God, and we can make sense of our life and get direction for our Christian living by drawing from our study and careful interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures.
On this Sunday of the Word of God, a day devoted to studying the word of God, we need to acknowledge our needs to grow in knowledge and love of the Bible. So, as Ezra read out the book of the law to the assembly of believers in Nehemiah 8:2-10, let us make it a daily devotion to read and meditate on Bible passages and make them our own by applying them to our life. In doing so, we will come to know that God loves us and grow in the love of God: Theophilus (Greek for, lover of God).
Will you take up the challenge to grow in your love of God by joining a bible study group? Will you promise God to read and meditate on His words daily, beginning today?
May St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast we celebrate this Friday, January 28, obtain graces of understanding of the word of God for us as we take up seriously the daily devotion of Bible study.
Fr. Bernard, OP