Hermeneutics of continuity diagram

Another attempt to visually represent a rich, dynamic process!

Hermeneutics is the entire process of interpretation, from exegesis to application, while exegesis (as the first part of that process) is specifically the process through which we establish the author intent, asking the questions about historical/cultural, literary, and theological context to establish the intended meaning of the passage.
When we work exegetically, we are working with what we might call two layers of context: the community of God as they used the book or passage as scripture (which is an interpretive layer, which means the community was interpreting what was received through oral and/or written tradition), and the community of God in which the events or issues were first experienced. As we work exegetically with those layers of context, we also consider, then, the biggest context into which all scripture fits: the big picture of God’s creative and redemptive purpose and activity, considering how the book or passage fits in that overall story and is it be understood in light of all that God has been doing (and plans to do) with his people, the world, and the entire cosmos.
When we understand the text well, having worked through those initial layers of context, we have essentially completed what we call the exegetical process, and we should have a pretty good sense of the meaning and purpose of the passage. But to understand, then, how we should see the church in our time in light of what we have discovered, we work through the remaining two layers of context. We need to make sure we account for the ways the church has understood and used the truth of scripture over time, drawing on things like apostolic faith and practice as it was realized through the early centuries of the church under the guidance of the early church fathers. We consider what we have discovered in the context of the ongoing faith, practice, and scholarship of the church over time such that when we finally consider what the passage means for us in our time and place, we are doing so in ways that take into account the continuity of the church’s theology and practice over time as well.
When we apply the text in the context of the community of God in our time, then, we have a rich sense of the way the text fits in that great big picture, and we can draw from the text both challenges to our assumptions and desires about God and what he has to say to us and a good sense of what he intends for us to be and do that fits in continuity with all he has said and done in and through his people through time, offering a much better-grounded sense of scripture and its meaning.
An example from the gospels might help:
When we start to approach any passage in the gospels, we are starting essentially wth what the author has put into writing to communicate with his audience (the church in his time and the issues he intends to address as he draws on the things Jesus said and did to do so). We enter the text by way of the ‘interpretive’ layer of the received text, the layer of the gospel writers, their audiences (the church in their time) and what they saw as especially significant about Jesus’ identity, purpose, and message.
There are other layers about which we need to be concerned if we are to place our exegesis in even deeper context. In the gospels, as with any historical narrative, for instance, we have the following layers of context to consider:
  1. Jesus, his audience, their expectations, and his message to them (the original context of the events as they happened decades before the gospel writers dealt with them).
  2. The gospels as they fit within the full sweep of God’s creative and redemptive purpose and activity, which is reflected in the perspectives of Christ, the gospel writers, and the church through the ages (biblical theology–the canonical context).
  3. The church as it circulated and used the gospels in worship and then came to affirm them, together, as the normative witness to Christ for the whole church (the applied context–as it is historically been understood).
  4. And finally the church in our time as it too receives the gospels as well as all of the reflection on them by the church through the ages as the authentic and normative witness to Christ as well as the understanding of all that he meant and means for the church in every age (the applied context–as it is contemporary to us).
With exegesis, if we are doing this well, we start with those first three contexts, making sure we consider the historical/cultural and theological context in which Christ was working (asking good questions about his intent in doing and saying what he was), and making sure we consider the interpretive context in which the author of each gospel was working to interpret and apply the tradition of the church about Christ to the church in their context (asking good questions about the author’s intent in using the events in Jesus’ life as he does, thinking of the historical/cultural, literary, and theological assumptions and issues related to the church in the time and region each gospel writer is addressing). All of this is related to the way God worked with his people in light of his covenant purpose for them and the world.
With the rest of the hermeneutical process, we work through the remaining layers of context to fit the church through the ages, and the church in our time, into what we have discovered (we call it ‘application’, but that implies that we take something from the text, and I tend to think a better image would really be one of ‘submission’, as we submit who we are and what we do to all that God has to say through the wisdom and experiences of his people that we have in scripture).

Layers of hermeneutical context

My Biblical Hermeneutics students often struggled to understand the many layers of context we see in scripture, all of which are important to understand in both their uniqueness and interrelationship if we are to most fully and appropriately understand scripture as it relates to theology and the life of the church both in history and today. The following diagram attempts to capture those layers and their scope in relationship to one another.



Incarnational church

This diagram is meant to illustrate the nature of the church as the body of Christ. The path of the individual into the church is represented in the spiral in the center, the journey of which is sacramental and into the worship of the community and all that means in preparing the church for he life in and for the world.


Holy Week devotion

The following is a guide for individual and family devotion during Holy Week. A PDF of the guide can also be downloaded from this link: Holy Week devotional guide.

Daily prayer

Suggested for use with the readings for each day in Holy Week for individual or family prayer. Adapted from the Greek Orthodox prayer book for Holy Week.

Blessed is our God, always, now and forever. Glory to you, Lord!

O heavenly king, comforter, the Spirit of truth, ever-present and filling all things, the treasure of all blessings and giver of life, come and dwell within us; cleanse us from every blemish, and save us, O blessed one.

Holy God, holy mighty, holy immortal, have mercy on us. (3X)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning is now, and shall be forever. Amen.

Read the psalm

All-holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, pardon our sins; Master, forgive our iniquities; O holy one, visit and heal our infirmities, for your name’s sake. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

Read the Old Testament and epistle readings

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.

Read the gospel

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Glory to you, O God. Our hope, our Lord, Glory to you.

Prayer—seek God bringing praise, petitions, and gratitude to him.

Help us, save us, have mercy upon us, and protect us, O God, by your grace. Amen.

Glory to you, O God, our hope, Glory to you!

May Christ, our true God, the Lord, who willingly came to his passion for our salvation, through the intercessions of his all-pure and holy mother; the power of the precious and life-giving cross; the protection of the honored powers of heaven; the supplications of the honored, glorious prophet and forerunner John the Baptist; the holy, glorious, and all-laudable apostles; the holy, glorious, and victorious martyrs; our saintly and god-bearing Fathers; the holy and righteous divine ancestors Joachim and Anna; of the blessed Clement of Rome, our beloved patron, and of all the saints, have mercy on us and save us, as a good, loving, and merciful God. Amen.


The mission and anointing of the servant upon whom the Spirit of God rests and who has come to establish justice.

Psalm 36.5-11; Isaiah 42.1-9; Hebrews 9.11-15; John 12.1-11


The commission of the Messiah, the light to the nations, and the scandal of unbelief.

Psalm 71.1-14; Isaiah 49.1-7; 1 Corinthians 1.18-31; John 12.20-36


The passion of our Lord and his betrayal.

Psalm 70; Isaiah 50.4-9a; Hebrews 12.1-3; John 13.21-32

Three special days—a time to die to sin

Adapted from Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time, pages 123-134

Our spiritual journey is rooted in the great mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, which is remembered especially on the three great days in Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday (called the paschal Triduum).

We have the opportunity to observe these three days with the humility and focus befitting the redeemed who owe our lives to Jesus Christ and what he suffered on our behalf. Therefore, these three days should not to be taken lightly or frittered away in casual conversation, the search for pleasure, or the pursuit of business. In these days we experience and encounter our own reality in the reality of Christ’s horrible death and burial and in his triumphant resurrection from the dead. If we miss these days, we have missed the heart of our spiritual pilgrimage.

Therefore we ought to organize our time and commitments in such a way that we can center entirely on our own participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus and do our best to set aside anything that might interfere with the deep spiritual focus these days bring to us and the unique ways the Holy Spirit can speak to us through their observance.

Maundy Thursday

We pass with Jesus into the darkness of his last night in which his determination to go to the cross is set in vivid contrast to the powers against which he must struggle. We walk that path with him.

Psalm 116.1-2, 12-19; Exodus 12.1-4, (5-10), 11-14;1 Cor. 11.23-26; John 13.1-17, 31b-35

Good Friday

We worship with both the sorrow we bring through our identification with Jesus in his death and the joy we experience knowing that his death was the death of death, the ruination of the powers of evil.

Psalm 22; Isaiah 52.13-53.12; Hebrews 10.16-25 or 4.14-16; 5.7-9; John 18.1-19.42

Holy Saturday

A day of rest and preparation for the great service of resurrection (the vigil).

Psalm 31.1-4, 15-16; Job 14.1-14 or Lamentations 3.1-9, 19-24; 1 Peter 4.1-8; Matthew 27.57-66 or John 19.38-42

Suggestions for reflection and discipline during Holy Week

Take time each day

  • To remember God’s mighty acts of salvation and consider what they mean to your spiritual journey and to Falcon Ekklesia as the body of Christ in our community.
  • Reflect on the past year:
    • How have you entered into his death this year? What sins in your life need to be brought to death?
    • How have you been raised to new life in his resurrection this year? What in your life still needs renewal?

Consider reorganizing your time leading up to Easter and make it a point to be participate in all the celebrations of the church. Demonstrate the importance of your faith, your submission to Christ as Lord, and your grateful love for his sacrifice by refraining from anything that would interfere with the worship of the body of Christ and your own focus on Christ’s death and resurrection.

Extend the fast through the week, perhaps through simplfied meals each day, continuing to limit your diet, or abstaining from a meal or two each day.