Hermeneutics (Gr. hermeneuo – ‘to interpret’) is the study of correct interpretation. Paul wrote: “if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5). Likewise, one cannot rightly interpret Scripture unless he does so according to valid rules.
Hermeneutics has key tenets. First, every Scripture has one meaning (single meaning). It never has more – ever. Second, a Scripture means what the biblical author intended it to mean (authorial intent). The author’s intent is the sole criterion for meaning – a Scripture never means what someone else thinks it means. Third, the author meant one thing, and expressed it by using standard grammar in a literal sense in a given historical context (literal-grammatical-historical interpretation). A Scripture means what the literal sense of the author’s grammar in his historical situation indicates. A Scripture may apply to many scenarios in the mind of others, but can only mean what the author originally had in mind.
Sound interpretation must be consistent. Whether one interprets Genesis or Revelation, the rules, or hermeneutics, must not change.
Putting hermeneutics into practice is exegesis (Gr. exeigeo – ‘to draw out’). When someone presents exegesis to an audience, it is exposition.