Copyright, 1952, by Robert A. Traina
A New Approach to Hermeneutics
ROBERT A. TRAINA, S.T.M., PH.D.
ASBURY THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
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Dr. Robert A. Traina
Asbury Theological Seminary
Wilmore, Kentucky 40390
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Tr~ina, Robert A. Methodical Bible Study.
Wilmore, KY: Asbury Theological
Seminary, 1952, pp. 31-79.
SINCE THE BEGINNING of an inductive process involves noting the particulars, it is logical that the initial step of
methodical Bible study should be that of observation.
I. DEFINITION AND PURPOSE OF OBSERVATION
Observation is "the act or faculty of . . . taking notice;
the act or result of considering or marking attentively." 1
Dr. H. T. Kuist defines it as "the art of seeing things as they
really are." He also suggests that it entails seeing "impartially, intensely, and fearlessly." 2
It should be emphasized that truly to observe is to be
mentally aware. of what one_ ~_ees~ 6bservat.ion-transcendspure physical sight; it involves perception. Thus, for example, one may see a particular term used in the preceding
sentence, namely, "perception." But unless one is conscious
that this term has certain peculiar connotations and that an
attempt must be made to discover them, one has not really
observed its presence. Observation, then, is essentially awareness.
In view of its meaning, the general function of observation is to enable one to become saturated ~ith the particulars of a passage so that one is thoroughly conscious of their
existence and of the need for their explanation. Observ:.>!11
as I did and see if you can diagnose the case.' As the
bottle was passed from row to row, each student
gingerly poked his finger in and bravely sampled
the contents. Osler then retrieved the bottle. 'Gentlemen,' he said, 'Now you will understand what I
mean when I speak about details. Had you been
observant you would have seen that I put my index
finger into the bottle but my middle finger into my
tion is the means by which the data of a passage become
part of the mentality of the student. It supplies the raw materials upon which the mind may operate in the interpretive
II. REQUISITES OF OBSERVATION-SOME
The Will To Observe
Peering into the mists of gray
That shroud the surface of the bay,
Nothing I see except a veil
Of fog surrounding every sail.
Then suddenly against a cape
A vast and silent form takes shape,
A great ship lies against the shore
\Vhere nothing has appeared before.
This, then, is the bare chart of our coming journey; but everything depends upon the traveller's
own eyes, and the disposition which he brings to
this task of exploration. 'Seek and ye shall find,' is
as true in history as in religion. 3
Unwilled observation is soon satiated and goes to
sleep. \\Tilled observation, vision with excutive force
behind it, is full of discernment, and is continually
making discoveries which keep the mind alert and
interested. Get a will behind the eye, and the eye
becomes a searchlight, the familiar is made to disclose undreamed treasure.•
Who sees a truth must often gaze
Into a fog for many days;
It may seem very sure to him
Nothing is there but mist-clouds dim.
Then, suddenly, his eyes will see
A shape where nothing used to be.
Discoveries are missed each day
By men who turn too soon away.
Exactness ill Observation
Sir "William Osler, the eminent physician, always
sought to impress upon young medical students the
importance of observing details. ·while stressing this
point in a lecture before a student group he indicated a bottle on his desk. 'This bottle contains
a sample for analysis,' he announced. 'It's possible
by testing it to determine the disease from which
the patient suffers.' Suiting actions to words, he
dipped a finger into the fluid and then into his
mouth. 'Now,' he continued, 'I am going to pass
this bottle around. Each of you taste the contents
Persistence in Observation
Clarence Edward Flynn•
III. ANALYSIS OF OBSERVATION
The four main constituents of any Biblical passage are: