Original Research - Special Collection: Scholarly Voices

Defining elements and challenges of a Pentecostal hermeneutics of experience

Marius Nel
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 2 | a6622 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i2.6622 | © 2021 Marius Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 March 2021 | Published: 18 August 2021

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Marius Nel, Unit for Reformational Theology, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

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The article intends to describe the distinctive elements and challenges of a Pentecostal hermeneutics of experience, consisting of charismatic encounters with the Spirit that condition and determine both classical Pentecostals’ spirituality and hermeneutics. The research is based on a comparative literature study and auto-ethnographical observations. The findings include that Pentecostals hold to a ‘high view’ of the Bible (like most conservative Protestants), but their ethos includes and emphasises the experiential. Their experiences form their pre-understanding (Vorverständnis). At the same time, they expect the Spirit to generate insights that apply the text to their context. Thus, although they accept traditional hermeneutical principles, they also interpret the text from their charismatic experiences and the affections accompanying it. The distinctive of the hermeneutics of experience is that Pentecostals rely on the Spirit’s revelation in the reading process because of the expectation to experience direct divine revelations and the miraculous as in biblical times. The result is that it subjects the formulation of doctrine to the experiential because it bases its epistemology on an intimate relationship with God through Christ, and not on knowledge acquired by rational means. The challenge is that it may lead to individualist and subjectivist (and at times, far-fetched) (mis)interpretation of texts.

Contribution: The article concludes that the collectivist control of the individual interpretation of texts alone can safeguard the faith community, as in the practice of the interpretation of tongues and prophecy.


experiential; affects; Holy Spirit; revelation; continuationism; supranatural; subjectivity


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