Theological hermeneutics in the classical Pentecostal tradition: A typological account

Louis William Oliverio, Marquette University


This project accounts for the development of theological understanding among Classical Pentecostals through four major hermeneutical types. These types consider the theologies of Pentecostals as theological hermeneutics, as theological ways of interpreting reality. This is not to claim that this typology is the only legitimate categorization of or the only proper angle for approaching the development of Pentecostal theology, nor that it is comprehensive. It is to claim that this account is both legitimate and helpful for understanding the underlying convictions and sources behind the Pentecostal theologies covered here. After recalling the theological roots of Pentecostalism, I articulate an understanding of the originating hermeneutic of Pentecostalism. I find this original Classical Pentecostal hermeneutic to be a hermeneutic that interprets Scripture and the rest of life anew in a manner that will create a new Christian tradition--Classical Pentecostalism. Yet this openness to interpreting Scripture and all of life anew was tempered by the development of the Evangelical-Pentecostal hermeneutic, a hybrid hermeneutic that authorized Pentecostal theological understandings on the grounds that they were proper biblical doctrines. I argue that this turn to the Evangelical-Pentecostal hermeneutic happened early on in Pentecostal history. This hermeneutic has developed into an important contemporary Pentecostal theological hermeneutic in which "believing criticism" is employed in order to develop biblical theologies that are topically arranged into systematic theologies. Arising in part as a reaction against aspects of the Evangelical-Pentecostal hermeneutic, the contextual-Pentecostal hermeneutic is an important contemporary Pentecostal theological hermeneutic. It emphasizes the role of contexts in the formation of theological understanding. The ecumenical-Pentecostal hermeneutic, which seeks to develop Pentecostal theological understanding along with, and not against, other Christian traditions, has also come to the fore in recent years, although I find it in continuity with a certain ethos that was already present among Pentecostals. In conclusion, I offer a constructive proposal that advocates a hermeneutical realism for the future of Pentecostal theological hermeneutics. Drawing from philosophical and theological sources in doing so, I propose an approach that acknowledges the ubiquity of interpretation while respecting the constitution of what is theologically interpreted.

Recommended Citation

Oliverio, Louis William, "Theological hermeneutics in the classical Pentecostal tradition: A typological account" (2009). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3357966.