BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION:An explanation or establishment of the meaning or significance of something. Aparticular meaning."And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to alamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. Butknow this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of ones own interpretation." [2Peter 1:19,20 NAS]We cant have a "sure word" about the meaning of Scripture (or anything else) unless we have asure method to interpret the words.The following eight rules are the center of all grammatical interpretation. They have been accepted andused by scholars from Socrates to the present. While my hope is that they will be used to "rightly dividethe word of truth" of the Holy Bible, they are equally applicable to legal, historical, and other suchlanguage.Since the Bible teaches that God is not the author of confusion [1 Cor. 14:33], how can the manydisagreements today between Christians and the proliferation of the cults be explained since all, ornearly all, claim to use the Bible as the basis of their doctrines?Nearly all false doctrines taught today by Christians and cultists alike can be traced to the distortion ofthe meaning of Biblical words."When two interpretations are claimed for a Scripture, the construction most in agreement with all thefacts of the case should be adopted. When all the facts of an interpretation are in agreement they soundtogether in harmony, like notes in a chord. Biblical interpretation is more than knowing a set of rules, but it cannot be done without the rules. So, learn the rules, and rightly apply them 1 Page
Here are the rules: 1. 1The rule of DEFINITION: What does the word mean? Any study of Scripture must begin with a study of words. Define your terms and then keep to the terms defined. The interpreter should conscientiously abide by the plain meaning of the words. This quite often may require using a Hebrew/English or Greek/English lexicon in order to make sure that the sense of the English translation is understood.2. The rule of USAGE: It must be remembered that the Old Testament was written originally by, to and for Jews. The words and idioms must have been intelligible to them - just as the words of Christ when talking to them must have been. The majority of the New Testament likewise was written in a environment of Greco-Roman (and to a lesser extent Jewish) culture and it is important to not impose our modern usage into our interpretation. It is not worth much to interpret a great many phrases and histories if ones interpretations are shaded by pre-conceived notions and cultural biases, thereby rendering an inaccurate and ineffectual lesson.3. The rule of CONTEXT: The meaning must be gathered from the context. Every word you read must be understood in the light of the words that come before and after it. Many passages will not be understood at all, or understood incorrectly, without the help afforded by the context. A good example of this is the Mormon practice of using 1 Cor. 8:5b: "...for there be gods many and lords many..." as a "proof text" of their doctrine of polytheism. However, a simple reading of the whole verse in the context of the whole chapter (e.g. where Paul calls these gods "so-called"), plainly demonstrates that Paul is not teaching polytheism.4. The rule of HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: 2 The interpreter must have some awareness of the life and society of the times in which the Page Scripture was written.
The spiritual principle will be timeless but often cant be properly appreciated without some knowledge of the background. If the interpreter can have in his mind what the writer had in his mind when he wrote - without adding any excess baggage from the interpreters own culture or society - then the true thought of the Scripture can be captured resulting in an accurate interpretation. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Our only interest in the past is for the light it throws upon the present."5. The rule of LOGIC: Interpretation is merely logical reasoning. When interpreting Scripture, the use of reason is everywhere to be assumed. Does the interpretation make sense? The Bible was given to us in the form of human language and therefore appeals to human reason - it invites investigation. It is to be interpreted as we would any other volume: applying the laws of language and grammatical analysis. As Bernard Ramm said: "What is the control we use to weed out false theological speculation? Certainly the control is logic and evidence... interpreters who have not had the sharpening experience of logic...may have improper notions of implication and evidence. Too frequently such a person uses a basis of appeal that is a notorious violation of the laws of logic and evidence." (Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Boston: W. A. Wilde, 1956)6. The rule of PRECEDENT: (pattern) We must not violate the known usage of a word and invent another for which there is no precedent. Just as a judges chief occupation is the study of previous cases, so must the interpreter use precedents in order to determine whether they really support an alleged doctrine. Consider the Bereans in Acts 17:10-12 who were called "noble" because they searched the Scriptures to determine if what Paul taught them was true.7. The rule of UNITY: The parts of Scripture being interpreted must be construed with reference to the significance of the whole. An interpretation must be consistent with the rest of Scripture. An excellent example of this is the doctrine of the Trinity. No single passage teaches it, but it is consistent with the teaching of the whole of Scripture (e.g. the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are referred to individually as God; yet the Scriptures elsewhere teach there is only one God).8. The rule of INFERENCE: An inference is a fact reasonably implied from another fact. It is a logical consequence. It derives a conclusion from a given fact or premise. It is the deduction of one proposition from another proposition. Such inferential facts or propositions are sufficiently binding when their truth is established by 3 competent and satisfactory evidence. Page Competent evidence means such evidence as the nature of the thing to be proved admits.
Satisfactory evidence means that amount of proof which would ordinarily satisfy an unprejudiced mind beyond a reasonable doubt. Jesus used this rule when he proved the resurrection of the dead to the unbelieving Sadducees in Matt. 22:23-33.Learning these eight rules and properly applying them will help keep any interpreter frommaking errors and will hopefully alleviate many of the disagreements unfortunately present inChristianity today. However, these eight principles are no substitute for the Holy Spirit which will,if you let Him, guide you in the truth [John 14:26]."A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain untowise counsels: to understand a proverb, and the interpretation." [Prov. 1:5,6] BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION In case you are not familiar with this terminology, what I mean by canon is the standard or rule that writings are measured against for inclusion in what we refer to as the inspired Word of God (commonly known as “the Bible”). In order to be included in the Bible, writings had to live up to some pretty strict standards. And needless to say, there has always been some controversy over what should and should not be included. http://bibledude.net/bible-interpretation-canon-essays/http://trinitypastor.wordpress.com/category/christian-theology/help-me-read-the-bible/ 4 Page
HOMILETICS: THE SCIENCE AND ART OF testimony of the Gospel), the truth concerning thePREACHING THE MEETING OF THE TEXT Living Word of God (Jesus Christ, see John 5:39-40).EXEGESIS: THE APPLICATION (ART) OF JesusTHE PRINCIPLES OF HERMENEUTICS. We believe that Scripture is rightly interpreted inHERMENEUTICS: THE SCIENCE the light of the answer to a key question: Who is(PRINCIPLES) BY WHICH THE MEANING Jesus? Scripture answers that Jesus is fully God (theOF THE BIBICAL TEXT IS DETERMINED. doctrine of the Trinity) and fully human (the doctrine of the Incarnation). Through his representative - substitutionary life, death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus has united all humanity to God (the doctrine of the Atonement). Accurate understanding of Scripture occurs as we prayerfully conform our thinking to this revelation of the person and work of Jesus. Universal & personal Accurate interpretation of New Testament passages often necessitates discerning between two "realities." One is Gods reality - the truth of the universal (objective) inclusion of all humanity in Gods love and life in Jesus. The other is human reality - the personal (subjective) experience of people as they either embrace Gods reality or reject it (or, as is often the case, are simply unaware of it). Some passages testify to Gods reality (and invite people to receive it - e.g. Col 1:15-20), while others testify to the results of not believing (and warn of continuing to live in the darkness of unbelief with its fallen distortion of Gods reality - e.g. Col 1:21). Context & languagePrinciples of biblical interpretation Careful interpretation also involves accounting forA primary purpose of this blog is demonstrate a the historical, cultural, and literary context of eachtheologically sound process for interpreting and passage. In addition, because the richness andthen applying the truths of Holy Scripture subtleties of the original text are sometimes lost inunderstood in the light of the historic/orthodox, translation, it is important to check alternativeTrinitarian, incarnational Christian faith. The process translations and consult lexicons or otherused here is grounded in the following principles: translation helps. For more on this issue, see Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Basic Guide for Students and Ministers by Michael GormanScripture & Gospel (Hendrickson, 2009). Http://thesurprisinggodblog.gci.org/p/principles-of- biblical-interpretation.html Ken Silva pastor-teacher on May 25, 2011 inWe view the Holy Bible as the written word of God, Bibliology, Current Issues, Features, Quotes 5inspired by the Holy Spirit to reveal, Pagethrough the apostolic word of God (the Apostles
interpretation and make it say whatever they would like it to say. Perhaps you‟ve been in one those Bible studies where you go around the room and everybody tells you what they think the verse means? Or worse than that, “Well, to me this verse means,” so-and-so. In the end, what you get is a pooling of ignorance, unless somebody knows what it means apart from them. The truth is it doesn‟t matter what a verse means to me, it doesn‟t matter what it means to you, it doesn‟t matter what it means to anybody else, it doesn‟t matter Now the task of if it means anything to anybody else. All thathermeneutics is to realize, first of all, that there matters is what does it mean? What did Godis a God given meaning in Scripture, apart from intend to say? Every verse has intrinsicyou or me or anybody else. Scripture means meaning apart from any of us and the task ofsomething if means nothing to me, understood? Bible study is to discern the true meaning ofIt means something if it means nothing to you. Scripture. That‟s why I can come to you weekIt means something if it means nothing to after week, month after month, year after yearanybody. It means something in itself, and that and explain to you the meaning of the Word ofmeaning is determined by God, the Author, not God, apart from any personal experience I‟mby one who is going through some kind of having. That‟s irrelevant.mystical experience. The task of the interpreter is to discern theThe interpreter‟s task then is to discern that meaning of Scripture. In 2 Timothy 2:15 itmeaning. To discover the meaning of the text in says, “Be diligent,” or study, “present yourselfits proper setting, to draw the meaning out of the approved to God as a workman who doesn‟tScripture, rather than to read one‟s meaning into need to be ashamed because he‟s handlingit. The importance of careful, Biblical accurately the Word of Truth.” If you don‟tinterpretation can hardly be overstated. handle it accurately, you oughta be ashamed of yourself. And if you‟re gonna handle itWe spend three or four years at the master accurately, you have to be diligent, you have toseminary trying to teach men how to do this work hard at it. Clearly handling Scripturebecause it is the heart and soul of effective involves both of those things, hard work andministry. In fact, I would go so far as to say diligence. It must be interpreted accurately, andmisinterpreting the Bible is ultimately no better those who fail to do that have reason to bethan disbelieving it. So what do you mean by ashamed…that? Well, what good does it do to believe thatthe Bible is God‟s final and complete word if God has not hidden His truth from us, but itsyou misinterpret it? Either way you miss the meaning is not always instantly clear. Ittruth, right? It is equally serious along with demands hard work. That‟s why in 1 Timothydisbelieving the Bible to misinterpret it. 5:17 it says that, “Those elders who labor in theInterpreting Scripture to make it say what it was Word and doctrine are worth of double honor,”never intended to say is a sure road to division, because it‟s hard work. That‟s why God hasto error, to heresy and to apostasy. In spite of given teachers to the church so that we can workall of the dangers of misinterpreting the hard and understanding God‟s Word correctly,Scripture, today we have these casual people instructing people in the Scriptures throughwho approach the Scripture whimsically without persistent, conscientious labor in the Word. 6any understanding of the science of Page
Now, today we have, frankly, a lack of respect married? You‟re miles apart. “Oh,” said thefor the work of gifted theologians, a lack of husband, “it was a sermon the pastor preachedrespect for the hard work of gifted expositors in our church.” “What was the sermon?”who have spent years studying and interpreting “Well, he preached on the walls of Jericho.”Scripture. In fact, that lack of respect tends to “Jericho? What does that have to do withbe somewhat charismatically characteristic. marriage?” “Well,” he said, “God‟s peopleThey tend to sort of look at all of us that way. I claimed the city marched around it seven timesthink I read you of the letter from the lady who and the walls fell down.” And he said, “If asaid, “Your problem is you‟re too much into the young man believed God had given him aBible. Throw away your Bible,” remember that, certain girl, he could claim her, march around“and stop studying.” You see, Charismatics her seven times and the walls of her hear wouldplace more emphasis on letting people in the fall down. That‟s what I did and we gotcongregation say whatever they think Jesus is married.” “That can‟t be true,” he said.telling them the verse means, and to listen to “You‟re kidding, aren‟t you?” I remember himwhat one writer calls, “Airy fairy theologians.” sayin‟ that. “You gotta be kidding.” “No, it‟sThere‟s a vast difference, by the way, between true. And there were many other couples thatthe whimsical kitchen table interpretations of got married because of the same sermon.”laymen, the teaching of skilled men who work Some people believe their marriages were madevery hard to rightly divide the Word. in Heaven. That was made in an allegory and a bad one at that. That‟s the kind of interpretationI heard a radio interview with a Charismatic that has gone on since the early days of thewoman pastor. She was asked how she got her church, continues today, especially in thesermons up? She replied, “I don‟t get „em up, I Charismatic movement.get „em down. God delivers them to me.”That‟s an all too familiar thing. I can promise Remember listening to a series on the book ofyou that God has never delivered one to me. I Nehemiah. The whole purpose of the book ofhaven‟t gotten them down. I‟ve had to „em up. Nehemiah by this Charismatic preacher was toSome people even believe it‟s unspiritual to teach Charismatic doctrine. Jerusalem‟s wallsstudy. After all, some say, taking another verse were in ruin and that was representative of theout of context, didn‟t Jesus say, “For the Holy broken down walls of human personality.Spirit will teach you and that very hour what Nehemiah was the Holy Spirit, the king‟s poolyou want to say,” so you just go into the pulpit was the baptism of the Holy Spirit and theand whatever comes into your mind, you say? mortar between the bricks was tongues. AndAnd that‟s why they invent their theology as what Nehemiah‟s teaching is the Holy Spiritthey speak because they have no idea what‟s wants to come rebuild your broken wallsgoing to be said until they hear it. We should be through the baptism of the Holy Spirit andgreatly concerned about this ad lib approach. speaking in tongues. I had an opportunity toYou never ever make a point true or false at the talk to that preacher about that and we had anprice of a proper interpretation. Otherwise, you interesting conversation. I tried to show himare the final authority and not the Word of God. that that was nothing but the invention of his own imagination, read from the New TestamentSecondly, don‟t spiritualize or allegorize the back into the Old, but never the intention oftext. Some people think the Bible is a fable to Nehemiah, to which he agreed. That kind ofteach whatever you wanna get across. A myriad preaching is a form of hucksterism, and as Iof illustrations of this. I remember back when said, “You may come up with the truth that youJerry Mitchell was on our staff and a young teach, but if you spiritualize the text to do it,couple came into him for counseling, marriage then you legitimize spiritualization of any textcounseling. He began to talk with them and which leaves you with any fanciful conclusion.”after about 30 minutes, he said he‟d been 7married only six months and you‟re already on Well, the correct approach you probably need to Pagethe edge of a divorce? Why did you ever get go to Jesus and remember that when He was
walking on the road to Emmaus, He said, Lukedid, the beginning with Moses and with all theprophets, He explained to them the thingsconcerning Himself in the Scriptures. TheWord explained is hermeneual from which weget hermeneutics. He carefully interpreted theOld Testament. He used hermeneutics. He‟s amodel of a teacher, used sound interpretivemethods.So, when we teach the Word of God, when wecome to the conclusions that we come to, wewanna be certain that we don‟t make severeerrors, one, by making points at the price ofproper interpretation, two, by somehowconcocting or spiritualizing something that isn‟tthere, and three, and I‟ve already talked aboutthis, by superficial study. Superficial study isequally disastrous. But I‟ve said enough aboutthat not to have to say more. (Online source)John MacArthurhttp://apprising.org/2011/05/25/proper-biblical-interpretation/ 8 Page