Monthly Archives: January 2014

Basic Biblical Interpretation

In many disciplines there are guidelines, and/or protocols that provide a framework for accurate and reproducible findings . For example in the scientific field there is a “Scientific Method” that lays down rules to follow so that someone may follow the same instructions and get a similar result. Likewise in field of history there is a “Historical Method” which helps to determine authentic sources for accurate historical research. Doctors have guidelines for diagnosing illness in patients. Mechanics have steps to identify the problems with an automobile. Each of these methods are for the purpose of being able to share with others what they have discovered from a common starting point.

When it comes to the Bible there is a method of interpretation that gives every student of the Bible a common starting point. This field of Biblical interpretation is called Hermeneutics and is a necessary part of any Bible education.

What is Hermeneutics? “Hermeneutics is the science and art by which the meaning of the biblical text is determined.”(Basic Bible Interpretation; Roy Zuck, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1991)  There are some basic rules for interpreting the Bible. Each of the points given below can be expanded upon, but for now will be briefly explained.

  1. Literal Interpretation. The Bible can be taken at face value. If the Bible says it, than it is that way and it is so. Charles Ryrie uses the term Plain Interpretation, that is what the scriptures says, it means. There are no hidden meanings or codes.  Dr. David L. Cooper stated, “When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense,seek no other sense, but take every word at is primary and literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context clearly indicate otherwise.”(How To Study The Bible For Yourself, Tim LaHaye, Harvest House Publishing, 1976)

  1. No Private Interpretation. The Bible tells us the scriptures are not of any private interpretation. So the interpretation is universal, and means only one thing. However we may apply that meaning in several ways to our lives. One interpretation, but multiple application.

  1. Compare scripture with Scripture. When a teaching is identified or a doctrine is revealed note whether it is a singular occurrence or a repeated theme. The best commentary on scripture is scripture itself. We cannot expect to understand scripture without comparing it with other portions of scripture. The Bible never contradicts itself, it is always complimentary.

  1. Context. When reading the Scriptures make sure that you identify the context. Taking things out of context is a sure way for a false teaching to begin. Sometimes it happens by accident, that is why it is important be diligent in studying. There are a variety of contexts that must be considered scriptural, historical, cultural, grammatical, and dispensational.

  1. Linguistic difficulties. Because the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, and has been translated to many different languages it is wise to identify phrases that seem difficult. Commentaries can be helpful in identifying literary styles.There are  a variety of things to to watch for such as definitions, idioms, metaphors, similes, anthropomorphism, hyperbole, and analogy.

  1. Parables. Parables must be treated differently, because they are a narrative within a narrative.


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