Rules for Interpreting
Rules for Interpreting
o The Univocal Nature of Language - is meaning in front of or behind the text?
o Interpret Using the Golden Rule
If the plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense. God says what He means and means what He says. (Good Samaritan - get from Dad)
o Interpret Literally – Most often the Bible uses literal terms. We must let the Bible speak for itself. The ordinary or commonly known meaning of a word is the literal meaning.
NOTE: Unless it is completely clear that the passage is figurative (Revelation) then we should interpret it literally.
o Interpret Historically/Culturally – The Bible means what it meant to the people it was originally written to. What is going on during the time it was written is very important to the meaning of the passage. The Bible can never mean what it never meant! John Phillips, in his book Bible Explorers Guide says, “for and intelligent understanding of some parts of the Bible we need to know something about the geography and climate of the country and the customs and history of the times. The Bible was not writeen in the twentieth century, nor was it written in the West. It was written over a period of 1,500 years in places as far apart as Persia in the East and Rome in the West and it was written by people drawn from many walks of life. Moses and Daniel were statesmen. David, Solomon and Hezekiah we kings. Amos was a cowboy, Joshua a soldier, Ezra and Ezekiel were priests, Matthew was a tax collector. Peter and John were fishermen, Luke a doctor, Paul a scholar. The cultural background of Exodus is quite different from that of Hosea. Almost a century separated Jeremiah from Isaiah. During that century a whole new international situation arose. Four hundred turbulent years intervene between Malachi and Matthew…some understanding of the times in essential.
NOTE: When Christ came as the Messiah, the Jews did not believe he was the Messiah because of the many OT references to the Messiah freeing the Jews from oppression as their King, and at the time of Christ’s birth and life the Jew’s were under terrible oppression from the Roman’s. Christ didn’t come as that King in the Jews way of thinking, so they rejected Him as the Messiah.
o Interpret Grammatically – God has communicated His mind to us in words and He does not use those words arbitrarily. It is just the opposite, they are crafted with careful precision. A knowledge of the original words of the Bible can enrich one’s understanding of the Scriptures. Ex: 2Cor. 11:13-14
NOTE: John 1:1 – “the” replaced with “a” in the Jehovah’s Witness Bible.
o Interpret Consistently – The Bible does not contradict itself. If you interpret a passage and that meaning contradicts another teaching in Scripture, then your interpretation is wrong. That is why we must get to know the entire Bible!
o Interpret According to the Genre –
§ Today there are a variety of genre that are used in written communication - a letter, a journal, a newspaper, a novel, a biography, a blog, a tabloid
§ OT Narrative
§ The Gospels
§ The Parables
§ The Law
§ The Prophets
§ The Psalms
§ The Wisdom
§ The Revelation
How on earth can you overcome the five difficulties and follow these rules when you are trying to understand what something means in the Bible? Do you understand the original language of the Bible? Do you understand the historical context around a passage? If you answer “NO!” are you stuck? No, there is help!
Primary Helps for Interpreting
o The Holy Spirit – he guides us into knowledge
§ He is the author of Scripture – II Pet. 1:21
§ He is the teacher of Scripture to Christians – John 12:26, 15:26, 16:7-15; I John 2:27, 5:6
o The Bible
§ The greatest commentary ever written on the Bible is the Bible itself!
o The Local Church
Secondary Helps for Interpreting
o Study Bibles
§ Scofield, Ryrie, MacArthur, Thompson Chain
§ Those with an introduction to each book are very helpful, because they give you a “bird’s eye view” of the entire book and give the setting.
o Study Aides
§ Bible Dictionaries – Unger’s
§ Expository Dictionaries – Vine’s
§ Concordances – Strong’s
§ Bible Atlases
§ Topical Bibles – Nave’s
§ Text Books
§ Parents/Pastor/Youth Pastor