Principles of Bible Interpretation- "Grammatico-Historical Method
Interpretation of Scripture will never be an exact science. The beliefs we bring to the text - our theological presuppositions - will inevitably color our interpretation to some degree. In fact, "pretended neutrality" - the attribution of bias to one's opponent while implying that one is theologically neutral - is an exegetical fallacy as potent as any other
The Challenge of Understanding the Bible
Applying sound principles of hermeneutics seeks to answer these sorts of questions:
· Who was the writer?
· To whom was the writer writing?
· "Is the use of a particular word, grammatical construction, verb tense, etc., significant in this instance?"
· What is the cultural, historical context?
· What was the author's original intended meaning?
· "How was the text interpreted by the author's contemporaries?"
· Why was he saying it?
Hermeneutics is a technical term derived from the Greek n)rmeneu=ti/koj(hermeneutikos) meaning "the science of interpretation," In biblical terms "especially the branch of theology dealing with the principles of exegesis." The science of understanding a message or complete thought, especially that which is communicated through written text. In other words, hermeneutics seeks to know how to interpret the actual intended conveyence of a message
Hermeneutics involves establishing the principles for our understanding any part of the Bible, and then interpreting it so its message is made clear to the reader or listener. It inevitably involves exegesis, which is the process of examining the actual biblical text as it came from the hand of its writer to discover how he communicated God's truth.
The goal in applying the principles of hermeneutics is to "rightly handle the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15), striving to accurately discern the meaning of the text.
Hermeneutics can be defined as the linguistic and literary principles used to interpret scripture, and includes the discovery and understanding of these principles.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who . . . correctly handles [rightly divides] the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
How to Interpret the Bible No. 2
- Read the passage and the entire context. This context could extend for pages.
- Consider the culture of day when this passage was written. Put the passage into its proper historical perspective.
- Consider the theme of the particular book that the passage occurs in. Consider the writer, the time period and the culture of the people.
- Look for evidence of typology, symbolism, allegory and figures of speech. If none of these exist, then interpret the passage literally.
- We must remain in prayer and be willing to be instructed by the Holy Spirit because understanding comes from God, not solely from our use of reason.
- No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. (1 Corinthians 2:11b-13)
- A word of warning. As even a quick investigation into the many doctrinal variations demonstrates, we simply cannot develop dogma, doctrine, and moral teaching unaided -- we require Divine assistance. But merely calling upon the Holy Spirit to assist us in interpreting sacred scripture is insufficient. Many well-meaning, Spirit-filled theologians have attempted this over the centuries, but their doctrines all contradict one another.
You will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. (1 Tim 3:15)
"If every man has the right, and is bound to read the Scriptures, and to judge for him self what they teach, he must have certain rules to guide him in the exercise of this privilege and duty. These rules are not arbitrary. They are not imposed by human authority. They have no binding force which does not flow from their own intrinsic truth and propriety. They are few and simple." Charles Hodges
Drafted by Charles E. Whisnant 12 10 06