16 rules of biblical interpretation

It is God’s action (2 Tim.3:16) and God’s will that we have the written Bible. With the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, here are some of these principles broken down for all you busy folk. The Bible interprets itself (scripture interprets scripture). Build all doctrine on necessary rather than possible inferences. The basic sense of a passage is the single sense evident to any reader who allows the words their ordinary meanings and who expects the grammar and syntax to shape and combine these meanings in a normal fashion. 13. In construing Statutes the cardinal rule is to construe its provisions literally and grammatically giving the words their ordinary and natural meaning. That principle of literal interpretation is the same principle we use to interpret any written source responsibly. Let me share my presuppositions about the Bible again.a. The computer program Bibleworks 8 is especially recommended). pope based on their interpretation of Matthew 16:18. Keeping for future ref. These teachers are Christ’s gifts to His people (Ephesians 4:8-12). 46:9-10). . It can be made to say something not intended by the author). Matthew 24:13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” The preacher’s job is not to merely entertain the crowd or to tell a few stories that will connect with the audience. Obviously this requires an understanding of basic interpretation and the use of key Bible references. I am learning so much from reading your teaching on here and from your book which I read some months ago. I feel the weight and privilege of this calling immensely. Use their help. If it is the Word of God, one may justly expect the entire Bible to be coherent, intelligible, and unified. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that Vatican II enumerated three criteria (CCC 111; cf. _____, the entire field of Biblical interpretation. 2. 16 Principles of Biblical Interpretation ferences from the general to the special; (f) analogy from another passage; and (g) an inference from the context. 11. Category: Articles. We Article ID: DB010 | By: Hank Hanegraaff. The words in an enactment have their own natural effect and the construction of an act depends on its wording. A necessary inference is something that is definitely taught by the text. Must one know these languages, and all of their textual variants, before one can adequately interpret Scripture? Our assumption is that God, because of His omniscience, would never be guilty of contradicting Himself. Referred specifically to the sacred Scriptures, the science of interpretation is generally known as hermeneutics, while the practical application of the principles of this science is exegesis. Finally, it is always important to interpret obscure passages by those that are clear. Cynics, however, say that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. For example, we read in John 3:16 that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” and many of us conclude that since the Bible teaches that anyone who believes shall be saved, it therefore implies that anyone can, without the prior regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, exercise belief. At that point, they experienced “amnesia of their former animal life” so that they would no longer remember their animal past.How does this line up with the Word of God, which states that God made Adam from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) and Eve from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:22)? The Meaning of Words (this has become a lot easier in our day with all the information and technology at our disposal. Assume the Bible is authoritative and inerrant That is a very high view of Scripture, to be sure. Rules for Biblical Interpretation in the Reformed Tradition. If something is unclear in one part of Scripture, it probably is made clear elsewhere in Scripture. in all its fullness to as many people as possible. I can’t think of a more holy assignment that to be called to preach or teach the Word of God to the souls of men. general rules of biblical interpretation The interpreter must be saved and dependent on the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. There are other things I might like to share from my site as well, if you don’t mind. Men spoke and wrote the Bible as they were led by the Holy Spirit. 9. Immediate Context (a text out of context becomes a pretext. Corinthians 1:10. In other words, we are to interpret Scripture according to Scripture. Your gift enables our worldwide outreach. We are not at all wise when we isolate ourselves. This particular rule of interpretation is violated constantly. (Had no idea it was an ancient Jewish tradition!) 22:31). Grammar – (how things are being expressed – imperative is a command, a subjunctive would be “would you like to do this?” – two quite different meanings result), 6. The Jews would wash their hands before touching the sacred scrolls, because these scrolls were seen as Divinely inspired. Consider the Audience (why was the book written? 2 Peter 1: 20-21 ... Bible Interpretation includes rules, principles, and methods for interpreting the Bible. 2. Many times people have said to me, incredulously, “You don’t interpret the Bible literally, do you?” I never answer the question by saying, “Yes,” nor do I ever answer the question by saying, “No.” I always answer the question by saying, “Of course, what other way is there to interpret the Bible?” What is meant by sensus literalis is not that every text in the Scriptures is given a “woodenly literal” interpretation, but rather that we must interpret the Bible in the sense in which it is written. Biblical Context (the broadest context possible, the entire Bible; allowing us to ask if our interpretation is consistent with the whole of Scripture. The conclusion is unavoidable. The principle of literal interpretation gives us another rule, namely that the Bible in one sense is to be read like any other book. If that were true, then we would have to say that the smallest mind of all is the mind of God. Certainly, this is a descriptive statement – as it describes the actions of a truly saved person – such a one will endure, for the nature of the kind of faith God gives to His people is one that endures to the end. The rule of USAGE: It must be remembered that the Old Testament was written originally by, to and … 5. These principles are embedded in the scripture itself. Even the Apostle Peter struggled with Paul’s writings at times, as he found some of it “hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16). I would recommend that the more serious student acquire and read them along with Hermeneutics by Bernard Ramm and Protestant Biblical Interpretation … Correct syntax is a vital component of sound interpretation. But what is true for the preacher is also true for every Christian. The Bible, although a book, is also unlike any other book. When we sit down and start reading the Bible for ourselves we need to remember that though there may be a thousand applications of Scripture, there is only ONE correct interpretation – the one the Holy Spirit meant when He inspired the sacred words of the Bible. Using Biblical hermeneutics, we can use certain principles to help us not become becoming smoking relativist in our interpretation! Though we do not need to become superstitious about the physical book called the Bible, so as to wash our hands before picking up or opening the book, the text of the Scripture is the very word of God Himself. who was the audience? 7. 7. Try to discern the writer’s intentions when he wrote the text. The Rule of Univocal Meaning Rule. The first and foremost step in the course of interpretation is to examine the language and the literal meaning of the statute. It is necessary. So the governing principle of Reformed hermeneutics or interpretation is the analogy of faith. Just having this concept in place would greatly help us in our Bible studies. Keeping in mind four aspects of biblical interpretation will go a long way in helping the reader properly interpret Scripture. Dei Verbum 12), each of which has a long history in biblical interpretation. This rule is also known as the Plain meaning rule. – what was his background, language, culture, vocation, concerns, education, circumstance, what stage of life? This, like the others, is a very helpful rule. 14. The need to read Hebrew and Greek to interpret Scripture.The initial step is establishing the original text. First, the Bible is an ancient text. A saved person is one who endures to the end – a principle made clear in other passages such as 1 John 2:19 – “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”. Jesusspoke the words, and they were recorded by Matthew. Hermeneutics is the science of interpreting what an author has written. (: Thanks again, and God Bless! Four Aspects of Biblical Interpretation. This prevents us from making biblical texts mean whatever we want them to mean, which is an insult to the intent of God. It may be applied in various ways, but the meaning is specific to the intent of the author. He then went on to quote a verse from the book of Genesis. T HE A LEXANDKIAN JEWS. Though all Scripture is God breathed, every passage is not equally clear (easy to understand). That is because if the Bible is God’s holy word, we should seek to gain the correct meaning before we attempt to speak for God. A second type of biblical hermeneutics is moral interpretation, which seeks to establish exegetical principles by which ethical lessons may be drawn from the various parts of the Bible. If prescriptive, it would negate the wonderful assurance of salvation that the Holy Spirit wishes us to know (1 John 5:13). The mission, passion and purpose of Ligonier Ministries is to proclaim the holiness of God When we have two passages in Scripture that we can interpret in various ways, we want always to interpret the Bible in such a way as to not violate the basic principle of Scripture’s unity and integrity. We can get as close as possible to the heart of the original text. The best way to ensure faithfulness to the text is to read it together, not only with the churches of our own time and place, but with the wider ‘communion of saints’ down through the age.” – Michael Horton, “What Still Keeps Us Apart?”, “Tradition is the fruit of the Spirit’s teaching activity from the ages as God’s people have sought understanding of Scripture. I mention that book here because so many people have expressed to me how helpful it has been to guide them into a responsible practice of biblical interpretation. Textual Issues – (are there any questions about the earliest or most authoritative manuscripts in comparison with others of a later date – and how does this influence our understanding of what was originally written?). Though knowing these rules would be helpful, I’m sure we would agree that there’s far more that is needed. The testimony of Jesus and of the Bible is that “All Scripture is God breathed” (2 Tim. We should be prepared to do some serious study to seek to understand what the Holy Spirit was and is communicating to us. However, the appropriate approach to systematic theology recognizes that the Bible itself contains a system of truth, and it is the task of the theologian not to impose a system upon the Bible, but to build a theology by understanding the system that the Bible teaches. Learning the principles of interpretation is exceedingly helpful to guide us in our own study. And that leads us to talk about how we interpret the Bible. When we recognize that we are handling the very truth of God, we should not be quick to come to conclusions about what it means. This principle of intentionality is critical … Here are the L-I-G-H-T-S to the Word of God: Literal Interpretation, Illumination by the Holy Spirit, Grammatical Principles, Historical Context, Teaching Ministry, Scriptural Harmony.. Principles of biblical interpretation ought to be determined before developing one’s theology, but in practice the reverse is often true. When determining what the Bible teaches on a particular topic, find the passages which CLEARLY address the issue at hand and make this the starting point of your doctrine, rather than an obscure (or less than clear) passage. These are simply a few of the basic, practical principles of biblical interpretation that I set forth years ago in my book Knowing Scripture. Understand the difference between prescriptive and descriptive statements in the Bible. Yet, human communication cannot be reduced solely to quantifiable and precise rules. Scripture in fact tells us “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1) It is actually a scary business, and its meant to be. God inspired the Bible A. No special, secret, arcane, esoteric meaning is poured into a text simply because it’s divinely inspired. . Certainly, human writers were involved, but the text of Scripture is inspired or breathed out by God Himself. 1. (2) Aim to discover the meaning of the original text. from R.C. This particular rule of interpretation is violated constantly. Form of Literature (we should interpret the Bible literally, but that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize that parables are parables, and that to interpret them correctly, we interpret them as literal parables! 8. The rule of USAGE: It must be remembered that the Old Testament was written originally by, to and … Once that which is clear is firmly grasped and understood, then proceed to study the passages which at first seem to be unclear, using the above rules. (1) Approach the Bible believing that it is God’s revealed Word. I have relied heavily on How to Understand the Bible by W. Robert Palmer, Hermeneutics by D.R. Principle #1: The Literal Interpretation Principle We take the Bible at … For example, Romans 5:1 says “Having been justified (a past tense action) by faith, we have peace with God.” It would be incorrect to think that we have to gain peace with God before justification takes place. 2:13-16). Think for yourself but not by yourself. The Ligonier Ministries site requires Javascript, but you’ve got Javascript disabled. … Numerous heresies have developed when people have forced conformity to the obscure passages rather than to the clear passages, distorting the whole message of Scripture. Therefore, all of the implications that suggest otherwise must be subsumed under the explicit teaching, rather than forcing the explicit teaching into conformity to implications that we draw from the text. Author’s Context (this refers to looking at all of a person’s writings – John’s writings, Paul’s writings, Luke’s writings, etc.). General Principles: Is a generic term and may refer to any work of literature. 6. And yet we read in John 10:34-35 that we are called “gods.” Mormon theology picks up on this. Yet, with this qualifier, here are some simple rules of interpretation (hermeneutics) which should at least get us started. In the same way, there’s so much more that could and should be said about how to study the Bible. A possible inference is something that could or might be true, but not something actually stated by the text. “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.” –Dr. It is therefore slanderous to the Holy Spirit to choose an interpretation of a particular passage that unnecessarily brings that passage into conflict with that which He has revealed elsewhere. I posted it to my blog http://www.with-all-our-hearts.com with credit to you at the beginning and two links back here to this post and to your blog. Parables are interpreted as parables, symbols as symbols, poetry as poetry, didactic literature as didactic literature, historical narrative as historical narrative, occasional letters as occasional letters. Interpret the Scriptures literally unless you have good reason to believe that they are figurative. Behind the principle of the analogy of faith is the prior confidence that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. The correct interpretation of Scripture is almost as important as the doctrine of verbal inspiration itself. To open the fullness of the treasure within, Christians must use a certain key—hermeneutics, or the rules of interpretation. David L. Cooper (1886-1965), founder of The Biblical Research Society . No one else outside Catholicism accepts this interpretation. Though we affirm the basic clarity of sacred Scripture, we do not at the same time say that all passages are equally clear. The word is “elohim” which is the word for God. 16 Bible Study Tools for Interpretation – The List (Details about each of these “tools” are discussed below this list.) Jesus believed (and held people accountable for doing so) that when someone read a verse from the Old Testament, they were reading something spoken to them by God. Question: Is this verse prescriptive or descriptive? That is, since the call to believe is given to everyone, it implies that everyone has the natural ability to fulfill the call. In a narrower sense, it is bringing contemporary relevance to ancient texts, the Bible’s meaning for today. Therefore, before someone stands in a pulpit to preach or teach the Word of God, he needs to make sure he has interpreted the text correctly. A second principle that governs an objective interpretation of Scripture is called the sensus literalis. Certainly, before a Medical Board would certify a person as competent to practice medicine they would need to know far more than a few rules for good health. Though the Bible is not like any other book in that it carries with it the authority of divine inspiration, nevertheless, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit over a written text does not turn verbs into nouns or nouns into verbs. But there is nothing inherently small or weak to be found in consistency. Jesus, in the preamble to quoting a verse from the Old Testament said, “…have you not read what was spoken to you by God…” (Matt. The rule of USAGE: It must be remembered that the Old Testament was written originally by, to and … In Christian theology, hermeneutics focuses specifically on constructing and discovering the appropriate rules for interpreting the Bible.These methods and principles, however, are often drawn from outside of scripture in historical, literary or other fields. Scripture is never contradictory to itself). Shirley Guthrie, Professor Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary, U.S.A. 1. The Bible is a book written by God. Historical Setting (avoid anachronism – trying to understand the past while viewing it wearing 21st century glasses – will not help toward understanding the original meaning of the author). Think about that for a moment. Basic Rules of Interpretation. It is not infallible, but neither is it negligible, and we impoverish ourselves if we disregard it.” – J.I. The 10 Principles of Biblical Interpretation There are certain principles that will help us to accurately handle the Word of Truth. May God use these brief words to encourage you as you search out the truths of God’s word, for His glory: 1. Document Context (For instance, in Romans, there is a certain argument Paul is pursuing, and when we recognize this, it helps us to determine what is meant in isolated verses when we know the purpose for what is being written. what would these words have meant to its original recipients?). When it comes to making claims about what the Bible means, sometimes we hear comments from Christians or non-Christians like the following: “Well, that’s just your interpretation.” “The Bible can be made to say anything you want.” “You can’t really understand the Bible. To them it is nothing more important than the reading of any other book, at least in their methodology. Dungan, and Principles of Interpretation by Clinton Lockhart. However, the idea that the Bible can teach anything we want it to is not true if we approach the Scriptures humbly, trying to hear what the Bible says for itself. We use rules, principles, methods, and tactics; we enter the worlds of the historian, sociologist, psychologists, and linguist—to name a few. Fix that problem! Interpretation of the Bible. The Bible is a treasure box. Please don’t misunderstand me. 16. There should be no additions or substitution of words in the construction of statutes an… That is, our moral ability to come to Christ is explicitly and specifically taught to be lacking apart from the sovereign grace of God. .” (Biblical Interpretation, 4-5). The Next 500 Years: 2017 National Conference, Naming Ligonier the Beneficiary of a Bank or Investment Account, Gifts That Provide Income and Tax Benefits, Practical Principles of Biblical Interpretation. INTERPRETATION. Yet the same gospel writer has Jesus explaining to us three chapters later that no one can come to Jesus unless it is given to him of the Father (6:65). That is, the supreme arbiter in interpreting the meaning of a particular verse in Scripture is the overall teaching of the Bible. https://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/16.html Is the verse telling us to do something, or does it describe an action someone does? Always keep the author’s broad purpose in mind when looking in detail at the meaning of texts). It is a serious and holy thing to be responsible to proclaim God’s truth and it should never be done lightly, whether we are heard by thousands, or simply by one precious human soul. The syntax is clear that it is a result of first being justified that peace ensues. A popular seminary professor recently wrote the following about the creation of Adam and Eve:So according to this professor, Adam and Eve were animals before God breathed the breath of life into them. But we must always remember that the goal of preaching is the honor and glory of God in accurately proclaiming the word of truth. Jesus spoke them to His disciples in response to a question, which we will get to later. Therefore, when we open up a page in our Bibles, we are treading upon holy ground. This charge would be true if the Bible were not the objective Word of God, if it were simply a wax nose, able to be shaped, twisted, and distorted to teach one’s own precepts. This is where the art of interpretation enters in. It is seen as a preconceived system, a Procrustean bed into which the Scriptures must be forced by hacking off limbs and appendages to make it fit. This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine. Not going beyond the simple meaning of words is extremely important for biblical interpretation. Sproul We should approach the Word of God humbly, and with the utmost reverence and respect. 2. Please let me know your policy on sharing articles. Thanks so much, Brenda. 10. Their interpretation was de-termined more or less by the philosophy of Alexandria.They adopted the fundamental principle of Plato that one should tGot It is called the analogy of faith, which basically means that Holy Scripture is its own interpreter. Well, many people view the interpretation of God’s Word as “no big deal” really. But it … We would never consider someone qualified to practice as a medical physician after reading just one paper containing a dozen or so rules on being a good doctor. Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible.It is part of the broader field of hermeneutics, which involves the study of principles of interpretation for all forms of communication, nonverbal and verbal.. 12. Syntax – this refers to words and their relationship with one another. Historical Setting (avoid anachronism – trying to understand the past while viewing it wearing 21st … If upon reading a particular passage you have come up with an interpretation that has escaped the notice of every other Christian for two-thousand years, or has been championed by universally recognized heretics, chances are pretty good that you had better abandon your interpretation.” – R. C. Sproul, “It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.” – C. H. Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries, Thanks very much for this helpful list! A particular biblical text has a particular meaning. Historical narrative is historical narrative, nouns are nouns, verbs are verbs, analogies are analogies). At the time of the Reformation, to stop unbridled, speculative, and fanciful interpretations of Scripture, the Reformers set forth the fundamental axiom that should govern all biblical interpretation. God wants mankind to know Him (the very purpose of creation, Gen. 1:26-27).b. -Brenda, Thank you so much for sharing this list! Scripture is to be interpreted with confidence in and openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Allegorization was often employed in this endeavour. Interpret the unclear passages in Scripture in light of the clear. Nor is there any such mystical ability we call “Holy Ghost Greek.” No, the Bible is to be interpreted according to the ordinary rules of language. It is not simply a book giving facts about God. Consider the Author – who wrote the book? Oct 13, 2014 Packer, “Upholding the Unity of Scripture Today.”, “Although tradition does not rule our interpretation, it does guide it. I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree … Here are four insightful quotes in this regard: “The best way to guard a true interpretation of Scripture, the Reformers insisted, was neither to naively embrace the infallibility of tradition, or the infallibility of the individual, but to recognize the communal interpretation of Scripture. Sometimes systematic theology is rejected because it is seen as an unwarranted imposition of a philosophical system on the Scriptures. The charge would be true if it were not an offense to God the Holy Spirit to read into sacred Scripture what is not there. Interpreting the Bible … ps – have to laugh since I always wash my hands before opening my Bible so as not to sully pages with dirty fingers. Even the "Christian" cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses use the Bible to deny the deity of Jesus Christ, the existence of Hell, and most carnal doctrines of the Christian faith. (3) Aim to discover what the text meant to the original readers. 4. If it is the Word of God, it must therefore be consistent and coherent. God has gifted others with tremendous insights, not only in our own day, but throughout the history of the Church. Handling the word of God is a priceless duty and delight, not a trivial passion or pursuit. 15. Bless you for being a faithful teacher of the Word! 3. Here we come face to face with the subject of the original languages of ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek. in-tur-pre-ta'-shun: 1. Donate Now. It has often been charged that the Bible can’t be trusted because people can make it say anything they want it to say. If prescriptive, (if it is telling us something to do) then no one can be sure of their salvation, for the simple reason that no one presently reading or hearing the statement has, as yet, endured until the very end. Always check the immediate context of a verse or passage to determine the correct interpretation. God gives no prizes to boring preachers who can’t connect with people! 2. Closely related to this point is the principle that the implicit must be interpreted by the explicit, rather than the explicit interpreted by the implicit. 3:16). The passage quoted in the NT is Psalm 82:6. Ten Rules of Biblical Interpretation 3 he alone is God, there are no others (Isa.

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