The Bible is an enigma; a mystery. Written so a child can understand it—yet portions of it are argued by studied scholars!
Everyone comes to the Bible with preconceived ideas and beliefs. That is why it is so important to learn to interpret the Bible correctly; realizing we cannot comprehend everything.
Why is the Bible important?
God revealed Himself to us three different ways:
- General or natural revelation
God is revealed in the world; the cosmos.
“. . . since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom.1:19-20).
Special revelation, God’s Word reveals God’s salvific plan. Thus it is absolutely critical that we rightly divide the Word. Everyone comes to the Bible text with presuppositions; stuff we’ve assumed, heard, or sang. Nevertheless there is overwhelming manuscript (Mss) evidence to support the biblical inerrancy. Also the error rate for all these manuscripts is about 2% and these are only copyist errors and do not effect meaning.
The Bible is God’s revelation not God’s riddle
- Bodily revelation
His Son, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel.
God came to earth as a man. He came, lived, and died as one of us.
Literal, Historical, Grammatical Method
The basis for sound Bible interpretation is known as the literal, historical, grammatical method of interpretation of scripture.
By literal we mean we believe the bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, and authoritative word of GOD to be taken at face value unless there is compelling reason to do otherwise (usually indicated by the context of the passage).
Historical means that each passage must be put into its proper historical setting. We must grasp the thoughts, attitudes, customs, and feelings prevalent at the time of writing.
Lastly grammatical means that words are given meanings consistent with their common understanding in language. What does the text say? What does it mean grammatically? What category of literature is it (poetry, narrative, historical, etc.)?
A text without a context is a pretext.
A quick note: In the following segments of the Bible interpretation process there is necessarily a certain amount of overlap between the segments.
- What is historical context?
- What was the time period God was addressing?
- Who was the audience?
- Were they Hebrews, Romans, Gentiles, pagan, the Church, or leaders of the Church?
- Who was the author?
- Why was it written? What are the facts?
- What problem or issue was the writer addressing?
- What are the theme and the key message?
- Was the theme God’s discipline of Israel or songs of praise to God?
The quality of your interpretation always depends on the quality of your observation.
- What is the author really saying? Getting the meaning the author poured into the text, NOT putting our own meaning into it.
- Ask what the text says, before you ask what it means.
- Don’t allegorize or spiritualize the text:
When the literal sense makes good sense, seek no other sense, lest you end up with nonsense
- Sensus unum—there is only one meaning; one correct interpretation to the text.
- If two people have opposite interpretations to a passage, both could be wrong, but both cannot be right—only one can be correct!
- There can be multiple applications to the text.
- We err greatly if we approach the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation and everything in between, with the same set of reading expectations for
- the distinct books.
- The Books of Moses (the Pentateuch) read markedly different than the poetic genre of Psalms. The books of Kings are demonstrably different than Paul’s letters to the Church.
- The Bible is a library of 66 books covering an entire range of literary genres, or categories, including:
- Are the passages applicable today in our culture?
- Are they meant for the Church?
- Note: the Church has not replaced Israel.
- Are they meant for Israel?
Is the segment studied prescriptive for us or merely descriptive?
Example: God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son (Gen. 22). Clearly this account just describes the event and it is not meant for any other time or place. Indeed this is a “type” of what God would do by sending Jesus to die for us.
 Marriage between brother and sister and cousin was necessary in the immediate post-creation era to populate the earth. Eventually it slowly became censured for most cultures.