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Biblical Interpretation Session 4 filled

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The purpose of this session is to learn the fundamentals of interpreting the Bible and to gain some understanding of the origin of truth. One of the basic presuppositions in interpreting the Bible correctly is that “each biblical writing—that is, each word, sentence, and book—was recorded in a written language and followed normal, grammatical meaning, including figurative language.” Therefore, we should be able to clearly understand the meaning of each word, by understanding how the word was used, and then examining the context to see which meaning fits best (if the word has multiple meaning).

I.  Prayer for Illumination

                a. Pray for a clear mind

                b. Pray for the Holy Spirit to “cast His light” on His word

                c. Pray for God’s direction to ensure an attitude of humility

II. Observation: review

                a. Read the passage several times (10 is not too many)

                b. Ask preliminary questions

c. In-depth Observation

III. Correlation

                a. Use the cross-references in the margin of your Bibles

                b.  Use the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

                c. Use a good Bible Dictionary

IV. Interpretation

                a.  Definition

                            i.      The process of discovering the meaning of the passage intended by the author for his original audience

                            ii.     Determine the significance of that meaning to them

                            iii.    An accurate interpreter attempts to recreate the meaning of the message as if the interpreter was the writer so that an understand the passage’s significance can be gained

                b.  Ask interpretive questions

                            i.      Accurate interpretation depends on

·         One’s ability to ask interpretive questions about the text

·         One’s ability to research answers to these questions

                            ii.     Elements of interpretive questions

·         Define important terms (What does the author mean by this term? What does this word or phrase mean? What does the writer mean by this term?)

·         Observe the context of the surrounding verses, the chapter, the book, and the Bible as a whole (What did the writer discuss before this passage and what does he discuss after it? How does the context help me understand the passage?)

·         Probe cultural references (Are there any cultural references in the passage? What did the specific cultural reference mean in this culture? What cultural understanding assists me in this passage?)

·         Discern figurative language in the passage (Is there comparative language? Are there overstatements?)

o        Always take a passage in its literal sense unless there is good reason for doing otherwise (Rev 7:4-8)

o        The figurative sense is intended if the literal would involve an impossibility (Jer. 1:18; Rev 1:16; Ps 57:1; Mic 1:2)

o        The figurative is intended if the literal meaning is an absurdity (Is 55:12)

o        Take the figurative sense if the literal would demand immoral action (John 6:53-58)

o        Note whether a figurative expression is followed by an explanatory literal statement (1 Thes 4:13-15 then 16; Eph 2:1)

o        Sometimes a figure is marked by a qualifying adjective (Matt 6:14; John 6:32; 1 Pet 2:4)

                            iii.    Tools useful for interpretation

·         Bible Dictionaries

·         Bible Handbooks

·         Bible Atlases

·         Bible Concordances

·         Bible Commentaries

                            iv.    Finishing the process

·         Review the context along with all your observations

·         Write down what the author is saying

o        in a few short paragraphs

o        using your own words

                b.  Matt 16:13-20

                            i.      Important Terms:

·         Caesarea Philippi

·         The Son of Man

·         The Christ

·         Son of the living God

·         Flesh and blood

·         My Father

·         Rock

·         Church

·         Hades

·         Keys

·         Kingdom of heaven

·         Bind/bound

·         Loose/loose





                            ii.     Context:

·         Surrounding verses

·         Chapter

·         Book

·         Bible


                            iii.    Cultural References

·         Caesarea Philippi

·         John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah


·         Simon Bar-Jonah

·         Church


                            iii.    Figurative Language

·         Flesh and blood

·         Peter/rock

·         Keys of the kingdom of heaven

·         Bind on earth/bound in heaven; loose on earth/loosed in heaven

                            iv. Summary paragraph

Questions regarding Matt 16:13-20

1. Why did Jesus wait until they reached Caesarea Philippi to ask this question?

2. Why did Jesus refer to himself as the Son of Man and Peter refer to him as the Son of God?

3. What is the significance of Jesus being the Christ? How would the Jews of that time understand this statement?

4. What is the rock upon which Jesus will build his Church?

5. What are the keys to heaven?

6. What does it mean to bind on earth or loose on earth?

7. Why does Jesus want his identity to remain secret?

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