Rules for Interpreting the Word
Rules and Helps For Interpreting
Rules for Interpreting
o The Univocal Nature of Language - is meaning in front of or behind the text?
§ Umpires Worldview
· Pre-Modern - I call it what it is
· Modern - I call it what I interpret it is
· Post-Modern - What I call it it is
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 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.
John 6:47-65 - Christ’s blood and body - is it transubstantiation?
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 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.
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
· A text can never mean what it never meant
· Whenever we share comparable particulars with the first century setting, God’s Word to us is the same as His Word to them (Col. 3:12)
· The Problem of particulars that are not comparable - pg 67-68
§ OT Narrative
· What are Narratives? Simply, they are stories.
· What Narratives are not?
o Just stories about people
o Allegories or stories filled with hidden meanings
· What Narratives are?
o Stories about what God did through those people
o They are many times hard to understand
· Principles for Interpreting Narratives
o OT Narratives usually don’t directly teach a doctrine
o They usually illustrate a doctrine taught elsewhere
o They record what happened -- not necessarily what should have happened
o What people do in narrative is not necessarily a good example for us
o All narratives are selective and incomplete
o Narratives are not written to answer all our theological questions
o God is the hero of all biblical narratives
· Much is narrative
§ The Gospels
· Much is narrative
§ The Parables
· Story of earthly things with a heavenly meaning
· There is one main point - GS
§ The Law
· The Old Testament law is a covenant
o A binding contract between two parties
o Both parties have obligations specified in the covenant
· The Old Testament is not our testament
o We are no longer under this covenant
o Laws are binding to us if renewed in the New Testament - Romans 6:14-15
· Some stipulations of the Old Covenant have clearly not been renewed in the New Testament
o The Israelite civil laws
o The Israelite ritual laws
· Part of the Old Covenant is renewed in the New Testament
o Some parts of the OT ethical law - Mt 22:40; Deut. 6:5
· All of the Old Testament law is still the Word of God for us even though it is not still the command of God to us
o There are many commands that God wants us to know about even though they are not directed toward us personally
o We read about the Law, but it is not the law to us
· Only what is explicitly renewed from the Old Testament law can be considered part of the New Testament “law of Christ”.
o Gal 6:2; Matt 5:21-37
§ The Prophets
§ The Psalms
· Hebrew poetry was addressed to the mind through the heart - it is intentionally emotive
· Psalms are not just any kind of poems, they are musical poems - it is meant to evoke a response that is more that goes beyond cognitive understanding
· The vocabulary of poetry is purposefully metaphorically - Ps. 59:7 (sharp pain that comes from lies); Ps. 23 is not a treatise against city living
· Each psalm must be read as a literary unit
§ The Wisdom
· Proverbs are not guarantees from God - “train up a child…”
· Proverbs are worded to be memorable, not to be theoretically accurate - no proverb is so perfectly worded that it applies in every situation at every time
· Proverbs give good advice for wise approaches to life, but are not exhaustive in there coverage
§ The Revelation
“How To Read The Bible For All It’s Worth” by Fee & Stuart, Zondervan
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
I close tonight by looking back at what God’s Word is. It is God’s revealed truth to us concerning the unfolding of His redemptive plan through the ages to bring about glory to Himself. And we must interpret that revelation with precision as we meditate on the Word. It is a vital task that we all must give ourselves to. As we have looked at these truths, the one question that we must keep in front of us is, am I daily and diligently giving myself to the wonderful task of knowing God and meditating on Him through spending time in the revealed truth of His Word?