Hermeneutics/How to Interpret the Bible
Published November 23rd, 2022
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List five ways that the nature of the Bible as the Word of God will affect how you interpret your chosen text. 1) It will build up my respect, fear, and thankfulness for the word of God. 2) It will drive me to cross references in scripture to go deeper and get cleaner understanding of the Word. 3) It will also have me go to other good reading material to give me guard rails to make sure I’m on track. Such as good commentaries. 4) It warns me to get it right and get technical. to look at the grammar, syntax, original languages, and to do sentence diagramming correctly to honor Him and make sure I’m reading him rightly. 5) The nature of God’s word will drive me to my knees to pray for understanding and wisdom. I ncline my heart to you, not to prideful gain or any false motive. ( Psalm 119:36 ) O pen my eyes to behold wonderful things in your Word. ( Psalm 119:18 ) U nite my heart to fear your name. ( Psalm 86:11 ) S atisfy me with your steadfast love. ( Psalm 90:14 ) #1 Interpret the Bible according to its nature as the Word of God. * The Bible is to be understood in order to be any value to you. ( Col 1:16 ; Matt 13:19 , 23 ) * The Bible is infallible and inerrant. The Bible is perfect, pure, and unchanging. Cannot lie to you. It will never fail. ( Ps 19:7-9 ; Titus 1:1-3 ) * The Bible has ultimate authority. Giving your life to God also means giving your life to His Word. ( Matt 28:16-20 ;Deu 6:4-9) Application: 1) Seek to read the authors thoughts after him 2) submit to the truth revealed 3) Observe all that you see 4) Ask Questions 5) Compare different translations #2 1)Interpreting scripture can be interrupted by your sin. ( Matthew 16:1-4 ) whether it be by seeking personal signs or being skeptical. ( Lev 19:26 ; Luke 24:25-27 ) 2) Be a disciple under the text of scripture. ( Luke 10:38-42 ) 3) Be watchful over your heart which can lead to misinterpretation. 4)With living faith you can understand scripture. ( 1 Cor 2:11-13 ) Application: Way to apply lesson 2: 1)search the message in the text itself 2)interpret the Bible alone 3)believe what is written 4)flee from sin 5)be willing to learn. #3 Follow the Bible’s own hermeneutic - by principle and by the example 1) An influence can provide you a foundation in hermeneutic ( 2 Tim 2:10-11 ; 3:14-15 ) 2) the Bible refines and develops our hermeneutic ( Ps 119:130 ; John 14:25-26 ) 3) Scripture itself can give us understanding 4) Read the Bible how God intends for us to interpret the book 5) God helps us with interpretation with our minds, heart, strength, and faith so we can see Himself in scripture. ( Luke 24:44-45 ; 2Cor 4:4-6 ; Eph 3:14-19 ; Mark 4:11-12 ; Matt 13:16 ; Matt 16:16-17 ) Application: 1)Don’t be afraid to go to someone to help with biblical hermeneutic foundation 2) pick up the Bible and Read 3) pray to God for help 4) Meditate on his word 5) read the Bible how it wants me to interpret it #4 We are to interpret the Bible in its historical context. * Recognize the Bible is written for you ( Romans 15:4 ) * You must bridge the gap between the historical context of a Bible passage and our own context. ( 2 Timothy 3:16 ) * The Bible is enough to provide us all that we need to interpret the text rightly ( 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ) Application: * Look at the Bible itself * Seek to know the Bible as the authors did * Look at the Bible within its own culture and your own culture * Look for differences and similarities *Never mess with what the text clearly says Identify any unknown background details stated in the text (places, names, historical events, figures of speech, cultural practices, etc.). Search for any other biblical references to the same (or closely related) details. Supplement your study with historical/cultural background resources. Describe how the original readers/hearers would have understood this text. Assess the cultural differences. What has changed across cultures? What has stayed the same? Discern the timeless truths the passage communicates. (Think especially with reference to the nature of God, man, sin, salvation.) Examine your own cultural context. What related cultural assumptions and beliefs do we hold? Apply the theological principles across the cultural gap to our contemporary lives. #5 Recognize and Respect the Bible of its genres. Realize that the Bible has various genres (2: Peter 1:21; Luke 1:1-4 ) Realize the Bible genres are also true and trustworthy ( Proverbs 30:5 ) Recognize genre is the servant of the author with the intention to help us communicate the meaning in the passage ( 2 Tim. 3:16-17 ) Apply: Stick to the key law of interpretation for the specific genre at hand in the text. Seek what the author intends to communicate. Let the text speak for itself stay away from your own ideas. Study the genre set before you in the scripture. #6 You are demanded to interpret the Word theologically. 1) Interpret the word through its story line. ( Ga 3:15-29 ) 2)interpret the word with the whole Bible ( Ga 3:6-14 ) 3) Interpret the word with others ( Eph 4:12 ; Col 3:16 ) 4) Interpret the word for obedience ( Mic 6:8 ) Apply 1) I will use a timeline; understand where the text lies in the story of redemption that leads up to Christ. 2) I will combine and summarize the facts given with regards to systematic theology. 3)I will not be prideful if I do not know something; I will seek help from others. 4) Meditate on what truths to believe, how to feel, and what to do with the life I am given. Biblical Theology : Interpret the Bible through its storyline—understand where a text lies in the story of redemption through Christ. Locate your passage on the Bible’s storyline. Ask, how should its place on the storyline guide interpretation? Ask, are there any key themes, patterns, or symbols in this passage that connect to other points on the storyline? Systematic Theology : Interpret the Bible by what the whole Bible teaches—collect a number of texts and conclude how they cumulatively answer a theological question. Identify key theological topics in your passage. Collect Scripture references from the whole Bible. Summarize their truth into a single, unified point. Interpret your passage in light of that point. Historical Theology : Interpret the Bible with others—learn from teachers, dead and alive, testing what they say by Scripture. Talk to your pastors and other mature believers. Talk to believers from church history. Practical Theology : Interpret the Bible for obedience—apply a text to the way you should think, feel, and act. Apply the passage to your head (the way you think). Apply the passage to your heart (the way you feel). Apply the passage to your hands (the way you act). #7 The Bible demands that we interpret it with Christ as the key. 1) Interpret the Bible with Christ as key. ( John 1:14 , 18 ; Col 1:16 ; Luke 24:25-27 ) 2) Holy Spirit is author unites all authors to reveal Christ ( 2 Peter 1:19-21 ) 3) read OT and NT with Christ as key. ( 1 Peter 1:12 ; John 20:31 ) 4) Christ is patterned, promised, present in the OT ( Col 2:17 ; Isa. 53 ; Isa 6) 5) NT can directly (person and work) and indirectly (casting vision of life that is founded in Christ and uproots from the gospel) reveal Christ ( Jn 3:16 ; Col 3:18-19 ) 6) read OT and NT in church view ( 1 Cor 10:11 ; Col 4:16 ) Apply: 1) Follow the principles for Christ as the key(answer, house, ignition, keystone) 2) read with church in view 3) pray hard, study hard, ask questions 4) focus on Christ The Four Keys: The “answer” key - Understanding how Jesus fulfills the Bible’s patterns, promises, and problems. The “house” key - Understanding how Jesus and his gospel unlock the full meaning and implications of an OT text. The “ignition” key - Understanding how Jesus empowers the church to obey. The “keystone” - Understanding how Jesus unites and makes sense of the whole Bible and all creation. 2. The OT with Christ as the key Christ is patterned, promised, and present in the OT.¹ Christ Patterned : “House” Key: How do Christ and his gospel reveal the full meaning and implication of this OT text?; “Answer” Key Reading forward: How do the events, people, places, institution, story, etc. in this text pattern Christ’s person and work? Reading backward: How does the gospel reveal the full meaning of this OT pattern? Christ Promised : Reading forward: Are there any specific prophecies or larger themes that promise Christ and his gospel in this text? Reading backward: Consider how Christ fulfills that promise and how that promise comes to the church through Christ. Christ Present : How is Christ present in this text? Reading forward : What does this OT text reveal about the Lord Jesus and his character? Reading backward: What about the revelation of God in Christ brings light to this OT text? 3. Reading the NT with Christ as the key Many NT texts reveal Christ directly by speaking about his person and work. What does this text reveal about Christ’s person and work? What OT patterns , problems , or promises provide context for how this NT text reveals Christ? Some NT texts reveal Christ indirectly by casting a vision for life that is rooted in Christ and grows out of his gospel. How is this text rooted in Christ’s person and work? How do Christ’s person and work make this identity real or this calling possible? What does this text reveal about Christ’s person and work? 4. Reading with the Church in View The OT: How does this OT text anticipate and reveal the church’s identity and mission? The NT: By revealing Christ or growing out of his work, what does this NT text reveal about the church’s identity and mission? #8 Use Scripture as the Bible uses Scripture 1) If you do not use scripture as the Bible demands, it will lead you to sinful practice and worship. (2 Peter 2; Rev 2:14-16 , 20-23 ; Gal 1:6-7 ; 2:4 ) 2) Use and live on scripture rightly. (2 Peter 3; Deu 8) 3) Treat OT narrative as real stories, that reveal God, culminate Christ, and corrects His Church. (Deu 5:15; 1 Cor 10:6-11 ; 1 Cor 10) 4) Treat Mosaic Law as a contextual code, reveals God, that is fulfilled by Christ, which instructs us to love God and love our neighbor. (Romans 9-11; psalm 119; Matt 5:17 ; Deu 6:4-9; Lev 19:18 ) 5) Use Prophecy as trustworthy books, that reveals God, fulfilled in and by Christ, and courages and warns the church. (Acts 15; 2 Cor 1:20 ; 1 Peter 2:4-10 ) 6) Use OT wisdom that shows us path to live life and flourish, reveals God, fulfilled by Christ, and guides the church. ( Prov 1:1-7 ; Prov 3; Psalm 1:1-2 ; Heb 12:5 ) 7) Use Gospels rightly which testify to us what God has done in Christ to establish the new covenant to provide the ground for churches for faith and practice, also fulfills OT, reveals Christ, and establishes the church (1 Tim 5; 1 Cor 11:17-34 ) 8) Use epistles as real letters, from Christ, sent to specific churches and individuals; for the whole church ( Col 1:1 ; Col 4:6 ; 2 Tim 2:2 ) 9) See Revelation as a revelation of Jesus, which reveals Christ Himself, which encourages and warns the church ( Rev 1:1 ; 1:5 , 17-18 ; Rev 14:4 ; 12:11 ) Apply: 1) Follow the Bible’s rules for each genre of the Bible in using Scripture. 2) Use Scripture as God, the Author, look for his intention. 3) Don’t look for your own intention. 4) Look in the Bible to develop doctrine, ethic, order worship that God loves and intends for me to see and know. The Old Testament Use OT narratives as true stories that reveal God, culminate in Christ, and edify the church. Use the Mosaic Law as a contextual law code that reveals God, is fulfilled by Christ, and instructs the church in love. Use OT promises and prophecies as trustworthy revelation that reveals God, is fulfilled in and by Christ, and encourages and warns the church. Use OT wisdom literature as a pathway for flourishing that reveals God, is fulfilled by Christ, and guides the church. The New Testament Use the Gospels as covenant-establishing testimonies that fulfill the OT, reveal Christ, and establish the church. Use NT epistles as contextual letters from Christ for the whole church. Use the book of Revelation as a trustworthy revelation from Christ that reveals Christ to encourage and warn the church. #9 We are demanded to interpret the scriptures and to apply it. #1 Interpretation and application go hand in hand. (Matthew 12; Hosea 6:6 ) #2 God wants interpretation to lead to application. ( 2 Tim 3:16-17 ; James 1:22-25 ) #3 Application must be vertical and horizontal ( Matthew 22:37-39 ) #4 Do not fall into just giving rules ( Gal 3:1-6 ) #5 Do not neglect on telling people on how shall we live in Christ. Genuine faith produces obedience. ( 1 John 2:3-6 ) #6 Gospel truths empowers us and gives us motivation to please God ( Col 1:10 ) Application: Do not just provide rules with no Christ. Also do not provide just Christ and no rules to follow in order for us to live in Him. Follow biblical template for application in vertical and horizontal application. I do this in order for me to worship Him and so that others will worship Him. vertical application: Commands : “How does this passage teach me what it means to love God?” Means : “How does this passage empower me to love God?” Motivations : “How does this passage motivate me to love God?” Anchors : “How does this passage anchor my love for God in truths about him?” Horizontal Application Church : God calls us to teach others in song, to give thanks always, and to submit to one other ( Eph 5:18–21 ). Family : God calls wives to submit to their husbands, and husbands to sacrificially love their wives, after the pattern of Christ and the church. God also calls children to obey their parents, and fathers (and by implication mothers) to bring up their children in godliness ( Eph 5:22–6:4 ). Work : If you are an employee, God calls you to work hard as one who ultimately serves Christ. If you are an employer, God calls you to supervise humbly and justly as a co-servant of Christ together with your employees ( Eph 6:5–9 ). Government : God calls you to submit to governing authorities, honor them, and pay taxes ( Rom 13:1–7 ; 1 Pet 2:13–17 ). At the same time, he calls us to live as citizens of his kingdom in a manner worthy of Christ ( Mk 12:17 ; Phil 1:27 ; 1 Pet 2:9–12 ). Everyone : God calls you to do good to everyone, especially to fellow Christians ( Gal 6:10 ) and to the poor and marginalized ( Deut 10:17–18 ; Gal 2:10 ; 1 Tim 5:3 ; Jas 1:27 ). #10 You must work hard and stay in the scriptures to achieve the goal of interpreting it faithfully. 1) Stay prepared, have mind right, and study hard. 1 Peter 1:13 ; 1 Tim 2:15 2) Be curious and give the scripture full attention 1 Peter 1:10-12 Apply: Do word studies. Look for the logic of the text. Observe the grammar. Labor on rewriting the passage in your own words so that you can see if you are seeing the intent of the author. Seek out scripture in whole Bible to interpret your passage by using cross references. Put away all distractions. Don’t be lazy. Give your best. Don’t be afraid to get technical. Slow down . Nearly everything in our culture and within us resists this. Multitasking and efficiency are high priorities in our modern world. So, it is vital that you deliberately slow down to read carefully. Read, re-read, and re-read again. Be relentlessly curious . Ask questions, even the obvious ones. Let one question lead to another. Consider all the possible answers and then weigh their merits. Don’t be afraid to let a hard question linger. At the same time, don’t let the vital questions go unanswered forever.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.