THE CHALLENGE TO THE FUTURE CHURCH SHALL BASE ON BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION IN ERRORS BECAUSE THE HUNGER FOR ACCURATE LEARNING FOR INTERPRETATION IS GREATLY DIMINISHING.
On the first day of Lecturing at Kings International Theological Seminary, I overheard a student complain to the class that he wished the class were not required. My response was that he would probably find the class in (hermeneutics) foundational to every Bible study he would be involved in for the rest of his life.
That same kid apologized in class on the last day of class. He confessed that the course in biblical interpretation concepts had served as a foundation for all of his future Bible studies. He was sure that it was one of the most important things a Bible student could learn.
If you put forth the effort to complete this course. I am convinced that you will reach the same conclusion as I did. I still recall how much I enjoyed my first course in biblical interpretation concepts. That training is still a component of every Bible study I do.
In this training, the keyword is contexts. The training will begin with the smallest unit of study in Bible interpretation: individual words. From there the words, the grammar, immediate, book, Bible, cultural/historical, and genre contexts, in the last unit we will give you an opportunity to apply your knowledge of all these contexts to interpreting various passages.
Before you begin, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the list of Principles of Interpretation cited on this website. As you study these resources, they will become clear and useful tools for a lifetime of Bible study.
This training will address the fundamental principles of Bible interpretation by emphasizing a pattern of presenting the rule, showing the principle, and allowing students to practice interpretation. The course is organized into four sections. The first unit introduces students to the fundamental concept, presuppositions that influence interpretation, and a brief history of biblical interpretation. The second section explains the broad laws of interpretation that apply to all genres of writing. In the last unit, the student will be able to apply all of the principles to sample texts.
When you have completed this training, you should be able to;
1. Describe rules of interpretation associated with each of the six circles of context.
2. Justify the need for adhering to rules of interpretation when expositing the Bible.
3. Defend the truth that the goal of interpretation is first to determine what the original author meant to communicate to his original readers.
4. Explain the major systems of Bible interpretation found in Judaism and Christianity.
5. Apply rules of interpretation in the study of example passages of Scripture.
6. Distinguish between major types of biblical genres and the rules of interpretation associated with them.
7. Develops a pattern of personal Bible study based on the biblical principle of interpretation.
The Bible is the only textbook required although as a student, you are encouraged to have a Bible dictionary and concordance on hand. Most of the Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) 1978 Edition. Others were noted from the King James Version (KJV).
THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCURATE INTERPRETATION
It would be an understatement to argue that the church has never been more challenged in its efforts to uphold a solid biblical standard than it is now. Although the evangelical church is expanding rapidly, it continues to battle to maintain a high standard of purity, truth, and holiness.
This comes as no surprise. Since the time of Christ, no generation of Christians has faced the problem of worldly ideologies wanting to enter the church like our age does today. Every day, we are assaulted with incorrect teachings via various forms of mass media, including books, periodicals, and schools, all of which condemn our views. Even inside the church, “false teachers” have successfully amplified their skewed message through the media.
What are we to do? Run and hide? Surrender our Christian standards and ethics? No! I believe that the answer is clear-the church must be reinforced and strengthened by the consistent, accurate preaching of God’s word. Such a need is not only required by the commitment to Bible study but also careful attention to the principles of Bible interpretation. the principles that expand our minds to understand the truth while restricting our imaginations from going beyond it.
Work through the training development. Be sure to read all Scripture references given, do the required exercises, and check your answers. Be sure to keep your own Bible close as you study.
Take the self-test at the end of the lesson and check your answers carefully with those given. Review any item you answered incorrectly.
Understanding the key works we have listed at the beginning of each training will help you as you study. If you are in doubt about the meaning of any of the words on the list, you may look them up now or when you come across them in your reading.
THE CHALLENGE TO THE FUTURE CHURCH
The Unparalleled Need for Accurate in Interpretation (NOTE: As you move through this training, You will notice that Scriptures are often italicized for emphasis. These are the emphasis intended by the author). The Bible is the most popular book of all time. In its pages are the messages of salvation, the premier manual for godly living, and the chief source of comfort for untold millions. Its truth is of divine origin and our only authoritative explanation of who God I is and what He has done. It tells the origin of all things and predicts the final state of all things. It is credible for transforming lives and cultures and has influenced literature as no other document of all time.
Yet, in spite of its remarkable importance, the Bible is often interpreted more carelessly than a common novel. Since it is a book of divine origin, some feel that it does not need to be interpreted by normal rules of communication. Each person, some think, should interrupt the Bible as he or she sees fit, depending on “divine guidance.” If one were to accept this premise, then the Bible will contain as many meanings as interpreters. Others feel that a narrow, literal reading without regard for cultural or literary context is sufficient. Let’s look at just a few examples of the weakness of these arguments.
Quoting “Happy is he who …seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” (psalm 139:9), a twelfth-century crusader picked up an infidel baby and justified his brutal murder of an infant. In Colonial America and South Africa, newcomers from Europe quoted God’s order to Joshua to slay the Canaanites and claim their land as a Biblical basis for seizing land from the native populations. Just fifth years ago rallies in Nazi Germany featured ministers explaining how the extermination of the Jews was God’s will because they had asked for Christ’s blood to be on the heads of their children (Matthew 27:25).
Even within the church, the misinterpretations of Scripture are abundantly clear. Some of these distortions are merely curious, such as the millions who believe they actually drink Christ’s blood and eat His body when they celebrate communion. Others undermine solid doctrine by attempting to justify questionable practices, such as baptism for the dead (1corinthians 15:29), on the basis of one verse of scripture. Some simply confuse Christian believers and distort the image of the church to unbelievers.
One distortion of Scripture I notice recently was shown in a television documentary that described a church that includes snake handling and poisoning drinking as part of its worship. The members feel this increases their faith, claiming Christ’s promise of protection from such things in Mark 16:18 as the basis for their practice.
These few examples illustrate the foolishness of thinking that everyone should interpret the Bible in his own way. Without general guidelines for proper interpretation, the Bible will reflect men’s hearts rather than change them. But the Bible clearly interpreted and proclaimed according to the laws that govern human communication and has maintained remarkable success over the centuries. It is credited with overthrowing the slavery, vice, and corruption of the Roman Empire and with the transformation of scores of cruel cultures throughout the centuries. It has transformed the hearts and lives of millions of true believers. Certainly, a systematic study of how to interpret the Bible should be a priority for every serious Bible student.
In principles of Biblical interpretation, we will examine many examples of Biblical interpretation, including the correct interpretation of those passages just mentioned. Our goal will not be to memorize a list of rules but to learn habits of correct interpretation that will positively affect our Bible study for decades to come. Few courses can change your life like this one. Take advantage of it by prayerfully and diligently completing the study questions for every lesson and studying thoroughly for every exam.
The Unparalleled Opportunities to preach the word
History confirms the amazing revival recorded in Jonah. According to non-Biblical sources, the Ninevites, a cruel and warlike people, suddenly became quiet and peaceful. For one generation they ceased to attack their neighbours. This is an impressive social change brought about by one sermon! Nineveh –ripe for conversion-responded remarkably to the simple declaration of God’s message.
The world today is another huge Nineveh with over five billion citizens. And like Nineveh of old, it is ready to respond to the preaching of God’s message. This present openness is due in large part to the accelerated changes the world has experienced in this country.
It has been calculated that anyone born in 1900 and still living today would have experienced more changes in his lifetime than all of the generations together from Christ to the twentieth century. Such rapid changes have left millions not only bewildered but also disillusioned with their old religious practices. As a result, they are ready to receive the one true gospel message that does not change.
The Unparalleled Need To Teach the Word
This unparalleled opportunity for evangelism is accompanied by an unparalleled need for accurate and effective Bible teaching. Although it has never been easier to make a convert to Christ it has never been more difficult to make Disciples of Christ. The same chaotic atmosphere of the gospel can also discourage a steadfast, disciplined walk in the faith.
Apparently, the Ninevites also found it difficult to maintain a strong commitment, for a later chapter of history tells that the generation of peace was followed by a generation of war. Jonah refused to stay in Nineveh and nurture the new converts with the word of God. No wonder their children turned from God and became vicious enemies of His chosen people. Strange as it seems, this next generation of Ninevites attacked and destroyed Jonah’s own village as they sacked and pillaged Israel.
Reflecting on the attitude of Jonah sobers the modern believer. Faced with the opportunity to preach the Word of God and evangelize a city, he refused the challenge until God sent a huge fish to convince him. Later, confronted with a bustling revival, he spurned the opportunity to teach God’s word. Even when God sent a tiny worm to destroy his makeshift house and capture his attention, there is no indication that he changed his mind and stayed to teach the new converts.
The story of Jonah has two lessons for the modern church. First, the message of the BIG FISH is that we cannot ignore the open doors to preach the gospel. We must preach God’s word boldly to a word that has never been more open to receiving it. Second, the message of the SMALL WORM is that when God sends a revival He expects us to support the new converts with the Word of God-accurately interpreted and clearly taught.
Paul gives similar advice to those in charge of the new church in Ephesus. The growth of the new church was so outstanding that even Paul’s enemies admitted that nearly the entire province of Asia had been affected (Acts 19:26). In the wake of this great move of God. Paul warned that Satan would try to destroy the church by subtly attacking the message of the church.
For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Guard yourself and all the flocks of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:27-30).
Actually, Paul warned that Satan’s attacks would come from two directions: one from worldly philosophies that would attempt to compete with the message of the gospel, and the other equally as dangerous) from “distortions” of the Word that would come from within the flock. The antidote for both is the accurate teaching of the Word of God.
- 1. Circle the letter preceding each TRUE statement.
- a. The revival imitated by Jonah and its subsequent failure is indirectly confirmed by the record of secular history.
- b. Cultures that remain backward and unchanged over the years are easier to evangelize than those that experience progress and rapid change.
- c. Accurate Bible interpretation is less important today because the church has standardized its doctrine through the generations.
- d. According to the author, the church has never had a better opportunity to evangelize nor faced a more challenging time to disciple new Christians.
- e. In Acts 20:27-30, Paul warned the Ephesians church that after he left Satan’s primary attack would come in the area of physical persecution.
THE CHURCH LEADER’S PRIMARY TASK
I heard a story of a young kid who was enthralled by the narrative of Mutiny on the Bounty, which occurred over two hundred years ago on April 28, 1789. When part of the crew on the Bounty rebelled, they abandoned Captain Blight and eighteen crewmen in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The mutineers married Tahitian women and moved to Pitcairn, a little island off the coast of Australia. They battled between themselves to the point of killing each other, and those who survived perished as a result of intoxication and infections, until just one mutineer remained. Most readers will stop reading here, but being a Christian, I was even more intrigued to find that the Mutineers’ descendants became Christians.
What caused such a life-changing miracle? The last surviving mutineer started reading the ship’s Bible and was converted. He, in turn, taught the children of the mutineers to read and write from the Bible, reading it to them regularly. This custom continued and a missionary arrived and planted a more formal church.
This narrative exemplifies God’s word’s ability not just to alter a generation but also to sustain a vibrant church from generation to generation. This, in reality, is the weapon that the church must have in order to control both external and internal threats. It also demonstrates that one of the fundamental responsibilities of all church “shepherds” is to “feel” the church on God’s word. As a propositional (foundational) fact, we might say: Properly understood preaching and teaching of God’s word is critical to maintaining a biblically sound and triumphant church.
- 2. Based on the foundational truth you have just read, use the following questions to evaluate your own church. Underline the option that best answers each question.
- a. In my church the preaching and teaching of God’s word are:
Strongly emphasized/slightly emphasized/under-emphasized.
- b. The preacher in my church is generally:
Always well prepared/usually well prepared/seldom well prepared
- c. The evidence of care in interpreting the scripture is:
Generally apparent/sometimes apparent/seldom apparent.
THE DEFINITIONS OF KEY TERMS
Some terms are foundational to our study and will reappear over and over in the text. For this reason, we will define them before we begin our study.
The Definition of Hermeneutics;
There are rules of interpretation that govern how we interpret my communication. When we speak of the laws governing correct interpretation, we are not referring to a list that varies from person to person or even from secular to inspired writings. We are referring to the rules which people have used for thousands of years in understanding and relaying all forms of interpersonal communication. Generally, we apply these rules to interpretation automatically and unconsciously as we try to communicate.
However, as communication becomes increasingly complex, controversial, or removed from its source, specific rules of interpretation must be used consistently in order to understand correctly the transmission. Such rules, applied specifically to the interpretation of the Bible are called biblical hermeneutics.
Hermeneutics is the science that teaches us the laws and methods for interpreting communication. It also refers to the “art” of interpretation since these rules cannot be applied mechanically. The ancient Greek word hermeneutics is derived from the name of Hermes, the messenger of mythical Greek goals, who delivered and interpreted “divine” messages to mortals.
“Explained” is a word used 14 times in the New Testament to refer to “explaining” or “interpreting” communication. The word translated here as “explained” is diermeneuo, a form of the word which is translated as “hermeneutics” in our language. One clear example is found in Christ’s conversation with two men on the road to Emmaus – he explains to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.
- 3. Circle the letter preceding the phrase that correctly completes the following statement Biblical hermeneutics refers to
- a. Rules for interpreting the Bible that is completely different from rules for interpreting ancient literature.
- b. Guidelines governing the correct interpretation of any communication that is specifically applied to the Bible.
- c. The system of Bible interpretation the church developed to protect its doctrine against changing from one generation to another.
- d. An arbitrary method of Bible interpretation that rejects the supernatural element of scriptures.
The Definitions of General and Special Hermeneutics
There are two major types of biblical hermeneutics. One, known as general hermeneutics, refers to rules which apply to all biblical literature. (These general rules will be studied in Unit Two of this course). The other type, known as special hermeneutics refers to rules that apply only to distinctive forms of biblical literature such as parables, allegories, apocalyptic literature, prophecy, and poetry. (These rules will be studied in the third unit of this book.
Each set of rules is unique but not mutually exclusive (both can be used to study one passage). Any passage of scripture can be understood completely without the help of the special hermeneutical rules which relate specifically to that type of literature as well.
Rules for Literature Types
(Special Rules for Each Genre)
For example, knowing that Psalm 23 is a poetical form of literature written in figurative language enables a student to determine quite easily that God is not encouraging them to trust Him for every personal need.
- 4. In the blank preceding each of the following, write G if it refers to general hermeneutics or S if it refers to special hermeneutics.
- a. Rules that are applicable to all kinds of literature
- b. Rules that help one understand specific types of literature
- c. Exemplified by the unique rules that are involved in interpreting poetry and prophecy.
- d. Always used no matter what genre of literature is being interpreted.
The Definition of Exegesis and Eisogesis
Two other terms directly associated with the study of hermeneutics are exegesis and eisegesis. Exegesis comes from a Greek word that means “to guide out” and eisegesis comes from a word that means “to guide in”.
Thus, exegesis is the process of giving to the text to determine what it means, to “bring out” the interpretation.
Eisegesis, on the other hand, occurs when one approaches a text with prejudices and twists the Bible’s message to make it say what one wants it to say.
Eisegesis usually occurs when an interpreter ignores a rule of interpretation because it conflicts with his preconceived motions. For example, one young man determined that this partial verse excused his sin. “You are not under the law, but under grace: (Romans 6:14).
Actually, he missed the true meaning of the phrase by interpreting it apart from its context. He ignored a basic rule of hermeneutics which states that a verse cannot be interpreted in a manner that contradicts the flow of thought of the context in which it appears. The succeeding verse obviously contradicts the young man’s excuse to sin. It explains, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under the grace? By no means” (Romans 6:15).
One more distinction that will benefit your study of this course is the difference between hermeneutics and exegesis. In spite of the difficulties in getting used to their “foreign” appearance, the meanings of these words can be simplified like this: Hermeneutics is the study of the rules of biblical interpretation, while exegesis refers to the implementation of those rules.
- 5. Match the correct term (right) with each description (left).
- a. To guide in 1) Hermeneutics
- b. To guide out 2) Exegesis
- c. The use of rules of Bible interpretation 3) Eisegesis
- d. The study of the rules of the Bible interpretation
- e. To distort the Scriptures.
- 6. Ephesians 4:17 states, “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do. “Read the verse surrounding this passage and label each of the following interpretations as:
- 1. If the teaching is genuinely found in the text (exegesis)
- 2. If the teaching is artificially imposed on the text (eisegesis).
- a. The believer must maintain the customs of the Jews given in the Old Testament
- b. The believer should not take part in any of the customs practised by the unbelievers in his culture.
- c. The believers should not take part in things that characterize sinful nature as sensuality lying and stealing.
- d. The believer should avoid any new things such as modern appliances and new ways of doing things.
- e. The new concert should have a complete moral change in his life when he receives Christ.
THE NEED FOR GUIDELINES IN BIBLE INTERPRETATION
It can be said that the difference between mysticism and Christianity is the message of the Bible. Christianity is not founded on a vague notion of who God is, based on mystical guesswork: matter, it is built on the foundation of concrete, divine revelation.
Furthermore, superficial Christians are not interested in the correct interpretation of God’s word. Only true, mature Christians understand the seriousness and necessity of such a commitment. Only when believers consider the Bible the one source of faith and honestly interpret it according to fundamental rules of communication can it have an impact on their lives.
Why Did God Give Us The Bible?
Deuteronomy 29:29 distinguishes between the “secret things” that are known only by God and those things which He has chosen to “reveal” to man by His deeds and His word. These things He has chosen are contained in the Bible.
Just imagine trying to serve God without His written word. His redemptive act would be passed on to us through the ages as mere hearsay. His characteristics would be unknown, and every mystic would have a different opinion of God’s personality. The ways of salvation would be as varied as the persons proclaiming them.
Certainly, God reveals Himself indirectly through nature, redemptive acts, and divine miracles. However, if mankind’s revelation of God were limited to these things tremendous tendency would surely be to neglect, distort, or misinterpret His actions. In short, without a revelation recording and explaining God’s deeds, revealing His person, and describing His will, our faith would be reduced to the guesses of mystics. Obviously, every person would worship God in his own way.
To give people a written record of His will, Gog revealed Himself through inspiration. Inspiration is the miracle by which God records and explains His deeds and reveals His character and thoughts to man. In other words, it is the process by which God’s thoughts became available to us in written form. “This is what we speak, not in word taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” (1Corinthians 2:13).
Is It Necessary To Study Rules Of Interpretation?
Have you ever been misquoted? Perhaps you spoke to a person about a sensitive matter and he “interpreted” what you said to another person, completely missing your point. The result can be exasperating and even damaging to your character and friendships. You may have to explain a second time what you actually meant to communicate.
Likewise, God’s attempts to communicate with us are often misconstrued. How often He is “misquoted” by well-intentioned preachers who do not adhere to the universal rules of interpretation? Rightly enough, one pastor exclaimed in dismay; There is no folly, no God-dishonoring theology, no iniquity,….for which chapter and verse may not be cited by an enslaved intelligence” (Ramm 1970,3).
This occurs when the interpreter, through ignorance or by choice, sets aside the laws of interpretation. It is obvious that every trustworthy, reliable interpreter of God’s word needs to know the general rules that govern interpretation. Without a systematic application of these rules, there is no end to the errors that can be taught from the Bible.
The tendency would surely be to neglect, distort, or misinterpret His action. In short, without a revelation recording and explaining God’s deeds, His person, and describing His wills, our faith would be reduced to the guess of mystics. Obviously, every person would worship God in his own way.
To give people a written record of His will, God revealed Himself through inspiration. Inspiration is a miracle by which God records and explains His deeds and reveals His character and thoughts in man. In order words, it is the process by which God’s thoughts became available to us in written form. “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1Corinthians 2:13).
The need to agree on such general rules for interpretation is the second major presupposition” we will treat in his lesson. This truth is based on the fact that when God gave us His written revelation He did not communicate it in the language of angels for celestial beings to read and interpret to people. His message was given in normal human language for people to read and share with each other.
Believing this is true, it is only natural for us to establish rules for interpreting human communication that is applicable to interpreting the Bible as well, in fact, it is not just advisable but mandatory that we have rules controlling interpretation in order to prevent personal opinions or private “interpretation” from being interwoven into the precepts of Scripture.
This truth is often misunderstood, so let’s pause a moment and explain what having rules of Bible interpretation does and does not imply:
|THIS MEANS THAT: THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT:|
|1. General rules of interpretation are obvious and can be agreed on. |
2. The Spirit gave the Word in ‘human language’ and yet protected it from human error.
3. The Bible is unique in its origin, purpose, and veracity, but it is human in its means of communication.
|1. A minute list of rules can be: ‘canonized’ by the church. |
2. The Holy Spirit’s work in illumination is confined by man-made rules.
3. The Bible is no different from other books or that it is merely another ancient book to interpret.
Compare the statements in the chart with each statement in this exercise. Then circle the letter preceding each statement that correctly describes what is implied by having a list of guidelines for interpreting the Bible.
A man-made list of rules is necessary because most people do not know how to depend on the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is divine in its origin and message but human in its means of communication. Guidelines of interpretation for the Bible are necessary to determine if an interpretation is correct or not.
Rules of Bible interpretation enable church leaders to control the church for their own purposes.
The fact that human language was used for the Bible implies that normal rules for interpreting human communication are applicable to it too.
Suppose a friend asked you what hermeneutics was and why you were studying it. Could you explain it simply and give at least three reasons why you want to study this course?
After you have reviewed this lesson, take the self-test. Then check your answers with those given in your student packet. Review any question you answered incorrectly.
MULTIPLE CHOICE. Circle the letter preceding the best answer to each question.
- 1. According to the author, it has never been easier to
- a) Evangelize not more difficult to administer the affairs of the church
- b) Evangelize and harder to discipline
- c) Disciple new converts
- d) Both evangelize and disciple.
- 2. According to the author, the primary messages taught in Jonah are that we should evangelize boldly and
- a) Leave the result to God
- b) Not fear the rejection of men
- c) Live a pure life before God
- d) Disciple the new converts.
- 3. The practice of rules of interpretation in which the true meaning is drawn out of the text is called
- a) Eisegesis
- b) Paragesis
- c) Exegesis
- d) Epigenesist.
- 4. Rules of interpretation that take into account the various differences in genre types are called
- a) Direct hermeneutics
- b) Specific hermeneutics
- c) Applied hermeneutics
- d) Special hermeneutics
- 5. Hermeneutics can be defined as the
- a) Error of reading something into a text that the original author did not intend
- b) Science that teaches the laws and methods for interpretation
- c) Study of the differences between modern culture and biblical culture
- d) Research the interpretations of great church leaders to help with a modern interpretation.
- 6. Which of the following statement is NOT a true description of inspiration?
- a) Inspiration refers to a specific type of God-given revelation in which God’s message is written by an author who was moved by the Holy Spirit.
- b) Without a written revelation and God’s general revelation (revealed through nature), our faith would be reduced to subjective mysticism.
- c) Inspiration is the miracle by which God records and explains His deeds and reveals His character and thoughts in a written form.
- d) The inspiration of the Scriptures is just one of several ways in which God reveals the truth about how to be saved.
ALTERNATE CHOICE: Read each set of questions carefully and write your answer in the space preceding each numbered item.
7-11. it is necessary to study Biblical hermeneutics because of ‘gaps’ between the original writer and the modern audience. Label the examples below as
- A. If they represent a cultural gap.
- B. If they represent a geographical historical gap
7. Understanding the custom of ‘Corban” referred to in Mark 7:11
8. Appreciating the travelling conditions that the children of Israel experienced on the Exodus.
9. Discovering who Herod the Great was and why he felt threatened by Christ’s birth
10. Interpreting the meaning of the “kinsmen redeemer” in the book of Ruth
11. Seeing the book of Isaiah against the backdrop of the political times in which he lived.
12-18. in this training, the author asserted that there are universal rules of interpretation that must govern the correct interpretation of Scripture.
Write A if the statement correctly describes what the author meant.
Write B if the statement does NOT describe what the author meant.
12. Universal rules of interpretation help protect believers from human distortions in the interpretation of the Bible.
13. Rules of interpretation help the church control its people by dictating how the Bible is to be interpreted.
14. The Bible is no different from any other ancient literature; so its interpretation requires no special attention.
15. The principles of interpretation are a minute list of rules of interpretation that are obvious and can canonize by the church.
16. The rules of biblical hermeneutics are general rules of interpretation that are obvious and can be generally agreed upon.
17. The Bible is unique in its origin, purpose, and veracity but human in its means of communication.
18. Without rules of biblical hermeneutics there cannot be a definite standard of determining if an interpretation is correct or incorrect.
SHORT ANSWER briefly answers the following questions.
19. Explain why correct Bible interpretation is important for your church.
20. Do you feel it is necessary to study principles of Bible interpretation systematically? Explain your answer.
These answers have been mixed so that you will not accidentally see the answer to the next question before you have written your own response. Please do not look ahead but write your own answer to each of the questions before comparing it with the one we have given. This will help you to remember what you have studied.
- 1. Statements a and d are true:
- 7. Some suggested answers:
Without inspiration, our understanding of God and salvation would be completely subjective. Everyone would worship God in his own way and have a personal standard of salvation. There would be a tendency to neglect, distort, and misinterpret God’s revelation through nature, actions and so on.
- 2. Your own answer.
- 8. b) records and explain God’s deeds.
d) Reveals God’s character and serves as an absolute standard of His will.
- 3. b) guidelines governing the correct interpretation of any communication that is specifically applied to the Bible.
- 9. Suggested reasons:
- 1) Without a systematic application of rules of interpretation, there can be no control over how the Bible is interpreted, and there is no standard to judge whether an interpretation is correct.
- 2) Some Bible texts are naturally difficult, and the distance in time, culture, and history between the writer and the reader make knowledge of the rules imperative.
10. a 2) Linguistic Gap
B 1) Cultural Gap
C 4) Time Gap
D 3) Historical-Political Gap
E 3) Historical-Political Gap
F 2) Linguistic Gap.
5 a 3) Eisegesis
B 2) Exegesis
C 2) Exegesis
D 1) Hermeneutics
E 3) Eisegesis
11. Statements b, c, a, d, e, are correct descriptions.
6 a 2) Eisegesis
b 2) Eisegesis
c 1) Exegesis
d 2) Eisegesis
e 1) Exegesis
12. The most important three reasons for me are:
1) The message of the Bible is so crucial that we must be careful to understand the role of interpretation.
2) We are so removed from the Bible message that we need to study diligently the correct rules of interpretation.
3) Each of us has perspectives and prejudices that must be restricted by correct rules of interpretation.
LIST OF PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION CITED
Presuppositions About Bible Interpretation
Presuppositions About the Task of the Interpreter
- 1. The preaching and teaching of the Word of God, correctly interpreted, is crucial to maintaining a biblical sound church.
- 2. There are universally accepted laws of understanding communication that apply to the interpretation of the Bible as well.
- 3. The only valid interpretation of a Bible passage is the one that is based on the writer’s original intent.
- 4. All principles and applications of a Bible passage must be consistent with the writer’s original intent for the passage.
- 1. A believer’s obedience to the Word directly affects his capacity to interpret the Word of God accurately.
- 2. Illumination enlightens the interpreter’s mind and transforms his attitude to receive the Word but does not reveal new truth to him.
- 3. While illumination is the Spirit’s gift, the comes only as the interpreter engages in his task.
Presuppositions About the Bible
- 1. The Bible is the only rule for faith and conduct that the believer has.
- 2. The Bible is God’s revelation to man, and it is inspired in its entirety by individual words.
- 3. Because the Holy Spirit uses the personality and circumstances of the human author, these are important to consider in interpreting the Scriptures.
Principles Related to the Individuals Words and Grammar Context
- 1. The meaning of a phrase must be consistent with the sense of its immediate context.
- 2. The interpretation of a passage must be consistent with the flow of thought of the chapter and book in which is found.
Principles Related to the Bible and Cultural/Historical Context
1. Scripture interprets Scripture.
- a. The Bible is absolutely consistent and cannot contradict itself in matters of doctrine or ethics or historical fact.
- b. The teaching of clear and multiple passages should have precedence over the apparent teaching of obscure passages.
- c. Biblical revelation was given in a progressive manner so that some passages reflect partial teaching of a truth
- d. A doctrine should not be considered biblical unless it sums up and includes all that scripture says.
2. Although the books of the Bible are “co-authored,” God protected them from any error, in fact, doctrine, or ethical practice.
3. The historical occurrence of an event, whether involving God or men, cannot be the only be is for establishing a doctrine.
a. The meaning of historical events must be based on the Bible’s own direct interpretation of those events.
b. The practice of a custom may illustrate an eternal truth but cannot be the basis for its teaching
c. Some actions, customs, and events are important only as they help to form a broader concept. In each case, overstressing their “spiritual” importance would distort the primary teaching of the passage.
d. A command to a group or an individual may be either a pattern for all (prescriptive) or merely the record of a historical event (descriptive).
Principles of Special Hermeneutics
- 1. Every passage has only one meaning to discover. Sometimes that meaning is expressed directly and sometimes it is stated indirectly through figurative language.
1. Right-hand column lists the lesson in the training in which the word is first used.
- 2. Allegorizing – the practice of finding false allegories in scripture (particularly Old Testament narratives) that are completely foreign to the original intent of the Bible author.
- 3. Allegory – story in which people, places, and happenings have a hidden or symbolic meaning
- 4. Compassion – indirect reference to (For example, some texts in the New Testament allude to Old Testament texts without actually quoting them.)
- 5. Antecedent – word substituted by a pronoun (God, for example, is the antecedent for He in this phrase: “He gave His Son.”)
- 6. isomorphism – a figure of speech that refers to God as having some human characteristic Apparent
- 7. Cross-reference – words, phrases, and events in parallel Bible passages that are not true cross-references (Christ’s feeding of the 4000 and the 5000 are only “apparent” cross-references.)
- 8. Allographa – the “original” manuscript of a Bible book penned by the Bible author himself.
- 9. Chronological – in order of time; the record of historical events given in exact order
- 10. Circle of context – what “surrounds” or is in the background of a word or passage of scripture (The six circles of context are the grammar, immediate, book, Bible, cultural/historical, and genre contexts.)
- 11. Couplet – two successive lines of poetry that are connected by meter, though, or rhyme
- 12. Context – all that surrounds a passage of the Bible, including the paragraphs immediately before and after it
- 13. Cross-reference – a parallel word, event, or concept found in another passage of the Bible.
- 14. Descriptive reference – a descriptive of action or custom in the Bible that is not meant to teach a direct truth but only records what happened as the historical background to the story or teaching (For example, Jacob’s polygamy is not condemned in the Bible but is not meant to be an example for all believers.
- 15. Demythologize – to remove the myth from; describes a theory whose supporters believe that the Bible’s miracles are simply myths that hide spiritual truth (The interpreter’s job is, therefore, to remove the myth to find this truth.)
- 16. Hermeneuo – Greek word meaning interpreter (The word hermeneutics comes from a form of this word.)
- 17. Dispensation – progressive stages in which God is working out His plan to restore His kingdom on earth; belief that God deals differently with a man in each stage but the means of salvation does not change from stage to stage.
- 18. Eisogesis – erroneous form of Bible study in which the student tries to “put into” the biblical passage something that was not intended by the original author
- 19. Epic – large story made up of multiple sub-plots (events, stories)
- 20. Episode – outstanding incident or experience in the life of a person, history of a country and so on
- 21. Etymology – account or explanation of the origin of a word
- 22. Exegesis – a correct form of Bible study in which the student “draws out” the correct meaning of a biblical text
- 23. Existentialism – a philosophy that developed as a reaction against extreme rationalism (depend on reason as the sole judge of truth); emphasized the importance of subjective personal experience in grasping the truth, in addition to reason (Those who hold this philosophy do not believe we can know absolute truth or have absolute moral standards.)
- 24. Flow of thought – the way in which smaller thoughts combine to form a larger thought
- 25. Genre – style or type of literature such as “poetry,” “proverbs,” and “parables”
- 26. Gnosticism – an ancient form of spiritism that found its way into the early church; did not allow for sin or for Christ to be both human and divine.
- 27. Hermeneutics – the study of rules of interpretation (biblical hermeneutics refers to rules specification used to study the Bible); also involves the “art” of Bible interpretation, as the rules cannot be applied mechanically
- 28. Historically specific – a reference to an event or custom used to illustrate a truth but in itself not meant to be a pattern for all believers
- 29. Historical narrative – a genre of the Bible in which the writer records history in prose (direct), often in the form of epics and stories
- 30. Hyperbole – a figure of speech that overstates or exaggerates for the sake of effect
- 31. Illumination – the divine work in the heart of the believer, aiding him in understanding and applying the Bible to his own life
- 32. Immediate context – the material (usually a paragraph) immediately before and after a passage
- 33. Irony – a figure of speech used to say the opposite of what one actually means
- 34. Metaphorical – speech or writing that uses abundant figures of speech
- 35. Metaphor – an implied comparison between two different things
- 36. Metonymy – a figure of speech that substitutes a name for an attribute it has or something associated with it (For example, “The pen—power of literature—is mightier than the sword.”)
- 37. Aidrash – a collection of rabbinical commentary and explanatory notes on the scriptures written between the exile and the 13th century A.D.
- 38. Multi-plot – a word that describes a larger story made up of many smaller stories
- 39. Normative – teaching that directly teaches “rules” (norms) for living and faith
- 40. Occasional document – a document written to a specific audience in response to a specific occasion (Many of the epistles of the Bible are occasional documents.)
- 41. Parallelism – a form of poetry used in the Bible in which thoughts in the first half of a couplet are paralleled in the second half.
- 42. Parameters – a term used to define limits; in relation to s story of the Bible, the start and finish
- 43. Personification – a figure of speech in which an inanimate object is described as if it were a living thing
- 44. Presher – a method of interpretation, used by mystical Jews of Jesus’ day in which the interpreter found current politics, etc., hidden in the text of the Old Testament
- 45. Henomemenal language – in relation to biblical interpretation, refers to the way in which the writers of scripture wrote from their perspective: as they saw things as opposed to a more scientific approach (For example, they might say the sun rises when, of course, the world rotates around the sun.)
- 46. Prescriptive reference – that which prescribes or gives direct instruction to all Christians of all times
- 47. Presupposition – what is assumed in advance to be a fact
- 48. Prose – the ordinary form of spoken or written language
- 49. Protagonist – the hero or heroine of a story
- 50. Septuagint – the first translation of the Old Testament into Greek; Greek for seventy, the number of scholars who worked on the translation.
- 51. Setting – the background of a historical narrative or play, including the location, time, and circumstances
- 52. Simile – a direct comparison that uses the words “as” “like,” and similar terms
- 53. Stanza – a group of lines of poetry, usually four or more, arranged according to a fixed pattern
- 54. Strophe – division of a poem that is much like a paragraph division in prose
- 55. Synecdoche – a figure of speech that uses a part for the whole or whole for the part (For example, “Jacob” is used to refer to all Israelites.)
- 56. Symbol – a metaphor that has become so associated with what it illustrates that it is fixed as a common representation of that thing, concept, person, nation, and so on (For example, the fig tree is commonly used as a symbol of Israel.)
- 57. Term – a word found within a phrase
- 58. Triad – having three parts
- 59. Type – a prophetic symbol found in the Old Testament that finds its fulfilment or what it represents (the antitype) in the New Testament.
Awesome meeting you here studying biblical interpretation. Click the next topic to continue your study and I pray for more illumination from the Holy Spirit.