Interpretation…what is going on?

      Most people interpret scripture poorly.  Thus, they can make the Bible fit whatever they are seeking to okay in their life.  If you take one verse alone and isolated, it is a dangerous weapon to use for your own war (pick your soap box and go for it).  However, the Bible was written, inspired by God, for the purposes of God…not as a feel good instrument for us.  

Have you ever had one line of a letter, email, text (or a tweet or status update) be taken by someone in the exact opposite way you intended?  The reader needs to look at your intent in the context of who you are and the context of what is going on instead of isolating comments apart from context.  It is the same way when we begin studying God’s word.  This is why a devotional can be dangerous.  A person may take an isolated text to back up their personal opinion or may base an opinion on one verse as they interpret it and miss the total context in which God wants us to see His character.  We can get off track faster that you can say Amen.  

Rules for Interpreting Scripture

We interpret by…

CONTEXT                        or                        EXPERIENCE

(A note on experience…As those from the Post-modern generation, we often think our experience of the world is our only truth.  God’s word says that He is Truth.)

  • Historical, Circumstantial Background–When you read, ask what is going on historically?  What are the circumstances and customs?  (A good study Bible will aid you in this)

Every verse must be considered in light of

  • The surrounding verses and chapters
  • The book in which it is found
  • The entire Word of God
  • Christ
  • The clear interprets the unclear
  • That which is said multiple times interprets what is said once
  • The New interprets Old (Gospel and Christ)
  • Concordance—cross references  to help you see the context more clearly
  • Bible Dictionary—original word definitions and meaning (Websters meanings are not the same because the Old Testament was originally in Hebrew and the New Testament was originally in Greek–so a bible dictionary will help with the interpretation in the context in which it is written)
  • Bible footnotes
  • Reliable Commentaries  (Like everything, you can find commentaries from one gamut to the next.  Make sure you find Biblical scholars that are trying to honor the purposes in which the Gospel is upheld and hold to the basic tenants of the faith)
  • Identify key words, topics, themes  (This helps to keep you on the right track–seeing the overarching theme of a section and book)
  • Seek the FULL teaching of God’s Word for every topic
  • Interpret Scripture with Scripture—It is Not contradictory…the more it is explored, the fuller the meaning becomes
  • Look for the author’s intended meaning—literal and single meaning
  • Check your conclusions with reliable study aids

Ground rules  for interpretation:

  • Evidence—interpretation supported by evidence
  • Picture—all evidence must fit into big picture (Christ—Gospel)
  • No preconceived interps from tradition or what the pastor says—LET SCRIPTURE SPEAK FOR ITSELF.  Not what you’ve always “thought” or “heard” it said
  • Don’t just read a commentary—somebody else’s interp—save that until the end—and a trustworthy one at that

Do not get overwhelmed!  This is a sheet that you need to keep handy as you are studying.  As you are learning to study God’s word, remember these things.  At first, It will be harder.  With practice, it becomes part of your thinking.


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