Basic Principle for Bible study interpretation
When the Basic Principle for Bible study interpretation is neglected errors are inevitable. If you do not observe correctly, you will make wrong interpretation and if your interpretation is wrong you application will be wrong.
To follow the Basic Principle for Bible study interpretation, There three things that you need to do every time you are studying your Bible
- Observe, what the passage says, what is going on, etc.
- Interpret what the passage/verse/word means.
- Apply the lesson God thought you in the passage to your life and situation
If you do not observe correctly, you will make wrong interpretation and if your interpretation is wrong you application will be wrong. Some people believe that we don’t need to interpret the Bible but to just read it and obey it. In a sense that is true, But in another sense it is false. For everyone interprets what he reads. That is, when you read a text, you try to understand what the author is saying. “Trying to understand” is what interpretation is all about.
Some reasons for which it is important we learn to interpret the Bible are that the Scriptures are: Both divine and human: The Bible is God’s Word given in the words of men in history. It is this dual nature that makes the Scripture so alive and exciting. Because it is God’s Word, we must listen and obey. To listen actively and obey we must understand and to understand we must be able to interpret correctly.
BASIC PRINCIPLE FOR INTERPRETATION
PRINCIPLE 1: UNITY –
one Book, one Author, one theme. All the parts of the Bible tell one story. Although it has 66 books written over 1500 years by about 40 human authors yet the Holy Spirit is the author (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and its theme is God the Son and the Father’s saving purpose (2 Peter 1:20).
PRINCIPLE 2: NON-CONTRADICTION –
If there seems to be a contradiction, our interpretation of one or both of these parts must be in error. Interpret Scripture by Scripture. The Bible is its own best commentary. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself. Therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
PRINCIPLE 3: CONTEXT
– Consider each biblical statement in its context. God is ultimate source of Scripture, but it has been given to us through human channels. So use all sound principles of interpretation which you would use in any ancient document. Discover what God’s human speakers were concerned to express.
- A text cannot mean what it never could have meant to the author or readers.
- A text without a context is a pretext.”
- Consider a verse in the context of chapter, book and the Bible. So beware of proof texting (2 Timothy 2:15).
- The historical context, the geographical and political factors, the occasion of the writing, personal background or circumstance of writer are also important.
PRINCIPLE 4: GRAMMAR/LITERARY STYLE
– Every language has its own grammar and grammatical functions, so are the biblical languages. Consider style of material and interpret the different genres according to their special rules of interpretation e.g. poetry, parables, prophecies, narratives, etc. A figure of speech should not be taken literally e.g. Matt. 5:29 – 30. A metaphor will usually illustrate only one truth.
PRINCIPLE 5: DEPENDENCE ON THE HOLY SPIRIT FOR UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE:
2PET. 1:20, 21; 1COR 2:8-16 – For a man to properly understand and interpret the word of God he must come under the influence of the Holy Spirit. So that his interpretation will be universal and at the same time relevant to the people his ministering to at that very moment.
An interpreter must do all he can and get everything that can help him understand and interpret correctly. However, to ignore the fact that the Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible and claim to understand scripture is all together erroneous. It is only the author of the Bible that has correct interpretation and not any man. So, dependence on the Holy Spirit is non-negotiable.