PRINCIPLES OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION

PRINCIPLES OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION
HERMENEUTICS—the science of interpretation. 
That is a big word that is mainly used only by theologians and preachers (like me) who need to impress others. I will try to avoid the use of that word from here on.

There are many different schools of interpretation and branches of each of those schools. This is not the place to go into those. I will simply make an assumption based on my own experience.

Most of us who came into the things of the Lord in the '60s and '70s came through a system that was more of a hybrid rather than a pure form of any one of the schools. We often heard the statement, "God said it; I believe it; that settles it."

We were supposedly coming from a literal interpretation mindset. Literalism has its proponents, most of whom can become quite dogmatic in their understanding. However, what I found over the years is that very few people actually take the Bible literally. A multitude of verses must be re-interpreted to fit the framework of their particular theological bias.

There are two main schools of theology that have influenced most of us—either Arminianism or Calvinism. Having come through both of them for a number of years in each, I am well aware of the many verses that must have a "spin" in order to be understood "properly", ie, to fit into the theological framework.

The principle that I follow now, that you will find in this blog, is that of the following questions—

What did it mean to the original characters of the narrative?
What did it mean to the author?
What did it mean to the original recipients?
What does it mean in the light of NT revelation (New Covenant)?
It is possible to go deeper into each of the books of the Bible by using the results of scholarly research. However, for the average reader, the above questions are easily answered within the introductions of most study bibles.

Gaining the understanding in the light of the NT, though, requires that one spend much time in the NT; and that one is able to divest oneself of the preconceived bias that he/she has been taught.

With my writings on this blog, you will find that for the most part I take a literal approach without using the rest of Scripture for interpretation. This is completely new for me, as I have always been a "topical teacher," using verses to prove the thoughts of other verses.

What if you took only one of Paul's letters, and read it without chapter or verse or cross-reference? If it was simply presented as a letter that was written to a specific person or group of people, how would you read it then?

I did this one time while teaching in a small Bible college. I was attempting to teach what is know as the Prison Epistles—Galatians through Colossians. A young woman, new in the Lord, raised such a ruckus the leaders of the church called me in for a reprimand. I caved.

Now, however, I understand what the Lord was teaching me. It has taken me years to get past my training of topical teachings and to try to unpack what was meant by the writer to the ones who received the document.

Interpretation takes on new meanings in this light. 

It is still difficult, though, to not bring our theological filter into play as we read a passage as it was intended. I am amazed at how often I will still end up with an interpretation that puts a spin on a verse I am reading, rather than seeing the plain statement before me.

As you read through this blog, you will no doubt have the same experience. Some of you will attack me. Some will be wise enough to simply attack the teaching. Others will find truth that will set them free. It is for these I write.

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