Some General Rules about Biblical Interpretation.
These rules apply no matter what section of the Bible you may be reading at the time.
But before we get to these rules, we need to establish which divisions are from God and which aren’t. While each book was Divinely breathed, the chapters and verses within each book were not added until around 1200 A.D. with the onset of the printing press. The exception is the Book of Psalms. Each chapter is a separate Psalm, each inspired by God.
Additionally, remember that the Bible is totally and completely God’s Word. Therefore, if we ask Him to reveal new truths, encouragements and principles – when you ask Him to work through His word – He will answer your prayer!
Now, on to five general rules about Biblical interpretation:
1. THE AUTHOR HAS A POINT.
- This may seem obvious, but it’s important to remember. Reading the Bible is not rocket science, especially when you approach it from the standpoint of simply trying to understand the author’s point in the passage that you’re reading at the time.
2. THE ANALOGY OF SCRIPTURE
- Keep in mind that the best interpreter of the Bible IS the Bible. Many times, the Bible uses analogies or figures of speech, but don’t let this confuse you. Especially since the Bible often uses these types of literature consistently. When we look at these analogies in comparison, their meaning becomes more clear.
For example, in John 7:37-39, we read:
Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”
Then, later on, John explains that that this “living water” is the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, we can see that any time the words “living water” are used as an analogy, we can understand that phrase as referring to the Holy Spirit.
3. A LITERAL INTERPRETATION?
- What we mean by this is that the Bible is always TRUTHFUL, not necessarily always specifically literal.
For example, when Jesus says that if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off (Matthew 5:30), we know that Jesus is not saying that we should literally cut off our hands, but that Jesus is making the point of how deadly sin is and how serious we need to be in avoiding it. Jesus wasn’t being literal here, but He is being absolutely truthful.
Another example is in John 15:5. Jesus says:
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
Jesus is obviously not saying that He is a literal vine with leaves and roots, but rather that He is the source of every good thing that we have – including life itself.
4. ORIGINAL MEANING AND MODERN APPLICATION
- The Bible has an original meaning. In the Gospels and in many other instances, the Scripture is directed at a specific person or people in a specific time at a specific place.
Even in these specific person/time/place situations, we can pull a modern application out of it and apply this passage to our lives as well. For instance, when Jesus tests Phillip’s faith, we can see how God tests our own in similar ways.
5. ALWAYS LOOK FOR GOD
- God is always the real hero of the story. No matter what the story may be. Therefore always look to see what God is doing in the story, how people are responding to Him and then you’ll grow in your understanding of the Scriptures.
For more information about Matt’s ministry, visit www.RanchoDelReyChurch.org