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Help for Rightly Dividing the Word

Hermeneutics Simplified



THE BIBLE: THE BIG PICTURE – PDF book – http://ow.ly/K3Es5

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General Rules of Biblical Interpretation

DEFINITION: Biblical hermeneutics is the science of studying and interpreting the Bible. It is perhaps summarized best by 2 Timothy 2:15: Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Scripture is divided into Old and New Testaments for reference purposes. However, this dichotomy has produced an plethora of unsavory results with include hundreds of denominational divisions and cult deceptions. Students choosing to rightly divide the Word are quick to admit that the Gospels through mid Acts are actually a continuum of the OT and as such are demonstrably Jewish. Those wrongly dividing it generally impose teachings upon the church that were specifically meant for Israel alone (ie the Law, the Sabbath; the tribulation or Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7) to name a few.

Several things must be at the forefront of a student’s mine when studying the Scriptures. For example, a psalm should often be interpreted differently than a prophecy. A proverb should be understood and applied differently from a law. This is the purpose of Biblical hermeneutics – to help us to know how to interpret, understand, and apply the Bible.

The most important law of Biblical hermeneutics is that the Bible should be interpreted literally. Literal Bible interpretation means you understand the Bible in its normal/plain meaning. The Bible says what it means and means what it says. Many make the mistake of trying to read between the lines and come up with meanings for Scriptures that are not truly in the text. Yes, of course, there are some spiritual truths behind the plain meanings of Scripture. That does not mean that every Scripture has a hidden spiritual truth, or that it should be our goal to find all such spiritual truths. Biblical hermeneutics keeps us faithful to the intended meaning of Scripture and away from allegorizing and symbolizing Bible verses and passages that should be understood literally.

A second crucial law of Biblical hermeneutics is that a verse or passage must be interpreted historically, grammatically, and contextually. Historical interpretation refers to understanding the culture, background, and situation which prompted the text. Grammatical interpretation is recognizing the rules of grammar and nuances of the Hebrew and Greek languages and applying those principles to the understanding of a passage. Contextual interpretation involves always taking the surrounding context of a verse/passage into consideration when trying to determine the meaning.

Some mistakenly view Biblical hermeneutics as limiting our ability to learn new truths from God’s Word or stifling the Holy Spirit’s ability to reveal to us the meaning of God’s Word. This is not the case. The goal of Biblical hermeneutics is to point us to the correct interpretation which the Holy Spirit has already inspired into the text. The purpose of Biblical hermeneutics is to protect us from improperly applying a Scripture to a particular situation. Biblical hermeneutics points us to the true meaning and application of Scripture. Hebrews 4:12 declares, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Biblical hermeneutics is keeping the sword sharp! [1]

Prerequisites for Proper Biblical Interpretation:

  • Be saved, filled with and dependent on the Holy Spirit to guide you (John 16:13)
  • Sola Scriptura- the Bible alone! Romanists eschew this which allows their papist heresies to flourish
  • Understand the Bible is inerrant, infallible, and inspired. If it says it, THAT settles it!
  • Study from a King James Bible! Not only is the manuscript [2] authority reliable, but the best resources are KJ Bible compatible. If possible, get a fundamentally sound Old Scofield Study Bible. [3] Mike has preached the Scofield notes over 30 years.
  • Study the text first. Study all key words in a concordance with Hebrew/Greek Definitions
  • Place evidence above experience by allowing the Bible to interpret itself (exegesis) rather than forcing an interpretation based upon prejudicial notions or experiences (eisegesis)
  • While church historical teachings add light, they are not equal to Scripture
  • Remember, God unfolds His truth in progressive revelation rather than all at once

Grammatical Rules of Biblical Interpretation  

  • Scripture has only one meaning but can have many applications
  • Take Scripture as normal language; “plain sense of the language”
  • Interpret words and Bible Books in light of the author’s times
  • Interpret according to the context
  • If an inanimate object describes a living being — then it’s figurative
  • If an expression is out of character with the thing described — it’s figurative
  • Parables are heavenly stories earthly meanings. Many on “Christian” television assign meanings to them the Lord never intended which causes deception in the church
  • Prophetic statements are to be taken literally and normally — unless the context compels otherwise

Historical Rules of Biblical Interpretation  

  • Interpret in light of Biblical historical context
  • Revelation is basically Jewish and is progressive; later revelation explains earlier
  • Events of history become spiritual truths only if Scripture designates

Theological Rules of Biblical Interpretation  

  • Any text without a context is a pretext
  • Scripture must be understood grammatically before it can be interpreted theologically
  • A doctrine is not Biblical unless it sums up all that Scripture says (The Old Scofield Bible offers many of these doctrinal summaries making for great study)
  • No contradictions in Scripture
  • An implied teaching must have support in another passage
  • If a verse seems to contradict established truth, the passage must be contextually evaluated to be rightly understood (this is where cults become egregious)

Dispensational Rules of Biblical Interpretation           

  • Paul tells us we must rightly divide the Word of truth in order to understand it. Viewing it through a dispensational lens- the most widely accepted hermeneutic- allows us to do that. The Old Scofield Study Bible provides a great framework for studying these seven specific periods of time whereby God deals with mankind- and more specifically Israel, Gentiles, and the Church. If you can understand this indispensible truth, you will possess a most important Bible study tool.

[1] Above adapted from http://www.gotquestions.org/Biblical-hermeneutics.html

[2] For detailed apologetic, please order our tract: Facts About the Manuscripts.

[3] We have these available for a gift to PMI of $34 to help us minister to you and others. Please remember, when you order from us, you help support us. Stamps are welcome.

Categories: Prophecy and Mystery
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