How to Approach Reading the Bible

This is an article from Dr. Dane Ortlund providing a definition of hermeneutics and why it is important.  Below is an excerpt where he states that in order to understand and interpret the Bible we should read it: humbly, redemptive-historically, Christocentrically, and spiritually:

Here are a few basic guidelines that inform the lens with which we should read any Bible text.

  1. Read with the assumption that Scripture is coherent. God doesn’t lie (Num. 23:19), knows all things (Isa. 46:10), and is unerringly consistent (Heb. 13:8). I speak untruths, know less than all things, and am inconsistent. Conclusion: If I find something in the Bible that is difficult to understand or seemingly contradictory, I assume there is something defective in me, not the Bible.
  2. Read any given text with an awareness of where it fits in the story. You wouldn’t plunk down in the middle of a novel and expect to understand a sentence without awareness of what’s happened before and interest in what will happen after. So why would we do that with the Bible?
  3. Read the way Jesus did. He said the whole Old Testament is about him (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39, 46). And the New Testament is obviously about him (the Gospels biographically, the epistles theologically). So the whole Bible is about him. The climax of the redemptive-historical story is Jesus (Gal. 4:4).
  4. Read with a prayer for the Spirit to illumine the text. Paul tells us that believers have been given the Spirit “that we might understand” divine truth (1 Cor. 2:12). Reading the Bible without the Spirit is like stumbling around an art exhibit with the lights off. There’s beauty there, but it can’t be seen and felt.

Reading an Ancient Promise Wisely (An Example)

What then of Jeremiah 29:11?

We read it humbly, knowing Scripture is coherent. So even if God gave this particular promise to ancient Israel (his people then) we know that he will act in the same benevolent way toward Christians today (his people now). We see the heart of God in this statement—a heart that delights in prospering, not punishing, his fickle people. That was his heart for them. That is his heart for me.

We read it redemptive-historically. We remember Eden, the fall into sin, the calling of Abraham, and so on down through the centuries. So we consider that earlier in the story God had always been seeking to bless his people but that they have persistently rebelled. And we remember that later in the story God will one day come back down to earth and really give them “welfare” and “a future” in the new earth—only then God’s people will be from every tribe and nation and people, not just from ethnic Israel. Jeremiah 29 is part of a Story into which I have been swept up.

We read it Christocentrically. Jeremiah 29:11 is ultimately about Jesus. He himself said that “everything written about me in . . . the prophets . . . must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). So we remember that the supreme “plans for you” God had in mind was Jesus. God promised welfare not evil for his people because his Son bore evil though he deserved welfare. And we are united to Christ in his death and resurrection—what God calls “a hope” in Jeremiah 29 is “a living hope” because of Jesus by the time Peter was writing (1 Pet. 1:3).

We read it Spiritually. We ask for the Holy Spirit’s illumination, because otherwise the beauty of this promise will not be truly seen and felt.


Read the whole thing here.

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