Tag Archives: hermeneutics

Check Yourself: Testing Your Theology

Everyone is a theologian. No one is a theological blank slate. Since theology is the study of God (the process—doing theology) and expressing those thoughts (the product—theology proper), even an atheist who says “there is no God” is making a theological statement. Christians have the duty of being healthy theologians (Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:2; John 4:23-24).

An earlier post pointed out that understanding your theology is an important aspect of interpreting the Bible. And as you interpret the Bible you inform your theology. So, what can we do to test our theology? Dr. David Mappes offers the following system for validating your theology[1].

“A model for theological method is necessary since the Scripture is progressively revealed and no one topic is fully addressed by any one author. Any valid theological model must be minimally measured by the following components:

Canonical: Is first priority and authority given to the canonical books of Scripture over personal experience, personal sensibilities, other writing, general revelation, speculation, etc.?[2]

Comprehensive: Is all biblical teaching on a topic examined with greater weight given to the clearest and most definitive passages, or are selective/vague passages used in a mere proof-texting manner?

Consistent hermeneutical approach: Is the … Keep Reading

The Six Steps of Bible Interpretation

The process of studying the Bible according to the author’s original intended meaning is often referred to simply as interpreting the Bible literally. Mike Stallard notes that the method for this type of literal interpretation is called the grammatical-historical method of Bible interpretation: “In modern times, evangelicals have spoken of literal interpretation as grammatical-historical interpretation to indicate that there exists both a grammatical-language context as well as a historical context which must be taken into account to read a passage.”[1]

This method is the best way to consistently discover the message that the author—God, ultimately—intended for us. You likely use aspects of this method automatically without realizing. Formalizing an approach to understanding the Bible will help you be a better student of the Bible.

For more about why the Bible should be interpreted though the grammatical-historical method, check out Does it Matter How I Read the Bible? and The Author Determines the Meaning: Now What Do I Do About It?

Bible Interpretation is More Science than Art

A word that is used to describe Bible interpretation is “hermeneutics.” That term—hermeneutics—“is from a Greek word, hermeneuo which means to interpret or to translate, to give the meaning. Keep Reading

The Difference Between Appropriately Interpreting an Allegorical Passage and Inappropriately Allegorizing

History is littered with ill-advised and unhelpful attempts to “discover” allegories in the Bible. By and large, attempts to manufacture a formal allegory from a biblical text have fallen out of fashion. However, even as we may not be tempted to set out to allegorize portions of Scripture, we are apt to fall into the same sort of error if we interpret the Bible with a “what this means to me” attitude (for more on this, check out does it matter how I read the Bible?) or if we approach Bible reading with the assumption that it is our job to unearth the hidden meaning of a Bible passage (for more on this, check out the author determines the meaning; now what do I do about it?).

At the same time, we know that allegory is a legitimate literary form that is employed in the Bible. How can we know when a passage should be interpreted as an allegory while avoiding illegitimately allegorizing a passage? Let’s start by defining allegory and allegorizing.

Allegory: A Legitimate Literary Device

A parable focuses on a single point of comparison and will often contain several contextual and incidental details to Keep Reading

Is it Possible to Understand the Bible with any Degree of Certainty?

In literary and academic circles, it is not uncommon to encounter the claim that one can never be certain about the proper interpretation of a written text. According to their thinking, since no understanding of a written text can be held with certainty, all interpretation should be held at a provisional level (temporary and likely to be changed later).

Human Behavior Proves that We Know Better

However, if all interpretation is truly only temporary and likely to be changed later, it would hardly be worth the effort to state or defend such a reality. If what I mean by using terms such as interpretation, knowledge, and provisional are unreliable to carry meaning when competently and consistently used, it would be an entirely insane endeavor to attempt to communicate their unreliability with words.

One might concede that language is capable of reliably conveying meaning, but still insist all knowledge is provisional as people are incapable of reliably understanding or interpreting what is communicated to them. That lands us in the same spot: if people are truly incapable of reliably interpreting and understanding meaning, there is no use in talking about it. By communicating, one acts upon the assumption Keep Reading

The Author Determines the Meaning: Now, What Do I Do About It?

The previous post describes why we should not just read the Bible for how it makes us feel or “what it says to me.” If that is true, how should I read the Bible, what do I do about it?

Commit to an Author-Determined Approach to Meaning

We do not read the Bible to see a reflection of ourselves in the text; we read the Bible as a window through which we discover God’s truth about the universe, ourselves, and Him. “[When reading the Bible] the goal is to arrive at the creative intention of the original author contained in the words of the text…the meaning of the text is what the author consciously intended to say by his text. Thus, the meaning of Romans is what Paul intended to communicate to his readers in Rome when he wrote his letter.”[1]

Who is the Author of the Bible?  God is the ultimate author; and He appointed human authors.

God inspired a variety of human authors over a period of approximately 1500 years who wrote as thinking, feeling human beings to convey His message. God superintended over the process so that as the human author expressed God’s inspiration in their Keep Reading

Does it Matter ‘How’ I Read the Bible?

I think it safe to assume that we are in agreement: we want to read the Bible, understand it correctly, live it out, and teach others to do the same. You are reading a Bible interpretation guide, after all. 

However, when discussing the topic of how one should read, study, and interpret the Bible, a question commonly comes up: “What’s all the fuss? Can’t I just read the Bible and be happy with what it says to me or how it makes me feel?” I understand the sentiment, but there are a few reasons that we can’t be satisfied with that approach to reading the Bible.

Reason #1: I Don’t Get to Determine What the Bible Means; Meaning is Determined by the Author

Who or what determines the meaning of a text? The author, the text itself, or the reader? The author is the one who has constructed an intelligent thought (who has constructed the meaning) and conveyed it through inanimate objects (paper, ink, or pixels on a digital display) in order to communicate meaning to an audience. Meaning is created and determined by the author. In the case of the Bible, God has inspired multiple authors over a Keep Reading

Recommended Short Reads (12/10/15)

Michael A. G. Haykin’s Review of Ibrahim Ag Mohamed’s God’s Love for Muslims: Communicating Bible Grace and New Life This is a timely read given current events and the American church’s lack of familiarity with Islam. An excerpt from Haykin’s review: “His profound familiarity with Islam, and also his extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, is evident throughout this handsomely-produced book in which he deals with Muslim beliefs and practice (9–42), their misunderstandings about the Christian Faith (43–83), and then how believers in the West especially can help Muslims come to true faith in the Lord Jesus (84–95).”

Spurious Correlations Some fun proof that correlations aren’t always useful.

The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Text This post points out the popular misuse of Matthew 25. We owe it to the generation to follows to not just have right conclusions but also to use right means to reach those conclusions.

You Need the Local Church to be Healthy “In less than three minutes, Trip Lee explains why the local church is essential to every Christian’s health. The following is a lightly edited transcript.”

A Crash Course on the Muslim Worldview and Islamic Theology Here’s a six part video series: Understanding Islam (Part … Keep Reading

Seven Tips for Interpreting the Bible

The method of correctly reading, understanding, and interpreting the Bible is hermeneutics. The following guide (which originally appeared in TheResurgence) is a good quick reference for how to get the most out of understanding the Bible.… Keep Reading

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
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