By Ron Wofford
A. This course is designed to give the student a brief, yet basic and intelligent method of interpreting the Bible.
B. The scientific term for this discipline is hermeneutics.
1. It is sometimes listed as Hermeneutica Sacra.
2. This is done to distinguish it from the interpretation of secular materials.
C. The Greek words hermeneuo or hermeneia are found in the New Testament 19 times.
1. Typically, they mean to “explain” or to “translate” as when Jesus explained to His disciples how the Old Testament was speaking of Him in Luke 24:27 “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded [hermeneuo] unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
D. This session is designed to give you guidelines for learning how to interpret or “explain” the Word of God.
II. Reasons Why Scripture is Misinterpreted
A. A failure to recognize the communication gap between the modern reader and the ancient people of Bible times.
1. Cultural settings, customs and practices all play a part in the correct interpretation of a passage.
B. A failure to distinguish between the dispensations of time.
1. For example, a correct understanding that God dealt with people at specific times in specific ways, yet His purpose remained the same.
2. There is one plan of salvation; based on Christ’s atonement; by Grace; through Faith; expressed in obedience to God’s plan at that time.
C. A failure to recognize the different covenants.
1. Conditional/Non-Conditional; Abrahamic; Exilic, etc.
2. Example: “The gifts and callings of God are without repentance.”
a. This passage is not directed to New Testament ministry at all.
b. Rather, it deals with God’s promises and covenants with Israel.
D. A failure to distinguish between the three ethnic groups mentioned in scripture.
E. A failure to consider all that the Bible has to say on a given subject.
1. We do injury to the text when we do not consider what all texts pertaining to the subject have to say.
F. A failure to consider the context.
1. What are the times, dates, places and people of the text?
G. A failure to consider the significance of prophetic gaps of a particular passage.
H. A failure to understand the purpose for parables.
1. To make a spiritual application from a natural circumstance.
III. The Six Biblical Sciences
1. The word canon comes from the Greek kanon, which has to do with a rod or straight edge.
2. This science concerns itself with the question of which books are inspired of God and are to be included in the canon of Scripture.
B. Historical Criticism
1. This science deals with “the literary and documentary character of the books of the Bible.”
2. Specifics of this would include authorship of the book, date of its composition, historical circumstances, the authenticity of its contents, and its literal unity.
C. Textual Criticism
1. This science concerns itself with establishing the original wording of the text of scripture.
2. This is accomplished by comparing ancient manuscripts and consulting other references such as early translations, quotations that allude to the original scriptures by early church fathers and reading lectionaries.
1. This science has to do with properly interpreting scripture.
2. Its goal is to understand scripture in the same way the original reader
would have understood it.
3. When this is done then the reader will get the meaning which the author intended.
1. Exegesis is a compound word formed from the two Greek words ex and egeomai.
2. It has to do with explaining or interpreting and literally means “to guide” or “to lead.”
3. This is different than eisegesis, which has to do with reading a meaning into scripture.
F. Biblical Theology
1. The word “theology” is also a compound word formed from the two Greek words theos (God) and logos (word).
2. It is the doctrine of God.
3. Biblical Theology is the result of all of the previous sciences.
2. Example: The parable of the Good Samaritan.
3. Dangers of this method:
b. The basic authority in interpretation ceases to be the scripture and is instead the mind of the interpreter.
c. One is left without any real means whereby the conclusions of the interpreter can be tested.
2. This method is the one which tends to bring in such practices as numerology.
3. It takes a literal text and “spiritualizes” it beyond its original intent.
4. The dangers of this method are the same as for the Allegorical Method but are more pronounced.
2. While this is a noble intent it should only be done after the scripture has been interpreted literally and historically.
3. It should also harmonize with doctrinal interpretation.
4. There is great benefit in using this method but one must be careful to not apply words specifically meant for another person and time to be applied personally today.
5. Two dangers come to mind with this method:
b. According to Ramm, Devotional Interpretation may be a substitute for the requisite exegetical and doctrinal studies of the Bible.
c. We hear this method a good bit in Pentecostal preaching.
2. It denies that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
3. It relegates the interpretation to what the interpreter can reasonably and logically deduce from scripture.
2. It holds that the meaning of any text can be determined by considerations of grammar and history.
3. It allows for different meanings for words but concludes the word is to be interpreted in the context of the passage.
4. While a word may have several meanings it will have only one intended meaning in any one particular passage.
5. The Literal Method is obviously the one approved by the Holy Spirit.
b. The literal method does not deny the use of symbols, figures of speech, etc.
c. But it demands that all interpretation must be made on the basis of the literal meaning of the Scriptures.
2. These covenants refer to the agreements or contracts made between God and man.
b. The Gentile;
c. The Church.
2. The safest position to take is to use those types which come from the Old Testament that are specifically and clearly revealed in the New Testament.
2. This principle is seen as the ultimate end of The First Mention and Progressive Mention working in harmony to reach a logical conclusion.
2. You begin this process by consulting the context of the verse; then the passage; then the book, etc.
2. In other words, no scripture will contradict another.
2. This is seen numerous times throughout scripture when 2 events seem to bookend a gap in time that is not addressed.
2. Compare Hosea 11:1, which speaks to the nation of Israel as God’s son in their calling out of Egypt and the same passage being used in Matthew 2:14-15 to speak of Christ’s return from Egypt after the death of Herod.
2. All angelic thought and ministry are centered in Christ;
3. All Satanic hatred and subtlety are centered at Christ;
4. All human hopes are, and human occupation should be, centered in Christ;
5. The whole material universe in creation is centered in Christ;
6. The entire written Word is centered in Christ. (Schofield, The New Schofield Study Bible NIV, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN 1989.)
2. Compare: “To bring things together in order to examine the close relationship they bear to each other, especially with the view of ascertaining their agreement or disagreement; points of resemblance or difference.” (Conner and Malmin)
3. Contrast: “To place together in view things widely differing from each other, though of the same category or class, in order to make the difference more vividly marked.” (Conner and Malmin)
2. Every scripture has one interpretation but many applications.
2. Guidelines for use:
b. A parable is a comparison between the natural and the spiritual realm;
c. Every parable is designed to conceal and reveal one fundamental spiritual truth;
d. Since parables are drawn from the cultural background of their authors, the interpreter should research the manners, customs, and material culture involved in the parable he is interpreting.