A Comprehensive Study on Interpreting Scripture – Part I


Classical Explanations In order to properly interpret the Bible, we must do so according to exegesis and biblical hermeneutics. That is, we must regularly appropriate its language and concepts. The information of God is such that we must be able to understand the difference between what we read in the Scripture and what the meaning of the text was intended to be at the time it was penned. Before we can begin to open the mysteries and bring them to a point in which we can comprehend what God is saying to us, we must first understand the classical definitions, Biblical images, current models and learn to visualize the exegesis of a text not only from a pretext, but also from a complete perspective of the text. These are achieved by six strategies pertaining to exegetical text that supplement each of the other elements and it’s meaning as they relate to the author, the text and the reader.

In order to understand and appreciate the issues in the context in an accurate and meaningful way we must also examine the syntax, structure, semantics, and the summation and how they relate and respond more to the textual focus. In order to understand the difference between exegesis and hermeneutics, must realize that although these words appear in other areas of academic study, they are most often associated with the classical disciplines of theology. This is where both words are used to refer to the interpretation of the Bible. In the area of our interest, that is literary usage, both words refer to an explanation, meaning or interpretation of a text and the corresponding verbs describe the act by which the meaning is found. These are used to expound upon, explain or interpret the text. Our English counterparts denote an understanding or meaning that is derived from study or an object of reflection, such as a speech an event or a law. As we listen, read or mirror on these things we must not only look at the written information, but also at the spirit and the intent of the writer when they were written This relationship existed during the Jewish writings of the second temple period. Play on words in the account of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14: 8-18 provides a chief example. In this example the people referred to Paul as “Hermes” meaning chief speaker, literally the one who leads in speaking. The Greek information used was “geomai (“to rule”), from which the information exegesis originates.

Biblical Images

In Hebrew and Greek Scriptures there are more than two-dozen terms that make up the vocabulary domain related to interpretation. The noun exegesis, which is sparingly used in the Old Testament, does not appear in the New Testament and its relative verb is used only six times. Those instances occur in (John 1:18; Luke 24:35; Acts 10:8; 15:12, 14; 21:19). It is the hermeneutics information group that dominates the biblical usage from Genesis by Hebrews. Notable instances are of Joseph’s and Daniel’s gift of the interpretation of dreams and Paul’s instruction concerning the interpretation of tongues in 1 Corinthians 12:14. There are four situations that we must consider in the interpretation of the New Testament. First there is the opening of the scriptures, which is to bring the scriptures into a light where they can be understood and this can only be done by the strength of God by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus in traveling with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus spoke with them along the way and expounded on the scriptures as they concerned him (Luke 24:27). However, they didn’t understand; it was not until later that evening after they recognized Jesus did they say that their hearts had been opened. This opening of their hearts took place when Jesus opened to them the closed text consequently inspiring their minds and hearts to a new understanding. Second there must be a guiding by the scriptures. While in the carnal state of our mind we cannot comprehend the textual script. We often read the Bible for many years in addition we fail to understand what we read because in our own mind we cannot perceive what God is saying to us. This was the case with Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Act 8:31). Phillip heard him reading from the book of Isaiah and when Phillip asked him if he understood what he was reading, the eunuch answered, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” The eunuch needed someone to rule him along the path he was attempting to travel. We today are in need of that same guidance and just as Phillip used the interpretation of the scripture, like that eunuch we also need that interpretation to get us to where God would have us to be. Thirdly, there is no room for compromise when we give the information of God, we must give it just as he has given it to us. Paul instructed Timothy to be a workman that needed not to be ashamed in rightly dividing the information of God (2 Tim 2:15).

God’s information must be carried in a straight line just as he has given it. We must not bend it to our whims or spare the feelings or expectations of those to whom the information is sent. We should not and must not be deterred or caught up in impious or impetuous debates. We are to speak and cut straight to the truth as God discloses it in spite of of the issues. Finally we must unlock the scriptures as the Spirit directs us so that all can assistance from the life that is contained in their truth. Peter warns us against an haphazard rendering of prophecy. He tells us that no prophecy is of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). The interpretation of the scripture is not what we think it method; it is what God says it method. consequently, we see that the scriptures are unlocked only by the Holy Spirit’s actions.

Strategies for Unlocking the Text

There are six strategies that rule us to the concise steps of exegesis. These methods are familiar methods I will discuss them to make these methods obtainable in a usable way. First, every text has a place of origin. Some are better known then others, that tells us some important things about it. The authorship, date, and the original setting in which the writing took place frame the historical context. When names, places and events are referred to in a passage they bring a background into play which gives the reader basic information. The interpreter uses this information to understand the situations that were occurring and the circumstances under which they occurred. Observing these circumstances in setting a biblical passage includes applying not only the chronology, archaeology, geography, literature and society, but also the political institutions and their operations.

In addition we also need to consult the biblical atlases, dictionaries and history. Secondly, we must look at the structure of the literary form that the author chose to use in order to convey the message that the Lord would have us to learn in written form. These narratives use major genres such as law, poetry, wisdom, prophesy, parables, narratives and literary stasis such as parallelism, chiasm and repetition. We must also consider acrostic format and epistolary structure because form examination makes both literary and historical comparisons. Not only must we consider with the structure, we must also examine with the syntax that deals with the smallest units of meaning and how they function in a language as they are placed in sentences and discourses. Both the Old and New Testaments are replete with rhetorical genre and figures of speech. Exegesis is the foundation of that part of grammatical examination known as the syntax; that is the arrangement of words, phrases and clauses used to form sentences. Syntax interprets the usage of verbs, subjects and subordinate clauses in roles of case, mood, phrase, tense and clauses in the Greek and Hebrew text. Integrally related larger groups of meaning may be reserved for further examination of discourse in these texts. There are three other sections we must consider. They are semantics, summation and significance. In semantics we must understand what a information method by forming a baseline for comparison with words in a standard lexicon as a information is found in a range of senses.

This range may be one that is counted on to demonstrate the established usage in the public domain. This increases the importance of a concordance as a criterion for the meaning of as ambiguous text. consequently, the concordance should be the first place to look among information study tools. This does not average that we should not also use lexicons and theological dictionaries, as companion references for these are highly useful tools. But, beware of those that load words and overly subtle distinctions that may cause the sense of the information to depart from the lexicon’s range of senses. Then there is the summation. The summation brings the argument of the text into a review of the particulars that gather various details into a meaningful whole. Having dealt with the various details in the biblical text, a good exegete asks how these things fit together to characterize the overall meaning and persuasive logic in the passages. Summation is most difficult to deal with because it borrows from various linguistic disciplines, rhetorical criticisms, and structural and discourse examination and looks at its logical propositions.

It restates terms in an integrated and logical meaning. Tracing the arguments is necessary whether from a verse to an complete book. It does not matter if it is in poetry, a letter or a narrative because no individual information, sentence or use can stand-alone. The true meaning is bound by what precedes it and what follows it in its discourse. This leads us to the significance of the message from the writer to the reader. People have many reasons for interest in reading the Bible. Our goal should be that the Scriptures are-the information of God. They are theological documents and consequently exegesis is necessary to address the issues of faith and convictions. It shows us how each section of the Bible fits together as a complete unified revelation. Every component in the interpretation and understanding of the Bible is important in order to get a valid understanding of God’s information. Each person must have a moral imperative to precisely use each component in an intellectually honest and spiritually moral way.

Each building block of languages consists of words and sentences. Words can be studied by analyzing their etymology, history, cognate value as related to words in similar languages and comparatively as used in literary and historical context. Each information has an individual meaning, however this meaning can be changed by the words surrounding them. The Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek syntax are crucial in order to get the correct idea of what is meant in the text. Knowledge of the original languages gives the interpreter an advantage; but caution and a thorough study and understanding or articles and prepositions should be made before building a theological doctrine on anything other than a firm foundation. One must consider infinitives, conjunctions, adverbs, participles and clauses that are either coordinate or subordinate based on whether they are casual, relative, time related or conditional. In studying the Scriptures we must learn the implications of these types of clauses to determine if they are literal or figurative since both are found in the Bible. The average reader must know if the author intends his words to be understood literally or figuratively. The grammatical method is vital to the answer.

We know that most figurative language finds its origin in the life and culture of the writer who uses it. In order to discriminate between that which is literal and that which is allegorical the biblical speaker or writer found it necessary and advantageous to start with the familiar and move to the unfamiliar by using comparisons or from the particular to the recondite. Many times using metaphors or euphemisms did this. This makes a great deal of difference between legitimately interpreting biblical figures of speech and allegorizing Scripture. That brings us to inductive Bible study.

Synthetic, Analytical and other Inductive Bible Study Methods The synthetic study of the Bible is an overview of the general message, content of an complete book of the Bible. It is kin to having a panoramic view of people, places and events contained in the book without making an in thoroughness study of the book itself. Reading continuously, in addition without giving reference to chapter or verse does this. Reading the book in various parts at different times fails to give us an accurate view and consequently, creates great difficulty in visualizing the complete relationship between the parts. The information obtained by reading the book continuously helps the reader to grasp the complete or main outline of the book. This method of study can be helpful in developing the message or sermon. There are also the devotional, biographical, topical and theological methods of study. Each of these inductive methods encourage the individual to personally study the Scriptures in order to unprotected to personal growth and to help make clear the spiritual application of the texts.

Modern Old Testament Interpretation

In using these methods of study we find that often times the New Testament uses language and concepts of the Old Testament. This prompts us to view the modern interpretation of the Old Testament. However, we must also understand that because The New Testament frequently quotes or alludes to the Old Testament language and concepts, this demonstrates the necessity for us to properly read it and give it our complete attention. Properly reading it has been a difficult task that has been recognized since the first century. The first consideration in calculating the proper way to read the Old Testament is to understand why you are reading it, to know what you expect to hear from God and then read with and in faith in order to hear what God has to say to you by his information. As I stated before, the New Testament frequently references the Old Testament; in the typology course of action it provides a wealth of examples of how those texts keep meaningful. As an example in the Old Testament, people, places and events were types of a divinely viewed prefiguring or foreshadowing of a future and final atonement, which Jesus paid at the cross. In the allegorical interpretation these events are placed in comparison.

The Apostle Paul wrote an allegory concerning Sarah and Hagar in Galatians 4:21-31. In it he compared these women to the two covenants. He identified Hagar with the things considered together as a pattern covenant and Sarah with the covenant of potential that God gave to Abraham. He used it to demonstrate that salvation was to be achieved by the grace (potential) he gave Abraham and not by the works of the law that he gave to Moses. By doing this the apostle taught that the law was given to show man his sinful character and God used it as a schoolmaster to teach man that he could not live up to his (God’s) standards and that it is only by God’s action alone that we can be saved. Now let us review the modern interpretation of the New Testament

Modern Interpretation of the New Testament

The modern era has brought forth a renewed interest in the New Testament. There have been numerous translations into various languages including modernization of the text in order to make it more understandable to the untrained Bible reader. These changes have made the proper interpretation of the text more crucial. The written description moves from point to point in slightly of a linear progression. This method inevitably instills the dynamics of reading the text in a spiral format instead of as an arrow because the literary aspects have a inclination to rule us to interpretive conclusions. The accurate reading of the text and the proper interpretation has moved, in many situations, from the actual meaning to a perceived meaning consequently, proper interpretation of the text has become more challenging with the growing numbers of translations in various languages. There has arisen a division between what it meant at the time it was written and what it method as it is applied today. This situation has caused a great deal of criticism concerning the Scriptures and how they are applicable to the modern world.

Let’s look at some of the forms of criticism which has led to statements ranging from, “Man wrote the Bible”, “The Bible contradicts itself”; and “Some of the things that the Bible said happened did not happen” and “That’s what it says, but that is not what it method.” This can be achieved by considering the following criticisms.

Canon, Textual and Historical and Literary Criticism

The presuppositions that many people have of the Biblical text have rule to many misunderstandings of the scriptures. These misunderstandings have caused much criticism throughout history. The textual variations in quotations become an important clue to discover not only the writer’s interpretation but also his prospective on both Old and New Testament passages. A variety of forms combine two or more passages in a commentary pattern similar to that found in the Qumran scrolls. Such combinations are usually formed in conjunction with catchwords that are important for the theme. Some of these may have circulated during the apostolic period. The “testimonies” most likely presuppose an understanding in Christology that particular passages were worked out and are not just randomly chosen proof texts. During the passage of time the various translations of the scriptures have in some ways diluted the meanings of the original text. This has produced the assumption that the Scriptures contradict themselves, when if fact they sustain each other in a way that reaffirms the Biblical text based on the tense in which the text is used.

As attested to by the Gospels, debates with the scribes about the meaning of Scripture were an important part of Jesus’ public ministry. In any case, the rabbis used a literary form often used by the Gospel translators. Jerome spoke Hebrew and when he translated the Latin Vulgate Bible, he did it from the original Hebrew texts in order to get the proper understanding of the text. This resulted in an accurate interpretation and selection of the books contained in the canon of Scripture. This also explained the differences between literal and allegory language in Scripture and answers the textual integrity question of whether the Scriptures average what they say. The historical views are basic for interpretation. However the modern historical-basic method is deficient because already though it can show some interpretations to be wrong. This method fails to sustain any biblical passage that is substantive agreed upon. It is instrumentally limited in its perspective and presuppositions with which the interpreter reads the text. The advantage of the historical view of hermeneutical study is that events, ideas, and people are shown in a way that illuminates both contributions and flaws. This keeps the engendered passions that occurred in these situations more difficult to dismiss. Textual criticism was used to determine the dating, authorship, and the quality of the texts.

They usually emphasized literal interpretation as the dominant method of finding the basic meaning and translated the Bible directly and developed a tradition of private judgment. Sometimes the New Testament writers interpreted the Old based in part on the current Jewish views and in part from the teaching of Jesus and the reality of his resurrection. It appears that four factors are the dominant focus: a particular understanding of the history, of man, of Israel and the Scriptures. The early Christian teachers and prophets explain the Old Testament by what is known as charismatic exegesis. However, this method does not preclude the use of logic or hermeneutical rules and methods. The lives of the men and women who so greatly impacted our culture with the exegesis of the Scriptures sat in classrooms, wrote often times by candlelight or oil lamps, asked difficult questions and often lay awake thinking by the possible answers to those questions. (continued in part II)

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