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BIBLE INTERPRETATION

Herman who?  Hermeneutics, from hermeneuo the Greek word for "to interpret"                       or "to explain."

   • We already are experts at interpretation!  We have spent our lifetimes       becoming experts.  Each day we seek "to interpret" what others really mean       when we hear what they say or when we read what they write.
   • Interpretation is merely seeking to understand the normal meaning of what       is said or written within its original context.  Or, to put it another way, we       seek to understand what the speaker or writer intended to communicate to       his or her original audience. 
   • A proper interpretation of the Bible is to seek to find what the author       intended to communicate within the context in which he wrote.  In cases       where the speaker is a historical person who is described in a narrative,       what did that person intend to communicate in the context in which he or       she spoke.  We should seek to properly interpret the Bible within its original       context, before we seek to find out what it means to us today.
   • An interpretation that is not based on the objective facts of history, culture,       context, and rules of language leaves the Bible open to be interpreted in       any way a reader wants to interpret it.
   • Since God is the ultimate author of the Bible, we cannot understand what       God intended to communicate without God's Spirit enabling us to       understand it (I Cor 2:6-16).

THE FIVE MAJOR AREAS OF CONTEXT OF A BIBLICAL PASSAGE:

THE BIBLE
1. Principle of progressive revelation - Do we now kill those who break the     Sabbath? Do we still offer sacrifices?  Why not? There has been a progression     or change in the God's way of doing things.  (Tools: Commentaries)
2. The principle of the unity of the Bible - Compare Eph 2:8,9 and James 2:20;
    Deut 6:4 and Matthew 28:19,20  They both seem to contradict each other.      We need to seek to understand how they and other apparent contradictions
    in God's book can be in unity with each other.  (Tools: Concordances; cross
    references; Topical Bibles; theology books; Commentaries)

THE CULTURE
1. The principle of contextual interpretation - What did the author or speaker     mean in his or her culture?  What is meant "spiritual armor," and "head     covering" (I Cor 11:5)? (Tools: Bible Handbooks and Dictionaries;     Commentaries)
2. Literary forms - The principle of interpreting a Bible passage based on the     literary form used.  Biblical literary forms: Hebrew poetry (couplets);     Parables; Apocalyptic literature.  Common literary forms: metaphors, similes,     hyperbole, euphemism, allegory, symbols…. (Tools: Commentaries;     INTERPRETING THE BIBLE by Mickelson; READ THE BIBLE FOR ALL ITS     WORTH by Fee and Stuart)

LANGUAGE
1. The principle of the priority of the original language - No translation     perfectly communicates the meaning of the original language of the Bible     (Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek).  Word meanings change.  A Lexicon helps us to     learn the meaning of a word at the time it was used.  (Tools: VINE'S     EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY; Word Studies by Wuest, Robertson, and/or     Vincent; Scholarly Commentaries)
2. The principles of doing a word study (Tools: Lexicons, the tools in #1)

THE BOOK
1. The principle of getting to know the author - What was his personal and     spiritual background; his circumstances at the time he was writing the book?     (For example: many of David's Psalms were written when he going through     some very difficult times.  Paul's letters were usually written in response to     some situation; both in his personal life and in the lives of those he was     writing to.) (Tools: scholarly Commentaries; biographies; Topical Bibles; Bible     Dictionaries and Encyclopedias)
2. The principle of getting to know the book - To understand a passage in a     book we need to get to know the book's setting, theme, and flow of thought.      (Tools: Commentaries; introductions in Study Bibles)

THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT
1. The principle of getting to know the flow of thought of the book - Where     does the passage come in the author's flow of thought?  (Tools: outlines of     the book; EXPLORE THE BOOK by Baxter; books by Irving Jensen)
2. The principle of understanding connectives - What is the "therefore" there     for? Look for such connectives as "but," "then," also," "if, then," "because,"…     (Tools: Grammars, good commentaries)

EISEGESIS VERSES EXEGESIS
         eiso = "into"     exe = "out of" 
         We are not to put our ideas into the Bible (and then seek to find verses          to back them up), but we are to seek to get God's thoughts out of the          Bible.

WHAT ABOUT COMMENTARIES?
1. Dangers: Commentary-opia and Commentary-dependence (Solutions: Do your     own study first.  Evaluate whether or not what the commentary says is true     to the Bible.  Use more than one commentary.)
2. Values: We can benefit from Bible specialists, from the spiritually gifted, and     from those who are more spiritually mature than we are.

RESOURCES: PROTESTANT BIBLE INTERPRETATION by Bernard Ramm; READ THE BIBLE FOR ALL ITS WORTH by Fee and Stuart; INTERPRETING THE BIBLE by Mickelsen

ASSIGNMENT:  How can Ephesians 2:8,9 and James 2:20 both be true?  Use the context to help you interpret each of the verses.  What are some tools you might use to help you?