Interpreting Scripture

I have no doubt that God can work through the unaided interpretation, or plain reading, of the Bible in powerful ways, but there is so much more to understand and benefit from when actually studying Scripture. I think there is a tendency to study Scripture when there is a controversy, especially when our beliefs are challenged. We must be ready to provide a clear answer. I would argue, and I don’t think many would disagree, even if there is no controversy, knowing your beliefs and why you believe them is essential to any faith. Studying the Bible is a way of growing as a Christian as well.

We’ve been discussing this topic in our church’s young adult group. For the past few studies we have been going through a book recommended by one of the members. The text we’re working through, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, is very thought provoking, and I believe their method is beneficial. However, because we haven’t completed reading it, I’m not sure if I would recommend it.

The book begins by describing the necessity of studying scripture and providing a definition of exegesis and hermeneutics. Later it details some differences between translations and offers general tips. When studying a particular passage, it recommends:

  • Don’t start with a concordance.
  • Read the passage in context. Start with the passage, then read the chapter, and also read the entire book of the Bible.
  • Make sure to check as many translations as are available to you so that you have a clear understanding where difficulties in translation have occurred, or if possible learn the Greek, Hebrew, and/or Aramaic languages in order that you may understand it in its original form. Be aware that today’s translations are other intelligent scholar’s interpretations.
  • Consider the type of literature you’re reading. Is it a letter, poetry, or a narrative?
  • Understand the time period and the audience. Bible dictionaries are a good resource for this.
  • Use cross references, and find where topics and words (in their original language) occur throughout the rest of the Bible.

These tips are only an introduction to interpreting and studying Scripture; of course it could be much more specific. There’s much more to learn in this area. While I do agree with the method and think How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth is a good resource, I disagree with how they present their conclusions as fact. There may have been a better way in my opinion, but I just concluded that for some statements they make, their study seems incomplete or very basic. At least it provides a motivation to study the topic farther. If one were to read it, it is best to be on guard, read it with a pencil or highlighter in hand, or even to take notes. As I said, I do believe it to be beneficial.

I also plan to read Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard Hendricks and some point for another perspective.

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Published in: on February 13, 2008 at 5:58 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. nice work, guy


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