An accurate interpreter strives to discover the Author’s intended meaning, which is the only true meaning. The meaning is determined by the Author and is left for readers to discover.
- Context is critical in Scripture interpretation. Every word is part of a larger verse, every verse is part of a larger paragraph, every paragraph is part of a larger chapter, every chapter is part of a larger book, and every book is part of the entire canon. Scripture cannot be divorced from its immediate context (the chapter or book) or from its broader context (the entire canon).
- An accurate interpretation of the Word will never contradict the totality of Biblical teaching on that subject.
- Our Christian faith is founded on historical fact—that Jesus’ time on earth represents the revelation of God to man. We must respond to God’s historical revelation in His Word, so we must interpret it accurately.
- Scripture contains a great variety of literary genres: historical, poetry, wise sayings, dramatic epics, apocalyptic writings, parables, straightforward narratives, and literal texts. Accurate interpretation requires that the one handling the text has knowledge of these various genres and he/she approaches the text with that knowledge in mind.
- One must interpret the Old Testament in view of the enlightenment of the New Testament. This is not to say that the Old Testament was inaccurate, but that the New Testament sheds greater understanding of what the Old Testament communicates. Therefore, it’s necessary to look at the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament for increased magnification and understanding of those texts.
- Interpretation is dependent on the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The Holy Spirit will only communicate the meaning that is already in Scripture—it illuminates revealed Scripture.
- The God-breathed Scripture is all we need to understand to be saved.
- God’s Word is normative or it would not have been included in the canon.
- Scripture must be accurately handled and understood before it can be appropriately applied.
Vicki – Great list!
What about cultural context? Not the way some use it to try and make the Bible say things it does not, but in that understanding the culture of the time helps us to see things we otherwise miss. Jesus talked in parables and used things known and understood to His audience – if we don’t know what they know we at best miss some of what He wants us to know, and at worse we get it wrong.
You are absolutely right, Paul! That’s the beauty of Scripture,isn’t it? There are so many layers to peel back and examine and cultural context is certainly another layer that gives us a clue to the Author’s intent. Thanks for mentioning it!