12 August 2016

First Four Messages Part B

Bible Interpretation

This information is taken from an article entitled "The Eight Rules of Bible Interpretation" by Ron Rhodes and Richard Anthony.

The eight rules are

The rule of DEFINITION
The rule of USAGE
The rule of CONTEXT
The rule of LOGIC
The rule of INFERENCE
The rule of dependence upon the HOLY SPIRIT

The rule of DEFINITION is
  • We must have a correct understanding of the words, whether in English or the original languages.
  • We must take the plain, normal meaning of the words, not just a made-up definition or an obscure definition.
  • We must realize that God is very smart and knows how to communicate. We do not need to take the definition that is different than normal just because the speaker has an earned doctorate or belongs to an authoritative group.
  • Having a basic handbook of original language definitions helps, too. Consider the Greek words allos and heteros. These both mean another when there is only a one word definition. In Greek, however, allos has the understanding of another of the same type, while heteros has the meaning of another of a different type. For example:
    • "So then comfort one another with these words."  1 Thessalonians 4:18 (English Majority Text Version, 2011 Edition with Greek Explanatory Notes). The word another is from allos thus another of the same type. The type in this case being believers.
    • "No one is able to serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and he will love the other, or else he will be devoted to the one, and he will despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." Matthew 6:24 (English Majority Text Version, 2011 Edition with Greek Explanatory Notes). The word other here is heteros meaning another of a different type.

The rule of USAGE is
  • We must understand that the Old Testament was written by Jews and for Jews.
  • Jews had cultural idioms that we must understand.
  • We are not to make doctrinal beliefs based on a wrong understanding of a Jewish idiom.
  • The New Testament likewise was written is primarily Greco-Roman world. Again idioms must be understand in that culture, not as understood in today's culture.
  • For example:
    • "Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck." Psalms 75:5 (King James Version (1769). Two idioms are here. First is horn on high, and the second is speak with a stiff neck. These idioms mean do not rebel.
    • "For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother". Philemon 7 (KJV). This verse is not saying that their innards are refreshed, but it is an idiom referring to the heart, the soul and spirit, of a person. Often head is an idiom for leader, breaking bread means having a meal, walk means live your life, etc.

The rule of CONTEXT
  • It is important to take the passage in context. We are to take context in this order:
    • The verses before and after our text
    • The chapter
    • The book/epistle
    • The testament (old or new)
    • The whole Bible
  • Examples
    • "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)" 1 Corinthians 8:5 KJV. Mormons are said to use the words in bold verse as a proof text for polytheism. In context, however, it is plain that it is "called gods," that is, not gods but just called gods.
    • "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." John 12:32 EMTV. Some take lifted up to in praise, but Jesus was talking about being lifted up in death, that is, on a cross. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." John 12:32 EMTV
    • "Brothers, I do not count myself to have laid hold; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead" Philippians 3:13 EMTV. Some take this to mean to forget bad, negative, experiences from the past, but instead in context it refers to his accomplishments in Judaism. Philippians 3:4-11.
  • Many times people string together isolated verses to "prove" a doctrine. This is also wrong for it is not done in context.

  • We need to understand the readers (and writers) culture, geography, idioms, etc. for better understanding of the Scriptures.
  • Examples
    • "There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth." Luke 1:5 EMTV. Who is Herod? Which Herod? What was he like? For this use a Bible dictionary.
    • "And returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the rest with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed like nonsense before them, and they disbelieved them. But Peter rose up and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen strips lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened." Luke 24:9-12 EMTV. Why didn't the men believe the women? What was the opinion of men towards women's testimonies in that day?

The rule of LOGIC
  • This is the use of common sense and logic.
  • Does an interpretation make sense?

The rule of INFERENCE
  • We know one fact based on the passage, then we logically infer a logical result or action.
  • Example:
The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him, and they questioned Him, saying: "Teacher, Moses said that IF A MAN DIES, HAVING NO CHILDREN, HIS BROTHER SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE AS NEXT OF KIN, AND SHALL RAISE UP OFFSPRING FOR HIS BROTHER.
Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died, after having married, and having no offspring, he left his wife to his brother.
Likewise the second also, and the third, up to the seventh.
Last of all the woman died also.
Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her."
Jesus answered and said to them, "You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.
For in the resurrection neither do they marry, nor are they given in marriage, but they are like angels of God in heaven.
But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,
'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
And when the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. Matthew 22:23-33 EMTV
  • From the example we see the fact of the resurrection. If God is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, then they are living, not dead.

  • The Bible contains books of history as the Pentateuch, the Gospels, and Acts. It should be read and studied as history.
  • The Psalms are poetry. It should be read as such.
  • Isaiah, Daniel, and Revelation are example of prophetic writings. It should be interpreted as that.
  • Each genre may contain other forms but this is by the context and form.
  • Genre is necessary for communication between intelligent beings.
  • The Bible is to be understood in its plain, normal sense. If it is poetry, it is different than history, etc.

The rule of dependence upon the HOLY SPIRIT
  • Even though the words of Scripture are plain, to be fully understood, it is necessary to have the illumination from the Holy Spirit.
  • The nonbeliever has a darkened mind. As Christians we still live in this world and need God's help. "Because, having known God, they did not glorify Him as God, or give thanks, but became vain in their reasonings, and their foolish heart was darkened." Romans 1:21 EMTV. "having been darkened in understanding, being estranged from the life of God, because of the ignorance which is in them, because of the hardness of their heart."
  • Ephesians 4:18 EMTV.
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.
Now we did not receive the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, in order that we might know the things freely given to us by God;
which things we also speak, not in words taught in human wisdom, but in words taught by the Holy Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But he that is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is discerned by no man.
For "WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE MAY INSTRUCT HIM?" But we have the mind of Christ."
1 Corinthians 2:9-16 EMTV.
  • The Bible contains all that is necessary for our spiritual understanding. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand it. The Holy Spirit will not give illumination of one verse that would contradict another.

The Lord Jesus interpreted the Bible in its plain, normal sense.
  1. Creation of Adam and Eve--Mark 10:6, etc.
  2. Noah's Ark and the flood--Matthew 24:37-39, etc.
  3. Jonah--Matthew 12:38-41
  4. Sodom and Gomorrah--Matthew 10:15
  5. Lot and his wife--Luke 17:28-32

The Lord Jesus believed the Scriptures are inspired--Matthew 22:41-46
The Lord Jesus believed and taught so the average believer could understand the Scriptures without help from a bunch of "authorities." John 18:19-24.
The Bible has all that the believer needs to live a Christian life--2 Timothy 3:16-17.
Since the Bible has the words that show us how to be forgiven and right with God, it must be understood in its plain, normal sense--John 6:63. A wrong interpretation and gospel is cursed and leads to eternal punishment--Galatians 1:6-10, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 and Revelation 20:11-15.

When we interpret Scripture, we must ask, "What is this passage saying. What does this passage mean." It is wrong to say, "What does this passage mean to me." We can make application, but we do not interpret that way.

When we interpret Scripture, we must take the plain, normal sense. We must not read our theology into the passage. We do not change the meaning of a passage to agree with out theology; we change our theology to agree with the interpretation.

When we interpret Scripture, we do not change definitions of words. We take the passage and the words in its plain, normal sense.

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