Biblical Truth and Interpretation
The Bible is the story of God’s redeeming work in human history. The main focus is God’s plan of salvation found in Jesus Christ, designed to redeem us and all of creation. The Bible is the Word of God which is used by the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, lead us to salvation, and teach us how to follow Jesus in daily life.
We can explore biblical truth by understanding:
Biblical interpretation is simply understanding what a passage of the Bible says in order to live it well. It is important for us to learn how to study the Bible and apply it to life. The Apostle Paul says to Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
It is important to note that understanding the message of the Bible is not difficult.
Most of the Bible was essentially written in a “street language” which means that it is intended to be understood by anyone and everyone; great spiritual insight from God’s Word is not limited to those with extensive academic training—for the Word of God is meant to be read and understood by anyone. However, it is important that we learn to correctly handle the word of truth.
The following are some basic suggestions that will help you to interpret the Bible more accurately
- Read the passage several times and in several different versions or translations. Reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it may give you new insights. If you can, read it in another language (or in the original Greek or Hebrew, if you can).
- Read the chapter before and the chapter after the one you are studying. What is going on at this time? Who wrote this passage? To whom was it written? What was the social, political, cultural, and historical context?
- Find keywords and phrases that are repeated or are central to the meaning of the passage. Look up the meaning of any words that are unfamiliar.
- Look for key transitions in the passage such as “if, but, and, then, therefore, however, wherefore,” etc. How does it start? How does it end? What does it say?
- What is the style of the text? Is there any poetry? Does it contain an argument? Look at the passage’s structure and try to create an outline or a sketch of how it flows.
- Ask yourself, “What is the main idea, and how does it fit into the larger story of the Bible?”
What is the Greatest Challenge in biblical interpretation?
- Argument: Having a good translation. Truth: Most translations are very accurate to the original intent.
- Argument: Clarity of the Biblical text. Truth: The Bible is clear about all essentials of faith and obedience.
- Argument: Connecting ancient texts to a modern problem. Truth: The human condition is the same today as it was thousands of years ago.
- Argument: Cultural differences between the Bible and us. Truth: This can be a challenge; however, God’s word speaks to every person, every ethnic group, every culture, and every nation.
All of these issues are significant and they do deserve our attention. For example, it does require a careful reading of the biblical text in order to interpret a passage and apply it to our own cultural context in ways that are faithful to the intended meaning of the Bible.
However, the greatest challenge is that of human pride.
Due to our sin, we are reluctant to accept what God is telling us. We will do anything to avoid the obvious truth of a biblical text when we are unwilling to submit in obedience to God, our Creator, and Redeemer. As a result, we often argue or ignore what God’s Word is telling us. This can lead to divisions in the Church and hostility between denominations. Confession, humility, and obedience are the steps that bring us back to a place where we hear God’s message more clearly.
Is there a passage of Scripture that makes you uncomfortable because you are unwilling to do what God is asking you to do?
Is there a passage of Scripture that is used to divide Christians in your region into opposing groups? Jesus prayed for unity among all believers—disunity will harm our witness. Can you read/study that passage together with those who disagree and become unified?
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