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Sermon No: 72351-Biblical interpretation



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SERMON TOPIC: Biblical interpretation

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 12 June 2020

Topic Groups: HERMENEUTICS, COLLEGE, BIBLE

Sermon synopsis: We need to accurately handle the word of truth.

2 Tim 2:15 (NASB) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

The term “hermeneutics” derives from the Greek word meaning “translate” or “interpret.” Hermeneutics is the methodology of interpretation we use when immediate comprehension fails.
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MODULE 2: THE BIBLE

CHAPTER 11: WE MUST STUDY THE BIBLE

CHAPTER 9: PRINCIPLES OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION

CHAPTER 10: INTERPRETING THE NEW TESTAMENT

WHY STUDY THE BIBLE

The message in the Bible is able to save us.

James 1:21 (NIV) Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Because it brings conviction of sin.

Heb 4:12 (NIV) For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

We can use it in spiritual warfare.

Eph 6:17 (NIV) Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

WHY STUDY THE BIBLE

Memorisation of God’s Word enables us to overcome temptation.

Psalm 119:11 (NIV) I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

It is God’s Word to us and teaches us how to live.

James 1:22-25 (NIV) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

WHY STUDY THE BIBLE

Enables us to avoid error.

1 Tim 4:16 (NIV) Watch your life and doctrine closely…

To learn what it says first-hand.

Acts 17:11 (NIV) Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

For guidance

Psalm 119:105 (NIV) Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

WHY STUDY THE BIBLE

Personal edification

Act 20:32 (NIV) “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

It carries a blessing for those who meditate on and heed what they read.

Ps 1:1-2 (NIV) Blessed is the one … whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.

Rev 1:3 (NASB) Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

HERMENEUTICS

We need to accurately handle the word of truth.

2 Tim 2:15 (NASB) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

The term “hermeneutics” derives from the Greek word ἑρμηνεύω (hermēneuō) meaning “translate” or “interpret.”

Hermeneutics is the methodology of interpretation we use when immediate comprehension fails.

The Bible is both a human book and a divine book. There are certain implications of this for biblical interpretation.

The human authors had a specific historical audience, context and purpose. These authors used their own language, writing methods, style of writing and literary form of writing. 1

The divine authorship of the Bible gives it its unity and the ultimate source of all interpretation is from God. 1 When Joseph was asked about the meaning of some God-given dreams he replied, “Don’t interpretations belong to God?” (Gen 40:8) 1

1 https:// bible.org/ seriespage/ lesson-6-principles-biblical-interpretation

HERMENEUTICS

1) AUTHORIAL INTENT

One of the most reliable form of hermeneutics is the Historical Contextual Hermeneutic. We ask the questions:

What did this mean to the author?

What did the original readers understood it to mean?

Authorial intent - no reader has the right to impose his own ideas on the text.

E.g., if you wrote a letter with some statements in it that are a little ambiguous, then what does the letter mean? Does it mean what you intended it to mean or how the readers interpret it? Of course it means what you intended it to mean. The true meaning of a text resides in the authorial intent of the text. 1

1 https:// bible.org/ seriespage/ lesson-6-principles-biblical-interpretation

HISTORICAL CONTEXTUAL HERMENEUTIC

What does this mean? It was a ball. It depends on the context. Consider the following sentences:

The baseball umpire saw the pitch drift to the outside and said, “It was a ball.”

We went to the dance last night; it was so formal it was a ball.

Walking along the golf course I saw something in the tall grass, it was a ball.

I had so much fun at the party, it was a ball.

In each case the word “ball” means something different. The context determines meaning!

CONTEXT

CONTEXT

Context is king.

Don’t try to interpret a verse by itself in isolation without looking at the context itself (i.e. read the verses before and after it).

The nearest context must give the most weight in interpretation. First, there is the near context of the sentence, then the paragraph, then the section and then the book and even author. 1 Then we need to consider if it is in the Old Testament or New Testament.

Many heretical doctrines violate this rule by taking single verses ‘out of context’.

1 Ibid.

E.g., Baptismal regeneration (the idea that you must be baptised in water to be saved) is primarily derived from this verse.

John 3:5 (NIV) Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”

In context, Jesus is contrasting natural birth (born of water 1) with spiritual birth (born of the spirit). He continues in the next verse, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” He is answering Nicodemus’ question in the previous verse “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

1 The amniotic sac (the bag of waters) is inside the womb when the baby develops. The water “breaks” shortly before birth – hence natural birth is “born of water.”

CONTEXT

CONTEXT

Study the passage and its context to make sure you are being true to the text. E.g. many preach sermons on tithing and giving using Luke 6:38 without checking the context.

Luke 6:37 (NIV) “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Luke 6:38 (NIV) “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

So the context indicates that Jesus is actually talking about forgiveness and judging. The more forgiveness we give, the more forgiveness we will receive. God will judge us with the same measure (standard) we use on others.

CONTEXT

E.g. 2 Many use Philippians 4:13 to teach that we should be achievers and successful in the business world.

Phil 4:12 (NLT) I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

Phil 4:13 (NLT) For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

In context Paul is saying that through Christ he can face tough situations like having an empty stomach and having little money.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Learn the cultural setting and historical context of the passage.

Who is the author?

What is the date of the text?

What is the historical background?

What is the cultural setting?

E.g. I’ve heard some preachers say that this verse in Peter’s first epistle shows that Satan has no power – he is a “roaring lion” but he has no teeth – he cannot bite.

1 Pet 5:8-10 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

If we look at the historical context we find that the book of 1 Peter was written to Christians who were being persecuted.

Peter writes, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:12, NIV).

The persecution was at the hands of the emperor Nero. The Roman historian, Tacitus writes of how Christians were treated, “They died in torments, and their torments were embittered by insult and derision. Some were nailed on crosses; others sewn up in the skins of wild beasts, and exposed to the fury of dogs; others again, smeared over with combustible materials, were used as torches to illuminate the darkness of the night. The gardens of Nero were destined for the melancholy spectacle…”

Furthermore, Peter himself would later be crucified upside- down during this persecution.

North African theologian, Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240) writes:

The budding faith Nero first made bloody in Rome. There Peter was girded by another, since he was bound to the cross. 1

Do you think that anyone who read Peter’s letter in the 1st century (his initial audience) thought the roaring lion (Satan) had no teeth?

1 Scorpiace 15

BROADER CONTEXT IN NT

Looking at the broader context of the New Testament, Paul writes:

Phil 1:29-30 (NIV) For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Tertullian informs us that Paul also endured “a death like John’s,” (i.e., John the Baptist, who was beheaded).

… you have Rome … How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood! — where Peter endures a passion like his Lord’s! — where Paul wins his crown in a death like John’s! 1

1 On Prescription Against Heretics, ch. XXXVI[23]

BROADER CONTEXT IN NT

Despite the teaching of some that Satan is powerless and ‘can only roar, not bite’, the context of 1 Peter 5:8-10 also makes it clear that the lion has teeth.

1 Pet 5:8-10 (NIV) Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

What is the application? Peter instructs us to ‘resist’ Satan and to stand ‘firm in the faith’ when we suffer. God’s restoration comes “after you have suffered a little while”.

CONTEXT

Interpret the Bible literally (or normally) allowing for normal use of figurative language. Take the plain meaning of the text at face value.

Don’t spiritualize or allegorise 1 a passage in an attempt to solve some theological difficulty it presents you.

If the Bible and your doctrine clash, change your doctrine, not the meaning of the text.

Amillennialists use this technique of allegorisation 1 to overcome ‘problems’ in Revelation 20. They spiritualize the ‘first resurrection’ and equate it with being ‘born again’. They then relocate the Millennium’s earthly rule to heaven and make the ‘1000 years’ a synonym for ‘a very long time’.

1 Allegory (noun) (Verb is “allegorise”): a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. E.g. “Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory of the spiritual journey.”

LITERAL INTERPRETATION

A summary of the plain literal teaching of Revelation 20 is:

There are 2 resurrections. The 2 resurrections are separated by a 1000 years. During this 1000 years Jesus reigns on earth. This follows a period when the Beast has ruled (Tribulation). Those who are part of the first resurrection are blessed. Those who are part of the first resurrection will reign with Jesus.

Rev 20: 4 … They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

D

D

A

E

B

B

C

A

E

F

F

C

A literal reading of Revelation 20 teaches:

LITERAL INTERPRETATION

Amillennialists spiritualise and allegorise it to mean:

The literal meaning of the text will not always be the only meaning. There may be a secondary meaning (especially with types in the OT and antitypes in the NT). At times a passage may have a deeper application, however:

The literal sense remains valid and the primary sense.

The secondary sense cannot contradict the primary sense (e.g. as Amillennialists attempt in Revelation 20).

Typology (e.g. Joseph is a type of Jesus) is clearly a form of figurative interpretation. But the type is not the primary meaning of the passage. Instead we take a person or passage that is literal and see how they/it prefigure something or someone in the New Covenant.

FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE

FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE

When the literal does not make sense you probably have a figure of speech. E.g., Isaiah 55:12 says that “all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Since trees do not have hands or clap, this is a figure of speech.

A figure of speech is an expression implying an idea other than what is actually stated. The Bible does at times use figures of speech, as do all forms of writing. They give it a powerful and colourful means of expression.

Examples of figurative language are:

Parables – a parable uses a natural truth (that we can relate to) to teach a spiritual truth.

Similes: Words such as “like” or “as” can also communicate a figure of speech. (e.g. brave as a lion)

Metaphors - A metaphor speaks of an equivalence without using “like” or “as”, e.g.

Psalm 18:2 (NIV) The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

No less than 5 metaphors occur in this single verse. God is not literally a rock, fortress, shield, horn or stronghold; He merely, in some ways, resembles them.

FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE

Symbolism - Clear examples of symbolism are the mysterious women in Revelation 12 and 17.

If figurative language is used, then interpret Scripture with other Scripture. See what the same or similar figures mean in other passages.

E.g. In Revelation 12 the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head” is interpreted by cross- referencing Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37, where the sun, moon and 12 stars represents Israel.

SCRIPTURE WITH SCRIPTURE

SINGLE VERSE DOCTRINES

Be consistent in the interpretation.

E.g. we applied this in the parable of the leaven (Matt 13) where we saw that leaven also speaks of sin and hypocrisy in other passages, so it is inconsistent to teach (as some do) that the parable refers to the growth of the kingdom of God.

Let the NT help you understand the OT.

Let the clear passages help you understand the less clear. This is sometimes called the law of non-contradiction. 1 Because the Bible is God’s Word, and God cannot lie, the Bible will not contradict itself. So confirm an interpretation with 2 or 3 similar passages (i.e. 2 or 3 witnesses).

1 Ibid.

SINGLE VERSE DOCTRINES

If you cannot find parallel Scriptural passages, don’t formulate doctrine on single verses.

E.g. the Mormons teach that you can be baptised for dead relatives from this verse:

1 Cor 15:29 (NIV) Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?

You will find no other verse that seems to say that you can be baptised on behalf of a dead person.

In context Paul is talking about the state of our faith if Christ was not raised. He asks, “If Christ is not raised, why are people ‘baptized for the dead’ (i.e. Jesus)”?

FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE

Here is an example using the following to throw light on an obscure passage using:

Context

Original languages

Cultural context and idiomatic expressions

Cross referencing, Interpreting scripture with scripture

Consulting different versions

Matt 6:22-23 (KJV) The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great [is] that darkness!

An “evil eye” does not make literal sense. So we are dealing with a figure of speech. But rather than guessing, we need to apply these principles to determine what is meant.

Q: What does this passage mean?

A: There is disagreement about the meaning of this saying of Jesus. Some options as to what Jesus meant are:

Developing good or wrong images in your mind.

Being careful what you watch - Jesus is referring to the images we take in visually.

Getting our priorities right with regards to money and material possessions.

GOOD EYE – EVIL EYE

Matt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Money

???

Money

CONTEXT

Matt 6:22 “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

The Greek word translated ‘single’ or ‘good’ is ‘haplous’ and is only used here in the NT. But its corresponding noun is ‘haplotes’ which can means sincerity or generosity. This last sense relates to money and thus fits the context of Matthew 6:19-24.

Haplotes is used 8 times in the NT. 4 times the context implies ‘sincerity’ but the other 4 times the context of ‘haplotes’ implies generosity.

In Matthew 6, Jesus is talking about money, not sincerity. So based on the usage of ‘haplotes’ elsewhere in Scripture, and the context of Matthew 6 the ‘good eye’ would be a ‘generous person’.

ORIGINAL LANGUAGES

It costs an arm and a leg - it’s too expensive, more than it's worth.

I was only pulling your leg - I was only joking.

CULTURAL IDIOMS

A figure of speech is an expression implying an idea other than what is actually stated. In English we use idioms – or figures of speech that don’t make sense literally, like:

The Bible also at times uses figures of speech, as is indeed common in all languages. In a similar fashion to our use of English idioms, we should expect that the sayings of Jesus may sometimes contain Hebraic idioms that don’t make literal sense in English.

Some believe that Jesus may have been using a Hebraic idiom by contrasting a “good eye” and an “evil eye”. Some Jewish commentators say that a “good eye” means a person who is generous, and an “evil eye” a greedy person. 1

Thus Jesus’ meaning about have a good (or single) eye may be that if a man is generous, rather than being stingy - he will be blessed and righteous in all areas of life (i.e. his whole body is filled with light).

1 www.torah.org/ learning/ ravfrand/ 5768/ balak.html

CULTURAL IDIOMS

The Hebrew phrase ‘good eye’ is used in Proverbs 22:9 where it is translated “a generous man”.

He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor. (KJV)

A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. (NIV)

On the contrary in Proverbs 28:22 we see how an “evil eye” refers to a stingy man.

He that hasteth to be rich [hath] an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him. (KJV)

A stingy man is eager to get rich and is unaware that poverty awaits him. (NIV)

CULTURAL IDIOMS

Later in Matthew’s gospel (20:15) Jesus himself uses the idiom of “evil eye” in the context of greed. In the parable of the generous landowner who pays all the labourers the same, the landowner says to the disgruntled workers:

CULTURAL IDIOMS

Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? (KJV)

Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? (NIV)

VERSE

TOPIC

KINGDOM PERSPECTIVE

WORLDLY PERSPECTIVE

MATT 6:19-21

2 TREASURES

TREASURE IN HEAVEN

TREASURE ON EARTH

MATT 6:22-23

2 VISIONS

GOOD EYE (GENEROUS WITH MONEY)

EVIL EYE (STINGY WITH MONEY)

MATT 6:24

2 MASTERS

GOD

MONEY

CULTURAL IDIOMS

Be sensitive to distinctions between Israel and the church and Old Covenant and New Covenant eras/requirements.

Promises made to Israel in the OT cannot automatically be transferred to the church. E.g. the land promises were given to Abraham and his descendants (Gen 12:7) but that does not include Gentile Christians. Christians are not under the requirements of the Mosaic Law (Rom 6:14). E.g.

Lev 19:19 “you must not wear a garment made of two different kinds of fabric.”

This was a binding command under the Mosaic Law but not under the terms of the New Covenant. It is true that certain OT commands repeated in the NT are still binding, but this is made clear by their repetition in the NT. 1

1 Ibid.

REPETITION IN NT

So what is the value in studying the OT?

The Bible is incomplete without the Old Testament.

Both the Old and New Testaments make up the Word of God. The New Testament was never given to replace the Old Testament but rather to complete its story. Genesis 3:14-19 records how a curse came upon humanity because of sin. Revelation 22:3 completes the story by recording how God, through the redemptive work of Jesus, has removed the curse. The theme of God’s redemptive work would be incomplete without both Testaments revealing the beginning and end of the curse. 1

1 https:// transformedblog.westernseminary.edu/ 2015/ 10/ 12/ 7-reasons-to-study-the-old-testament

INTERPRETING THE OT

The Old Testament provides the historical setting out of which Christianity and the New Testament emerged.

Christianity didn’t emerge from a vacuum. God was moving among the people of Israel to bring forth the Messiah who would provide redemption from the judgment that came on humanity because of sin. The early New Testament preachers like Stephen (Acts 7) and Paul (Acts 13:16-41) made frequent use of the Hebrew Bible to declare God’s plan for salvation. The story line of God’s work in salvation begins in the Hebrew Bible and then continues its flow through the New Testament. 1

1 Ibid.

INTERPRETING THE OT

The Old Testament is “God-breathed and profitable.”

Paul declares that “all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). When he wrote these words he was referring to the Hebrew Bible. 1

Prophecy

We can see the many prophecies and how they were fulfilled by Jesus in the NT.

There are also many end-time prophecies which still need fulfilment e.g. the restoration of Israel, the Millennium, the Day of the Lord (Tribulation).

1 Ibid.

INTERPRETING THE OT

Typology: A type is a person, symbol or event in the Old Testament that foreshadows another in the New Testament. E.g. Adam, David and Joseph are types of Jesus. The Ark is a type of salvation. The blood sacrifices point to Jesus’ death on the cross as a sin offering.

The Passover points to Jesus who is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The Feast of Unleavened Bread speaks of his sinless life, while the Pentecost Feast points to the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Col 3:16-17 (NIV) Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

INTERPRETING THE OT

The events in the OT serve both as examples and warnings to us.

Paul says the following about Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness:

1 Cor 10:11 (NIV) These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come.

APPLICATION

Interpretation must be distinguished from application.

APPLICATION

While there is one interpretation that is historical, there are many applications we can carry over to our modern context. Build an application bridge from the interpretation to the timeless principle and then to the application now.

E.g., in John 12, Mary anoints Jesus with very expensive oil. The historical context records a historical event. The interpretation relates only to what Mary did to Jesus. What about us today? An application might be that we are willing to give sacrificially for the Lord’s work and give Jesus acts of worship as Mary did. 1

Or when Jesus states the principle in Matthew 5 to love one’s enemies it is a general command that I might apply specifically by loving a worker who undermines me or a neighbour who offends me. 1

1 Ibid.

Back to Jeremiah 29:11 (which we saw in the video clip). Because that passage applied to Israel, does it mean we cannot apply it to a modern audience? Of course we can, but the application must be the true one found in the context. It is not saying that God will bless his people regardless of what they do. In fact they have been disobedient and are being punished in captivity. God is promising that after a time of discipline, they will repent and again seek him with all their heart – then he will restore and prosper them.

Jer 29:8-14 (NIV) Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. 

APPLICATION

 I have not sent them,” declares the Lord. This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

APPLICATION

LITERATURE TYPE

What is the literary genre of the passage?

Is it prophecy, narrative, didactic (teaching), law, wisdom, poetry, gospel, parable or epistle?

Each of these types of literature has specific features that must be considered when interpreting a text. We need to understand that the genre makes a big difference to how we interpret it.

E.g. Narrative Literature: Much of the Old Testament contains narrative literature. First, the passage needs to be interpreted in its historical context and then applications can be drawn from the characters and events.

In the book of Judges, only one verse is given to the judge Shamgar. It reads,

Judges 3:31 (NIV) After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.

Why did God include this passage? Yes, it records an historical event. Also, the verse teaches God’s delivering power can come in an unexpected way, not with a mighty army but with one man wielding an oxgoad. 1

1 Ibid.

NARRATIVE

E.g. Law: Realize that Christians are not under the law as a legal system (Rom 6:14) but that we are to fulfil the principles that stand behind the law of loving God and loving one’s neighbour (cf. Matt 22:37-40). 1

Sometimes the teaching is carried directly into the NT:

1 John 3:15 (NIV) Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

Eph 4:28 (NIV) He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands…

Eph 6:6 (NIV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

1 Ibid.

LAW

At times, the NT takes an OT text and applies a principle from it. E.g. in Deut 25:4 we read “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” (NIV)

Paul takes this verse, which refers to the need to feed a work animal and applies the principle of a Christian worker being worthy of financial support. He states:

1 Tim 5:17-18 (NIV) The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

If the OT command is not repeated in the NT, look for the principle behind the statement and try to apply it.

LAW

E.g. Gospels: Understand that each book was intended for a specific audience and this influences the material.

Matthew was written for a Jewish audience. (He quotes extensively from the OT as they are familiar with it.)

Mark was written for a Roman audience. (Certain Latin words not found in any of the other Gospels are used. He quotes only twice from the OT. Jewish customs are explained as are words unfamiliar to Gentiles.)

Luke was written for a Greek audience. (The book is written in a refined Koine Greek).

John was written for a universal or Gentile audience (initially for Gentiles in Ephesus).

GOSPELS

This can help us see nuances or explain differences between accounts.

E.g. in (Matthew 19:1-12 and Mark 10:1-12) Jesus teaches on the topic of divorce. Both gospels state that a man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. Mark alone though adds the point that if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she commits adultery against him. Why is this difference there? It probably has to do with the audience. Matthew is writing to a Jewish culture in which a woman could not divorce her husband while Mark is writing to a Roman audience in which one could. 1

1 Ibid

GOSPELS

Lastly, recognize that the gospels are in a transitional stage between Old and New Covenants. Jesus lived in the context of Judaism prior to the birth of the church.

For example, Jesus is keeping the Old Testament prescribed feasts in many of his journeys to Jerusalem.

Also, he is introducing changes that will be inaugurated with the start of the New Covenant. E.g., in Mark 7 Jesus declared all foods clean which was a change from the Old Testament dietary laws. 1

1 Ibid

GOSPELS

We must get into the author’s context, historically, grammatically, culturally and the literary forms and conventions the author was working in. As we are 2000 years or more removed from the biblical authors we need some good Bible study tools. 1

A good study Bible with notes

Good evangelical commentaries

An interlinear Bible: Displays Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words with literal English transliteration and meaning placed under each Hebrew and Greek word. May include Strong’s cross-reference numbers.

1 https:// bible.org/ seriespage/ lesson-6-principles-biblical-interpretation

TOOLS

Use more than one good Bible translation when studying.

A paraphrase is a translation of a translation usually in very simple language, so they are helpful when English is not your first language.

If you are doing a study, it’s better to use a translation i.e. translated from the original languages to English.

A word-for-word translation (or literal translation) is more true to the original language but often the grammar sounds awkward in English.

An idea-for-idea translation (or dynamic equivalent) uses idioms and language structure that is more familiar to English readers.

BIBLE VERSIONS

Bible

Translation

Grd *

English

New International Readers Version

DYNAMIC EQUIV. / LITERAL

3

Simple

International Children’s Bible

PARAPHRASE

3

Simple

Bible in Basic English

LITERAL

?

Basic

The Message

PARAPHRASE

6

Modern

New Living Translation

DYNAMIC EQUIV. / LITERAL

6

Modern

Good News Translation

DYNAMIC EQUIV.

6

Modern

World English Bible

DYNAMIC EQUIV.

7

Modern

New International Version

DYNAMIC EQUIV. / LITERAL

7

Modern

UNDERSTANDABILITY

Bible

Translation

Grd *

English

Holman Christian Standard Bible

DYNAMIC EQUIV. / LITERAL

8

Modern

New King James Version

LITERAL

8

Modern

English Standard Version

LITERAL

9

Modern

Amplified Bible

LITERAL ***

11**

Modern

New American Standard Bible

LITERAL

11

Modern

King James Version

LITERAL

12

17th C

Young’s Literal translation

LITERAL

12+

19th C

* Grd - Estimated minimum reading grade ability of readers ** Brackets sometimes make for fragmented reading *** Plus additional amplification of word meanings.

LITERAL TRANSLATIONS

When applied to Scripture, accurate hermeneutics might require the scholar to:

Look up the actual meaning of each word (especially keywords) in the original languages (Hebrew and Greek).

Note the verb tenses, the cases, and other grammatical determinants.

Check out cross-references to see how the keywords are used in other contexts.

ORIGINAL LANGUAGES

Unless you know Hebrew and Greek, you will need a Hebrew / Greek concordance and lexicon . E.g.

Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew / Greek lexicon.

Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the OT, Thayer’s Greek Dictionary of the NT.

A Bible concordance is an alphabetical listings of words and phrases found in the Bible and shows in which books the terms occur.

A lexicon contains an alphabetical arrangement of the words in a language and their definitions.

TOOLS

All Bible tools are available for free online. E.g.

www.biblehub.com

www.blueletterbible.org

www.biblegateway.com

www.preceptaustin.org (Multiple commentaries)

TOOLS

CONCLUSION

Biblical passages must be interpreted according to the intention of the author and in the context in which the statement is made. Interpretation must be distinguished from application. One must be sensitive to what type of literature one is in, and how this may or may not apply to a believer in the church age. Interpreting the Bible is sometimes hard work but it’s always worth the cost. 1

David reminds us of the value of God’s words.

Psalm 19:10 (ESV) More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

1 Ibid

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV: THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (http:// www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV: Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.




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