…[H]ere are a some simple rules of interpretation (hermeneutics) which should at least get us started. May God use these brief words to encourage you as you search out the truths of God’s word, for His glory:
1. Consider the Author – who wrote the book? (what was his background, language, culture, vocation, concerns, education, circumstance, what stage of life?)
2. Consider the Audience (why was the book written? who was the audience? what would these words have meant to its original recipients?)
3. The Meaning of Words (this has become a lot easier in our day with all the information and technology at our disposal. The computer program Bibleworks 8 is especially recommended).
4. Historical Setting (avoid anachronism – trying to understand the past while viewing it wearing 21st century glasses – will not help toward understanding the original meaning of the author).
5. Grammar – (how things are being expressed – imperative is a command, a subjunctive would be “would you like to do this?” – two quite different meanings result)
6. Textual Issues – (are there any questions about the earliest or most authoritative manuscripts in comparison with others of a later date – and how does this influence our understanding of what was originally written)
7. Syntax – this refers to words and their relationship with one another. […]
8. Form of Literature (we should interpret the Bible literally, but that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize that parables are parables, and that to interpret them correctly, we interpret them as literal parables! Historical narrative is historical narrative, nouns are nouns, verbs are verbs, analogies are analogies)
9. Immediate Context (a text out of context becomes a pretext. It can be made to say something not intended by the author). Always check the immediate context of a verse or passage to determine the correct interpretation.
10. Document Context (in Romans, there is a certain argument Paul is pursuing, and this helps us to determine what is meant in isolated verses when we know the purpose for what is being written. Always keep the author’s broad purpose in mind when looking in detail at the meaning of texts). […]
11. Author’s Context (this refers to looking at all of a person’s writings – John’s writings, Paul’s writings, Luke’s writings, etc.).
12. Biblical Context (the broadest context possible, the entire Bible; allowing us to ask if our interpretation is consistent with the whole of Scripture. Scripture is never contradictory to itself.
13. Understand the difference between prescriptive and descriptive statements in the Bible. Is the verse telling us to do something, or does it describe an action someone does? […]
14. Build all doctrine on necessary rather than possible inferences. […]
15. Interpret the unclear passages in Scripture in light of the clear. Though all Scripture is God breathed, every passage is not equally clear (easy to understand). […]
16. Build doctrine on didactic (teaching) statements in Scripture rather than possible inferences from narrative passages […]
17. Think for yourself but not by yourself […]
18. Avoid hyper allegorical interpretations […]
He made his way through each of the above points in the last four Dividing Line broadcasts: