The Science of Interpreting the Bible

When i first heard the word “hermenutics” I did not understand what it is. After some research, i found it very important in understanding the bible.

Hermeneutics is the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible or literary texts. It is the art of science of the interpretation of the literature. In this case the subject of literature is the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God as written by God’s Spirit through the hands of chosen men of faith, handed down to us so that we may know the thoughts of the Divine toward us, His creation.

Biblical Hermeneutics is a set of study principles used to determine the best interpretation of a biblical text as close as possible to the intended meaning of that text. There are certain rules that need to be adhered to in order for these principles to be employed in sound research of the scriptures. Bible study consists of three primary steps: observation, interpretation, and application.2 . After observing the text, interpretation should yield the understanding of God’s Word which He intended resulting in its fruitful application in the life of the reader. If interpretation goes astray, then a proper understanding will not result and the application of God’s message to the life of the reader will not be what God intended.

As I study the bible, I tried following hermenuitics principles:

Understanding the Purpose of the Book
Understanding the Historical Background
Understanding the Culture
Understanding the Context
Understanding the Meaning of the Words
Understanding the Parallel Passages
Understanding the Literary Styles
Understanding How to Make an Application

You can read about these principles in the details here.

As a beginner, I kept the following principles in mind which are branches of the principles identified above:

Scriptures Interpret Scriptures or Analogy of Faith

You can interpret one verse in the bible by a similar topic from another verse. Since the bible is an inspired words of God, no verses contradict another verse. If one verse is not clear then apply another principle of hermeneutics until one verse is in harmony of the other.

Applying this principle, anyone teaching a verse is false because of what it said in another verse is a wrong interpretation. The two verses must be in harmony meaning they do should not contradict but rather complement each other or in some cases the verses are totally spoken in different context.

Writer and Audience Relevance

The Hebrew Relevance

Remember that both the Old and New Testaments writers are thoroughly Hebrews. Jesus was a first century Jewish man who thought and taught like one. In order to understand his teaching, we must think like an ancient Hebrew as well. Every teaching in the New Testament is based upon Jesus’ teaching, and Jesus’ teaching was expounding upon the Old Testament. They are layers of the same message.

Audience Relevance

What did the text mean to the original reader? What was the first century Jewish writer trying to say? When Apostle Paul reference “you” in say Colossians, he is referring to the Colossians. Not to us 20th century Christians. The bible is not written to us, it is written for us because it is profitable for application in our life.

How many people know the book of revelation is not written to us? Let us read this passage

Revelation 1:4-6 (NKJV)
4 John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits[a] before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

So to whom the Revelation is written? To the seven churches of Asia. Who are they?

Revelation 1:11 (NKJV) – 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

So when John says “Grace and peace to you“, the “you” refers o the seven churches not us 20th century people. The seven churches are real people in real places in the first century.

Inspired By God

According to Paul on his letter to Timothy

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The scripture is profitable for doctrine which is what most Christian religions had established in their faith. However most of these religions cannot comply with reproof and corrections. For example when the King James Version (KJV) corrected the word “world” in the New King James Version (NKJV), many Churches who teach Matthew 24:3 (KJV) about the end of the world (judgement day or final destruction of planet earth) can no longer apply the new correction regarding the change of “end of the world” to the “end of the age”  in Matthew 24 (NKJV) because it is clearly no longer referring to the planet earth destruction. So the signs mentioned foretold by Christ in Matthew 24:6 “you will hear wars and rumors of wars…”, is no longer valid for reference to the beginning of the ends of the planet earth. Some will keep arguing the “end of the age” refers to the end of time. By understanding the context of Matthew 24 that Jesus and the Apostles are talking about the destruction of Jerusalem Temple (not the destruction of the planet earth) and studying the two ages in the bible, we get the idea what the age means.

While we believe the scriptures is inspired by God, the original text has no errors. The intended purpose of God remain pristine. When the original text was translated by human in different languages, human as they are, some words are translated incorrectly. Thanks to Apostle Paul he already given us the idea that the scriptures is subject for reproof and corrections. Today there are many versions of the bible. Some are translated according to the doctrines the interpreter uphold so we have to be careful also. In my case, I take most verses from NKJV, NASB or NIV.

Summary

I now believe hermeneutics is the most important and logical method of interpreting the bible.

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