Summary: Bible Research is a condensed Bible College Course in how to study the Bible. This final session deals with the next two steps of Bible study: Interpretation and Application.
SESSION #7 – THE NEED TO INTERPRET:
“Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; she will bring you honor, when you embrace her.” (Proverbs 4:5-8).
In OBSERVATION, we asked the question, “What do I see?”
In INTERPRETATION, we are going to ask the question, “What does it mean?”
“It’s not the things I don’t understand in the Bible that bother me. It’s the things I do understand.” (Mark Twain).
2 TIMOTHY 2:15 – A WORD STUDY:
“Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing (rightly handling and skillfully teaching) the Word of Truth.” (Amplified Bible).
Dividing – (Strong’s #3718) – orthotomeo – to make a straight cut, to dissect (expound) correctly (the divine message)
STRANGER THAN FICTION: A TRUE STORY:
“A young couple from another church came to one of our assistant pastors for counseling about marital problems they started having soon after their wedding. After just a few minutes of interviewing the two, he could see they were miles apart in tastes, ideas, and opinions. “What made the two of you get married?” he asked.
“A sermon our pastor preached on Joshua conquering Jericho.”
“What did that have to do with getting married?”
“Well,” explained the husband, “Joshua and his army claimed Jericho, marched around it seven times, and the walls fell down. Our pastor told us that if we trusted God, claimed a certain young girl and marched around her seven times, the walls of her heart would collapse, and she would be willing to marry. So I did it, and we got married.”
Our assistant pastor stared in disbelief. Was this man putting him on? No, indeed. In fact, several couples in that particular church had gotten married on the same basis after hearing the same sermon. This amazing story illustrations that first of all people can become extremely confused on what the Bible means and what to do about it; and second, the interpretation and application of Scripture is crucial to life decisions.” (John MacArthur, How to Get the Most from God’s Word)
Exegesis - to get out of the text the original author’s intended meaning
Hermeneutics - to hear that same meaning in the variety of new or different contexts of our own day (the science of Bible interpretation)
Basic errors to avoid to escape faulty hermeneutics:
1. Don’t try to make a point at the price of proper interpretation (see story above)
2. Don’t spiritualize or allegorize Scripture.
(allegorical language in the Bible is usually fairly obvious – ie. Jesus the Lamb)
THE AIM OF GOOD INTERPRETATION:
“The aim of good interpretation is not uniqueness. One is not trying to discover what no one else has seen before. The aim of good interpretation is simple: to get at the “plain meaning of the text.” (Fee & Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth)
Unique interpretations are usually wrong.
WHY IS THERE THE NEED TO LEARN HOW TO INTERPRET?
1. THE READER AS AN INTERPRETER:
Every reader is at the same time an interpreter. We bring to the text all that we are, with all of our experiences, culture, and prior understandings of words and ideas. These are called presuppositions. Faulty presuppositions lead to faulty interpretation. You can’t just READ and DO. You must interpret what you read before applying it.
2. THE NATURE OF SCRIPTURE:
“The Bible is the Word of God given in the words of (people) in history.”
(Professor George Ladd)
Because the Bible is God’s Word, it has eternal relevance.
It speaks to all humankind, in every age and in every culture.
Because it is God’s Word, we must listen – and obey.
But because God chose to speak the word through human minds in history, every book in the Bible also has historical particularity; each document is conditioned by the language, time, and culture in which it was originally written.
Interpretation of the Bible is demanded by the tension that exists between the eternal relevance and the historical particularity of the Scriptures.
(a) The reader must hear the Word the original hearers heard, to try to understand what was said to them back then and there.
(b) The reader must learn to hear that same Word in the here and now.
(c) This will naturally lead us to our final step of APPLICATION.
When we come to the Scriptures, God intends for us to understand what He has said.