Tool 2: Bible Interpretation

Lesson ▪ 1997
Tags: Bible; Hermeneutics
Excerpted from Bridging the Gap: Developing Tools for Better Bible Understanding

It was stated in Tool 1 of Bridging the Gap that man plays a role in the process of communicating spiritual truth: he is responsible to accurately interpret God’s Word.

Since given texts can be interpreted in more than one way, it is necessary to define accepted guidelines for interpreting them. There is a field of theology—hermeneutics—that is solely concerned with these guidelines of interpretation.

There are several approaches to hermeneutics. Conservative Christians generally agree that the Bible is to be interpreted literally. By this is meant that words and phrases are most often to be taken in their normal, common sense. This view of hermeneutics can be summed up in the cliché, “If the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense.”

Of course, acceptance of the literal view does not preclude treating biblical metaphors and allegories as such. For example, Christ’s reference to himself as a door (Jn 10.7, 9) need not be understood in the physical sense, in terms of a barrier by which an entry is closed and opened. Rather, this statement should be understood metaphorically, meaning that there are certain properties which can equally be attributed to a door as well as to Christ, the former in the physical realm and the latter in the spiritual.

Intrinsically related to literal interpretation is the matter of grammatical/historical interpretation, which consists of attempting to derive from the text the meaning that its original context demands.