Rules for Biblical Interpretation

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Heavenly Pilgrim, Jun 14, 2006.

  1. Heavenly Pilgrim

    Heavenly Pilgrim
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    When establishing doctrine according to Scripture, it is imperative to establish a set of rules for Biblical interpretation. Something needs to serve as a guide to keep us from misusing texts, or drawing conclusions as to the meaning of texts contrary to its intended purposes. It is all too easy to enter into a search of Scripture to find support for our presuppositions rather than to carefully limit our understanding to the things God has clearly allowed us to reasonably be assured of and is in context with the intended purpose and topic addressed. Often times if we are not careful we will find ourselves falling into the trap of seeking only for ‘proof texts’ to find support for presuppositions or texts we have carelessly, accidentally, or wrongfully misappropriated for our own uses.

    Here is a guide that I have found to be very helpful in my own search of Scriptures meanings. I have placed into my own words thoughts that were established due to the efforts and study of godly men in days gone by.

    1.) Different passages of Scripture need to be harmonized, so as not to allow them to be seen as contradictory, one to another, if at all possible.
    (2.) Careful notice must be made of the subject matter addressed. All conclusions as to the meaning(s) implied should be found to be consistent with the language used within the passage
    3.) Caution must be exercised to make sure that we have given careful attention to the general design and scope of the one speaking or the author.
    (4.) If a text can be clearly shown to support more than one theory the text can not be shown to prove either.
    (5.) God is the source of all truth. When drawing conclusions in regard to a particular text, we must, if possible, attach a meaning to the language utilized that will not be found to be in direct opposition with matters of fact, sound philosophy, the natural order of things, first truths of reason, or matters of immutable justice.
     
  2. Hope of Glory

    Hope of Glory
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    When something is used a particular way many times, if there's one (or a few) that seem to contradict it, those should be considered exceptional passages, and all the passages will harmonize. And example of this is that there are more than 200 references to a literal and future Kingdom, yet people will try to take 5 exceptional passages to "prove" that it is figurative or simply something that is spiritual and mystical.

    In order to interpret the passage, translate the text.

    Compare Scripture to Scripture and build line upon line. Don't take denominational teaching and make Scripture fit, make the denominational teaching prove itself.

    If you believe something is true, try to disprove it using Scripture. If you can, then you have a faulty belief or a faulty understanding.
     
  3. Heavenly Pilgrim

    Heavenly Pilgrim
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    Hi HOG,
    You raise an excellent point. I might word it this way. Difficult passages, or passages that seem to contradict other and more numerous passages, should be interpreted in such a way as to be in harmony with the clearer and more widely found expressions.

    I would add that no man approaches Scripture without a philosophy. Either you have an established one or an assumed one, but no man is devoid of one, nor approaches Scripture without one. In order to check those presupposition philosophical thoughts, we need to utilize every avenue God makes available to us. Scripture is only one means of truth God has given us. It is the only means by which the gospel as well as many other notions and stories are explained to us, but it is not our only source of truth. God has given to us a conscience and some understanding of first truths of reason that we must consult carefully as well. Truth should harmonize with truth, regardless of the realm God has given it to us, whether in Scripture or in reason via first truths concerning matters of fact and truths of immutable justice.

    When we run into conflicts, we need to see if in fact we error as philosophers or theologians. We may end up with many uncertainties, but never should we allow absurdities to exist between realms of truth.
     
  4. BobRyan

    BobRyan
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    The rule our sinful human nature tends to use is "When I see a text that says something I don't already believe - I try to find a way to spin that text my direction".

    How to use exegesis to overcome that without calling it "fixing the problem text to match my other texts"

    Having said that HP's approach is certainly wise. When we find that the great majority of texts point one direction it is "at least a clue" as to what we should be thinking! But still in-chapter context and in-book context and same-author context and first-order primary audience context have to be taken into primary consideration.
     
  5. Heavenly Pilgrim

    Heavenly Pilgrim
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    Here are the first set of rules I posted with the one HOG brought to our attention added to the first rule.


    1.) Different passages of Scripture need to be harmonized, so as not to allow them to be seen as contradictory, one to another, if at all possible. Difficult passages, or passages that seem to contradict other and more numerous passages, should be interpreted in such a way as to be in harmony with the clearer and more widely found expressions.

    (2.) Careful notice must be made of the subject matter addressed. All conclusions as to the meaning(s) implied should be found to be consistent with the language used within the passage
    3.) Caution must be exercised to make sure that we have given careful attention to the general design and scope of the one speaking or the author.
    (4.) If a text can be clearly shown to support more than one theory the text can not be shown to prove either.
    (5.) God is the source of all truth. When drawing conclusions in regard to a particular text, we must, if possible, attach a meaning to the language utilized that will not be found to be in direct opposition with matters of fact, sound philosophy, the natural order of things, first truths of reason, or matters of immutable justice.
    (6.)Difficult passages, or passages that seem to contradict other and more numerous passages, should be interpreted in such a way as to be in harmony with the clearer and more widely found expressions.
     
  6. BobRyan

    BobRyan
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    I could easily take that set of rules - START from the position "Everything Bobryan believes is true - and Biblically correct" then whenever I find a text that "appears to contradict" say "Well this is a text that goes against the harmony of scriptures - I must change it".

    I could argue against those who want to change my mind on that - that God can not possibly mean what this appears to say because God is the source of all truth and if he said what it appears to say then He would be promoting error.

    And then I would be SDA forever, or Methodist forever, or RC forever etc.

    In other words - while I agree with your statements a much more objective brave and even risky method must be tried to get us out of the rut we are in.

    The "risk" is in the form "The Bible says it - I believe it" and then "let the chips fall where they may". Easy for all of us to say - but coming up with those rules that would easily dislodge us from our own a priori bias on what IS TRUE that is a tough one.

    You did a nice job of getting out - with your own extraction from the problems of OSAS.

    In Christ,

    Bob
     

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