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Learning from the Text

There are two great needs when it comes to interpretating the Bible:

    1) that we may know what God has said, and
    2) that we span the linguistic, cultural, geographical and historical gaps which separate our minds from those of the Biblical writers.

When we study the Bible we want to determine the meaning of the text in its original setting before seeking to apply it to other times and places (our lives today). Our goal is to FIND the author's original intent for writing what he wrote. Scholars call this the GRAMMATICAL-HISTORICAL METHOD of interpretation. . .

    Grammatical as far as the type of literature itself, and
    Historical in its consideration of the following factors:

    Peculiarities of time and place; the author and his audience; the setting (geographical, historical & cultural settings); etc.

Two Important Principles for Interpreting the Bible:

    1) Scripture never contradicts Scripture. The Bible has a variety of human authors but unity of theme because there is one divine author, God.
    2) Look for the most obvious meaning. When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other interpretation.

To learn from the text 

Answer the question: What does it mean?

Seek to know the Context. . . the Content. . . and the Culture.

Seek to know the Context. . . remembering that the small section of Scripture that you’re reading fits into previous and later passages and into the whole book as well.

Seek to know the Content. . .these are the facts that you found in Looking at the Text.

Seek to know the Culture. . .specifically try to learn the following about the culture:

  • The date the passage was written
  • The author and his audience
  • The author's purpose for writing
  • The setting (geographical, historical & cultural settings)
  • Any peculiarities of the passage to the culture - for example is Jesus is telling a parable about farming, it would be helpful to know about farming during that time

Tips for Interpreting Scripture:

  • Read the passage in different versions. Listen to it on tape. Read it aloud.
  • Read it imaginatively. Let your mind go back in time and reconstruct the historical setting.
  • Read a passage knowing that each time you read it, you may, or most likely see or learn something new.
  • When the meaning of the passage is unclear, try looking up sections from other parts of the chapter, book, or entire Bible that help you to understand the section you are studying. This is especially important when you are studying one of the gospels. Each of the 4 authors, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, described many of the same things, but they described them differently, emphasizing different aspects. So when studying a passage in Mark, it is helpful to see how Matthew or Luke described it. Another example of this is in Samuel, Kings, Chronicles

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