By: Norm Rasmussen
There are wise ways to interpret the Bible and there are unwise ways. There is NO ONE who wants MORE for you to correctly understand and obey the Bible than God, but the Bible is written purposely in a way to force us to have to rely on the Holy Spirit to get from it what God the Father and Jesus Christ fully wants us getting from it. Following are some common, Holy Spirit endorsed directives on how a person should study the Bible to help keep them from misunderstanding what God wants communicated to them ... because you had better believe Satan does NOT want us understanding it and wisely applying it like God does. Satan wants us to misinterpret it and pass our misunderstanding/s - misinterpretation/s of it to OTHERS. If there is anything on this planet that infuriates Satan, it is for a person to want to truly know what God's Word clearly has to say, because he knows the power of God that gets released into the spirit and mind of a person who wants to feast on God's Words of Eternal Life.
Nevertheless, if you are NOT a born again Christian believer yet, please know that God can communicate to you through the Holy Bible any time and any way He so desires, so don't let what you read here overwhelm you starting out. God knows your heart, and He knows just how much your desire is to please Him in alignment with correctly understood Truth by being aware of what He wants you to understand through His Word.
Don't let the bolding of Truth above bypass you either. It is so common to hear people say they have read portions of the Bible, or the entire Old and New Testament Bible, and pretty much get nothing out of it. They'll tell you it contradicts itself and is just so poorly written (and/or mistranslated, and of course some more modern translations sadly ARE with certain words, so don't underestimate the ruthlessness of how Satan fights so hard to keep people from reading more reliable translations of the Bible) that they simply can't buy that it is God's ONLY source of means whereby God has given the human race to understand Him and know what God expects them to do to obey Him. Though there can be a number of different reasons why they come up with such a conclusion, a HUGE reason is because they simply don't want to APPLY God's Word in accordance with correct revelation of Truth. Satan knows full well the Bible is God's one and only RELIABLE source whereby the human race is to understand God so they can please Him, which is why Satan works so hard to either discredit the Holy Bible, and/or to manipulate people's understanding of it. He does that subtly by getting them to compromise accurately understood Truth.
There are multitudes who want to understand the Holy Bible yet could care less about obeying it. Hell will be their home. Furthermore, Hell will be occupied with a lot of people who read the Holy Bible and even tried to obey parts of it, but never cared to understand the crucial importance of doing so in alignment with Truth. Understanding the crucial importance of Truth ultimately separates those who truly belong to Jesus Christ and those who don't. Devout Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses (Satan's two well-known deceptive "Christian" counterfeits trying to do all they can to imbed themselves with the REAL to make people think they are just AS real, though not) understand a great deal of the Holy Bible and speak extremely highly of it (makes them "seem" more credible), yet totally miss the most important element about God and His Word and it will be to their eternal demise in that it will do them no good because they believed the lies from Satan they are taught about truly who Jesus Christ WAS and FULLY IS. He's none other than fully God (which these two well-known counterfeits [especially the Mormons - LDS if you will] teach otherwise once you get "intimately in bed with them") who came to earth in human form to redeem the lost souls of mankind so they can be forgiven of their sins and be made acceptable to God so they can spend eternity with Him in the highest heaven (Devout LDS Mormons teach otherwise, in case you didn't know, among other false, demonically inspired "revelations"). Had He not been FULLY God, His sacrifice on the cross would have been totally worthless.
Let's move forward with some commonly taught by mainline Christian teachers who can be trusted to impart some nuggets of insight about understanding and interpreting God's Word correctly:
What are all the OTHER scripture passages in the Bible that speak of this same topic? To get the full, correct understanding (revelation) of a Biblical topic, a wise Bible scholar will look up EVERY Bible passage on this topic, pray about all of them, and let the Holy Spirit reveal to them the COMPLETE, CLEAR meaning/s of what God wants us understanding about one particular Bible passage.
For example ... let's say you have a picture puzzle dumped out on a table in front of you. There are 100 pieces to the puzzle to be assembled to make the picture that is on the front of the box the puzzle came in. But you object is not to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. In truth, you have only five pieces of the 100 piece puzzle that addresses the taking of holy communion, let's say for instance. Your job is to look over all 100 pieces of the puzzle, find all five of the pieces saying something about taking holy communion, brushing all the other 95 pieces off to the side, and focus on what just the five pieces of puzzle are saying about communion. In so doing, you'll be seeing the WHOLE picture regarding communion that God wants His Church to understand, instead of just one obscure piece.
Satan truly delights in us taking one particular scripture out of the Bible and building our entire belief system around that one particular scripture passage. A very important key to always remember to correctly understanding Bible passages are:
1) Let scripture passages explain and illuminate other scripture passages that address the same topic.
2) Stay wise in seeking God about taking Old Testament scripture passages and linking them with New Testament scripture passages. There are times when it is beneficial to do that and then there are times that will only bring great confusion and outright dangerous deceptive conclusion/s as to what a person should believe.
3) The Old Testament was primarily written for the Jewish people prior to the coming of the long, promised Messiah. Once Jesus Christ began to fulfill His call and ministry as the promised Messiah of old, things were spoken by Him and ultimately his Apostles to the Church - (or to disciples of Jesus Christ) - which was reason for God to give not only the Church but the whole world God's LAST instructions in how we are now to please Him, have our sins cleansed so we qualify for heaven, and bits and pieces of what we can can expect to happen in the future ... and what we are to know to make it easier to remain a fruitful disciple for Jesus Christ until our time on earth is finished.
[Probably two of the greatest arenas Satan has been able to bring spiritual deception into modern-day Christianity is to have Christians focusing way too much on material prosperity and not spiritual prosperity. A close second spiritual perversion is an over-emphasis on physical healing while being blinded to the few New Testament scripture passages that promise devout Christians WILL suffer for their faith in Christ, and sickness and/or disease (and financial hardship) doesn't automatically get excluded from the tools God uses to purge, refine, and purify us to test us and birth HIS character in us. Hyper-pro healing Christians usually discover painfully their out-of-balance beliefs on physical healing in their older age when sickness and infirmity strikes them, and most don't get healed and end up dying from those physical afflictions rather than get healed from them, unless they get cruelly martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ.
Some reading this will walk away thinking I'm against healing. If so, you couldn't be further from the truth. So much emphasis has been placed on "healing" v's "non-healing" that the devil has blinded a lot of Christians in that the subject matter should NOT be so much about healing, but rather, PRAYER. 99.999% of Christians who receive a healing from God didn't receive it without one or more people PRAYING (and usually trusting). Thus without writing an entire book on the matter, I believe we need to see healing and prosperity and blessing as nothing more or less than ANSWERED - UNANSWERED prayer and trust. Bottom line ... God has a plan to test us and birth God character in us, and He uses everything the devil cruelly throws at us -- God uses these attacks of Satan on us to accomplish His ETERNAL goal in each of our lives - again, that goal being - translating our painful trials into spiritual prosperity resulting in more Christ-like character formed inside us ... or to see if we'll quit staying connected to our Lord and Savior].
Following below are Eight Rules Of Bible Interpretation that I could not tell you who originally authored. They are pasted in different locations across the Internet and I make them available here as well so people can more easily find them, and hopefully understand them easier from the FIVE rules I've listed above:
EIGHT RULES OF BIBLE INTERPRETATION
"And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation." [2 Peter 1:19-20 NAS]
We can't have a "sure word" about the meaning of Scripture (or anything else) unless we have a sure method to interpret the words. The following eight rules are the center of all grammatical interpretation. They have been accepted and used by scholars from Socrates to the present. While my hope is that they will be used to "rightly divide the word of truth" of the Holy Bible, they are equally applicable to legal, historical, and other such language.
Since the Bible teaches that God is not the author of confusion [1 Cor. 14:33], how can the many disagreements today between Christians and the proliferation of the cults be explained since all, or nearly all, claim to use the Bible as the basis of their doctrines? Nearly all false doctrines taught today by Christians and cultists alike can be traced to the distortion of the meaning of Biblical words. These eight rules are prayerfully offered in the hope that they may help many come to the truth of what God says in His Word. The Rev. Guy Duty said in the highly recommended reading book Divorce & Remarriage by many Christian scholars, Pastors and Counselors:
"When two interpretations are claimed for a Scripture, the construction most in agreement with all the facts of the case should be adopted. When all the facts of an interpretation are in agreement they sound together in harmony, like notes in a chord.
'Biblical interpretation is more than knowing a set of rules, but it cannot be done without the rules. So, learn the rules, and rightly apply them...." (Divorce & Remarriage, Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1967)
Here are the eight rules:
1) The rule of DEFINITION: What does the word mean? Any study of Scripture must begin with a study of words. Define your terms and then keep to the terms defined. The interpreter should conscientiously abide by the plain meaning of the words. This quite often may require using a Hebrew/English or Greek/English lexicon in order to make sure that the sense of the English translation is understood. A couple of good examples of this are the Greek words "allos" and "heteros". Both are usually translated as "another" in English - yet "allos" literally means "another of the same type" and "heteros" means "another of a different type."
2) The rule of USAGE: It must be remembered that the Old Testament was written originally by, to and for Jews. The words and idioms must have been intelligible to them - just as the words of Christ when talking to them must have been. The majority of the New Testament likewise was written in a milieu of Greco-Roman (and to a lesser extent Jewish) culture and it is important to not impose our modern usage into our interpretation. It is not worth much to interpret a great many phrases and histories if one's interpretations are shaded by pre-conceived notions and cultural biases, thereby rendering an inaccurate and ineffectual lesson.
3) The rule of CONTEXT: The meaning must be gathered from the context. Every word you read must be understood in the light of the words that come before and after it. Many passages will not be understood at all, or understood incorrectly, without the help afforded by the context. A good example of this is the Mormon practice of using 1 Cor. 8:5: "...for there be gods many and lords many..." as a "proof text" of their doctrine of polytheism. However, a simple reading of the whole verse in the context of the whole chapter (e.g. where Paul calls these gods "so-called"), plainly demonstrates that Paul is not teaching polytheism.
4) The rule of HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: The interpreter must have some awareness of the life and society of the times in which the Scripture was written. The spiritual principle will be timeless but often can't be properly appreciated without some knowledge of the background. If the interpreter can have in his mind what the writer had in his mind when he wrote - without adding any excess baggage from the interpreter's own culture or society - then the true thought of the Scripture can be captured resulting in an accurate interpretation. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Our only interest in the past is for the light it throws upon the present."
5) The rule of LOGIC: Interpretation is merely logical reasoning. When interpreting Scripture, the use of reason is everywhere to be assumed. Does the interpretation make sense? The Bible was given to us in the form of human language and therefore appeals to human reason - it invites investigation. It is to be interpreted as we would any other volume: applying the laws of language and grammatical analysis. As Bernard Ramm said:
"What is the control we use to weed out false theological speculation? Certainly the control is logic and evidence... interpreters who have not had the sharpening experience of logic...may have improper notions of implication and evidence. Too frequently such a person uses a basis of appeal that is a notorious violation of the laws of logic and evidence." (Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Boston: W. A. Wilde, 1956)
6) The rule of PRECEDENT: We must not violate the known usage of a word and invent another for which there is no precedent. Just as a judge's chief occupation is the study of previous cases, so must the interpreter use precedents in order to determine whether they really support an alleged doctrine. Consider the Bereans in Acts 17:10-12 who were called "noble" because they searched the Scriptures to determine if what Paul taught them was true.
7) The rule of UNITY: The parts of Scripture being interpreted must be construed with reference to the significance of the whole. An interpretation must be consistent with the rest of Scripture. An excellent example of this is the doctrine of the Trinity. No single passage teaches it, but it is consistent with the teaching of the whole of Scripture (e.g. the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are referred to individually as God; yet the Scriptures elsewhere teach there is only one God).
8) The rule of INFERENCE: An inference is a fact reasonably implied from another fact. It is a logical consequence. It derives a conclusion from a given fact or premise. It is the deduction of one proposition from another proposition. Such inferential facts or propositions are sufficiently binding when their truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence. Competent evidence means such evidence as the nature of the thing to be proved admits. Satisfactory evidence means that amount of proof which would ordinarily satisfy an unprejudiced mind beyond a reasonable doubt. Jesus used this rule when he proved the resurrection of the dead to the unbelieving Sadducees in Matt. 22:23-33.
Learning these eight rules and properly applying them will help keep any interpreter from making errors and will hopefully alleviate many of the disagreements unfortunately present in Christianity today. However, these eight principles are no substitute for the Holy Spirit which will, if you let Him, guide you in the truth [John 14:26]. If you receive Christ into your heart, God will give you the Holy Spirit freely as a gift [Acts 2:38]. I urge you, if you have not already done so, to examine the claims and the work of Jesus Christ and to receive Him as your Savior.
This paper will close with some words from King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, excepting our Lord Jesus Christ:
"A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: to understand a proverb, and the interpretation." [Prov. 1:5-6]
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