5 Things To Remember When Interpreting the Bible
Today’s post comes from my friend Lee Boryczewski. I cannot tell you how necessary his words are for us Christians to remember, simply from the fact that I have been guilty of reading my own views into the scriptures and have witnessed all Christians doing so at some point or another. It is our natural proclivity to do so but we must caution ourselves against doing doing such. Failing to understand the historical, theological, political, literary, and psychological contexts behind Scripture often times leads to poor words, pointless debates, and, at the far end of the scale, harmful social and ecclesiastical and consequences.
We must remember that as much as Scripture is inspired and carries divine authority, it is not a text of timeless statements which carry with them meanings completely outside of this temporal world. Scripture is, indeed, incarnational and that means that it was written in certain times in certain places by certain people with certain concerns. We must understand this when interpreting the Bible. One of my professors, Ben Witherington, puts it like this: “A text without a context is a pretext for anything you want the text to mean.” Lee builds on this and offers up some strategies for helping us move forward into a sound but still engaging reading of Scripture.
1. The Bible was written FOR you not TO you. The timeless principles for you today were first written to them.
2. Twenty-first century word meaning can’t be read into Scripture. What did the word mean when it was written? In that culture/context? God’s meaning of the word isn’t always in line with ours.
3. Keep a passage in context- in other words consider the passages above and below, the chapter it’s in, the book it’s in, the covenant it’s in, the whole bible.
4. Consult good scholarly commentaries to CHECK your interpretation. Others have walked before you, learn from them, you do not have a direct pipeline of revelation from God. It sounds good.. but is it sound doctrine?
5. Get your preconceived notions of what you think it means out of the way. Let you theological boxes be torn down if need be. Hey, do you want to hold on to your thoughts/interpretations, or God’s? Hmmm, you choose.