How should we interpret the Bible?

God is capable of accurately relaying His Word to us in a way that we can understand. It is crucial that we interpret properly to determine the intended meaning rather than forcing ideas into the text.

Bible believing Christians generally follow a method of interpretation known as the historical – grammatical approach. That is, we try to find the plain (literal) meaning of the words based on an understanding of the historical and cultural settings in which the book was written. We then follow standard rules of grammar, according to the book’s particular genre, to arrive at an interpretation. We seek to perform careful interpretation or exegesis – that is, to “read out of” the text what the author intended it to mean. This is in contrast to eisegesis, which occurs when someone “reads into” the text his own ideas – what the reader wants the text to mean. In other words, exegesis is finding the author’s intended meaning of the passage because its true meaning is determined by the sender of the message, not the recipient.

We must carefully observe what the text actually states. Many mistakes have been made by people who jump into interpretation based on what they think the text states rather than what it really does state. Who is this passage written to, and why? Is the verse a command, statement of fact, or a question? What is the tone of the passage; are emotional words used? Failure to carefully observe the text has resulted in numerous misconceptions about the Bible.

Take the time to study the text.

We also need to take the word, phrase or passage in its proper context. Critics of Scripture often take verses out of context when they attack the Bible. The reason is that they can make the Bible “say” just about anything if they do not provide the context. For example, the critic might ask, “Did you know that the Bible says, ‘There is no God?” Then he may go on to claim that this contradicts other passages, which certainly teach that God does exist. How do we handle such a charge? We look at the context of the quoted words, which in this case comes from Psalm 14:1. It states, The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.” So, it’s true that the Bible states, “There is no God,” but it attributes these words to a foolish person. So the Bible is not teaching both the existence and non-existence of God, as the skeptic asserts. The context clarifies the meaning of the word, phrase, and verse. With the Bible, it is important to know the context of the particular passage you are studying. It is also important to understand the context of the entire book in which the passage is found and how that book fits into the context of Scripture.

We need to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. The core beliefs of the Christian faith are built on more than one passage. When we read numerous verses stating the same thing, we can be sure that God is giving us sound doctrine.

What is the literary style of the passage? Is the book written as history, poetry, prophecy written to the people of Israel? Or is the book written by the apostle Paul for the church today?

Some of the promises in the Old Testament were given to the Jews and not to the church today.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of Truth.

2 Timothy 2:15