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A few Strategies for the Interpretation of the Holy Bible

When we read the Holy Bible, we need to do so with a couple of guidelines in mind, that will help us to understand and enjoy it, and also to interpret it fairly and honestly.

We need to try to examine the accuracy of translation. This can be difficult to try and do because the majority of us aren’t familiar with the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. We may analyze a large number of translations and scholarly commentaries and thereby arrive at the thoughts and opinions of men of learning. Our only other check is our own practical wisdom and the inspiration we can request and receive from God.

We ought to read each book in the Bible as an individual work, looking to learn what we’re able to about the author, language, circumstances, and people of the time. This we can do by using a good quality Bible commentary and by analyzing the finest historical works on the topic. Frequently the latter are not as prejudiced and more fair than books written and published by churches. The little book of Amos, for example, becomes much richer in meaning if we are aware that Amos lived in the Eighth Century B.C. in Judea and traveled north to the Kingdom of Israel at a time when Israel was experiencing a post-war prosperity and they were hypocritical, self-righteous, and shallow in their “religious living.”

We ought to remember the Spirit and emphasis of Jesus Christ. Christians, who look to Jesus Christ as the great teacher, revelator of the Father, the Son of God, and their Savior and Redeemer, are wise to make his teaching and life normative for their own interpretations of religion and scripture. He fulfilled and thus did away with a lot of things found in the Old Testament. However, other teachings he solidly affirmed and strengthened.

We need to have his concept of man and God in mind while we study all scripture. Whenever we come across ideas which appear to oppose his Spirit and teachings within the scriptures, we simply cannot accept them for ourselves and live by them. Either our interpretation is wrong, or there is an error of translation, or there’s a teaching adapted to individuals of unique needs, circumstances, or understanding, or there’s some other sort of human limitation in the picture. Great fundamentals of religion are located in the Bible, including the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel, although contained in the Bible, is greater than the Book. So to interpret all passages in the Bible we must use the Gospel as our foundation.

We need to keep in mind the poetic character and the rich imagery of the writers of the Bible. Jesus himself chose strong figures of speech to get across a great religious truth. He said, for example, “Ye are the salt of the earth, Ye are the light of the world, Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets” The religious teaching implied in these words should be taken literally, but not always the figure of speech helping to make the teaching remembered.

We ought to study the scriptures with humility, prayerfully seeking inspiration from God as we read. If they were written by men of God under his inspiration, definitely a similar sort of mindset is required by the reader and by the student if he is to obtain what went into their writing. When we read poetry, we do so in a poetic mood, with thought as well as feeling, searching for the mood of the poem. Much scripture is also poetic and cannot be appreciated except with feeling, with aspiration, and with a desire to worship. The Bible is not a treatise in philosophy, nor a scientific textbook, nor a scholarly, thoroughgoing historical chronicle, nor even a text in theology. It is a profoundly religious and moral work, trying to teach Israel and all men the way to worship and serve God and the way to deal fairly and considerately with the rest of God’s children.

If you would like to find out more about the Bible and how God communicates to his children, or if you are interested in buying a bible of your own, take a look at some of Jeff’s other articles. He has written much more about the bible and how and what questions to ask if you are thinking about buying a bible

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