Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bible Interpretation- The Flow of Thought

To understand the Bible correctly we must realize that the “meaning” of a passage flows from the larger groups to the smaller groups, from the larger context to the smaller specifics. And so, if you’re reading a Bible verse and a certain word doesn't make sense then you need to understand that word in light of the verse and the surrounding verses. And if a certain verse doesn't seem to make sense then you need to read the whole paragraph and context of the passage. If you read the entire context of a passage you are likely to discover the “flow of thought” being developed by the author. By understanding the flow of thought you should be able to figure out what certain verses and words mean.
The “flow of thought” has priority over the fine details. If your understanding of the details does not support the whole flow of thought of a particular passage then you are misunderstanding the meaning and the reason for the specific details. The details of a passage are there to point to the flow of thought not take away from it. The details color the main point, they don't change it.
Through carefully reading a passage and outlining the "flow of thought" you will find that all kinds of problems or difficulties begin to disappear. You must correctly understand the whole context if you are to correctly understand a verse, word or thought.
And remember, just because someone can quote the Bible correctly does not mean they are going to interpret or apply it correctly. The devil quoted the Bible to Jesus perfectly in Luke chapter 4. But he misinterpreted and misapplied the very passages he quoted. And if we're not careful, we too can be deceived or deceive others by taking a cavalier approach to interpreting the Bible.
So, the next time you read your Bible and you get confused about a certain word or verse or passage, just take a moment to read and consider the entire context and the "flow of thought" being developed by the author in a book, chapter or paragraph. Always interpret the verse or word in light of the larger context. And never interpret or reinterpret the larger context and flow of thought within a passage by a single verse or word.  We should be careful to allow the Bible to explain itself to us. And it will if we pay attention to the flow of thought.

May God continue to bless your understanding of Him, yourself and others as you faithfully study His word!

"The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple." Psalm 119:130

Below are some links to a few other related blogs I've written:

Developing a Better Biblical Interpretation

Do you take the Bible literally?

F.A.C.E.S.M.A.P. "Evidence the Bible is Trustworthy"

The Dishonest Skeptic

The Gospel

Monday, February 10, 2014

Developing better Biblical Interpretation

No one starts out a skilled and mature interpreter of the Bible just like no one starts out a great driver, or cook or skilled craftsman. Skill is developed over time and practice. Even so, a person grows in being better at interpreting the Bible. If they mature, they'll approach interpreting the Bible more contextually and seriously. They will be less likely to throw verses around flippantly or apply a personal or private interpretation to the text or passage.

Those who correctly interpret the Bible have given more thought and time and study to the Scriptures than those who don't interpret the Bible correctly. Just like any skill can be taught, correct Bible interpretation is also a skill that can be taught to others to help them mature in this area faster.

In the Book of Acts, chapter 17:11 it says that the Thessalonians were considered "more noble or fair-minded" than others because they took the time to really study the Scriptures and test the things that they were hearing by the Word of God. The implication here is that there are also those who are "less noble" and "less fair-minded" because they do not take the Bible seriously.

Just as people can be trained to interpret the Bible honestly and contextually, people can also be trained to misinterpret the Bible and handle God's Word loosely. We've all worked with people who "cut corners" or do a sloppy job, and we've seen the damage that can be done. Whether its with the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 or the 2010 BP oil spill, great damage can be caused when corners are cut. It is no different with interpreting the Bible. You can interpret it correctly and help people or interpret it incorrectly and cause great harm. The choice is yours, but remember we will all give an account to God for how we read, interpret and apply God's word. It is so important that we not just repeat what someone tells us just because it sounds good, but because we've tested it to be true according to sound Biblical interpretation and not the passing religious fads of the day.

And so when it comes to learning the Bible it is so important to sit under good Bible teaching because not only does it feed you a healthy meal of truth as opposed to spiritual junk food, hearing good Bible teaching also teaches you how to interpret the Bible correctly and prepare a healthy meal for yourself and others.

I must conclude in saying that honest, mature biblical interpretation never discounts the role of the Holy Spirit in illuminating, clarifying and even correctly applying God's Word.

Ultimately the power behind the teaching, hearing and applying of God's Word rests in God Himself. Nevertheless those who know us and hear us ought to be able to observe a maturing in how we interpret and apply the Word of God as any craftsman ought to progress in their skills.

May God help us to be humble enough to change our perspective should we receive greater light regarding sound Biblical interpretation. May we always be teachable and willing to hear and understand views other than our own. May we be discerning enough to know when we must remain resolved and unwavering having discovered through much study the very best interpretation of any passage or topic in the Bible. And finally, may we be gracious towards those who have come to different conclusions than our own.

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." -2 Timothy 2:15

Some other related blogs I've written that may be of interest:
Do you take the Bible literally?

F.A.C.E.S.M.A.P. "Evidence the Bible is Trustworthy"

Bibliolatry and Dogma

G.P.S. "God's Positioning System"

The Dishonest Skeptic

The Gospel