Session 4: Interpretation

Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks

With Interpretation we ask & answer the second question: What does it mean?

The QUALITY of the Interpretation directly depends on the QUALITY of the OBSERVATION. Interpretation is not the END, it is only the MEANS to that end.

The primary task of any Bible teacher is to explain the Bible!

Something to remember: The more time spent in Bible Observation, the less time AND the more accurate the Interpretation. Conversely, the less time spent in Bible Observation, the more time AND less accurate the Interpretation.

Take heart! You can never understand everything in the Bible. How can a finite human creation completely understand an INFINITE God?

2 Peter 3:15 – 18 states, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Even the Apostle Peter knows that the Proper interpretation of the Bible is important so as not to distort the message. Peter also acknowledges that some Scripture is difficult to understand. It needs to be explained.

There are 5 Keys to Interpretation:

1. Content

  • This is the raw material or database.
  • Direct cause – effect between the content and the meaning.
  • What are the who, what, where, when, why & wherefore

2. Context

  • Don’t simply take a verse out its context.
  • What was said immediately before AND after the verse?

Look for the kinds of context:

a. Literary context – what is the rest of the paragraph or book

b. Historical context – what is happening at that moment? What else was taking place? What are the social & political influences on the author and his audience?

c. Cultural context – understand the culture & you more fully understand the meaning of the words or terms

d. Geographical context – knowing & understanding the geography lends tremendous relevance & realism to the particular account

e. Theological context – what did the author know about God? What did the audience know about God or how did they worship Him? Where and HOW does this piece of Scripture fit into the total unfolding of the Scriptures?

Cults are grounded in distortion by taking verses out of their context. Whenever someone “quotes” the Scriptures to you & it doesn’t sound quite right, ask them to either read on or if the quote begins with the words “but” or “therefore”, ask them to read the passage that PRECEEDS the verse. Get the complete context.

Next week we will look at the other 3 Keys to Interpretation. Check your email for Lesson 3-A – a few more nuggets that are not covered in the video but are important notes.

It is impossible to COMPLETELY get to know & understand more than ONE book of the Bible in your lifetime! But don’t give up! In daily Bible study you WILL gain more understanding day by day. The Bible was written over 1500 years by various authors in various stages of God’s plan & history.

Remember, this is God’s Love Letter written especially to YOU.

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