What EVERYONE needs to know about… Biblical Interpretation

Following recent events, I have decided to write a Blog post on Biblical Interpretation. I’m hoping that atheists and members of other religions will read this as well as Christians, as it is important for everyone to understand proper Bible study.

You may think, ‘What right does Dean have to explain how to study the Bible?’. Well, as you will see in this article, I can provide practical points that will seem rational enough to apply to Biblical study.

So what are is the key to understanding the Bible properly? It’s all about understanding the content that we have in the Bible that’s in front of us. So how can we study the content of the Bible?

  • We have to weigh up an issue (which can be 1 doctrinal/theological point) with all other Biblical texts: Depending on the frequancy that the issue pops up and the weighting that the Bible ascribes to that issue will have a significant voice in determining whether one has interpreted the Bible correctly.
  • We have to apply the issue to the Character of God. Knowing what God is like as found in the Bible, Biblical study demands that one mixes a supposed doctrinal point with God’s persona to see if it matches.
  • We have to look at scholarly consensus on the specific issue with both past and present theologians and scholars. This will aid us in working towards a conclusion.
  • The doctrine/issue/theological point has to be weighed up against the Gospel. Does the issue have a detrimental effect on the Gospel? Does it fit in with the Gospel?
  • An evaluation has to take place against other doctrines. Does the issue make other doctrines that are firmly established in scripture obsolete?
  • How does the issue fit in with Church life and Christian life?
  • How clear is the Bible on the issue?
  • It is important to understand that the Bible never used to be split into chapters and verses! If one picks a verse from scripture without looking at the rest of a passage, book, or indeed the whole Bible, one can make some dangerous conclusions. Because of this mistake, Bible verses in themselves have condoned murder, slavery and other despicable acts.

If we ask all these questions, then we can come up with one of four conclusions.

From this content, we can end with four conclusions:

  1. That the issue is an absolute (unshakable doctrine/theology) : This means that the Bible is absolutely clear on the issue. There are no supposed contradictions in scripture, and the issue has been backed up in both Church tradition and scholarly opinion. It has no negative impact on the Gospel or any other doctrine. (An example of an absolute doctrine would be of Salvation through Faith)
  2. That the issue is a conviction : This means  that there is weighty support for the issue, that scholars in the majority have supported the issue, but there isn’t enough to define it as an unshakeable truth. (An example of this would be women in leadership roles within the church; many support this, but there isn’t universal support in the Bible or from scholars past and present)
  3. That the issue is an opinion : This is different to a conviction. An opinion means that there isn’t much of a viewpoint in the Bible or from the other factors raised, and so one must make an opinion based on common Christian values, firm standing doctrines, and scholarly opinions from the past and present. (An example of this would be choosing a political party to vote for)
  4. That the issue is a question: From studying scripture as a whole, and from considering the other factors, to come to a ‘question conclusion’ would mean that there is simply not enough evidence to even come up with an opinion. The Bible will often talk about these issues as ‘heavenly mysteries’ and it may say that even Jesus cannot give an answer to the issue. Therefore, no opinion can/should be made, and so it will, in Christian faith, remain unanswered until the second coming/heaven. (An example of this would be the precise date that the world will end).

After carefully considering these things, one will be able to provide a rational and sensible conclusions to doctrinal issues. Maybe if Harold Camping used this method of studying Scripture, then he would not be in the mess that he’s in today.

 

Have you found this helpful? Comments would be appreciated!

 

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about