Understanding the Scriptures (Part 2)

How we interpret Scripture is of immense importance because our words and actions are born out of our beliefs.  A good method of biblical interpretation that is consistently applied will greatly increase our understanding of Scripture.  We will find ourselves in greater agreement with God and less prone to disagree with Him due to our cultural influences, preferences, and whims. Which method should be used?  You have 3 basic choices:

1. Not God’s Word Method – People who follow this method do not believe the Scriptures are God’s Word.  They believe it was written by people apart from God’s inspiration; therefore, the content and teachings of the Bible are not necessarily right.

2. Allegorical Method – The allegorical way of thinking is not new.  It was begun by the Greeks and passed on to the Alexandrian Jews.  The Alexandrian Jews used the story of Abraham as an allegory.  They claimed that Abraham’s journey to Palestine is really the figure of a Stoic philosopher who leaves Chaldea to become enlightened, and to marry Sarah is to marry abstract wisdom.  This school of thought moved its way into the post apostolic Christian church, “and largely dominated exegesis until the Reformation” (See Bernard Ramm’s book Protestant Biblical Interpretation pages 24-28).

3. Literal Method – The literal method takes the Scriptures literally wherever it makes sense to, and then figuratively where the literal does not make sense.  

Here are a couple of simple examples:

Matthew 12:1, “At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them.”  

We can take this to mean exactly what it says.  Having a knowledge of the Old Testament law concerning eating food as you walked through a field and knowing the Biblical regulations for eating this on the Sabbath and Jewish traditions at the time of Jesus are all helpful.  However, the method of a literal interpretation is the foundation for a proper understanding.

John 10:7, “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.’”

Still using the literal method interpretation we can determine that Jesus is not wood fibers and that four legged fury animals that say “bah” do not walk through him.  Jesus is making known that He is the access point for the abundant life.  The sheep are obviously people.  

Coming to a correct understanding of what Jesus means when He says, “I am the door,” can be consistently applied to similar statements by Jesus like, “I am the bread of life,” or “I am the vine.”  Being consistent in interpreting Scripture is of great value. 

In part 3 we will look at some helpful principles in using the Literal method.