The following are the basic Biblical interpretative methods which I offer as guidelines for your Bible study.
For a clear understanding, please make sure you grab last week’s and next week’s articles.
1. The rule of definition
Any study of Scripture must begin with word study. Define your terms and keep to them. You should conscientiously abide by the plain meaning of the words. You must not violate the known usage of a word and invent another for which there is no precedent. Using a Hebrew/English or Greek/English lexicon makes understanding English translation easier.
2. The rule of usage
It must be remembered that the Old Testament was written originally by, to and for Jews. The words and idioms must have been intelligible to them — just as the words of Christ when talking to them must have been. The majority of the New Testament likewise was written in a milieu of Greco-Roman (and to a lesser extent Jewish) culture and it is important to not impose our modern usage into our interpretation. Remove your pre-conceived notions and cultural biases.
3. The rule of context
The meaning must be gathered from the context. Every word you read must be understood in the light of the words that come before and after it. Seeking the biblical author’s intended meaning necessitates interpreting Bible verses in context. Every word in the Bible is part of a verse, and every verse is part of a paragraph, and every paragraph is part of a book, and every book is part of the whole of Scripture. No verse of Scripture can be divorced from the verses around it. In interpreting Scripture, there is both an immediate context and a broader context. The immediate context of a verse is the paragraph (or paragraphs) of the biblical book in question. The immediate context should always be consulted in interpreting Bible verses. The broader context is the whole of Scripture. The entire Bible is the context and guide for understanding the particular passage. Interpretation of a specific passage must not contradict the total teaching of Scripture on a point. Individual verses do not exist as isolated fragments, but as parts of a whole. The exposition of these verses, therefore, must involve exhibiting them in right relation both to the whole and to each other. Scripture must interpret Scripture.
4. The rule of historical background
You must have some awareness of the life and society of the times in which the Scripture was written. The spiritual principle is timeless ,but often can’t be properly appreciated without some knowledge of the background. If you can have in mind what the writer had in mind without adding excess baggage from your own culture or society, then the true thought of the Scripture can be captured resulting in an accurate interpretation.
The Christian faith is based on historical fact. Christianity rests on the foundation of the historical Jesus whose earthly life represents God’s full and objective self-communication to humankind: “No one has seen God at any time.
The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18 New King James Version). Jesus was seen and heard by human beings as God’s ultimate revelation (1 John 1:1-3). This is why He could claim: “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. “(John 14:7 KJV).
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, for instance, the Corinthians knew the surrounding problems of the time, as well as the customs, laws, and practices of that era. Thus, Paul may not have dwelt on, or even mentioned them in his letters. You should not read the letter at face value, as many attempt to do.
To understand the Corinthian Epistle, you must “become,” as it were, a first-century Corinthian.
You must also look to the original Bible text languages of the time (Greek and Hebrew) as they were understood, meant and intended at the time, to those being addressed. We cannot take our modern language understanding and try to force first-century Greek into it.
To lesson the burden of all study and research on the general congregant, God has put men and women in charge of the flock to spend their time in much prayer and study and then bring the fruit of their labour to their flock (1 Tim.3:2 & 5:17). The flock then has to check if the teaching is correct. (Acts 17:11)
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Pastor Erasmus Makarimayi is presiding pastor at New Gate Chapel