How to Interpret Scripture
Dan R. Smedra
Below are comments regarding various aspects of biblical interpretation. Italics denote phrases or quotations from Lewis S. Chafer's Systematic Theology.
Interpretation of Holy Scripture involves two parts, both being necessary to ensure the most correct and accurate understanding of any subject at hand.
The science of hermeneutics has established and recognized rules. Some of the primary and most general applicable are listed below. The source is Dr. Rollin Thomas Chafer:
Further, consideration should be given to:
Grammatical-historical (normal, not literalistic) interpretation stands in opposition to a forced allegorical interpretation--which seldom allows the text to be taken at face value. Seek the normal, plain sense meaning of the text first.
The Role of Presuppositions
A presupposition is a conscious or unconscious assumption about reality, and these assumptions are typically antecedent to our reasoning processes and emotional responses. We all have presuppositions--whether correct or erroneous. Erroneous presuppositions can and most often do interfere with an accurate interpretation of Scripture.
For example, the most popular and false presupposition is the autonomous nature of man. People simply assume mankind is autonomous, i.e., has free will and this results in a substantial misinterpretation of Scripture.
In time, the Holy Spirit sovereignly ensures that the growing, new-creation Christian views things differently. Our false presuppositions are progressively displaced with God's view of reality through the transformative process of sanctification. The Apostle Paul encourages us to "...not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2)
A system of interpretation which, in defense of an ideal unity of the Bible, contends for a single divine purpose, ignores drastic contradictions, and is sustained only by occasional or accidental similarities, must be doomed to confusion when confronted with the many problems which such a system imposes on the text of Scripture.
All Scripture "is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16), but all Scripture is not of primary application to a particular person or class of persons which the Bible designates as such. All Scripture is not about the angels nor about the Gentiles. In like manner, all Scripture is not addressed to the Jew nor to the Christian. These are obvious truths, and the dispensationalist's plan of interpretation is none other than an attempt to be consistent in following these [normal] distinctions in the primary application of Scripture as far as, and no farther than, the Bible carries them.
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