Biblical answers to the questions of your heart

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2 Peter 1:20-21, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation…For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (KJV)

God is not an author of confusion, 1Corinthians 14:33. We must recognize the Holy Spirit as the author of the bible and being the author, He cannot lead us away from the truth but into the truth. That is why we must involve the Spirit while studying the Bible. When we have two to three interpretations about a verse of the scripture, we are creating confusion already and God is not the author of confusion.

As a matter of fact, most of the theological debates arose from scriptural misinterpretation and flouting of certain fundamental guidelines in ‘Hermeneutics’ (study of interpretation). Some who seem to have a little understanding of this subject only know one rule and have created more confusion than those who don’t. You need to understand that there are gaps that exist between you and those the Spirit inspired to write the scriptures. The gaps are:

a) Linguistic gap

b) Geographical gap

c) Historical gap

d) Cultural gap

e) Philosophical gap

If we do not take note of these things, we may run into error zealously. SCRIPTURE is NOT contradictory but our interpretations may be contradictory. Hence, we need to consider a few rules involved in interpreting the scriptures. Here are the rules:

  1. The Rule of Definition: Any study of Scripture must begin with a study of words especially from the original rendition in Hebrew or Greek. Old Testament was written originally in Hebrew while New Testament was written originally in Aramaic and Greek. At the point of translation, so many words were not properly translated thereby distorting the intended or original meaning. You should define your terms and then keep to the terms defined without wavering. You need a Hebrew/English or Greek/English lexicon in order to make sure that the sense of the English translation is understood. 
    For example, a couple of good examples of this are the Greek words ‘allos’ and ‘heteros’. Both are usually translated as ‘another’ in English – yet ‘allos’ literally means ‘another of the same type’ (John14:15) and ‘heteros’ (Acts7:18) means ‘another of a different type.’
  2. The Rule of First Audience: It must be remembered that the Old Testament was written originally by, to and for Jews. They were the first audience, the words and idioms must have been intelligible to them – just as the words of Christ when talking to them must have been. For example, when Jesus called himself ‘THE BREAD OF LIFE’, the Jews understood what He was saying quickly because bread is a symbol of life in the Jewish culture. It is a staple food of great cultural importance.  If He was speaking to Indians, He may have said ‘I AM THE COCONUT OF LIFE’, because what bread is to the Jews is what coconut is to the Indians. If Jesus was speaking to people from your tribe, what would he have called Himself? Likewise, majority of the New Testament  was written with respect to Greco-Roman (and to a lesser extent Jewish) culture and it is important to not impose our modern usage into our interpretation. It is not worth much to interpret a great many phrases and histories if one’s interpretations are shaded by pre-conceived notions and cultural biases, thereby rendering an inaccurate and ineffectual lesson. I have seen people trying to interprete scriptures with their cultural bias whereas, the misconstrued scripture has more direct application to the Jews/Greco- Roman people.
  3. Contextual Rule: This is the most common rule in the mouth of many teachers. The meaning of scriptures 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. It is wrong to build a doctrine on a verse of scripture. What comes before or after it must be considered. The original text of the bible in Greek and Hebrew were written without verses and chapters. Stephen Langton, a professor at the university at the University of Paris, and afterward Archbishop of Canterbury, divided the Bible into the modern chapter divisions in 1227 while Robert Stephanus, a printer, divided the bible into modern verses in 1550-56. Also, there are punctuation error as well. So when picking a verse of scripture, what comes before and after must be considered.  For example, Mormons use 1 Corinthians 8:5b, “…for there be gods many and lords many…” as a ‘proof text’ or basis for their doctrine of polytheism. 
    However, a simple reading of the whole verse in the context of the whole chapter, plainly demonstrates that Paul was not teaching polytheism.
    Look at this punctuation error that has led to misinterpretation:
    Isaiah 59:19,  “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” (KJV). Whenever this scripture is quoted, we quote it thus: ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood…’ Now that’s not correct because the comma was wrongly placed by translators to make it look as if the enemy is coming like a flood.
    This is how it should have been rendered: ‘When the enemy shall come in, ‘LIKE A FLOOD THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD WILL RAISE A STANDARD AGAINST THEM’. So it is the Holy Spirit that is coming like a flood against the enemy, and not the enemy coming like a flood. A simple comma changed it. I learnt this from a Hebrew scholar.
  4. Historical Rule: To be a good interpreter of scriptures, history must be your companion. Paul told Timothy to use a little wine because of his stomach. From history, ancient Greeks and Hebrews use wine as a disinfectant. The water of Ephesus was contaminated by sewage. Many Ephesians had stomach ailment. Hence water was disinfected with wine because of its antimicrobial quality. You must have some awareness of the life and society of the times in which the Scripture was written. The spiritual principle could be timeless but often can’t be properly appreciated without some knowledge of the background. If the interpreter can have in his mind what the writer had in his mind when he wrote without adding any excess baggage from the interpreter’s own culture or society, then the true thought of the Scripture can be captured resulting in an accurate interpretation. 
    Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Our only interest in the past is for the light it throws upon the present.”
  5. The Rule of Logic: Interpretation involves logical reasoning. When interpreting Scripture, the use of reason should not be jettisoned. Though the bible is a spiritual book, our senses are not to go on suspension when reading it. We need to ask questions like: does the interpretation make sense? This brings us back to the issue of considering use of language, grammatical analysis, semantics, sentence construction, tenses and other things that pertain to use of language. That is why we need to have a good grasp of the original language in which the bible was written.
    For example, Genesis 4:1, “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain.”
    Let’s look at it illogically first. ‘Adam knew his wife’; if you look at the English word ‘Knew’, it is the past tense of the word ‘know’. How can Adam know his wife and conceive? Grammatically, that’s not explanatory enough. A logical thinker would then go further to conclude that the word ‘Knew’ in that verse implied ‘sexual intercourse’ because conception was what followed. The Bible was given to us in the form of human language and therefore appeals to human reason – it invites investigation. It is to be interpreted as we would any other volume: applying the laws of language and grammatical analysis. As Bernard Ramm said, “What is the control we use to weed out false theological speculation? Certainly the control is logic and evidence… interpreters who have not had the sharpening experience of logic…may have improper notions of implication and evidence. Too frequently such a person uses a basis of appeal that is a notorious violation of the laws of logic and evidence.” (Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Boston: W. A. Wilde, 1956)
  6. The Rule of Precedence: We must not violate the known usage of a word and invent another for which there is no precedent. Just as a judge’s primary occupation is the study of previous cases, so must the interpreter use precedents in order to determine whether they really support an alleged doctrine. If you come across a word in the scripture that got your attention, there is a need to check other places where the word was used especially the first place where it was used. There’s a law called ‘LAW OF FIRST MENTION’. You need to check the precedents of the word in question.
  7. The Rule of Unity: The parts of Scripture being interpreted must be consistent with the rest of Scripture. An excellent example of this is the doctrine of the Trinity. No single passage teaches it, but it is consistent with the teaching of the whole of Scripture (e.g. the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are referred to individually as God; yet the Scriptures elsewhere teach there is only one God). 
  8. The Rule of Inference: An inference is a fact reasonably implied from another fact. It is a logical consequence. It derives a conclusion from a given fact or premise. It is the deduction of one proposition from another proposition. Such inferential facts or propositions are sufficiently binding when their truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence. Competent evidence means such evidence as the nature of the thing to be proved admits. Satisfactory evidence means that amount of proof which would ordinarily satisfy an unprejudiced mind beyond a reasonable doubt.
    For example, Jesus used this rule when he proved the resurrection of the dead to the unbelieving Sadducees in Matthew 22:23-33.Paul used it in Romans11:17-24.
  9. Rule of Dispensation: Scriptures must be interpreted dispensationally. From Genesis to Revelation, there are 7 dispensations or regime. There are certain scriptures that apply only to those that live in that dispensation and does not apply to us today. There are scriptures that are written to us because it is relevant and applicable to our present dispensation while some were written to those in a different dispensation. Just as Kenneth E. Hagin said, ‘Some scriptures are written for you but not to you while some are written to you and for you’. Get it clear, this rule does not nullify scriptures out of our dispensation, we can draw lessons and understand the nature of God through them but we cannot build doctrine on scriptures that are not relevant to our dispensation.
    For Example, Leviticus 15:19 says “When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. “This scripture and other things written in the Law applies ONLY to those in that dispensation. How do I know? Romans3:19 makes it clear that the Law was written to those under that dispensation.
  10. Rule of Comparative Analysis: To interpret scriptures correctly, you must be able to compare scriptures with scriptures and let scriptures interpret scriptures. Personal opinion, philosophy, culture and tradition, etc. cannot interpret scriptures. Sometimes, to interpret a verse and put it in the right perspective, you may need to dig deep and find comparative scriptures from Genesis to Revelation.
  11. The Question of Application: After getting proper interpretation for scriptures, we must ask this question: ”How does this scripture apply to me today?” There are lessons to be drawn from several portions of the scriptures which are relevant today. The issue of dispensation is well understood but it is not a license to throw away what is helpful. That is why Paul said in Romans 15:4,“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (KJV)


You have learnt a rare but important lesson in your walk with God. The cure for error and falsehood is the truth; we stand for the truth and live by it. Teach others within your sphere of contact. I call you blessed.