Thy Words were found and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart. Jeremiah 15:16
Principles Of Biblical Interpretation
Robert McCrory, a godly and capable minister of the Word of God, once said, “I would give much if some one had advised me to permanently record the results of my early studies in the Word. Precious findings, which at the time of their discovery I felt that I would never forget, have been forgotten. Expositions developed and used in blessing to God’s people cannot now be recalled. I wish with all my heart that I had written my studies at least in outline and thus preserved them.”
A student should prepare a record of his studies and develop a system of filing these. A very simple system is to have several loose-leaf books of a convenient size. These may be labelled: Doctrinal Studies, Topical Studies, Serial Studies, Expository Studies, etc. At the beginning you may label one Expository Studies in the Old Testament and another Expository Studies in the New Testament. As studies increase with the passing of time two such books may be inadequate; it may be necessary that you have a loose-leaf book for each section of the Bible. Doctrinal, topical, serial studies may be filed in the usual alphabetical order.
Appendix to Principles of Biblical Interpretation No. 1.
Dual Interpretation: “The Bible is of only one interpretation but many applications,” is a frequently repeated assertion that requires some modification. There are statements and examples which cover the matter of dual interpretation in both the Gospels and Epistles.
In writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul suggests that certain facts which in the Old Testament have a literal — historical interpretation for Israel have a moral and spiritual one today: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12). The words of warning mean that if we do not heed the admonition of these Old Testament Scriptures, literal in their meaning to Israel but spiritual to us, and go on thinking that we are standing when we are not, like Israel we shall fall under the disciplinary hand of God.
In this passage, we have both a literal and historical interpretation and a moral and spiritual one.
There is a passage in 2 Corinthians where dual interpretation is even more obvious. At the close of 2 Corinthians 6, promises literally made to Israel in Isaiah 52:11 and Hosea 1:10, are quoted in connection with the members of the church at Corinth: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). The exhortation then follows, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Here we have a literal — historical interpretation in the Old Testament and an ecclesiastical and moral one in the New.
In the parable of the unjust judge, a dual interpretation was intended by the Lord. In the passage, Luke 18:1-8, the Lord first states a literal interpretation. The parable was meant that men should always pray, but after speaking the parable, the Lord intimated that it also has a dispensational interpretation: “Shall not God avenge His elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?”
The parable of the husbandmen (Matthew 21:33-46) is a splendid example of dual interpretation. First, it was understood by the chief priests and Pharisees as an outline of their own history (v. 45). Second, the Lord interpreted the parable in regard to Himself, rejected but eventually exalted.
Here we have a historical interpretation and a prophetical interpretation together.
Sufficient is here stated to show that it is necessary to modify the statement, “The Bible is of only one interpretation.” The Bible itself occasionally gives to passages a double meaning.
A safe guide to follow in this connection is, do not use multiple interpretation unless the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures makes it plain that such was His intention.
Analytical Bible Study
The composition of the Bible is such that it demands sanctified logic, a detailed thinking in sequence, to grasp its divine meaning. Seldom do we find a complete outline of any subject. Divine Revelation is progressive; therefore references to any subject are complementary, but we must remember that partial statements of all biblical themes are scattered throughout the whole Bible.
Biblical analysis may be defined as the technique by which a minute examination of Scripture is undertaken in order to discover its components and their true meaning. This method of study requires careful reading and rereading until one becomes acquainted with the language of the passage under consideration.
In literature analysis is undertaken to ascertain the real essence of any article or treatise. An orderly method to follow in doing this is to raise questions and seek the answer to these either in the passage itself or in some other part of the Word of God; for example: Who? Where? Why? How? When?
Let us take the first paragraph of the Epistle of James:
· Who? Who wrote this letter? James the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19). Saved probably after the resurrection of Christ. Compare John 7:5. He was absent at Christ’s crucifixion (1 Corinthians 15:7. Acts 1:14).
· Where? Where was this letter sent? To Jewish believers of the dispersion. See marginal reading of James 1:1.
· Why? Because of divers trials. Compare 1 Peter 1:6.
· When? Probably about A.D. 44. The absence of any reference to any Gentile believers or work among the nations suggests a very early date. A date before the Church Council recorded in Acts 15.
· How? “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (11 Timothy 3:16).
In this type of work each paragraph, sentence and clause; yes, and even phrase, is dissected. Their topic and argumentation are noted and listed. Eventually all the parts of the general subject will be re-arranged in groups and arrangements.
We shall select the Epistle to the Hebrews for this practical demonstration:
The Epistle to the Hebrews
1. The Designation: _________________________________________________
2. The general subject: The general subject of the Epistle to the Hebrews may be difficult to discover. The Epistle may reveal its theme only after considerable reading. Let us notice a few general characteristics. Hebrews is not at all similar to the earlier Church Epistles by the Apostle Paul. There is nothing here about the mystery (Ephesians 3:3-10), nothing about the oneness of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27), nothing of the Lord’s people being the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:15-20), and nothing about the eternal habitation for God which is being raised by God the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:20-22). The Epistle is definitely slanted toward the Hebrew believers. It intimates that the practices which they knew so well under the Levitical economy was a type of the blessed realities found in Christ. They were being taught that the Lord Jesus was the antitype of Aaron the high-priest of Israel. These observations may help us to recognize the general subject.
The writer as he reviews what he has written in the first half of the Epistle says:
We would therefore choose as the title and subject of the Epistle to the Hebrews:
3. The Sections: It is necessary to find the different sections in the Epistle, and to examine each one until we detect the particular aspect or phase of the general subject.
While the sections contain clearly definite aspects of the general subject, they are not to be considered as so many disconnected parts in the entire Epistle. We must remember that they overlap.
1. Of a book: Hebrews divides itself into five major sections:
(a) (1:1 - 3:6):
(b) (4:11 - 5:5):
(c) (5:6 - 8:2):
(d) (8:3 - 10:25):
(e) (10:26 - 13:19):
Conclusion and benediction.
2. Of a Section: We have found the various elements in the Epistle as a whole. We ought now to take one of the sections and subject it to an analysis; Le us take the first one:
(1:1 - 3:6) A little more than two chapters compose this section.
(a) (Chap. one):
(b) (Chap. two):
3. Of one chapter: Let us choose one of these chapters and submit it to an analysis:
(a) (vs. 1-4):
(b) (vs. 5-8):
(c) (v. 9):
(d) (v. 10):
(e) (vs. 11-13):
(f) (vs. 14-15):
(g) (v. 16):
(h) (vs. 17.18):
From this analysis we have learned the seven reasons for the incarnation of the Lord Jesus.
4. Of a paragraph: We shall select a well known paragraph from chapter two. It is verse 9.
(a) “We see Jesus.”
(b) “Made lower than the angels.”
(c) “For the sufferings of death.”
(d) “Crowned with glory and honour.”
(e) “By the grace of God.”
(f) “Tasted death for every man.”