Monday, December 22, 2008

Rules of interpretation are...

next on my writing list for this Sunday series. Even if it's not technically Sunday when I finally post.

Anyway, it was a light bulb moment for me the first time it was explained to me that reading the Bible within a particular context and according to literary style was necessary to my understanding. I had never heard such things.

I thought that the Bible was simply one whole book to be read from cover to cover and that if I was smart enough, I would get it. So years of frustration accompanied my "not smart enough" self estimation which led to years of spotty Bible reading. I was right to know that I am not smart enough to "get" the Bible. Only the Holy Spirit can grant understanding of spiritual things to a person, not her intellect. The Word of God is powerful enough to convert, to convict, to instruct, to direct, to motivate, to persuade, to humble, and to cause prayer, confession, adoration, and rejoicing.

But I was also missing the most practical sense of seeing what type of literary passage I was reading. For example, the Bible is one whole book to be read from cover to cover. However, the literary styles of the different books within the Bible cannot be discounted and once recognized inform the reader of the meaning. The poetry of Psalms with visual imagery is read differently than the narrative accounts of Genesis. The epistles of Paul and Timothy are read differently than the minor prophetic books.

The next light bulb moment in my understanding how to read God's word was these nine principles of interpretation regarding the Word (Law) of God.  Overriding each book of the Bible is the truth that there is one perfect and divine Author who has crafted through human instruments the whole counsel of God. This is the point of the next nine posts. Deviating from these principles regardless of literary style derails the reader and misconstrues the meaning.

In short, here is the list:

The Word of God is perfect, spiritual, one law, two-sided, applicable, all-inclusive, obligates us to establish it, obligates us to helpfulness, and is fulfilled by love.

That's nine posts right there. I'd better get busy.

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