RULES OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION

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Be diligent to present yourself approved 
to God, an unashamed worker, 

handling accurately the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 (HEB)

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I am indebted to Walter Henrichsen and his book A Layman's Guide to Interpreting the Bible (Zondervan/Navpress 1976) for the basic statement of these rules. That book is now out of print but if you can get a copy it would profit you greatly. It states the generally accepted historic rules of interpretation quite well. Unfortunately, there is one rule on which Mr. Henrichsen and I disagree. He believes that a promise made to a specific person or nation in a specific historical circumstance is available to a believer today if the Holy Spirit "gives that promise" to the believer. It seems to me that this is a violation of the rule, stated by Henrichsen, that "Scripture has only one meaning." If the promise were for a particular historical circumstance AND for the believer in his circumstance, then it would have two meanings. Though I respect Mr. Henrichsen for his fine work and believe that it is not marred by this one problem, I recommend that you not follow his advice in this area (Rule Nine). 

These rules are mostly given in statement form only for now. I hope in the future to add more explanation and illustrations.

 

GENERAL RULES OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION 
 

 The interpreter must be saved  and dependent on the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:13-16).

 Assume the Bible is authoritative and inerrant

 The Bible interprets itself; Scripture best explains Scripture

 Interpret experience in light of Scripture; not the other way around

 Biblical examples are authoritative only when supported by a command

 Church history is important but not decisive in interpretation


GRAMMATICAL RULES OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION
 

 Scripture has only one meaning

 Take Scripture as normal language; “plain sense of the language”

 Interpret words in harmony with their meaning in times of the author

 Interpret according to the context

 If an inanimate object describes a living being -- then it's figurative

 If an expression is out of character with thing described -- it’s figurative

 Don’t make a parable “walk on all fours” -- it has only one point

 Prophetic statements are to be taken normally -- unless the context compels otherwise


HISTORICAL RULES OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION
 

 Interpret in light of biblical historical context

  Revelation is progressive; later revelation explains earlier

 Events of history become spiritual truths only if Scripture designates
 

THEOLOGICAL RULES OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION
 

 Scripture must be understood grammatically before theologically

 A doctrine is not biblical unless it sums up all that Scripture says

 No contradictions in Scripture: e.g. sovereignty and responsibility

 An implied teaching must have support in another passage