How to Study the Bible – Part 3
Last time we examined five tried and true methods to study God’s love letter to man. Let’s now take a look at several principles we should use as we read and study God’s Word.
Hermeneutics is the science of Biblical interpretation. When an individual reads the Bible, he automatically interprets what he reads. The principles that guide our interpretation are referred to as hermeneutics.
Exegesis is the interpretation of a text. This is the process of studying and analyzing what we read. When we implement our hermeneutical principles we are engaging in exegesis.
Exposition is the finished product of exegesis. When we deliver our exegesis by adding illustration and exhortation, we are participating in exposition.
The process of hermeneutics and exegesis should be applied before one’s theology is systematized. Below is a list of sound hermeneutical principles.
A Priori can be defined as knowledge that does not come from experience. When this concept is applied to theology, the Bible is assumed to be the Word of God at the very start of the process. Scripture is presupposed as the final authority. The Bible is the Word of God and therefore it is the ultimate standard. God’s Word cannot (or should not) come under the verification and falsification criteria of the non-Christian world. The Scriptures are authoritative in all topics addressed (not just the topic of salvation).
In contrast, A Posteriori is knowledge that proceeds from observation or experience. We apply this to theology when we exegete the passages of Scripture so as to give the human mind access to the mind of God regarding the various topics of reality. The serious Bible student must realize that God’s revelation is the very Source of all knowledge.
There Is Only One Interpretation Of Scripture
Scripture may be applied to different circumstances but the meaning of every word and verse in Scripture has a single meaning.
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (II Peter 1:20)
In this verse, “private” comes from the Greek word idios and means “one’s own” or “peculiar to an individual.” “Interpretation” comes from the Greek word epilusis and means “to explain.” Though there is debate concerning whether Peter is referring to the origin of Scripture or the reading of Scripture, I believe that the application is correct for both. The Holy Spirit guides in the origin and understanding of the Bible. He does not lead certain individuals into extra-Biblical truth or interpretation.
Next time we’ll examine several more principles for Biblical interpretation.