Interpreting Scripture, Part 2

Date: November 3, 2013
Study: Scripture: Unchanging Truth in a Changing World
Teacher: Kameron Slater

Interpreting Scripture

  1. What is the definition of hermeneutics? What is its purpose?
    Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation. It establishes rules and guideline for interpretation.
  2. Two strategies for interpretation:
    1. Strict constructionist- an interpretive, grammatical-historical approach [correct]
    2. Broad- a legislative, continually changing approach [incorrect]
  3. Rules or principles for interpretation:
    1. Analogy of faith- Scripture interprets Scripture
    2. Literal sense- Bible should be interpreted literally 

Article XV of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics

WE AFFIRM  the necessity of interpreting the Bible according to its literal, or normal, sense. The literal sense is the grammatical-historical sense, that is, the meaning which the writer expressed. Interpretation according to the literal sense will take account of all figures of speech and literary forms found in the text.

WE DENY  the legitimacy of any approach to Scripture that attributes to it meaning which the literal sense does not support.

The literal sense of Scripture is strongly affirmed here. To be sure the English word literal carries some problematic connotations with it. Hence the words normal and grammatical-historical are used to explain what is meant. The literal sense is also designated by the more descriptive title grammatical-historical sense. This means the correct interpretation is the one which discovers the meaning of the text in its grammatical forms and in the historical, cultural context in which the text is expressed.

The Denial warns against attributing to Scripture any meaning not based in a literal understanding, such as mythological or allegorical interpretations. This should not be understood as eliminating typology or designated allegory or other literary forms which include figures of speech (see Articles X, XIII, and XIV).

Pitfalls and Literary Forms of Interpretation

  1. Failure to recognize genre
  2. The problem of metaphor. This is the concept of directly comparing a well-known object with a not-so-well-known object to make a point. One uses a comparison to objects in nature or everyday experience.
  3. Hyperbole- an intentional exaggeration of the truth to make a point.

Three Major Methods of Interpretation Used Today

  1. Grammatical-historical: strives to discover the original meaning of the text, then bridge the gap between biblical times and our own
  2. Existential: maintains that God speaks through the Bible to each person directly
  3. Religious-historical: argues that, along with everything else, religion is moving from the simple to the complex


  1. Since there is only one true meaning of any given text, interpretation must be objective.
  2. The 19th century enlightenment thinker wanted to discard the supernatural elements of the Bible.
  3. We do not need to make the gospel relevant; we need only to show its relevance.

Take a look at Jesus’ use of hyperbole in Matthew 6:2-4, 7:3-5, 23:23-24; Mark 10:24-25

Knowing Scripture by RC Sproul
Why We Trust the Bible by Stephen J. Nichols


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