How to Interpret the Bible
A Series Based on the Precept Ministries Inductive Method
August 18, 2009 - We have recently started sharing the basics of the Inductive Bible Study Method, as outlined by Precept Ministries International. The first principle of inductive Bible study is observation. Read below to learn more about the second principle of inductive Bible study, which is interpretation.
- Remember that context rules.
If you lay the solid foundation of observation, you will be prepared to consider each verse in the light of the surrounding verses, the book in which it is found, and the entire Word of God. As you study, ask yourself: Is my interpretation of a passage of Scripture consistent with the theme, purpose, and structure of the book in which it is found? Is it consistent with other Scripture about the same subject? Am I considering the historic and cultural context? Never take a Scripture out of its context to make it say what you want it to say. Discover what the author is saying; don’t add to his meaning.
- Always seek the full counsel of the Word of God.
When you know God’s Word thoroughly, you will not accept a teaching simply because someone has used one or two isolated verses to support it. You will be able to discern whether a teaching is biblical or not. Saturate yourself in the Word of God; it is your safeguard against wrong doctrine.
- Remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture.
Remember, all Scripture is inspired by God. Therefore, Scripture will never contradict itself. Sometimes, however, you may find it difficult to reconcile two seemingly contradictory truths taught in Scripture, such as the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Don’t take a teaching to an extreme that God doesn’t. Simply humble your heart in faith and believe what God says, even if you can’t fully understand or reconcile it at the moment.
- Don’t base your convictions on an obscure passage of Scripture.
An obscure passage is one in which the meaning is not easily understood. Because these passages are difficult to understand even when proper principles of interpretation are used, they should not be used as a basis for establishing doctrine.
- Interpret Scripture literally.
God spoke to us that we might know truth. Therefore, take the Word of God at face value—in its natural, normal sense. Look first for the clear teaching of Scripture, not a hidden meaning. Understand and recognize figures of speech and interpret them accordingly. Consider what is being said in the light of its literary style. For example, you will find more similes and metaphors in poetical and prophetic literature than in historical or biographical books. Interpret portions of Scripture according to their literary style. Some literary styles in the Bible are: Historical—Acts; Prophetic—Revelation; Biographical—Luke; Didactic (teaching)—Romans; Poetic—Psalms; Epistle (letter)—2 Timothy; Proverbial—Proverbs
- Look for the single meaning of the passage.
Always try to understand what the author had in mind when you interpret a portion of the Bible. Don’t twist verses to support a meaning that is not clearly taught. Unless the author of a particular book indicates that there is another meaning to what he says, let the passage speak for itself.
Precept Ministries International was founded by internationally-known Bible teacher Kay Arthur, along with her husband, Jack, with the vision to establish people in God's Word. Be sure to visit the Precept Ministries International Web site to go deeper into inductive Bible study.