Rule #7 LEAN ON EXTRA-BIBLICAL [STUDY] RESOURCES WITH CAUTION; Not with suspicion, just caution. Never let it be lost on you that Bible dictionaries, concordances, commentaries, though invaluable, are not God’s word. The Holy Spirit is the believer’s most reliable resource for accurate interpretation of scripture. A few notes on this;

Rule #7 LEAN ON EXTRA-BIBLICAL [STUDY] RESOURCES WITH CAUTION; Not with suspicion, just caution. Never let it be lost on you that Bible dictionaries, concordances, commentaries, though invaluable, are not God’s word. The Holy Spirit is the believer’s most reliable resource for accurate interpretation of scripture. A few notes on this;

  • While we are grateful for Bible commentaries and lexicons, they are not the final authorities on the subjects that they attempt to explain. I urge the Bible student to lean on concordances and the lexical meanings of the words only as much as such meanings agree with the context of the entire biblical passage in which the word was used, while also crosschecking with other passages with similar word usage.
  • The connotation that the dictionary meaning of a word gives to the entire subject at hand must be in agreement with other scriptural understandings of the same subject.
  • All scripture must be in harmony. At best, the Bible student should do a transliteration of the word(s), examine it closely and make their own conclusions on the connotation of the word for the subject matter at hand, as the passage context requires, and as the Spirit guides.

Rule #8 INTERPRET THE BIBLE ON ITS OWN TERMS;
The Biblical texts were written in Hebrew and Koine Greek. The different book of the Hebrew Bible were written and compiled all the way from centuries before Christ up until the first century. The Greek Bible was written and compiled in the first century after Christ. These simple, yet profound factors, must be acknowledged in interpretation of scriptures. The actual intent of the text at the time of writing must first be derived, after which we may proceed to give it an application that is relevant to our own times.
I go into more detail on this in the Context Rule.

Rule #9 INTERPRET SCRIPTURES WITH SCRIPTURES; More often than not, if not all of the time, the Bible is a sufficient guide to interpret itself. Plus, this would also prove the scriptures to one harmonious volume of writings.

Rule #10 CONFIRM ANY GIVEN INTERPRETATION WITH AT LEAST TWO WITNESSES; By the mouth of two or more witnesses, every word is proven to be indeed true (Deut. 17:6, 2 Cor. 13:1). Look out for scriptural harmony.The scriptures speak of and reveal God, who is essentially one Person that is not in conflict with Himself. The Bible reveals many principles about God, but all the different principles fit together to reveal one Person. No single ideology/revelation of scriptures can fully explain the entire wisdom of God; no one revelation can tell the whole truth; many truths must come together and harmonise to form one Parent Truth. For this reason, no interpretation of one principle for a phenomenon in scriptures should negate another principle for the same thing or even another phenomenon. All principles must agree. All must tell one single, harmonious story. If in interpretation we are not seeing oneness, then we ought to already know that we have gotten something wrong.

Rule #11 UNDERSTAND THE TRIPARTITE NATURE OF HUMANITY

1Jn 5:7-8  For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

Just as God is a spirit, humans are spirits that have souls and occupy the container of a physical vessel. Therefore, whatever knowledge is truth indeed must cut across all three planes of the spiritual, intellectual and practical planes of the human experience. That is to say, any given interpretation of scriptures, for it to be right indeed, must be in agreement with the internal witness of the recreated human spirit, the perceptions of the soul, and that which is practically real in our lives; both in the short run and in the long run.

For example; it becomes increasingly difficult to assert the accuracy of the supposed scriptural injunction that it is God’s will that women should not occupy leadership positions, when again and again, women emerge bearing natural leadership talents that they could not have made up by themselves. The obvious question is; why would people be naturally endowed (by God) with gifts, callings and anointings that they are not meant to utilize? When we find discrepancies like this in our body of beliefs, we should be forced to admit an error in scriptural interpretation and admit that we have not yet found truth.

Rule #12 ALWAYS CONSIDER THE CONTEXT; Words and phrases rarely stand on their own independent of a context. A context could be likened to a habitat environment, and words to the creatures that live in such a habitat. Attempting to interpret a word while ignoring the context of usage is like taking an animal out of its habitat and expecting it to perform at optimal level. Doctrinal errors arise when inaccurate connotations of words and phrases are postulated in biblical readings. Never attempt to interpret a biblical reading out of context.

  • Cultural and Historical context; The scriptures were written for us all, but they were not written to us directly. A study of the history and culture, (or historical culture) depicted in the passage makes a lot of difference, bringing to the fore useful insight about the actual scenario, that would in turn lead to a more accurate understanding of what was being said, and how to apply in present day, whether as a principle or as a social construct. That is, if the context is not the same as your present state, glean out the principle and apply as it is fit in your own unique circumstance. Do not form the habit of directly lifting methods/applications from the pages of scriptures. it is not good at all!
  • Passage context; Often time as christians we quote verses (or even lines) of scripture out of the context in which they are written. Does this mean such usage of scripture should never be done or could never be relevant? Not necessarily. There is such a thing as Rhema and revelational teaching. For this, words or lines independent of the context of the passage may be used, as the Lord leads, to pass a prophetic message across. But this is not the same as doctrinal teaching. Attempting to establish a doctrine this way– and this is all too common in church teachings today–is bad scholarship. It propagates errors in doctrine.
  • Grammatical context; parsing of words to know their correct usage and implications are extremely important in interpretation. A single change in the tense of a word, or the case, could give a reading of scripture a whole different meaning from what the original writer intended.

Rule #13 AVOID OVERSTRETCHING ANALOGIES AND SYMBOLISMS; Because the Holy Spirit is at some point in the scriptures introduced to us as a dove, does not mean that He is a dove indeed, OR that He is entirely, as a Person,  harmless (as the symbolism of a dove implies). There are limits to the connotations given to analogies and symbolisms used to describe subjects or persons. These limits should be determined by the context of the passage of usage and also crosschecked with other passages where the same subject matter is typified, in other to confirm if there is less/more to the matter.

Rule #14 INTERPRET THE UNCLEAR BY THE CLEAR, THE OBSCURE BY THE BIG PICTURE
An obscure/unclear passage should not be at odds with the clear thrust of Scripture. The contrived interpretation of a passage that is not well understood should not be given preference over other clearly and consistently depicted thrusts of christian doctrine.

Rule #15 ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT THE LAW IS MADE FOR MAN
The law is to serve the purpose of mankind and not the other way around. No interpretation of scripture should jeopardize the allowance or ability of a person to fulfill his/her God-given destiny.

Rule #16.USE A WHOLISTIC APPROACH TO VIEW SUBJECTS OF DISCOURSE; The subjects in the Bible should more often than not ought to be considered or meditated upon in 360-degree fashion in other to grasp their full meanings, as opposed to a unidirectional approach that tells only half of the story. The Bible is just one book, and there is only so much space to put down all that the Author means to communicate to the readers. It is the responsibility of the reader, therefore, to fill in the gaps where some details are not given. However, such gap filling may only be done based on what is written. Assumptions should not be made based on preconceived notions; the Bible student must in this case be guided strictly by already provided details in other portions of scriptures.

 

 

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