Hermeneutics: How to Study the Bible

The apostle Paul tells us that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (II Tim. 3:16) and we should “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). How do we study the Bible to receive the most out of what God has given to us in His Holy Bible? In this short article, we will discover several principles of effective Bible study.

First: We must pray for God’s wisdom. The word phrase, “Pray for wisdom” is used 527 times in the Bible. Col. 1:9 says, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;” We should be ready always to give an answer (I Pet. 3:15); We should know how to answer everyone (Col. 4:6).

Second: God’s word is full of wisdom to help us in our studies (Pro. 1:7; 3:5-6; 4:7; 17:27-28).

Third: We must have faith in God and His word. Our faith in Him sustains and teaches us (Heb.10:38; 11:1, 6).

Fourth: In our studies, we must remember God does do miracles. The parting of the Red Sea, healings, resurrections etc. While our minds may not believe, these are possible they did happen and we know they happened because God shares his faith with us and believes in us (I Cor. 10:13). What is a miracle? A miracle is God suspending the laws of physics or the law of biogenesis to fulfil His will and purpose. In Joshua 10:11-13 we see God made the sun and the earth to stand still until His purpose was fulfilled. We read in Exodus 14 about the parting of the Red Sea. John 11:40-44 Jesus resurrects Lazarus back to life.

Fifth: Biblical hermeneutics. Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles and methods of interpreting the text of the Bible. In its most basic form hermeneutics is “the attempt to understand anything that somebody else has said or written.” 1 There are three basic parts of hermeneutics we can use to enhance our personal Bible study.

1) The most important law of biblical hermeneutics is that the Bible should be interpreted literally.

Some interpreters make the mistake of trying to read between the lines of Scripture to come up with esoteric meanings that are not truly in the text, as if every passage has a hidden spiritual truth that we should seek to decrypt.  An example of this is I Thes.4:17 and inserting the “Rapture” into a text where the word and concept of a “secret rapture” is clearly not there (See CSCOG7 Staff Rapture for more information). Another example is inserting the word “era” into Rev.2-3 concerning the churches of God. How do we know if something is literal or figurative? Literal would be an everyday occurrence that is physically possible. Figurative is physically impossible and for it to be possible God would have to intervene to make it so. Figurative can be allegories, visions of Daniel or Revelation etc. 

2) A second crucial law of biblical hermeneutics is that passages must be interpreted historically, grammatically, and contextually. Interpreting a passage historically means we must seek to understand the culture. The use of research into “textual and linguistic study, research into background, study sources and form are all valid and useful in biblical studies”.2  Paul says in I Cor.14:34a “Let your women keep silence in the churches:” We understand this to have been a cultural norm of the day.

3) A third law of biblical hermeneutics is that Scripture is always the best interpreter of Scripture. For this reason, we always compare Scripture with Scripture when trying to determine the meaning of a passage. Our “aim is to discover what the text meant in the mind of its original author for his intended audience.” 2 When a scripture is unclear or seems ambiguous one should compare that verse to verses that are more clearly stated. Isaiah 28:13 “But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.”

A word about “proof texting”. Looking through the Bible to find a verse to “prove our point” is very poor Bible study and can lead to some interesting yet wrong conclusions.

Our duty is to “Fear God, and keep his commandments.” We can better accomplish this if we have good Biblical study habits. Using the principles outlined above will help all of us to better understand the word of God.

Ecc. 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Our personal Bible study will help us to fear God and keep His commandments.

1, 2 New Testament Interpretation by I. Howard Marshall, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 1979 pgs.11, 15

An internet article for an easy explanation of Hermeneutics: https://www.gotquestions.org/Biblical-hermeneutics.html

Posted in Hermeneutics, How to Study the Bible, One-Page Biblical Studies.