Tools for Biblical Interpretation

Our Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. Bible study at Trinity just ventured into an ongoing study on Biblical interpretation.  The length and diversity of literary styles in the Bible is enough to make it an intimidating book to read.  Add to this the fact that our life depends on rightly believing in its message and the Bible can be a downright terrifying book to read and attempt to interpret!

Therefore, our Bible study class has set out to learn a few key principles and techniques on how to rightly handle the Word of truth.  As a beginning effort, I've collected a few affirmations that a Christian can remember as he opens the Bible and begins to read.  It is my hope that these affirmations will help the reader feel confident that he is understanding the Word of God in a right and faithful way.  Also note that this list is a work in progress!  We began in class with ten affirmations and ended up adding two more to make twelve.  We joked that the list should probably have a biblical number of affirmations, so if we add any more we'll probably need to get up to forty!

I encourage you to read the following affirmations and try them out for yourself the next time you read a passage from the Bible.  Then, if you can think of any more points to keep in mind while you interpret Scripture be sure to email them to me - they might just make the list!  Also, if you are interested in learning more, feel free to join us any time in the Trinity Life Center conference room every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.! 
12 Affirmations Regarding the Interpretation of God’s Word

  1. This verse/passage is the true, reliable, Holy Spirit-inspired Word of God. 

  1. This verse/passage concerns the person and work of Jesus Christ.

  1. This verse/passage was written for the primary purpose of creating, sustaining, and growing saving faith in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

  1. This verse/passage agrees in doctrine and purpose with every other verse/passage in all of Scripture.

  1. This verse/passage must be read within the context of its chapter, book, genre, and Testament.

  1. This verse/passage finds its fullest meaning within the sacramental life of the Church.

  1. This verse/passage is understood not only with the mind, but also with the heart, body, and life.

  1. This verse/passage has been faithfully expounded by the Lutheran Confessions and by various faithful Christians throughout history.

  1. This verse/passage can be further elucidated through the proper and faithful use of subordinate secular disciplines such as history, geography, grammar, rhetoric, psychology, etc. 

  1. This verse/passage may have different applications within the unique and varied life circumstances of God’s people, while still only ever communicating the truth of a single reality.

  1. This verse/passage may, at this present moment, exceed the reader's human ability to understand every detail.

  1. This verse/passage can only be ignored, changed, or opposed to the reader’s eternal peril, no matter how confusing, offensive, or accusatory that verse/passage may be.

Pastor Thomas Cowell
Eastertide, Anno Domini 2022
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Thomas Cowell