How are we to interpret scripture?

Articles about biblical interpretation.For doctrinal discussions see other topic.

Hermeneutics is the study of Biblical interpretation. Various differing systems of Hermeneutics have been devised over the centuries: each providing rules and guidelines for interpreting the Bible; each determining the ingredients of faith, practice, and doctrine. Some have led to orthodoxy and others to heresy.

Unfortunately, the Bible does not list the rules of Hermeneutics; things would be so much clearer if it did. So how do we determine these rules?

A larger question is the role of the Bible in our faith. Are we to determine the ingredients of faith, practice, and doctrine solely from the pages of the Bible or are there other sources as well? (read more: Sola Scriptura | Teaching Authority)

The Bible contains stories to use in testing out the various theories, doctrines, and interpretations.

Factors . . .

The goal of hermeneutics is to determine the correct view of the gospel and the Christian faith. But that is also the goal of the church . . .

Through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known. (Ephesians 3:10)

Protestants typically claim that sound Hermeneutics is needed because that is how we derive the Christian faith from the Bible; this because they believe the Bible to be the sole source of the faith. But it is easy to show that the Bible is not sufficient in determining Christian faith, practice, and doctrine; in the history of Christianity we find plenty of examples of heretics defending their views with the Bible. A notable example is Arianism which was only finally silenced by a council of church fathers who were forced to use words and concepts outside the Bible (because they could not disprove Arianism from the Bible only); the Nicene Creed was the result.

We therefore require as a prerequisite to Hermeneutics a foundational knowledge of what constitutes the Christian faith. From this we can judge the various systems of interpretation to know which are valid and which lead to heresy, disunity, and confusion. We discover the tenets of the true Christian faith from the following sources . . .

Thus, we must reject any system of interpretation which ultimately leads to heresy.

Now that 2,000 years have passed we have another guide — the outcome of the various systems of interpretation. We can observe where each naturally leads and choose among the results. Certainly liberal Christian theology, the documentary hypothesis, redaction and higher biblical criticism, as well as any system of interpretation which ignores the early creeds have proven to be disastrous to faith.


Literal vs. Figurative What is the balance? When do we choose figurative over literal?
Literal Interpretation Recently I got the idea we should interpret the Bible strictly literally
Hermeneutics — Intro How are we to interpret scripture?
Hermeneutics — Part 1 Scripture Accessible to all Believers
Hermeneutics — Part 2 The Nature of Communication
Hermeneutics — Part 3 False Principles of Interpretation
Hermeneutics — Part 4 Good Principles of Interpretation
Hermeneutics — Part 5 Scripture Quoted in Scripture
Hermeneutics — Part 6 Symbolism
Typology To my mind, typologyis merely a way to pretend your interpretation of an Old Testament passage is literal when it is, in fact, allegorical.