Thoughts on Interpreting Scripture

I am reading through some material that has been sitting on my desk (and floor, for that matter) and interacting with it. I will be doing this more often over the next few weeks. This will give me a way of putting this information on the site and providing a way to search through a lot of material quickly.

I came across this article by R. C. Sproul, Sr., in Tabletalk Magazine. In it Dr. Sproul is looking at how do we interact and interpret the Bible. The following reflections and quotation page numbers are taken from the January 2011 magazine.

Two Principles to Govern Interpretation

1. The Analogy of Faith: This is the idea that scripture is its own interpreter. What this means on a practical level is that a through investigation of what the Bible has to say on a subject should be done before any exploration of other sources.

2. “Sensus literalis“: This does not mean that “every text in the Scriptures is given a “woodenly literal” interpretation, but rather that we must interpret the Bible in the sense in which it is written” (6). What this means is that we do not violate the laws of grammar or genre in order to arrive at an understanding of what the text says. Sproul makes this plainly clear.

“Though the Bible is not like any other book in that is carries with it the authority of divine inspiration, nevertheless, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit over a written text does not turn verbs into nouns or nouns into verbs. No special, secret, arcane, esoteric meaning is pourted into a text simply because it’s divinely inspiried. … No, the Bible is to be interpreted according to the ordinary rules of language.” (6-7)

At the heart of this principle is the idea that we start with what we know and understand and then trying to make sense of those areas that are not as clear. In order to treat the Bible as a cohesive text we have to maintain that sense as we engage it. To do otherwise is to violate the integrity of the message that the bible contains. Sproul provided this clarifying thought. “Though we affirm the basic clarity of the sacred Scripture, we do not at the same time say that all passage are equally clear” (7).

The process of reading, interpreting and ultimately understanding what the Bible says ought to be the greatest priority of the follower of Jesus. These two principles are helpful guides as you study.

Let me know if you agree with Dr. Sproul or not…