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I. It is a basic principle of interpretation that common sense dictates that one begins with a textual and historical reconstruction of authorial intent


A. The problem of authority

1. There are so many interpretations of the Bible; so many claim to speak for God!

2. How can one evaluate those who claim to speak from God? Here are some ways:

a. Deut. 13:1-5 (sign or wonder in name of another god)

b. Deut. 18:20-22 (accurately predicts the future in name of another god)

c. Matt. 7:15-23 (by their fruits you shall know them)

d. Matt. 24:24 (miracles are not automatically a sign of God)

e. I John 4:1-3 (Christological, one nature-God and man)

f. II Pet. 3:15-16 (they misinterpret revelation - 3:2)


B. Proposed definition of biblical authority (two aspects: then and now)

1.What the inspired biblical author was saying to his day (it cannot mean what it never meant-Gordon Fee)

2. Applying that truth to our day

3.This definition will limit our easy answers (need for verification and consistency) and learned dogmatism (beware of biases and pre-conditioning). It is always fair to ask anyone, "Where in the Bible do you find that truth?"

4. Every context has only one meaning and that is the intended meaning of the original inspired author. However, every context has multiple significances (i.e. applications) but they must be inseparably linked to the one original intent.


II. The Need for Verifiable Interpretation


A. Denominationalism. The plague of the Reformation was and is the continuing splintering of Christendom. We have no hope of unity at this point but at least we can start with

1. the Bible being the only source for faith and practice

2. the need for verification

3. consistent application of hermeneutical principles.


B. Defense of our interpretation and the analysis of other interpretations from:

1. The writers of Scripture used normal human language and expected to be understood.

2. Modern interpreters seek the original author’s intent by documenting several types of information

a. Historical setting

b. Literary context (literary unit, paragraph)

c. Genre (historical narrative, prophecy, law, poetry, parable, apocalyptic)

d. Textual design (e.g., John 3 - Mr. Religious and John 4 - Ms. Irreligious)

e. Syntax (grammatical relationships and forms)

f. Contemporary word meanings (what the word meant in the author’s day and language)

(1) Hebrew

(a) Parallel passages

(b) Cognate languages

(c) The ancient versions

(2) Greek

(a) Septuagint

(b) Papyri finds from Egypt

(c) Greek literature

3. The balance of all of Scripture (parallel passages) because it has one Divine author (the Spirit)

4. Christlikeness (Jesus is the goal and fulfillment of Scripture. He is the perfect revelation of Deity. He is the perfect example of true humanity.)


C. It is a basic presupposition that every text has one and only one proper interpretation and that is the original author’s intent. This authorial meaning had an original application. This application (significance) can be multiplied to different situations but they must be inseparably linked to the original intent (cf. The Aims of Interpretation by E.D. Hirsch).


D. The plague of proof-texting and spiritualizing

1. "The practice of isolating sentences, thoughts, and ideas from their immediate context is nearly always fatal when applied to Paul. ‘Solitary proof-texts,’ says Professor H. A. A. Kennedy, ‘have wrought more havoc in theology than all the heresies,’" A Man in Christ by James Steward, p. 15).

2. "The proof-text method of interpreting Paul’s letters, which views them as direct revelations of the supernatural will of God conveying to men eternal, timeless truths that need only to be systematized to produce a complete theology, obviously ignores the means by which God has been pleased to give to men his Word," G. E. Ladd, Theology of the NT, p. 379

3. Some examples:

a. Matt. 24:17 (loss of context)

b. I Cor. 13:8 (theological bias)

c. Col. 2:21 (proof-texting)

d. John 11:44 (spiritualizing)

e. II Sam. 9 (spiritualizing)

f. Rom. 10:13, "Call on the name of the Lord," only "Jeshua" (literalizing)

g. Deut. 23:18, "Do not give the hire of a dog," (loss of context and English word meaning)

h. John 2:15, overturned their tables ("what they were ‘counting’ on") (word play)


E. Suggested reading:

1. Scripture Twisting by James W. Sire

2. Biblical Words and Their Meaning by Moises Silva


F. What can be done?

1. We all must re-examine our presuppositions and methods of biblical interpretation.

2. We all must spend time in confession, prayer, and regular Bible study.

3. We all must remain teachable, humble.

4. We must all stay with the main point of the paragraph.

5. If your interpretation surprises the original author, it probably surprises God!

6. Check with the believing community (believing friends, church leaders, commentaries, research helps) to confirm one’s interpretations.


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