By A.D. Roberson
Understanding the Bible is imperative. That is because the Word of God was written to apply to believers at all times, including today. Hermeneutics is the fancy term for how readers interpret the meaning of the Scriptures. Readers should seek to discover the biblical authors’ intended meaning at the time they wrote. That meaning should then be applied properly to believers’ everyday lives.
But there are several “gaps” between the authorship of the Word of God and a reader trying to understand it today. There are historical gaps, like the differences in time, geography, and culture between the world of the Bible and the modern, western world. There are also literary gaps that must be accounted for, like the ancient languages and varied literary genres used to compose the Bible. And there are theological gaps, like the miracles recorded in the Bible, the truths about God Himself that are revealed, and the difficulties in understanding how all this should apply to the lives of believers today. To discover the author’s meaning and avoid misunderstanding, readers must bridge these gaps.
Readers can, and should, use several, helpful principles to guide them. First, take the Bible at face value; the authors said what they meant, and meant what they said. Second, always read the Scriptures in their historical, literary, and theological context. Context is crucial. Also keep in mind that generally, the text has only one correct meaning (though it may have multiple applications). Next, draw the meaning from the text; do not read the meaning into it. This is foundational. Also, remember that the original languages that the authors wrote in take precedence over any translation. Remember too, that as the Scriptures progress, they may clarify, complete, or even supersede earlier portions of Scripture. Finally, all scriptural meaning must harmonize with the rest of the Bible because the Bible never contradicts itself.
With these rationales and principles in mind, readers are better equipped to understand correctly the Scripture’s meaning. The task may seem daunting, but take heart because believers have a Helper. The Holy Spirit is crucial in convincing people of biblical truths, and helping people believe and live out God’s Word in their lives. And He will.
Fuhr Jr., Richard Alan and Andreas J. Köstenberger. Inductive Bible Study: Observation, Interpretation, and Application through the Lens of History, Literature, and Theology. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016.
William W., Craig L. Blomoberg and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI:
Richard Alan Fuhr Jr. and Andreas J. Köstenberger, Inductive Bible Study: Observation, Interpretation, and Application through the Lens of History, Literature, and Theology (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016), 4. William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomoberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017), 59.
Fuhr, 35; Klein, 247, 263-266, 281, 288.
Ibid., 21, 24-28.
Ibid., 21, 28-30.
Ibid., 21, 30-31.
Ibid., 21, 31-32.
Ibid., 22, 32-33.
Ibid., 22, 33-35.
Fuhr, 18-19; Klein, 41.