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How to Interpret the Bible

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How to Interpret the Bible

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The Bible is one of the best-selling books of all time and has been printed millions of times in several different languages. 

However, it’s also caused a lot of controversies and everyone interprets it differently, leading to discussions and discord. But is there a right way to interpret the Bible?

In this article, you’ll find several helpful tips that will aid you in your interpretation of the Bible and glean from its stories and sayings. 

1. Understand the Larger Story

While the Bible is a collection of 66 books, it’s important to know that it’s an overall story. The story is about creation, what went wrong, and how God fixed everything. Each of the individual books has something to teach us, but they must be understood in the context of the overall arching storyline. 

When you understand that you’re reading parts of a larger story, you can put that into context and better understand what the passages are saying. 

2. Be Familiar With the Language

The Bible was originally written not in English, but in Ancient Hebrew and Greek. As a result, it’s been translated, but there are different translations of the bible. 

In your study of the Bible, it might be helpful to understand some specific words or do some word studies on certain words that are unfamiliar or appear translated differently in each translation. What did they mean in their original language and definition? Doing an in-depth word study will bring greater meaning to the text and how you can apply it to your life. 

3. Authorial Intent

Authorial intent means, what did the original author of the text intend to say? This is as if you were to read a letter, but it wasn’t addressed to you. You wouldn’t be able to understand its meaning without asking the author of the letter what their intentions were. 

When we ignore what the author was trying to communicate, we put our spin on the text and may misinterpret it. When we do this, we run the risk of not being true to God’s word. 

4. Reading Into and Out Of

Reading into the text means putting your ideas and presuppositions into what the Bible says, rather than doing the hard work of reading around the passage or the book as a whole. This type of reading is called eisegesis. 

The opposite of eisegesis is exegesis, which means to pull ideas out of the text. This is the more appropriate way to read scripture, as it keeps you in the perspective of the person who wrote the text. Exegesis takes a lot of practice, but if you’re reading your Bible regularly, you can get better at it. 

5. Context

One of the most important things to keep in mind when interpreting the Bible is the context. Context is essential to Bible interpretation because without it you don’t know what the text is saying. 

When you read, try to identify why the author is writing, who are the characters, when was it written, and what was happening historically, and so forth. This will give you greater context to help you decipher what the text is trying to convey. 

6. Bible Interpretation Guide

While it’s important to read the Bible on your own, sometimes it’s necessary to incorporate other materials like commentaries or books to help you shed light on things you might not understand fully. There are plenty of commentaries and even study Bibles with footnotes for helpful study sessions. You can find other materials or a Bible interpretation guide at southwest ministries

Commentaries are great because they look at the book as a whole and have notes that are probe your mind and cause you the rethink the text, or see it in a different light. 

7. Culture

Because the Bible was written so long ago, there may be some aspects of an ancient culture that we don’t fully understand. To grasp what the Bible is saying, you want to remember that cultural context makes a difference. 

The way that people lived had a direct impact on how they viewed their lives and how culture operated impacted that as well. Understanding the type of culture the biblical writers lived in is an essential part of biblical interpretation and application. 

8. Genre

The Bible is composed of many different books, but they are not the same. There are a variety of genres in the Bible: narrative, poetry, apocalyptic, letters, biography, and so forth. One of the keys to biblical interpretation is to know which genre you’re reading because of the language that’s used. 

For example, you would not read a narrative the same way you read poetry. The goal of each literary genre is different and to be faithful to the Bible and what it says, you must know the genre of the book you’re reading to do it justice. 

What Bible to Use

Bible interpretation can be done by anyone, but you need a bible to do it. The question is, which Bible is the best translation?

Many people disagree on this question, but when you’re studying the Bible you should have a variety of translations. This helps to see why translators made the choices they did regarding languages. You can learn quite a bit from reading across translations. 

You’re Ready to Interpret The Bible!

When you interpret the Bible, you might find it difficult at first, but the more you practice the better you’ll be. Keep at it and learn how to apply it to your life. 

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