Interpreting Scripture – Questions

Interpreting Scripture is a challenging task. But when you read Scripture, you are interpreting it.

Here are some questions to answer which will help you interpret Scripture so you understand it as it was intended. When these questions are answered, you will discover that the fulfillment is greater than the prediction, just as the antitype is greater than the type:

  • Does the New Testament quote it or allude to it?
  • How does the New Testament treat the oracle’s themes and theological points?
  • Who is the author of the passage?
  • To whom were they writing?
  • What is the outline/structure of the passage?
  • Is the choice of words, wording, or word order significant in this particular passage?
  • Are any words repeated? Any significance to the repetition?
  • What is the cultural, historical background and context of the passage?
  • What was the author’s original intended meaning?
  • How did the author’s contemporaries understand him?
  • How would the original audience have been affected by the passage?
  • Why did he say it that way?
  • Are there any unusual words in the passage that call for more exploration?
  • How does the passage fit into the surrounding paragraph? Chapter? Book?
  • Why did the author place the passage here and not somewhere else?
  • In one sentence, what is the main point of the passage?
  • How does this passage connect to the overall storyline of the Bible?
  • How does God want this passage to function in my life?
  • What kind of response does this passage call for?
  • How does this passage reveal Jesus as savior?
  • Father, I believe this passage is about the gospel of your Son. Help me see how!

What other questions would you add?

Interpreting Scripture

Reading the Bible is challenging. We are 2,000+ years removed from when the content was written and the time(s) it was written about.

Much of the struggle in reading Scripture is truly understanding what is meant by the original author(s) rather than understanding it from our 21st Century mindset.

Striving to understand Scripture from its original context is called hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the method of interpreting Scripture.

Of course, rules for interpreting Scripture are needed. I strive to follow nine (9) rules of interpretation:

  1. Literal Sense – Seek the one intended or literal sense of the text, and to do so with the recognition that God in some cases has chosen to convey meaning through symbolism and figures of speech (e.g., metonymy, metaphor, and simile). Making the sense plain to others is not necessarily looking to the plain sense. With this said, though, be faithful to Scripture, not necessarily literal.
  2. Shortened Perspective – Events in the near and the distant future are often telescoped into one picture, like mountain peaks when seen from a distance. Sometimes the prophets focus on the immediate future and at other times on the distant future; however, both are seen at the same time.
  3. Historical Times-Coloring – Seeking the meaning of the text within the immediate historical situation. Reflecting the historical situation in which they spoke, the prophets preached to a definite life situation and delivered their oracles in terms which their original hearers could understand.
  4. Typical or Typological nature of Eschatology – A type is a person, institution, or event which prefigures and foreshadows a new and greater reality (the antitype). The antitype historically and theologically corresponds to, elucidates, fulfills, and eschatologically completes the type. The antitype is no mere repetition of the type but is always greater than its prefigurement. And since the Scriptures are Christological, the Old Testament’s types (which are so indicated by Scripture) are related to, centered in, and fulfilled in Christ (and His people, the church, reap what Christ has sown).
  5. Christological Focus – The Old Testament prophets were both “foretellers” and “forthtellers.” They were preachers of the covenant, proclaiming the Law and the Gospel to their original hearers. Even their eschatological predictions were given not to provide unrelated bits of information or to satisfy curiosity about the future, but to lead their hearers to repentance and faith.
  6. Old Testament Israel prefigured Christ and Christ is the True Israel – Christ is the New Israel, Israel reduced to one.
  7. Analogy of Faith – “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly” (Westminster Confession (1.9)).
  8. Interpret the Less Clear by the Clear – “There must be a consistency in all revealed truth because it represents absolute truth in the mind of God. Therefore each passage can have only one certain and simple sense. As the infallibly inspired word of God, the Scriptures are reliable, self-consistent and carry within them all that is needed for clarity. Since all that God makes known fits with what He knows perfectly, it is always proper to assume that no contradictions or dual realities can be attached to what He speaks.” (Bob Burridge)
  9. The Christian interpreter must regard the final form of the canon as the norm for interpretation – For instance, the New Testament provides clear and concise statements which should influence our understanding of the Old Testament. And the Old Testament provides the basis for our understanding of the New Testament.

What do you think? Are there any rules that should be added? Changed?

What about Acts 2?

Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. ~

According to Peter in , Jesus is sitting on David’s throne.

Here is the main point Peter makes,

Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ

I do not know how to read this statement any other way than how it is plainly written. Peter is proclaiming that Jesus is, in fact, sitting on David’s throne by (and because of) His resurrection.

How do you understand this passage?

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (ESV)

2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ESV)

Eschatology 101 – Hermeneutics

The discussion of Eschatology isn’t so much about Eschatology as it is hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is essentially how you read Scripture. For example, the person who is a Premillennialist views Scripture through one lens, while the Amillennialist views Scripture through another lens.

These lenses through which we view Scripture are established by which presuppositions we bring to Scripture. These presuppositions establish each view as mutually exclusive.

Presuppositions are the assumptions you make before you arrive at the text. For instance, a Dispensationalist presupposes the Old Testament takes a certain amount of precedence over the New Testament, while the Amillennialist presupposes the New Testament takes a certain amount of precedence over the Old Testament.

However, all views see a certain amount of continuity (what’s the same) between the Old and New Testaments, and all views see a certain amount of discontinuity (what’s different) between the Old and New Testaments. For instance, we do not offer sacrifices as was done in the Old Testament (discontinuity), yet we believe in one God that is represented in both the Old and New Testaments (continuity).

The difficulty is answering the question, “to what extent is there continuity and to what extent is there discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments?”

Due to the mutually exclusive nature of these views, if one view is true, the others cannot be true. Further if, for example, the Premillenial view is true, then the way the Premillennialist reads Scripture is the correct method of interpretation. This is, in my opinion, why Eschatology can be such a volatile subject. To discredit a particular Eschatological view essentially discredits the method or way someone reads Scripture.

Great effort and due diligence must be the key because this study is not for the faint of heart.

When you dive into Eschatology, you will be forced to seriously evaluate your hermeneutics (the way you read Scripture). This is why many folks do not go too deeply into this discussion, nor do I blame them.

With all this said, we will be explaining the what, why and how these different Millennial views read various passages of Scripture the way they do.