The Interpretation Declaration
Inspired by the Africa Study Bible
When it comes to biblical interpretation, there are many factors that must be taken into account. When one or more of these factors is ignored, room for error arises, causing arguments among the Christian community. Much focus and reliance on the Holy Spirit is required for a student of the Word to properly interpret the Bible. It is an important task that every Christian will encounter at some point in their journey, so attitude and mindset matter. Let’s break down the list of things that we must remember about interpreting the Bible:
- Normally, the simplest interpretation of the text is the way to go. We know that our God is not a God of confusion. As the Africa Study Bible says so well,
“The Bible is not meant to conceal truth but to reveal truth.”
- 2. Context is key. Every passage has a context that surrounds it. Context includes, but is not limited to: historical background, date, politics, geography, culture, religion, and things of this nature. The Africa Study Bible is an amazing resource because at the beginning of each of the 66 books of the Bible, an entire page is dedicated to breaking down the context of the book by answering questions like, “who wrote this book”? and “who was this book written to”? It is vital to understand the book as a whole in order to understand the passages within it. Major details may not make sense if the context is not taken into account, therefore causing misinterpretation and sometimes heretical teachings to occur. Commentaries, Bible studies, Hebrew and Greek resources, and dictionaries are great tools to have when it comes to context. Also, a piece of advice involving context that is worth remembering: never just look at one verse by itself and run with it. John 3:16 and Philippians 4:13 are great examples of why you should always read the entire passage and surrounding verses instead of picking out only one. Anyone can take one, singular Bible verse and twist it to mean anything they want. This is yet another reason why context matters.
- Figurative language can be both tricky and amazing. We know that Jesus is not actually a lamb or bread, but those two words are used to create a vivid image in our minds to help us better understand what the Bible is trying to tell us. The Africa Study Bible explains that:
“Figurative language uses a word to create a mental image that will substitute or help describe or illustrate another word.”
We know that figurative language is helpful and necessary when it is thought of in the way that God intended. Be on the lookout for figurative language in the text. Highlight it, circle it, put a note around it – do something that helps you recognize it and remember what it means in the passage. You can even use different colored markers or pencils for the differentiate between the kinds of figurative language. Many of these figurative language pieces are used more than once, so this process will be helpful for future reference and a deeper grasp of the true meaning of a given passage.
- The Bible is full of different types of literature, such as apocalyptic or poetic literature. With each of these types comes different writing styles, principles, and common occurrences. Each style has its own unique pieces that make it special and differentiate it from the rest. We know that the book of Psalm is vastly different from the book of Matthew, and the book of Revelation is different from the book of Genesis. A recommendation regarding literature is similar to that of context, in that it is wise to break down the type of literature that is being read or discussed prior to the fact. That way, there is no confusion and you can be on the lookout for the unique features that come with the given type of literature. Each book has a message that it is trying to convey, and each book uses a different platform to do so that is best for its given message.
- The Bible is full of commands and callings. It requires action steps to be taken after reading. This is called application. Every passage has a different application, but they are all of equal importance. Application requires a deep understanding of what had been read and a desire to obey God out of love. The Africa Study Bible says that application is “making the words of the Bible relevant to our world”. Well, how do we do that? We look at the context, analyze the figurative language, break down the type of literature, and figure out exactly what God is trying to tell us. Then, we pray and make it happen.
Biblical interpretation can sound scary and complicated at first, but it is much simpler than it seems. Oasis’s resources have been crafted with interpretation in mind in order to help Christians like you. You are encouraged to take charge of studying the Bible that God has given you with these aspects in mind. When you do, watch God’s Word come alive in new ways, transforming your heart and mind like never before.
This excerpt is inspired by an Article of the Africa Study Bible titled, “ ”. Africa Study Bible Articles are about the Christian life and critical concerns that face the church in Africa and its people. The articles help you understand how to apply the bible to a specific area of life where God’s wisdom is needed.
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