Principles of Biblical Interpretation

1. Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture.
2. We must consider every verse or passage in its, cultural, historical, and literary (both immediate and broad contexts).
3. No text of Scripture, taken in context, will ever contradict another text taken in context. We must never seek to resolve seeming contradictions by denying any part of the truth that is revealed in Scripture.
4. We must derive normative theological doctrine from didactic (teaching) passages that deal with a particular doctrine explicitly. E.g., Don’t try to learn whether sinners in a state of sinful nature take the initiative in seeking after God using a verse or passage in which the issue is whether Gentiles who don’t have the law, nevertheless have an understanding that certain behaviors are right and others are wrong.( Passages such as Romans 2:13-14).
a. We must never use implicit (implied rather than expressly stated) teaching to interpret explicit (fully and clearly expressed) teaching.
b. We must never use implications from hortatory (exhorting, encouraging) or historical passages to contradict explicit teaching from didactic or doctrinal passages. At times, there are important theological truths expressed in historical passages, but if we cannot find those same truths expressed in theological passages in the N.T. Epistles, we should avoid building our doctrinal framework on them. Example: In the transition from the old covenant economy to the new covenant economy there were some in Ephesus who had been baptized by John and had not received the Holy Spirit when they believed (Acts 19). We should not, based on such a passage, believe that a person can receive Christ without receiving the Holy Spirit. The NT Epistles teach the exact opposite of this.
5. We must avoid the temptation to impose systematic theological definitions on biblical terms universally. E.g. the word sanctification in Scripture does not always mean what systematic theology has defined it to mean. We must also not assume biblical writers used terms uniformly.
6. We must refuse to deny any part of the truth that is clearly revealed in Scripture because that revealed truth is encumbered by mysteries we cannot explain.
7. We must seek to understand the writer’s perspective and the metaphors he employs in explaining a truth. Paul, for example, described salvation quite differently from the way the writer of the Hebrews described salvation. There is nothing contradictory in their descriptions; it is simply that they were using different motifs and metaphors to explain the same truths.
8. We should not interpret poetry and apocalyptic literature in the same way we interpret didactic prose. Trees don’t “clap their hands,” and God doesn’t cover anyone “with his feathers” or “stretch out his hand.” That doesn’t mean we cannot draw theological truth from such genres, especially when those same truths are verified by clear didactic revelation in the New Testament Scriptures.
9. Clear passages must be used to interpret obscure passages. Based on this principle, we must interpret the Old Testament Scriptures based on New Testament revelation.
10. When approaching any verse or passage, always begin by trying to ascertain the main point the writer is making. Don’t try to draw out of a passage a teaching the writer hasn’t put into it.

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