How Can We Interpret the Bible?

Understanding the Bible

The Bible is a spiritual book which must be spiritually discerned, hence the need for illumination. But it is also a book originally written in language most people could understand. However, today many people cannot understand the original language. Therefore Scripture has been translated into different languages so more people can understand. Hence the need for interpretation. While we dare not minimize the role of the Holy Spirit in our understanding the Scriptures, neither can we ignore the basic principles of biblical interpretation in this regard either.

Evangelical Christians believe in the “historical grammatical” interpretation of the Bible. This means they interpret the Bible in its historical context using the normal rules of grammar. This involves four steps in the interpretive process.

  1. The student of the Bible should learn the context in which the Scripture being read took place.
  2. The student should then examine the grammatical context.
  3. The student should ask, “What is the literal meaning of this passage?”
  4. The student should consider the meaning of idioms and other more figurative expressions in the passage.

Each of these steps helps the student understand what the original writer intended to say and what the original readers interpreted that writer to mean.

Some people tend to get confused in Bible study, largely through their failure to study the Bible as they would study another piece of literature. Don’t spend all your time looking for some hidden meaning in Scripture to the point of missing the very obvious. Rather, work on understanding the history and grammar involved, then look for ways to apply what you understand the Bible to be saying.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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