Is The Bible Literature?
Treating the Bible as a Literary Resource
Conservative Christians believe in a “historical grammatical” interpretation of the Bible. This basically means that we study the Bible within its historical context. In other words, we interpret the Bible as we would normally interpret any literary work, using the normal rules of grammar.
As we come to interpret a passage, we must consider the historical context of the passage. Since the author spoke to a historical setting, we must understand something about that background to interpret the text.
Also, the more we know about the author, the easier it will be to determine what he wanted to say in the passage. The Bible was written by men to other individuals or groups. The good interpreter of the Bible will also interpret a passage in light of the recipients of the message. We should also consider the place of the passage in the context of the total message of the book in which it is found.
Words are important. God inspired the words of Scripture. When both the Old and New Testaments were being written, God chose to use Hebrew and Greek, explicit languages to write his Word. God chose to give his Word first to people in a culture that was very careful about the words used. When we interpret the Bible, we should use our knowledge of grammar to interpret the passage.
The Bible should be interpreted literally, which means we should seek the obvious meaning, of words, context, and language. When we interpret literally, we seek the literal meaning of the author when he wrote or spoke the message of God. We should not seek for a hidden or mystical meaning. If God had written his message in esoteric pictures, there would be no objectivity to Christianity. Anyone could make a passage mean anything he desired. Hence, there could be no Christianity.
Do not stumble over the word “mystery” in Scripture (Eph. 3:8). A mystery was part of the message of grace that was hidden in the Old Testament, but revealed in the New.
The Bible contains much figurative language, such as metaphors, simile, parables (extended metaphors), and many other figures of speech. It is generally clear when figurative language appears that a clear understand able message is being taught. To interpret the Bible the reader must search for the literal meaning the author had in mind when he used the figurative language.
The principle of interpreting Scripture according to the meaning of the author should remind us that the Bible has two authors-human and divine. Therefore, we must follow human laws of interpretation to understand Scripture. But we must also follow the spiritual principles of illumination to understand the mind of the Holy Spirit.