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Interpreting the Bible: A Concise Plan

-Assumes that God communicates (speaks and acts) through Scripture; here we find
Word of God
-Uniqueness of Christ and Spirit in revealing God, including their presence in Scripture
-Analogical Language-human language, because it is human–and limited–cannot
perfectly depict God, because He is beyond us
-Clarity and unity of Scripture
-Scripture must be interpreted; exēgeisthai to interpret (infinitive)
-Exegesis is not hermeneutics, but hermeneutics must always be grounded in exegesis.
-Determining the original meaning of the text is the basic objective
-Working with original languages is best
-There is value in historical-criticism and rationality, even in a scientific perspective, but
this must be balanced by the truths of post-modern horizons of the reader, of non-
foundationalism; of piety; of the authority of Scripture; of the basic historicity of the text;
of unavoidable presuppositions.
-Correspondence between experience and reality (Critical Realism of NT Wright)
-Control Beliefs can be a foundation, but should be viewed in the context of Non-

  1. Establish the text.
    a. Do the work of textual criticism from the best and earliest MSS.
    b. At least look at good English translations to see what footnotes may say.
  2. Make a provisional, preliminary translation.
    a. If you work in Greek, attempt to do your own work.
    b. Compare as many good English translations as possible.
  3. Analyze sentence structures, syntax, grammar.
    a. Diagram sentences; clauses, phrases, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns
    b. Understand English grammar of the sentences in translations.
  4. Analyze significant words.
    a. There are many outstanding resources for word study.
    b. Attempt to see the difference between synchronic and diachronic uses.
  5. Consider the literary context. Look for:
    a. Flow of Thought
    b. What does each sentence mean in its natural context?
    c. Immediate context, sentences, pericope, book context, authorial context,
    biblical context.
    d. Look for literary conventions; styles; rhetorical devices.
  6. Consider the course of the argument in the entire biblical book you are addressing
    and how your passage fits into the course of the argument. What role does it
  7. Consider the specific literary genre of your text and elements of genre that impact
    understanding. In addition, was the passage intended to be taken as instructive,
    encouraging, motivational, rebuke, etc.?
  8. Study the general historical-cultural context.
    a. The ideal here would be to read primary literature if possible.
    b. Many good secondary sources exist.
    c. Understand the Hellenistic/Roman context.
    d. Understand the Jewish context.
    e. Consider worldview and social, political, geographical, economic,
    religious, behavioural factors,
  9. Evaluate the specific historical-cultural situation of your text, including the
    specific Hellenistic/Roman context, Jewish context, local context, and early
    church context.
    a. Usually commentaries do this quite well.
    b. Be aware of the biblical history.
    c. Would be the impact of the passage given the specific historical-cultural
  10. Consider the author’s social/cultural historical situation, the circumstances driving
    him to write or the influences on him as he wrote.
  11. Consider the larger biblical/canonical/theological context and the specific
    biblical/theological context of the book you are studying as background to the
    text. How do biblical and theological ideas and themes speak to the meaning of
    this text? How does the grand salvific narrative impact, and how is it impacted by
    your text? How does God’s nature, His Trinitarian character, His whole series of
    creative redeeming acts, His general trending interactions with human beings
    impact your understanding of what you read? How does what you read fit into
    the grand revelation by God of Himself? How does the mission, ministry,
    teaching, and example of Jesus Christ speak to the meaning and application of the
    text you are considering? How the Spirit’s interactions with and goals for
    humankind (e.g., the fruit of the Spirit) speak to the meaning and application of
    the text you are considering?
  12. Consider the passage in terms of its interpretive history.
  13. Recognize the presence of the hermeneutical circle. You launch into
    understanding at some point and allow larger contexts to speak to the meanings of
    small units like words, and you allow the meanings of smaller units to speak to
    your understanding of larger contexts. Your prior understanding of God influences the ways you read Scripture, and your act of reading Scripture influences your understanding of God. All understanding requires some sort of prior understanding, and more understanding changes the understanding you have when you approach anew any text.

Bibliographical Resources: Http://
Books on Exegesis
Blomberg, Craig with Jennifer Foutz Markley. A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis,
(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic Press, 2010).

Fee, Gordon. New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors. Third
Edition. (Philadelphia: Westminster/John Know Press, 2002).
Hayes, John H. and Holladay, Carl R. Biblical Exegesis: A Beginner’s Handbook.
(Philadelphia: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1987).
Marshall, I. Howard, Editor. New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Principles and
. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,
Stuart, Douglas. Old Testament Exegesis: A Primer for Students and Pastors. Fourth
. (Philadelphia: Westminister/John Knox Press, 2009.)

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