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Bible Interpretation I - Lesson 6

PRINCIPLES OF BIBLE INTERPRETATION (Continued)

  1. THE PRINCIPLE OF ANALYTICAL DEFINING
    1. Explanation
      1. Analytical defining examines a word so as to determine its exact meaning in scripture
      2. Analytical defining relates a word to already known concepts by the methods of comparison and contrast
      3. For instance, we might tell a toddler that a cow is like a dog (comparison) only it is much bigger and says “moo” (contrast).
    2. Comparison
      1. The first step is to put the word in its proper category
      2. Find other words in the same family of words
        1. Knowledge, wisdom, understanding, discretion (Proverbs 2:10-11; Proverbs 5:1-2)
        2. Intercession, prayer, supplication, petition, thanksgiving (1 Timothy 2:1; Philippians 4:6)
        3. Sin, iniquity, transgression, wickedness
      3. Group these words under a broad category that included all the words (Sometimes one of the words is more general in nature than the other words and can be used as the category—like the words prayer and sin in the lists above).
        1. Charity and brotherly love are kinds of love
        2. Intercession and supplication are kinds of prayer
    3. Contrast
      1. The second step is to distinguish the word in question from all the other words in its category
      2. This can be difficult and may require intense study; for example, what is the difference between patience, longsuffering and forbearance; or between supplication, petition and prayer?
      3. Distinctions between synonyms may not be in the simple meaning of the word (denotation) but in the emotional feeling or the emphasis of the word (connotation).  Both supplication and petition refer to the act of bringing specific prayer requests to God.  However, supplication refers to the beseeching manner in which we bring our requests to God while petition refers to the act of bringing specific requests to God.
      4. Both longsuffering and patience refer to faithfulness in time of trial.   However, longsuffering emphasizes our faithfulness to accept the testing of other people without returning in like kind while patience emphasizes our faithfulness to serve in the midst of trials of all kinds without quitting or fainting.
      5. Both iniquity and transgression refer to sin.  However, iniquity (from in+equity meaning not equal) refers to man’s departure from what is right or equal while transgression pictures sin as walking across (trans) the line which God has drawn.
  2. THE PRINCIPLE OF COMPLETE DEFINING
    1. Concept of Complete Defining
      1. Most words, as used in the Bible, have a very simple basic meaning that is common to all the instances in the Bible where this word is used.
      2. Yet words also have an expanded definition that is applicable only to particular passages; the expanded definition is an extended application of a word as it is used in particular instances
    2. Examples
      1. Tempt
        1. Basic meaning – to test
        2. Expanded meaning
          1. To test by enticing to sin (James 1:12-15)
          2. To test by trying one’s faith (Genesis 22:1 with Hebrews 11:17)
        3. Notice how the expanded meaning of this word removes a supposed contradiction in the Bible (James 1:13 with Genesis 22:1)
        4. Sometimes, more than one sense of a word’s expanded meaning will apply to a particular scripture (see 1 Corinthians 10:13)
      2. Communicate
        1. Basic meaning – to make common with others
        2. Expanded meaning
          1. To make information or knowledge common by sharing it (Galatians 2:2; Ephesians 4:29; 1 Corinthians 15:33)
          2. To make material goods common by giving them (Philippians 4:14-16; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Hebrews 13:16)
        3. Notice that the word’s context makes it clear which portion of the expanded meaning applies in a particular passage
  3. THE PRINCIPLE OF SCRIPTURE’S SINGLE SENSE
    1. The Principle Stated
      1. Every word and passage in the Bible can have only one meaning in the connection in which it occurs; this is its single sense
      2. There is a real, actual, single, literal meaning to every word and statement in scripture (Nehemiah 8:8)
      3. Every teaching and application of a scriptural passage must begin with this single sense or risk teaching false doctrine
    2. Supposed Exceptions to the Principle
      1. Applications of Scripture
        1. Many applications may be made from scripture (1 Corinthians 10:6-11)
        2. However, applications of scripture must not be mistaken for the interpretation of scripture; interpretation must be the foundation on which applications are built
        3. The story of Adam and Eve’s fall in sin (Genesis 3) may be a picture of man’s subsequent and repeated failures to please God but these applications must not be substituted for the truth of the story itself
      2. Figurative or symbolic language
        1. Scripture uses many figures of speech (Genesis 25:25) and symbols (Daniel 7:2-3, 16-17).
        2. Yet, figurative or symbolic speech is still literal in its interpretation
          1. They are accepted forms of communication in all language
          2. When used, they have a single, literal interpretation each time they are used (the four beasts of Daniel 7 do not mean many different things but have a single, specific and literal meaning)
      3. Double Reference in Prophecy
        1. Prophecy sometimes has a near and a far reference in one prediction
        2. However, the double reference is to a partial and complete prophecy; not two different and separate fulfillments of the same prediction
      4. Multi-faceted Definitions
        1. A word often has many facets to its meaning as used in a passage
        2. However, all of these parts of the word’s meaning all up to a single interpretation of the passage
David Reagan

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 22:7

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.