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Bible Interpretation II - Lesson 1


    1. The Principle Taught
      1. Figurative language uses the familiar (through concrete words, phrases and concepts) to teach and illustrate the unfamiliar.  EXAMPLE:  When Christ told the disciples that He would make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19), He was using something (fishing) with which they were very familiar.  They did not understand what it meant to be a soul-winner, but they did understand the principles of fishing
      2. Figurative language always teaches literal truth.  EXAMPLE:  Christ, as in the example above, was not teaching his disciples to take their boats and nets out into the water to try to catch men in them as they had previously caught fish.  He was teaching them that as they had toiled to catch fish for their livelihood, so they would learn to toil to capture the souls of men for God.
      3. The main purpose of figurative language is to clarify the meaning, not cloud it.  It explains the unknown by beginning with the known.  When figurative language is twisted to distort the plain sense of scripture, Gods word is being wrested contrary to His will.
    2. Common Figures of Speech
      1. Simile a formal comparison using the words like or as (Proverbs 25:25; Isaiah 55:10-11; Jeremiah 23:29; Matthew 17:2)
      2. Metaphor a comparison without the words like or as (Genesis 49:22; Psalm 18:2; Jeremiah 2:13; Matthew 7:15-20; Luke 13:32; 2 Timothy 2:20-21)
      3. Personification giving personal qualities to something having no personality (Numbers 16:32; Psalm 114:3-4; Proverbs 8:1-4 with Proverbs 9:1-3)
      4. Metonymy using something which is associated to represent the main subject (Leviticus 19:32; Psalm 23:5; Hosea 1:2; Luke 16:29; Romans 3:30)
      5. Synecdoche using the whole for the part of the part for the whole (Daniel 12:2; Romans 5:19)
      6. Irony a sarcastic remark (Job 12:2; 1 Corinthians 4:8-10)
      7. Hyperbole exaggeration for emphasis (Deuteronomy 1:28; Psalm 6:6) NOTE: be careful with this; hyperbole is effective only when it is obvious; do not lightly identify statements as hyperbole
    3. Interpreting Figures of Speech
      1. Become familiar with those things and practices which are commonly used in scriptural figures of speech
        1. Bible history
        2. Bible geography
        3. Bible customs
        4. Jewish religious practice
      2. Discover the main point of comparison and be careful not to over-emphasize related details.  The fact that Christ comes as a thief in the night (Revelation 16:15) does not mean that all of the characteristics of a thief apply to him.  NOTE:  Many good sermons are based on extended development of a figure or symbol in scripture.  This is fine as long as the extended application is not substituted for the plain interpretation of the passage.
      3. Remember that figurative language is for the purpose of clarification.  Therefore, the greatest asset in its interpretation apart from the Spirit of God is a generous application of common sense.
      4. Be very careful in determining if a word or statement is figurative.  One of the most common errors in Bible interpretation is to take literal language as figurative or figurative language as literal.  Always start with the literal meaning.  If this meaning is absurd or completely out of context, apply the word or statement as a figure of speech.  However, always make sure that the figure illustrates according to the literal context of the passage. (study Hosea 7:1-9 for an exercise in figurative language)
    1. In the English language, the order of words in a passage often determines the meaning or emphasis of the passage.
    2. Generally speaking, the last word or phrase in a statement carries the greatest emphasis (Psalm 14:1; John 3:16; Romans 10:17)
    3. In the same manner, the first word or phrase carries the second greatest emphasis (2 Samuel 12:7; Ecclesiastes 1:3; John 1:1)
    4. Example
      1. Here I am (Genesis 22:1) emphasizes presence, availability
      2. Here am I (Genesis 22:11) emphasizes individual, personal relationship
    1. The  Internal Literary Structure of the Bible
      1. Involves a structure of repetition of subjects within texts that is found throughout the entire Bible
      2. The structure, as found in the Bible, is not seen in any other form of literature known to man (Human literature may have occasional examples but the Bible is so structured throughout.)
      3. As such, it is one of the powerful proofs of the divine authorship of the Bible
      4. One Study Bible, E. W. Bullingers Companion Bible, outlines the entire Bible in this manner.
    2. The Structure Takes Two Forms and Combinations of Those Forms
      1. Alternation
        1. In alternation, subjects are repeated in the same order
        2. Book of Jonah
          1. First time
            1. Commission (Jonah 1:1-2)
            2. Disobedience (Jonah 1:3)
            3. Consequence (Jonah 1:4-17)
            4. Prayer (Jonah 2:1-9)
            5. Deliverance (Jonah 2:10)
          2. Second time
            1. Commission (Jonah 3:1-2)
            2. Obedience (Jonah 3:3-4)
            3. Consequences (Jonah 3:5-10)
            4. Prayer (Jonah 4:1-3)
            5. Correction (Jonah 4:4-11)
        3. Proverbs 31:10-31
          1. First time
            1. Her husband (Proverbs 31:10-12)
            2. Her occupation (Proverbs 31:13-19)
            3. Her character (Proverbs 31:v.20)
            4. Her household (Proverbs 31:21)
            5. Herself (Proverbs 31:22-what she is on the outside)
          2. Second time
            1. Her husband (Proverbs 31:23)
            2. Her occupation (Proverbs 31:24)
            3. Her character (Proverbs 31:26)
            4. Her household (Proverbs 31:27-28)
            5. Herself (Proverbs 31:29-30-what she is on the inside)
      2. Introversion
        1. In introversion, subjects are repeated in reverse order
        2. Isaiah 6:10
          1. Forward
            1. Heart
            2. Ears
            3. Eyes
          2. Reverse
            1. Heart
            2. Ears
            3. Eyes
        3. 2 Kings 5:1-27
          1. Forward
            1. Leprosy of Naaman. Providential. (2 Kings 5:1)
            2. Negotiation. Naaman and king of Israel. (2 Kings 5:2-8)
            3. Naamans visit to Elisha. (2 Kings 5:9)
            4. Elishas direction. Given. (2 Kings 5:10)
            5. Naaman. Resentment. (2 Kings 5:11-12)
          2. Reverse
            1. Naaman. Compliance. (2 Kings 5:13)
            2. Elishas direction. Taken. (2 Kings 5:14)
            3. Naamans return to Elisha (2 Kings 5:15)
            4. Negotiations. Naaman with Elisha and Gehazi. (2 Kings 5:15-26)
            5. Leprosy of Gehazi. Judicial. (2 Kings 5:27)
      3. Combination
        1. Many times, alternation and introversion are combined in varying ways
        2. A glance through Bullingers Companion Bible will give many examples
    1. Principle:  Biblical texts are closely connected to what proceeds them and to what follows them (especially within a book of the Bible).  Any individual verse or passage must be interpreted in the light of this textual context.
    2. Applications of the Principle
      1. Who is speaking?  The Bible may correctly quote someone who is saying something wrong.  Knowing the speaker may also tell you how to interpret what he is saying.  Consider the following texts.
        1. Genesis 3:3
        2. Job 4:7-9 with Job 42:7
        3. Acts 5:38
      2. Who is being addressed?  Notice to whom the words are addressed.  This may make a great difference as to the meaning of the passage.
        1. John 8:31-47