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 Biblical Interpretation: A Foundation

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PostSubject: Biblical Interpretation: A Foundation   Sat Jun 26, 2010 6:49 pm

Foundations:

The Golden Rule of Biblical Interpretation:

Quote :
"When the plain sense of scripture makes sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic* and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise."

~Dr. David Cooper, The World's Greatest Library: Graphically Illustrated.

*Axiom: A self-evident or universally recognized truth.

A literal interpretation of Scripture, including prophecy, means to simply explain the original sense or meaning of the Bible according to the normal, customary uses of its language. How is this done? It can only be accomplished through grammatical (according to the rules of grammar), historical (consistent with the historical setting of the passage), and contextual (in accordance with its context) methods of interpretation.

Literalism looks to the text, the actual words and phrases of a passage. Allegorical or nonliteral interpretation imports an idea not specifically found in the text of a passage. Thus, as Bernard Ramm, the noted biblical interpreter said: "The 'literal' directly opposes the 'allegorical'."

Literalism is a general approach to all of Scripture, called a hermeneutic.

Charles Ryrie notes this about literalism:

Quote :
"It is sometimes called the principle of grammatical-historical interpretation since the meaning of each word is determined by grammatical and historical considerations. The principle might also be called normal interpretation since the literal meaning of words is the normal approach to their understanding in all languages. It might also be designated plain interpretation so that no one receives the mistaken notion that the literal principle rules out figures of speech."

Dr. Roy Zuck explains the grammatical facet of interpretation:

Quote :
"When we speak of interpreting the Bible grammatically, we are referring to the process of seeking to determine its meaning by ascertaining four things: (a) the meaning of words, (B) the forms of words, © the functions of words (parts of speech), and (d) the relationships of words.

In the meaning of words, we are concerned with (a) etymology--how words are derived and developed, (B) usage--how words are used by the same and other authors, © synonyms and antonyms--how similar and opposite words are used, and (d) context--how words are used in various contexts.

In discussing the form of words, we are looking at how words are structured and how that affects their meaning. For example, the word eat means something different from the word ate, even though the same letters are used. The function of words (parts of speech) considers what the various forms do. These include attention to subjects, verbs, objects, nouns, and others. The relationships of words are the ways words are related or put together to form phrases, clauses and sentences."

Dr. Paul Lee Tan explains the role of history in biblical interpretation:

Quote :
"The proper concept of the historical in Bible interpretation is to view the Scriptures as written during given ages and cultures. Applications may then be drawn which are relevant to our times. For instance, the subject of meat offered to idols can only be interpreted from the historical and cultural setting of New Testament times. Principles to be drawn are relevant to us today."

"A passage taken out of context is a pretext." This saying is quite true. Dr. Roy Zuck summarizes the contextual facet of biblical interpretation:

Quote :
"The context in which a given Scripture passage is written influences how that passage is to be understood. Context includes several things:

--the verse(s) immediately before and after a passage
--the paragraph and book in which the verses occur
--the dispensation* in which it was written
--the message of the entire Bible
--the historical-cultural environment of that time when it was written."

*Dispensation: A distinctive arrangement or period in history that forms the framework through which God relates to mankind. Most Dispensationlist theologians find seven dispensations in history.

The principles of literal interpretation recognize that a biblical word or phrase may be used either plainly (denotative) or figuratively (connotative) just as in our own conversations today. Every word or phrase in every language is used in at least one of these two ways. It is important to realize that even though we use figures of speech, we use them to refer to events which literally occurred. Some interpreters are mistaken to think that because a figure of speech describes an event, it never literally happened. Such is not the case.

Literalism --> One Meaning:

Plain-Literal--the literal meaning is the explicit assertion of the words--DENOTATIVE;

or

Figurative-Literal--the literal meaning is the specific intention of the figure--CONNOTATIVE.

Symbols do not require another method of interpretation--they serve to enhance and clarify the literal meaning through their figures. Symbols, similes, metaphors, etc, are not synonyms for allegory or allegorical interpretation.

A true allegory has no literal foundation (i.e. Pilgrim's Progress is a true allegory because it has no basis physical events--it was based on a dream John Bunyan had. Scripture, being based on or recording literal events, is not allegorical).

Opponents of the literal interpretation will play a "shell game" of sorts, redefining literalism in a way different from any Literalist scholar, as well as accusing them of "wooden literalism", which is a shallow misinterpretation of the literalist position.

The late John Walvoord put it this way:
Quote :
"The question of whether to interpret Scripture literally as opposed to non-literally is . . . a major controversy in the field of Eschatology. Any student of prophetic scripture must decide early whether prophecy should normally be understood by its literal meaning or in another way."

Incidentally, every prophecy in Scripture which has been fulfilled has been fulfilled literally.

--Compiled from The Truth Behind Left Behind: A Biblical View of the End Times

_________________
"Remember, concentrate on the moment. Feel, don't think. Use your instincts."

"Victims run off and hide. Prey runs off and hides. But I'm not a victim. And I'm not prey. I am the ultimate predator."

http://sites.google.com/site/jarraxvolkswebpage/ My Fursona's Webpage!--See my CTF RP for more info!

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