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answers the
“What does the
passage mean?”
• The foundation for this
is good observation.
• Pay great attention to
observation so that
your interpretation will
be good.
• What you think / feel /
your pastor said etc. is
second to what the text
• The following are basic ideas to help
• Don’t let people make you think you
must follow their steps.
1. Context ALWAYS comes first
• “Context” means that which
goes with the text.
• Make sure you read the verses
that come before, and this that
come after—these help you to
understand the verse you read
• Do your observation, then
think about each verse in the
light of the surrounding verses,
paragraph, chapter etc.
• Ask: Does my
interpretation of this
passage of Scripture fit
in with the rest of the
• Does it fit in with other
verses about the same
• Do I need to understand the
historic and cultural context?
• Be careful in using Greek
or Hebrew—if you don’t
know the language you
might end up giving
words meanings they
don’t really have.
• Revelation 3:20—read it now…
Behold, I stand at the door
and knock. If anyone hears my
voice and opens the door, I will
come in to him and eat with
him, and he with me.
• Sometimes used in
• This is easy to
understand as being
about someone asking
Jesus into their life.
• But 3:19…Those
whom I love, I
reprove and
discipline, so be
zealous and repent.
• This is about disciplining those
whom Jesus loves—believers.
• Looking at the paragraph the
passage is to a church, Rev
• The verse is really to believers
who need to repent from their
sin and return to fellowship with
2. Always look at the
whole of the Bible
• By knowing the Bible
well, you will not
accept a teaching
simply because
someone has used one
or two isolated verses
to support it.
• Verses can be
used out of
context or other
verses not used
that would have
led to a different
US President Thomas Jefferson cut verses out of the NT
and made his own 84-page Bible. He spent much of his
life grappling with, and doubting, religion.
• The more you read
the Bible, the more
you will be able to
see if a teaching is
consistently biblical
or not.
• Make sure verses are not taken
out of context [that which goes
with the text].
• The ideas need to be
understood as used throughout
the whole Bible.
3. Scripture never
contradicts Scripture
…conflicts with, goes against,
says the opposite of
• The best way to
interpret Scripture
is by using other
• The best way to
interpret Scripture
is by using other
• Crossreferences help us to look
at other verses which have the
same words or ideas so we can
compare and contrast how they
are used in other passages.
• A good Bible
concordance /
dictionary show
words and ideas
as they’re used
across the Bible.
• Sometimes, you may
find it difficult to bring
together two truths
taught in Scripture,
e.g. the sovereignty of
God and the
responsibility of man.
• We need to be
humble and believe
what God says,
even if we can’t
fully understand it.
4. Don’t base your
belief on an obscure
[little known]
passage of Scripture
• An obscure passage is one in
which the meaning is not easily
• Difficult to understand passages
should not be used as a basis
for establishing doctrine.
• If you are unsure:
• Ask other believers
• Use Bible dictionaries,
• Pray and ask God.
5. Interpret Scripture
word for word, exactly,
• Take the Word of God in its
natural, normal sense.
• Look first for the clear teaching
of Scripture, not a hidden
• Take the Word of God in its
natural, normal sense.
• Look first for the clear teaching
of Scripture, not a hidden
• What the type of literature is it?
Law, wisdom, poetry, parable,
epistle, etc..
• Each type has specific features
that must be considered when
interpreting a text.
• Dragons don’t
exist but the
Bible uses them
and other
• An allegory is a
literary tool that
uses people,
places, and
events to
people and ideas.
• Be careful of people who say
that all/much of the Bible is
• Most all events, places and
things in the Bible are real.
• The Bible uses allegories.
• E.g. Christ's parables.
• The prodigal son (Luke 15:11–
32), shows a son who finds his
way home but also spiritual
truths about our relationship with
God as a Father.
• The Parable of the
Sower (Matthew
13:3–9, 18–23)
pictures different
responses to God's
• The goal of the
allegory is to make
spiritual concepts
• Isaiah 55:12…“For you shall go
out in joy and be led forth in
peace; the mountains and
the hills before you shall
break forth into singing, and
all the trees of the field shall
clap their hands.”
• Isaiah 55:12
• Trees do not have hands or
clap so it must be a figure
of speech. Look for “like” or
• These are an important
part of normal language.
6. Look for the clear
and obvious [single]
meaning of the
• Try to understand
what the author
was thinking when
you interpret the
• Don’t twist verses to
support a meaning
that is not clearly
• Let the passage
speak for itself.
• Making something
complicated is
usually not a good
• Images, allegories, typology
etc. in Scripture are to help us
understand more.
• They are not used as the basis
for doctrine.
7. The NT takes First
Place—it has Priority
• Often what was first
said in the Old
Testament is brought
to light and fulfilled in
the New Testament.
• Promises made to Israel in the OT
cannot automatically be transferred
to the church.
• Some OT commands are repeated in
the NT and are still binding, but this
is made clear by their repetition in
the New Testament.
• Mark Driscoll and others explain how
to look at the OT laws:
• Ceremonial laws, about the
priesthood, sacrifices, temple,
cleanness etc, are fulfilled in Jesus
and therefore no longer binding.
• Hebrews talks a lot
about this.
• These are no longer
binding on us because
Jesus is our priest,
temple, sacrifice, etc.
• Civil laws are about the governing
of Israel as a nation ruled by God.
• We aren’t a theocracy so these laws
aren’t binding on us.
• Rom. 13:1–6, we obey the
• Moral laws refer to
commands that
forbid such things
as rape, theft,
murder, etc.
• These are still
binding on us.
• Nine of the Ten
Commandments are
repeated by Jesus.
• Ceremonial and civil
laws are no longer
binding on us, but
moral laws are.
The End