by: Mike Stokes
When you read a passage of scripture, one thing to keep in mind is the question, “What does this mean?” If we do not take the time to consider this question, our application could turn out to be incorrect. There are four principles of interpretation: Literal, historic, grammatical, and comparative. Below I will give a brief definition of each of these principles:
1) Literal Principle.
This is the normal, natural sense. The bible does contain figures of speech and symbols, but they are intended to convey literal truths. To view the bible literally means, to let the bible speak for itself. If you get a letter from a friend, you take the words by what they say, with no hidden meaning.
2) Historical Principle.
This principle has to do with original intent. This means, we view the bible in it’s historical context. A good question to ask is, what did it mean to the people to whom it was first written.
3) Grammatical Principle.
Questions we might want to consider is, to whom do the pronouns refer? What is the tense of the main verb? When you are attentive to these basic questions, the meaning of a passage begins to surface. After all, the bible is written in words, so principles of grammar apply, in understanding what it says.
4) Comparative Principle.
That is, comparing scripture with scripture. This principle has the notion that scripture does not contradict itself. If we arrive at an interpretation that is contradicted elsewhere, our interpretation cannot be correct.
Along with these four principles, it should be understood that, the bible cannot be rightly understood no matter what principles one follows unless it is studied prayerfully and with an open mind, to what it says. It is the living word, and it speaks to those who will listen. If we approach it as the living word, it will reason with us, argue with us, guide us, comfort us, and instruct us in the things of God.