1. I let the Bible instruct me (exegesis). I do not approach the Scriptures with any preconceived notions that I then try to foist onto the text (eisegesis). To this end, I let the Bible interpret itself by examining all that the Lord has to say on a particular topic. By doing this, I avoid the uncomfortable position of trying to explain away passages which do not fit neatly into a doctrinal puzzle that I am trying to construct.
2. For the Bible to be all that it claims to be (2 Tim. 3:16-17) there can be no contradictions. Any perceived contradictions are an indication of a misinterpretation. There are many hard to understand passages in the Scriptures, and many so called contradictions usually involve one of these. In these cases, I do not have to know what a passage means, to know what it does not mean. Again, letting the Bible interpret itself.
3. I keep in mind that the Bible teaches in one of four ways;
- By express command of the Lord.
- Through someone writing by inspiration.
- By example (the Lord or someone acting by inspiration did the thing in question).
- Implication or necessary inference (where the thing in question is a matter of necessary inference in order to make sense of the passage).
4. I follow the time tested elementary principles of interpretation. The following are a few which I have found to be very profitable. They are from the Elementary Principles of Interpretation by Johann August Ernesti and Moses Stuart, published 1842.
- "To every word in Scripture there is unquestionably assigned some idea or notion, otherwise words are useless, and have no more signification than the inarticulate sounds of animals." pg. 19
- "The literal meaning of words is the sense that is so connected with them as to be spontaneously presented to the mind as soon as the sound of the word is heard, and that is the first order." pg. 19
- "All men in their daily conversation and writings attach but one sense to a word, at the same time and in the same passage, unless they design to speak in enigmas. The sense of a word can not be diverse or multifarious at the same time and in the same passage or expression." pg. 21
- "There can be no certainty at all in respect to the interpretation of any passage, unless a kind of necessity compels us to affix a particular sense to a word, which sense must be one, and unless there are special reasons for a tropical meaning, it must be literal." pg 22
- "Words are proper or tropical, literal or figurative. First: A proper or tropical is a definite name given to a certain thing. Originally, words were undoubtedly used in their proper and literal sense. Second: Tropes or metaphorical words are called by Aristotle strangers, foreigners." pg. 34
- "In no language can a word have more than one literal meaning in the same place." pg. 34
By these rules we understand that a word can have but one literal meaning in the same place and at the same time, and that the primary meaning of a word is the literal meaning unless there is a special reason for it's removal.
I have found these guidelines to be very profitable to me and I will undoubtedly be referring my readers back to them from time to time.
I have no problem with any published 'literal' translations of the Scriptures into the English. Paraphrased versions I completely reject, and I will not allow anyone to get away with making an argument based on the wording of a passage of scripture from a paraphrased version alone. The very existence of paraphrased versions of the Bible betray a great disregard for the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. They are an aberration which should never have been conceived. The fact that they have found a market among the faithful is somewhat disturbing.