This might seem like a strange subject to bring up at the (possible) end of a series, but it’s an important one.
A great deal of the discussion surrounding getting serious about our studies has been focused on different tools and learning aids—study Bibles, systematic theologies and technology. There’s so much I’ve not touched on (yet) including commentaries, original languages (although I’ve dealt with that elsewhere), Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias…
But there’s one thing I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t address this critical question:
How should you read your Bible?
What I’m talking about here is the science of hermeneutics, which is a big fancy word for “rules and principles for reading the Bible.” Whether we realize it or not, we do this every time we pick up our Bible—and the rules and principles we hold to drastically affect what we believe the Bible says. For example:
- Whether you believe pastoral ministry is for men only or is open to women as well stems from the interpretive decisions you make.
- How you approach the “God-hates-yet-loves-sinners” paradox is heavily influenced by your hermeneutical approach.[1. In fact, that I call it a paradox and not a contradiction itself is revealing of the interpretive rules I use!]
- How you understand the world to have come into being and how this world will end is drastically affected by the principles you use for interpreting the text.
I could go on with numerous examples, but I trust you get the drift. Hermeneutics really, really matter—we all use rules and principles of interpretation so we are obliged to do our best to make sure the rules we use are sound.
How can I better understand how I should read the Bible?
While most of the basics may be pretty self-evident, digging into the principles of interpretation is a great opportunity to conform ourselves once again to a sound hermeneutical approach that will help us understand the Bible faithfully. Here are a few resources I’d recommend for both new and experienced students of the Word:
Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul. In this book, Sproul presents “a common sense approach to studying Scripture and gives eleven practical guidelines for biblical interpretation and applying what we learn.” This is probably the best gift you can give a new student of the Word. Ligonier Ministries has also developed a 12-session course around the original teaching series upon which this book is based called Principles of Biblical Interpretation.
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart. This is another great resource for new and experienced students of Scripture:
Covering everything from translational concerns to different genres of biblical writing, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth is used all around the world. In clear, simple language, it helps you accurately understand the different parts of the Bible—their meaning for ancient audiences and their implications for you today—so you can uncover the inexhaustible worth that is in God’s Word.
Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible by J. Scott Duval and J. Daniel Hays.
Old Testament scholar J. Daniel Hays and New Testament expert J. Scott Duvall provide practical, hands-on exercises to guide students through the interpretive process. To emphasize the Bible’s redemptive arc and encourage correlation across the canon, the authors have included a call to ‘cross into the rest of Scripture’ as an additional step in the Interpretive Journey.
(Learn more or buy it at Amazon.)
Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics by Graeme Goldsworthy.
Goldsworthy moves beyond a reiteration of the usual arguments to concentrate on the theological questions of presuppositions, and the implications of the Christian gospel for hermeneutics. In doing so, he brings fresh perspectives on some well-worn pathways. Part I examines the foundations and presuppositions of evangelical belief, particularly with regard to biblical interpretation. Part II offers a selective overview of important hermeneutical developments from the sub-apostolic age to the present, as a means of identifying some significant influences that have been alien to the gospel. Part III evaluates ways and means of reconstructing truly gospel-centered hermeneutics. Goldsworthy’s aim throughout is to commend the much-neglected role of biblical theology in hermeneutical practice, with pastoral concern for the people of God as they read, interpret and seek to live by his written Word.
Dig Deeper by Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach.
Dig Deeper offers sixteen “tools” readers can use to get to the bottom of any Bible passage and discover its intended meaning. Examples show how each tool helps readers discover something exciting and relevant in a passage, and the “Dig deeper” exercises offer the opportunity to practice using the tools. The book’s brevity and easy-to-read format make it ideal for Christians who want to get the most out of their Bible.
Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson. This isn’t exactly entry level stuff, but it’s an important read:
Serious exegesis of the Scriptures is one of the most worthwhile practices any Christian can undertake. But it is not without its dangers. In Exegetical Fallacies, Carson helps readers discern improper interpretation techniques, and explains sound grammatical, lexical, cultural, theological, and historical Bible study practices. With its accessible style and plain language, Exegetical Fallacies will be an edifying contribution to any Bible study.