What’s an average Christian to do when trying to study the Bible for all its worth? RTB theologians Kenneth Samples and Krista Bontrager, along with RTB physicist Dave Rogstad, provide a tutorial in biblical interpretation techniques in a recent, five-part series on Ken’s podcast, Straight Thinking. Entitled “Top 10 (or So) Misunderstood Bible Verses,” this podcast series illustrates how sound hermeneutics and exegesis help believers avoid faulty interpretations.
These words may be mini-tongue twisters, but hermeneutics (science of interpretation) and exegesis (an explanation or interpretation) are foundational to Bible study, whether the studier is a theologian or layperson. Krista provides four simple-but-practical guidelines for believers to follow in their studies (paraphrased here).
- Ask, “What was the author trying to say?” (This is greatly different from simply asking what the text means for you or me personally.)
- Do some homework; this includes researching the literary genre, historical and cultural context, and biblical language.
- Always view verses within the broader context of the surrounding text.
- Finally, consider how the text applies to the life of modern believers.
Steps 1, 3, and 4 don’t seem too difficult, but the homework in step 2 sounds overwhelming. Personally, I don’t have time to delve into ancient Hebrew or peruse libraries of theological works. Fortunately, Ken, Krista, and Dave also recommend several lay-friendly books to help us armchair theologians dig a little deeper into Scripture.
- Douglas Stuart and Gordon Fee, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (an accessible guide to beginning hermeneutics)
- Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (try saying that three times fast)
- Robert Stein, Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible
- R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (an intermediate introduction to hermeneutical principles)
- James Sire, Scripture Twisting: 20 Ways Cults Misread the Bible (an exposition of bad theology)
- D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (a look at interpretive mistakes)
- F. Wilber Gingrich and Frederick William Danker, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament