Since the Bible/Scripture is required text for Christianity, Christians have approached its study and interpretation in different ways. This varied approach to Biblical interpretation has led to divergence in opinion on how it should be applied, and has resulted in misleading doctrines across denominational labels. To add to this problem is the fact that the Scripture came to us in different languages: Hebrew and Greek, which we now read in the English language. The task remains for pastor’s, teachers and readers to figure out what method of interpretation to adopt. It could be argued that much part of twentieth century, have witnessed two predominant approaches to studying the scriptures.
The first one seeks to discern the sources of the scripture in order to produce a definite text from which we articulate the Christian faith. This method could be attributed to the Enlightenment period, which focused mostly on rational and logic. During this period the instruments that biblical scholars utilized to prove scriptures were: Form Criticism; Redaction Criticism; and Historical Criticism.
Form Criticism sought to decipher the accuracy of the specific text.
Redaction Criticism was concerned with how specific biblical passages were put together, including its editorial relationship to what it is today. Historical Criticism sought to understand the original document upon which the Scripture is based and not upon Moses. This resulted into what is known as “Documentary Hypothesis” that suggests that Pentateuch was complied from four documents: JEDP.
The second one has to do with understanding the discourse of the message contained in the scripture. This includes approaching the scripture from the perspective of listening to how it spoke to it’s earlier recipients.
One thing remains true: our view of how the Bible came into being (inspiration) influences how we interpret and apply it. Some of my colleagues wished that the Old Testament was never part of the Scripture because their God, who is an embodiment of love cannot authorize wars and slaying of nations He made. Others believe that there is no judgment of the wicked because love is all there is. To them the Book of Revelation is irrelevant. Love your neighbor as yourself they say.
My choice of mode of interpretation and understanding of Scripture is to allow the scripture to read us. This means 1.) we must decipher to whom that particular text was written; 2.) understand the major events and movements occurring at the time of writing. For example, if the writer was writing during this recent political impasse that almost put our nation in the brink of disaster, would the message reflect this event? 3.) and to ask the question: what is the text saying to us today?
What method of interpretation do you prefer and why? Or How do you read the Bible? Please elaborate.
God’s Best Wishes!
I have had checkered careers in my life. I was once into construction business. At one point I was one of the lead masons that constructed the Malabo Bridge in Guinea Equatorial, Central Africa in 1999 before I resigned as a supervisor in June of that year in preparation for my migration to the US. As a mason, one of the tools that we used frequently was the hammer. We used it to drive nails into objects. As we drove nails into woods or other targets we would inadvertently hit the hammer on our fingers. Man, did it hurt! I also bite my tongue accidentally sometimes and I am sure that some of you do. What amazed me is that in these two scenarios, I never tried to strike my other arm that hit my fingers or strike my teeth with the hammer to get even as we would normally do when someone hits us. In Ephesians 5:22-25, Paul portrays marriage like Christ and the Church. He talks about how the husband is the head of the wife in the same manner that Christ is the head of the Church. He gives the injunction that wives ought to be subject to their husbands. He also commands the husbands to love their wives in the same manner that Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. I have listened to many women that are angered by this passage especially the part that has to do with “submission to husbands.” All of the women that came to speak with me about this passage left very satisfied though leaving me with fear of the aftermath effect when they get home to their husbands (I say this with tongue in cheek). Going back to my construction story: The reason why I did not hit the arm that struck my fingers while I was driving the nail into a target or hit my teeth with a hammer to get even is because it would hurt even more. It would hurt because It’s my body. Marriage is one flesh bond. When couples get married, they become one flesh. They cleave together. The Hebrew word used in Genesis in description of marriage of Adam and his wife Eve is that of welding of two irons together. The man and the woman are welded together and any attempt to separate will be very painful. They become one body. My not striking my teeth or my arm with the hammer to get even applies to husbands and wives. When they get into fights; become abusive to each other; or even divorce; it is like striking your teeth with a hammer when you accidentally bite your tongue or striking your arm with a hammer to get even when you inadvertently hit your fingers with a hammer. Husbands, your job is to love your wives the same way that Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her. It is not conditional. If you do this you will never have to worry about your wives loving you (unless you are dealing with a wife that is allergic to being loved; we live in a fallen world). Husbands are to serve their wives, just as Jesus served his disciples. In God’s economy, those who are called to lead are called to be servants. More on this.