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!