Thursday, June 29, 2023

Some Helpful Hints (2 Peter 1)

"And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed …" (2 Peter 1:19).

While my study of biblical interpretation is hardly exhaustive, I want to highlight some general rules to help you study the Word of God more profitably.

First, you must read the Bible like any other book. If you begin reading in the middle, you lose necessary context that helps you understand the whole. It is helpful to read the Bible from the beginning. If you choose to begin with James, John, or Luke, study the context of these books as they relate to the Bible as a whole. The same principle applies to verses. Study the verses in the context of the chapter, book, and Bible as a whole.

Second, historical narrative or poetic passages are to be interpreted in light of didactic passages. Didactic means to teach or to instruct. Much of Paul’s writing is didactic in character. It has often been said that the Gospels tell what Jesus did and the Epistles interpret the significance of what He did. This is not setting the apostles’ teaching against Christ’s. All of Scripture is God-breathed and is to be taken as a whole. The reason Christ gave apostles to the church was for them to explain His ministry and teaching.

Third, and closely related to the former, is that you must interpret the implicit passages by the explicit ones. If a particular passage is unclear, its context questionable, its audience unknown, its grammar confusing, its literary form debatable, then go to a clearer passage for insight. If you interpret an unclear passage in a way that contradicts a clear passage, your interpretation is certainly wrong. Many people have fallen into error because they have refused to bend their understanding of an unclear passage to those passages that are much more explicit.

Lastly, be careful to determine the actual meaning of words. This is where it is helpful to know the original languages, or at least to have access to an expository dictionary or a theological dictionary. When studying a word, you need to know how that word was used in that culture at that time and the structure of the word itself. Some words have multiple meanings; therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to how it is used in context. You will avoid many pitfalls if you pay attention to word meaning, customary usage, and context.

Read Mark 16:19; Luke 24:52; then Acts 1:9–11; Hebrews 4:14–16; 9:24–28; and 1 Peter 3:22. What do you learn from Acts and the Epistles that you would not have known if you only had the Gospel accounts? Using a concordance pick another theme to study (e.g., tongues, reading Acts 2:1–4; followed by 1 Corinthians 14).