How do you read the Bible?
Biblical hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation. It sets out principles and organizes how one
approaches the interpretation of the Bible. Biblical hermeneutics does not provide any special insights or superiority
in biblical knowledge.
Sometimes, biblical interpretation can be quite variable and at times endorse diametrically opposing practices.
Many controversial issues such as evolution, divorce, feminism, homosexuality, Jesus isn't God, etc are based on
actual particular hermeneutic theories. Your position on these issues may reveal how you read and interpret the
Bible. This, of course, assumes that you read the Bible. If not, then at this level, you'll need to reconcile your
cultural values with what the Bible says.
The Human Factor
Hermeneutic theories are based on a discipline of study called biblical criticism. Biblical criticism is a method
of subjectively evaluating the inspired human authors of the Bible for the purpose of making discriminating judgments
about their work and method. It is not negative judgment but an organized, systematic, and theoretical method to better
understand the Bible.
Each method is not without the scholar’s bias and subjective speculation; hence, there are sharp differences of
opinion on every scholarly judgment. Some scholars consider the possibility of a supernatural presence; others totally
deny the possibility of a supernatural presence. Some scholars presume that the Word of God was authentic and treated
with care by the inspired author, others presume that the Word of God was a fraud and manipulated for the inspired
author’s personal purposes.
In seeking a better understanding of the Bible, biblical criticism is necessary, but Christians should not willingly
accept the opinions of academia because of the scholar’s stature or faculty appointment at a renowned college,
university, or institution. Secular media and publications lack such discernment and instead rely on the perceived
reputation of the scholar or institution as the means to determine trustworthiness. It would behoove Christians to
test anyone’s comment about the Bible before accepting it as trustworthy.
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the
message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures everyday to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
Biblical criticism arises out of the basic question of "inspiration;" namely, how did the Word of God come to man?
Specifically how much did man change God's Word? The discipline is divided into two groups: 1)
Lower Criticism analyzes the text, and 2)
Higher Criticism analyzes the source of the text. Most controversy involves the group higher criticism
namely Source, Form, Tradition, and Redaction methods (and their combinations). While these theories offer a useful
perspective for study, they allow the highest degree of subjective speculation and skeptical bias in the name of
Reliance on the higher forms of criticism depends on how much you presume man has added to what God really said.
The more one disagrees with the actual text of the Bible, the greater one depends on the higher forms of criticism
to arrive at their interpretation. From this perspective, the Bible is fallible; the Holy Spirit failed to convey the
Truth with fidelity and accuracy through man. In essence, the higher forms of criticism disregard much of the biblical
text on the assumption that man has altered what God really said. The critic essentially rewrites what he believes
what God truly said. If this is true, then no one can read the Bible in its present state; it must be read and
interpreted by one who knew the higher criticism and could discern what God really said.
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own
interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from
God. (2 Pet 1:20-21)
Did God intend the Bible to be understood by only those who know these higher forms of
The real problem: Faith
How do you know if the Holy Spirit infallibly inspired the Bible? Hermeneutic theories essentially grapple with
this one issue. And the basic answer is either It does (infallible) or It does not (fallible). We know that the Bible
is the Word of God because the Bible tells us so. But to use this answer is fruitless in a debate; this is a circular
argument. Christians cannot use biblical evidence that they have accepted as true as an argument to prove the biblical
evidence. If the Bible is the Word of God, in a debate, the evidence must come from another source other than the Bible.
This is in itself another problem. By "proving" this with any method of human rationale, it denies the infallible
inspiration of the Holy Spirit. How do you prove Divine inspiration with human derived evidence or reason?
The fact is that there is no human way to prove that the Bible is the infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
No human rationale can devise a hermeneutic theory to prove or disprove this. Hermeneutic theories generate questions
that can never be answered and force the theorist to make more and more assumptions. It comes down to faith: a belief
in something that is historical and objectively true and the subjective response of trust in that belief. It is faith
alone that reconciles man with God. It is faith alone that believes that the Bible is the Word of God.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word
of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (Heb 11:1-3)
The Good News points back to the historical event of the
Crucifixion as the basis of faith. With a belief that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ actually
took place, genuine faith includes a trust in Jesus' promise of salvation and eternal life.
The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are, by any objective measure, reliable historical
documents. Their historical veracity is superior to that of virtually any other literature of antiquity. From
the Gospels, one can confidently conclude that:
a) Jesus lived in time and space as an historical figure.
b) He claimed to be God in the flesh.
c) He asserted that the proof of his claim of divinity was his miracles and in particular His
coming death and resurrection from the dead.
d) The historical evidence, from both Biblical and non-biblical sources, overwhelmingly supports
the claim that he did in fact rise from the dead.
e) The only reasonable deduction is that his claim of divinity is adequately supported if not
The Bible is the Word of God, because no evidence has been found to deny Its claim. Skeptics have made the
charge that the Bible is not a historical document, but cannot refute
the textual evidence contemporary with its time. Philosophers have attempted to use logic, but cannot: 1)
explain the origin of morality or 2) hold to a
relative moral standard when the logical conclusion means an absence of moral standards.
Other religious books have claimed to be a book of god; but, the evidence to the contrary has been compelling
These diverse hermeneutic theories explain why biblical interpretation can be seemingly diametrically
opposed among various "Christians." Rather than help the reader ascertain the proper interpretation, some
hermeneutic theories actually bring the reader to the wrong interpretation and thus the wrong application.
The most basic and only question for all of us to consider is: "If we truly believe that Christ
died for our sins and rose in bodily form three days later to reveal His power over death, what is
holding us back from grateful submission to the authority of the Word of God?" For those who chose
to use various theories of hermeneutics to justify their incongruent interpretations, the significant
question is, "In consideration of the biblical evidence and in light of your presuppositions, do you
really believe in the validity of your method, or do you believe in hopes of avoiding your submission
to the authority of the Word of God?"
About this ministry's hermeneutics
This ministry believes that the Bible was written by people, under the influence of the Holy
Spirit, in their common language within their historical, geographical, religious, and cultural
context. This ministry believes that God, through the Holy Spirit, intended His Word to be understood
by all Christians without any knowledge of hermeneutic methods. For these reasons, this ministry
believes that the literal, grammatical, and historical approach, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit,
is the best way to read and understand the Word of God. This ministry agrees with the Chicago Statement
on Biblical Inerrancy and
For a more thorough discussion about biblical criticism and their controversies, read:
The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
Author: F. F. Bruce
Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics
Author: Norman L. Geisler
Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology?
Author: Eta Linnemann Translator: Robert W. Yarbrough
A General Introduction to the Bible
Authors: Norman L. Geisler, William E. Nix