IN order to be a capable I and correct interpreter of the Holy
Scriptures, one needs a variety of qualifications, both natural and
acquired. For thoagh a large proportion of the sacred volume is
BUfticiently simple for the child to understand, and the common
people and the unlearned may find on every page much that is
profitable for instruction in righteousness, there is also much that
requires, for its proper apprehension and exposition, the noblest
powers of intellect and the most ample learning. The several
qualifications of a competent interpreter may be classified as Intel-
lectual, Educational, and Spiritual. The first are largely native to
the soul; the second are acquired by study and research; the third
may be regarded both as native and acquired.
First of all, the interpreter of Scripture, and, indeed, of any other
book, should have a sonnd, well-balanced mind. For Defeet1vemen-
dulness of apprehension, defective judgment, and an tal powel'B dill-
extravagant fancy will pervert one's reason, . and qual1t7.
lead to many vain and foolish notions. The faculties of the mind
are capable of discipline, and may be trained to a very high degree
of perfection; but some men inherit peculiar tendencies of intellect.
Some are gifted with rare powers of imagination, but are utterly
wanting in the critical faculty. A lifetime of discipline will scarce-
ly restrain their exuberant fancy. Others are naturally given to
form hasty judgments, and will rush to the wildest extremes. In
others, peculiar tastes and passions warp the judgment, and some
seem to be constitutionally destitute of common sense. Any and
all such mental defects disqualify one for the interpretation of the
word olGod.
A ready perception is specially requisite in the interpreter. ITe
must have the power to grasp the thought of his au- Qulckandcltm'
thor, and take in at a glance its full force and bearing. peroept.ton.
With such ready perception there m1lst be united a breadth of view
and clearness of understanding which will be quick to catch, not
only the import of words and phrases, but also the drift of the
I Comp. the import of Wwol, ,"116"", and IKAJIUC1w in 2 Cor. iii, II, 8.
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argument. Thus, for example, in attempting to explain the Epistle
to the Galatians, a quick perception will note the apologetic tone
of the first two chapters, the bold earnestness of Paul in asserting
the divine authority of his :lpostleship, and the far-reaching conse-
quences of his claim. It will also note how forcibly the personal
incidents referred to in Paul's life and ministry enter into his argu-
ment. It will keenly appreciate thtl impassioned appeal to the
"foolish Galatians" at the beginning of chapter third, and the nat-
ural transition from thence to the doctrine of J I1stification. The
variety of argument and illustration in the third and fourth chap-
ters, and the hortatory application and practical counsels of the two
concluding chaptel"ll will also be clearly discerned; and then the
unity, scope, and directness of the whole Epistle will lie pictured
before the mind's eye as a perfect whole, to be appreciated more
and more fully as additional attention and study are given to min-
uter details.
The great exegetes have beeu noted for acuteness of intellect, a
AcuteDell of critical sharpness to discern at once the conuexion of
Intellect. thought, and the association of ideas. This q1!alifica-
tion is of great importance to every interpreter. He must oe quick.
to see what a passage does not teach, as well as to comprehend its
real import. nis critical acumen should be associated with a mas-
terly power of analysis, in order that he may clearly discern all the
parts and of a given whole. Bengel and De Wette, in
their works on the New Testament, excel in this particular. They
evince an intellectual sagacity, which is to be regarded as a special
gift, an inborn endowment, rather than a result of scientific culture.
The strong intellect will not be destitute of imaginative power.
Imagination Many things in uarrative description mU!olt be left to be
supplied, and many of the fin(,!At passages of Holy Writ
trolled. cannot be appreciated by an unimaginative mind. The
true interpreter must often transport himself into the past, and
picture in his soul the scenes of ancient time. He must have an in-
tuition of nature and of human life by which to put himself in the
place of the biblical writers and see and feel as they did. But it
has usually happened that men of powerful imagination have been
unsafe expositors. An exuberant fancy is apt to run away with
the judgment, and introduce conjecture aud speculation in place of
valid exegesis. The chastened and disciplined imagination will as-
sociate with itself the powet· of conception and of abstract thought,
and be able to construct, if called for, working hypotheses to be
used in illustratiou or in argument. Sometimes it may be expe-
dient to form a concept, or adopt a theory, merely for the purpose
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of pursuing some special line of discussion; and every expositor
should be competent for this when needed.
But, above all things, an interpreter of SCl'iptnre needs a sound
and sober judgment. His mind must be competent to Sober jadg_
analyze, examine, and compare. He must not allow 1Il8IIt,
himself to be influenced by hidden meanings, and spiritualizing
pr<X'.esses, and plausible conjectures. He must weigh reasons for
and against a given interpretation; he must judge whether his
principles are tenable and self-consistent; he must often balance
probabilities, and reach conclusions with the greatest caution. Such
a discriminating judgment may be trained and strengthened, and
no pains should be spared to render it a safe and reliable habit of
the mind.
Correctness and delicacy of taste will be the result of a discrimi-
nating judgment. The interpreter of the inspired vol- Com!ctanddel.
ume will find the need of this qualification in discerning bile taIte.
the manifold beauties and excellences scattered in rich profusion
through its pages. But his taste, as well as his judgment, must be
trained to discern between the true and the false ideals. !fany a
modern whim of shallow refinement is offended with the straight-
forWard honesty and simplicity of the ancient world. Prurient
sensitiveness often blushes before expressions in the Scriptures
which are as far as possible remo\'ed from impurity. Correct taste
in sucb cases will pronounce according to the real spirit of the
writer and his age.
The use of reason in the interpretation of Scripture is every-
where to 00 assumed. The Bible comes to us in the
Vee of _D,
forms of human language, and appeals to our I'eason
and judgment; it invites investigation, and condemns a blind cre-
dulity. It is to be interpreted as we interpret any other volume,
by a rigid application of the same laws of language, and the same
grammatical analysis. Even in passages which may be said to lie
beyond the province of reason, in the realm of supernatural revela-
tion, it is still competent for the rational judgment to say whether,
indeed, the revelation be supert16tural. In matters beyond its range
of vision, reason may, by valid argument, explain its own incom-
petency, and by analogy and manifold suggestion show that there
are many things beyond its province which are nevertheless true
and righteous altogether, and to be accepted without dispute,
Reason itself may thus become efficient in strengthening faith in
the unseen and eternal.
But it behooves the expounder of God's word to see that all his
principles and processes of reasoning are sound and self-consistent.
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He mult not oommit himself to false premises; he must abstain
from confusing dilemmas; he must especially refrain from rushing
to unwarranted conclusions. Nor must he ever take for granted
things which are doubtful, or open to serious question. .All such
logical fallacies will neceBBarily vitiate his expoaitioDS, and make
him a dangerous guide. The right use of reason in biblical exposi-
tion is seen in the cautious procedure, the sound principles adopted,
the valid and conclusive argumentation, the sober sense displayed,
and the honest integrity and self-consiatency everywhere main-
tained. Such exercise of reason will always commend itself to the
godly conscience and the pure heart.
ID addition to the above-mentioned qualifications, the interpreter
should be "apt to teach" 2 Tim. ii, 24).
Apt to &eacb. He must not only be able to understand the Scriptures,
but also to set forth in clear and lively form to others what he
himself comprehends. Without such aptness in teaching, all his
other gifts and qualities will avail little or nothing. Accordingly,
the interpreter should cultivate a clear and simple style, and study
to bring the truth and force of the inspired oracles so that
others will readily understand.
The professional interpreter of Scripture needs more than a well.
balanced mind, discreet sense, and acuteness of intellect. He needs
stores of information in the broad ud varied fields of history,
science, and philosophy. By many liberal studies will his faculties
become disciplined and strong for practical use; and extensive and
accurate knowledge will furnish and fit him to be the teacher of
others. The biblical interpreter should be minutely acquainted with
the geography of Palestine and the adjacent regions.
In order to be properly versed iu this, he will need to
understand the physical character of the world outside of Bible
lands. For, though the sacred writers may have known nothing of
countries foreign to Asia, Africa, and Europe, the modem student
will find an advantage in having information, as full as possible, of
the entire surface of the globe. With such geographical knowledge
he should also unite a familiar acquaintance with uui.
versallnstory. The recordll of many peoples, both an-
cient and modem, will often be of value in testing the accuracy of
the sacred wnters, and illustrating their ('xcellence and worth.
'Vhat a vast amount of light have ancient authors, and the
phered inscriptions of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia, shed
upon the narratives of the Bible I
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The science of chronology is also indispensable to the proper in-
terpretation of the Scriptures. The succession of events,
the division of the ages into great eras, the scope of gen- Cbr0n01ogy.
ealogica1 tables, and the fixing of dates, are important, and call
for patient study and laborious care. N or can the interpreter dis-
pense with the study of antiquities, the habits, customs,
d f h
. H h ld· ... h .A.n&iqultlee.
an arts 0 t e ancients. e s ou mqulre mto t e an-
tiquities of all the ancient natioDs and races of whom any records
remain, for the customs of other nations may often throw light
upon those of the Hebrews. The study of politics, in-
cluding international law and the various theories and
systems of civil government, will add greatly to the other accom-
plishments of the exegete, and enable him the better to appreciate
the Mosaic legislation, and the great principles of civil government
set forth in the New Testament. Many a passage, also, can be illus-
trated and made more impressive by a thorough knowledge of natu-
ral science. Geology, mineralogy, and astronomy, are Naturallllll-
incidentally touched by statements or allusions of the sa- -
ored writers, and whatever the knowledge of the ancients on these
subjects, the modem interpreter ought to be familiar with what
modem science bas demonstrated. The same may be, said of the
history and systems of .peculative thought, the various
schools of p b i l ~ p h y and psychology. Many of these PIdlOlOPh1·
philosophical discussions have become involved in theological dog-
ma, and have led to peculiar principles and methods of interpreta-
tion, and, to cope fairly with them, the professional exegete should
be fiuniliar with all their subtleties. We have already seen how
aU-important to the interpreter is a profound and accu- Tbe II8CI'eCl
rate knowledge of the sacred tongues. Noone can be a t.oDguee.
master in biblical exposition without snch knowledge. TC? a thor-
ough acquaintance with Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek, he should
add some proficiency in the science of comparative phi- Comparative
lology. Especially will a knowledge of Syriac, Arabic, phDolOl7.
and other Semitic languages help one to understand the Hebrew
and the Chaldee, and acquaintance with Sanskrit and Latin and
other Indo-European tongues will deepen and enlarge one's knowl-
edge of the Greek. To all these acquirements the interpreter of
God's word should add a familiar acquaintance with gen- GeDeral llt-
eralliterature. The great productions of human genius, erature.
the world-renowned epics, the classics of all the great nations, and
the bibles of all religions, will be of value in estimating the oracles
of God.
It is not denied that there have been able and excellent exposi-
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tors who were wanting in many of these literary qualifications.
But he who excels as a master can regard no literary attainments
as supertluoU8; and, in maintaining and defending against scepti-
cism and infidelity the faith once delivered to the saints, the
Christian apologist and exegete will find all these qualifications in-
Intellectual qualities, though capable of development and disci-
PaRly & 111ft, pline, are to be regarded as natural endowments; edu-
JIIU1.I1I1CqU1red. cational or literary acquirements are to be had only by
diligent and faithful study; but those qualifications of an inter-
preter which we call spiritual are to be regarded as partly a gift,
and partly acquired by personal effort and proper discipline. Under
this head we place all moral' and religious qualities, dispositions,
and attainments. The spirit is that higher moral nature which
especially distinguishes man from the brute, and render" him capa-
ble of knowing and loving God. To meet the wants of this spirit-
ual nature the Bible is admirably adapted; but the perverse heart
and camal mind may refuse to entertain the thoughts of God.
"The natural man," says Paul, "does not receive the things of the
Spil'it of God, for they are a folly to him, and he is not able to
know, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. ii, 14).
First of all, the true interpreter needs a disposition to seek and
Desire to ImuW know the truth. No man can properly enter upon the
the trutb. study and exposition of what purports to be the reve-
lation of God while his heart is infiuenced by any prejudice against
it, or hesitates for a moment to accept what commends itself to his
conscience and his judgment. There mnst be a sincere desire and
purpose to attain the truth, and cordially accept it when attained.
Such a disposition of heart, which may be more or 18l1li strong in
early childhood, is then easily encouraged and developed, or as
easily perverted. Early prejudiccs and the natural tendency of
the human 80ul to run after that which is evil, rapidly beget habits
and dispositions unfriendly to godliness. "For the carnal mind is
enmity against God" (Rom. viii, 7), and readily cleaves to that
which seems to remove moral obligation. "Every one that does
evil hates the light, and comes not to the light lest his deeds should
be reproved" (John iii, 20). A soul thus perverted is incompetent
to love and search the Scriptures.
Tender atr_ A pure desire to know the truth is enhanced by a ten-
lion, der dfection for whatever is morally ennobling. The
writings of John abound in passages of tender feeling, and suggest
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how deep natures like his POS8e88 an intuition of godliness. Their
souls yearn for the pure and the good, and they exult to find it all
in God. Such tender affection is the seat of all pure love, whether
of God or of man. The characteristic utterance of such a soul is:
"Beloved, let us love one another; because love is of God, and
every one that loves haR been begotten of God, and knows God .
• . . God is love; and he that abides in love abides in God, and God
in him" (1 John iv, '1, 16).
The love of the truth should be fervent and glowing, so as to be-
get in the soul an enthusiasm for the word of God. BntbU8lumfor
The mind that truly appreciates the Homeric poems the word.
must imbibe the spirit of Homer. The same is true of him who
delights in the magnificent periods of Demosthenes, the easy num-
bers and buming thoughts of Shakspeare, or the lofty verse of Mil-
ton. What fellowship with such lofty natures can he have whose
80ul never kindles with enthusiasm in the study of their works?
So the profound and able ex('gete is he WllOse spirit God has
touched, and whose soul is enlivened by the revelations of heaven.
Such hallowed fervour should be chastened and controlled by n.
true reverence. "The fear of Jehovah is the begin- ReTereIlce for
ning of knowledge" (Prov. i, 7). There must be the God.
devout frame of mind, as well as the pure desire to know the
truth. "God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship
him in spirit and in truth" (John iv,24). Therefore, they who
would attain the true knowledge of God must posse!!s the rever·
ent, truth-loving spirit; and, having attained this, God will seck
them (John iv, 28) and reveal himself to them as he does not unto
the world. Compare Matt. xi, 25; xvi, 1'1.
Finally, the expounder of the Holy Scriptures needs to have lh--
ing fellowship and communion with the Holy Spirit. Communion
Inasmuch as "all Scripture is God-breathed" (2 Tim. 1Flth the HOlf
iii, 16), and the sacred writers spoke from God as they 8pfrB.
were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter i, 21), the interpreter of
Scripture must be a partaker of the same Holy Spirit. He must,
by a profound experience of the soul, attain the saving knowledge
of Christ, and in proportion to the depth and fnlness of that expe-
rience he will know the life and peace of the "mind of the Spirit"
(Rom. viii, 6). " We speak God's wisdom in a mystery," says
Paul (1 Cor. ii, '1-11), the hidden spiritual wisdom of a divinely
illuminated hcart, which none of the princes of this world have
known, but (as it is in substance written in Isa. lxiv, 4) a wisdom
relating to "what things (d) eye did not see, and ear did not hear,
and into man's heart did not enter-whatever things (80a) God
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prepared for them that love him; for I to us God revealed them
through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all thing'll, even the
depths of God. For who of men knows the things of the man
except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also the things
of God no one knows except the Spirit of God." He, then, who
would know and explain to others" the mysteries of the kingdom
of heaven " (Matt. xiii, 11) must enter into blessed communion and
fellowship with the Holy One. He should never cease to pray
(Eph. i, 17, 18) "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Fa-
ther of glory, would give him the spirit of wisdom and of revela-
tion in t he full knowledge (hrlyvt.K7£r) of him, the eyes of his heart
being enlightened for the purpose of knowing what is the hope of
his calling, what the riches of " the glory of his inheritance in the
saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his power toward us
who believe."
I We follow here the reading of Westcott and Bort, who receive )'d{' Into the ten.
This reading haa the strong support of Codex B, and would have been quite liable to
be cbanged to" the more nume"rouely anpported reading 1St by reuoo of a failure to
apprebend the somewhat Involved collDeCtion of thought. The)'d{' gives the I'eUOn
why we 8peak God's mysterioue wladom, lor to til God ~ it through the Spirit.
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