Hermeneutics - The Art of Interpreting the Bible Correctly

Revelation Defined

Webster's Dictionary defines revelation as, "an act of revealing or communicating divine truth."31 Revelation simply is something that is revealed by God to man. Revelation is very much and still is abused to this day. Within some Charismatic churches today, there are many that still claim to receive revelation from God to be used as additional God-breathed scripture. It is through the supposed revelation from God that Joseph Smith received the words of what is today the Book of Mormons.

On the positive side, when the disciple John was exiled to the island of Patmos, it was there where he received direct revelation from God about future events that would take place throughout the world. He penned this revelation in the Book of Revelation. Additionally, the Apostle Paul received the gospel not by man but by direct revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12).

Inspiration Defined

The entire scriptures were written by means of inspiration. It was written by man inspired of God. In other words, God put His infallible words in written text. The words themselves are what is inspired, not the writer.

It is important for the interpreter to recognize the Bible as a wholly God-inspired work and not just some mere religious book containing words written by man. If an interpreter does not recognize this fact then he will easily find inconsistencies and find the stories rather strange or extraordinary. As Ramm notes, "The divine inspiration of the Bible is the foundation of historic Protestant hermeneutics and exegesis."

Bible Cultural Background Interpretation

As mentioned earlier, understanding and knowing the cultural backgrounds of the people contained in the books of the Bible is imperative to the interpreter. For example, knowing the Galatian culture might assist the interpreter in better understanding the book of Galatians and their livelihood. He will be able to better understand the issues effecting the Christians of Galatia and Paul's intentions of addressing them in his epistles.

Even more so, the interpreter must take into account the cultural differences between the Galatians of the Bible and that of today's culture. Are some of the issues addressed to the Galatian church irrelevant to us today? How does the interpreter determine what is and is not relevant to our cultural practices and customs today? Zuck further elaborates, "The issue of cultural relevance is an important one because of the two tasks of the interpreter: to determine what the text meant to its immediate readers in that cultural setting, and to determine what the text means to us now in our context."33

The issue of head coverings is an issue that I personally have observed as being a cultural difference. It was about 55 A.D. when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. In this letter, chapter 11, Paul emphatically demands that women are to wear head coverings while prophesying and/or praying. Since a majority of these activities take place in church, I'm sure Paul also intended for women to wear their coverings while attending church or fellowship. How often do we see our Christian sisters wearing hats today in our churches? Not very often. Occasionally, I will see perhaps an elderly woman dawn her beautiful knit hat complete with white, ruffled, feathers and satin bows. But I'm quite sure she was not purposely observing Paul's ordinance of head coverings. Why is this so? Is it because hats were in fashion 1,944 years ago and aren't today? If the interpreter consults his tools of references, he will better understand this issue.

Contrary to our culture today, at the time I Corinthians was written it was customary in the eastern world for those that were in

subjection or shame to wear some form of veil or covering 34. This is why Paul addresses this issue to women. The woman was subject to her husband while her husband was subject to Christ. By the woman wearing her head covering she is publicly acknowledging her submission to her husband and thereby honoring him. The man on the other hand is commanded to take off any head covering to give full honor to Christ. Should women therefore wear head coverings today in our churches? No. In today's society quite the opposite is true concerning head covers. Instead, they show authority, importance, or dominion.

We can clearly see the cultural differences of yesterday versus today. This is an important and significant issue that the interpreter must sincerely contend with. He must establish what is and is not relevant to us today. If an issue is not relevant then sometimes the principle is. In which case the interpreter can apply a relevance that pertains to us today and apply it to that very same principle. This cultural understanding is vital in the interpretation process.

Grammatical Interpretation

Grammatical interpretation is "the process of seeking to determine its [Bible] meaning by ascertaining four things."35 These four things consist of:

a) lexicology - determining the usage and meaning of words.

b) morphology - determining word forms and how they are structured.

c) parts of speech - determining certain functions of words.

d) syntax - determining the relationship of words and how they are used together.

Grammatical interpretation is important in the overall principle of hermeneutics. Understanding the grammatical usage of words, a particular sentence, phrase, or paragraph is imperative so that the interpreter can get a fuller sense of the meaning of which the writer was trying to convey. Since the Bible is a verbally inspired work then we must truly begin to understand every single word, "jot and tittle", so that we can grasp every meaning that can possibly be found throughout the scriptures.

Rhetorical Interpretation

Rhetorical interpretation is the process of determining the literary quality of a writing by analyzing its genre, structure, and figures of speech and how those factors influence the meaning of the text.37 In other words, it is the determining process of understanding the organizational layout and different styles of expression and words contained within a certain passage.


Observation is the first of three steps in this interpretation process. This step asks, "What does it say?" As the interpreter, we are to objectively observe the whole picture of what we are attempting to interpret. Figuratively, we are to act as a detective -investigating, and examining what the passage is saying. Within this process, the interpreter is to determine the background and setting of all that encompasses the passage, including that of the author himself. Additionally, he is to observe the text itself, determining what is a metaphor, simile, transitional or comparative word, etc. Some of the questions the interpreter might ask are:

- Who are the key figures in the book? Who is Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Cyrus, Paul, Timothy, Barnabas, Peter, John, Luke, etc.?

concordances.interpretation. As Zuck states. This includes denominational beliefs. spiritualizing or excessive allegorizing of the passage. personal opinions. Dr. Lastly.What is the historical setting? When was Ephesus occupied by the Romans? When did Paul setup the church at Antioch? Additionally.What are the key events taking place? Pentecost? Martyrdom of Stephen? Paul's conversion? The calming of the storm? Christ's resurrection? .What are the key dates? When was the book written? When did the author die? When did King Cyrus reign? When was the temple completed? .. Hermeneutics course study notes.What conclusions can be drawn from this passage? Must we observe Jewish customs and laws while being a Christian? Can we summarize the passage? .What are the key verses in the book? What are the key words? What statement is the author trying to convey? . etc. In the Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute's. It is important to interpret literally in this process and to allow the Bible to speak for itself. themes. and the author's intention in writing the book. "Interpretation should build on observation and then lead into interpretation. Mal Couch points out. Dictionaries. commentaries." The Audience to Whom the Book is Written . It is within this process that the interpreter would greatly benefit by utilizing Bible tools and references. Bible atlases. the interpreter will observe any key doctrines. the interpreter cannot properly continue to the next step -. without this first process of observation." It is important to not allow any preconceived conclusions to influence this vital step of interpretation. "study objectively not subjectively. etc.

"How much do they already know? Are they culturally biased? Will they be able to relate to this passage?" These are all questions that a Bible teacher can ask himself beforehand in determining the social environment of an audience. material possessions. etc. There is clearly a distinct social difference between an audience from The Bronx. Determining the Social Environment of an Audience It is important in knowing the audience you are about to teach and guide through the scriptures. Thessalonians. Rhode Island. Texas. The West End and Plano. being aware of the occupational and educational backgrounds of the audience as a whole can be beneficial as well. This will impact the interpretation of any given passage of the book. Additionally. can all be contributing factors in this determination process. i. New York and that of Beverly Hills. Who were the Corinthians? What were they like? Were they comparable to our society today? These questions must be asked and answered by the interpreter before he is to study the book itself. This is so that he might better understand what issues are applicable to us today and how it may directly or indirectly relate to or effect us. California. This way the teacher will be able to formulate a concise way of communicating God's Word to them in a way in which they will fully understand and comprehend. Corinthians. Hebrews. dress. Figures of Speech A figure of speech is a form of written expression used to vividly . You'll get a feel as to where to begin your approach.It is imperative in knowing whom the book is written to. It can be determined by simply observing the audience before you.e. Harlem. Mannerisms. In many of Paul's epistles the titles of the books themselves are addressed to a particular people. race. New York and Newport.

The "living water" the woman thought of was literal water that would never make her thirst again. phrases. An example of such can be found in John 4:13-14 when Jesus refers to himself as "living water" with his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. the living Word. In fact. b) If it is impossible for it to be literal. Zuck gives some primary rules in determining what is figurative and what is literal: a) Always take a passage literally unless there is ample reason not to. figures of speech can be used to "drive home" (figure-ofspeech intended) a literal point or truth. Do figures of speech go against literal interpretation? Generally not. and true statement.39 Syntax Syntax comes from the Greek word syntassein. This point is a factual.illustrate a point by using forms contrary to normal laws of grammar. etc. The "living water" Jesus was referring to was Himself. which means "to place in order together. d) Take note of a literal statement immediately following a figurative statement. All who accept Christ into their lives will have everlasting life. The "living water" is a figure of speech for Christ's offer of eternal life to all who drink of it. The order in which words appear and how they are used relationally can make a significant difference in what ."36 Syntax is the process of determining the relationship between words and how they are used together to form sentences. literal. c) If the literal interpretation is an absurdity. then the figurative sense is intended. then the figurative approach should be used.

replete with a systematic form of rules. doctrine. The Book of Revelation written by John is most notable for this form of literature. prose. or issue that might occur in an individual(s) life with progressive problems that finally reach a climax. he spoke of two men in the field. problem. Synecdoche A synecdoche is a phrase used to substitute a part of something for a whole or a whole for a part. Literary Genre Literary genre is a category depicting the various forms or types of literature found throughout the Bible.consisting primarily of Job. Logical Discourse .consisting primarily of the Pentateuch. Gospels . The term Gentiles is used quite frequently to represent all that are not Jewish. Proverbs. revelation. and narrative. Poetry .material that consists of information. . etc. Two kinds of epistles exist: expository and hortatory discourse. the story will end with some form of a solution or victory. This form of literature consists of the Synoptic Gospels and the Book of John. He was not speaking of their being just two men. and lament with the intention to convey an important message. Narrative consisting of a story that entails a crisis. It is important for the interpreter to determine the correct usage of a sentence or phrase by examining this relationship of words.it is saying. ordinances. and disclosures pertaining to future events.38 Prophetic Literature . one will be taken and the other left (Matthew 24:40).books put to song. Ultimately. Some of the primary categories are: Legal/Law .the form of literature used to describe the life of Christ complete with biography. This is an example of synecdoche. Wisdom Literature . he was speaking in generalities of many men that will be taken and many that will be left. In yet another example in the Olivet Discourse when Jesus was talking about the end-times and days of tribulation. and Ecclesiastes because of the vast amount of wisdom given.these are the epistles that can be found throughout the New Testament.

. A time when all living creatures. "the substituting of two coordinate terms (joined by "and") for a single concept in which one of the elements defines the other. An example of such can be found in Isaiah 11:6: "The wolf will live with the lamb." Here.." Anthropomorphism An anthropomorphism is the ascribing of human elements to God. May the Lord make your love "increasingly overflow" for each other and for everyone else. "Even the pine trees and the cedars of Lebanon exult over you and say. "increase and overflow" can be used as "increasingly overflow". the message here is that there will be a universal peace that will transcend the earth when Christ returns to forever reign. no woodsman comes to cut us down. Personification Personification is the attachment of human characteristics or expression to anything that is not a human." Although these exact animals may in fact live amongst one another peacefully someday. 'Now that you have been laid low.. great and small. One such example can be given in Isaiah 14:8."40 One example of a hendiadys can be found in I Thessalonians 3:12: "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else. will live peacefully with one another here in the new earth or in the kingdom of God.. Hendiadys A hendiadys is as Zuck states. . the leopard will lie down with the goat.Merism A merism is a type of synecdoche that comprises of two opposing parts signifying a whole singular concept.

Yet Jesus . "Get behind me. he called upon certain people to describe what they envisioned. Such an example can be found in Nahum 1:2a. These are all considered to be anthropomorphisms. Others envisioned him as a spirit containing human emotions and characteristics. Anthropopathism An anthropopathism is a type of figure of speech attaching human emotions and expressions to God. Afterwards. Some envisioned God as depicted in Michelangelo's famous painting at The Sistine Chapel in Italy of the old yet muscular man reaching out to Adam. Sproul. and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself." Jealousy is a component of human emotions. God told Moses what to say to the people.41 Shortly after the mass exodus from Egypt. The Bible makes no reference to it. it is the description of someone speaking to an absent or imaginative person. Additionally.Recently. An example of this is when Jesus rebuked Peter and said. Moses then went up to the mountain to receive instruction from God. Satan!" (Mark 8:33) Satan himself was probably not physically there. "The Lord is a jealous and avenging God. He asked the listening audience to close their eyes and to visualize what God looks like to them. "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt.C. on a local Christian radio station I was listening to R. thus an anthropopathism. Apostrophe An apostrophe is a figure of speech describing someone speaking or talking to an object as if it were a person. Sinai. the Israelites encamped at the base of Mt. the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath." (Exodus 19:4) "eagles' wings" is an animal feature used to describe God's carrying the people out of Egypt. Zoomorphism A zoomorphism is the ascribing of animal characteristics to God.

the living Stone * .43 Ellipsis An ellipsis is a set of words to be added by the reader to better understand what seems to be an incomplete sentence or phrase. For until the Law what? The reader simply adds. but sin is not imputed when there is no law.addressed Satan as if he was right there amongst the disciples. Zeugma A zeugma is a sentence containing two nouns associated with one verb. it says. euphemismos." (NASB). Such example can be given in I Peter 2:4-5. Euphemism A euphemism is "the substituting of an inoffensive or mild expression for an offensive or personal one. "His mouth was opened and his tongue. when only one noun would suffice. "For until the Law sin was in the world. This is usually due in part to the character's overwhelming emotions. "was given" to understand this verse more clearly." Here there are clearly two nouns associated with only one verb. "As you come to him."42 Euphemism comes from the Greek word. "The NIV has supplied the words "was loosed" after the word "tongue" in order to render the sentence in good English. As Zuck stated. which means auspicious or to sound good. An example of a zeugma can be found in Luke 1:64 which reads."44 Aposiopesis An aposiopesis is a sudden break in a sentence. In Romans 5:13.

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" (Job 38:4) ."What is the way to the abode of light?" (Job 38:19) . God's intention for these rhetorical questions was to simply get Job to recognize his . offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood. God knew that Job couldn't possibly even begin to answer these questions. Such questions as: . was caught up in the emotion at the time he wrote this. the author of this book." It can be speculated that Peter. Rhetorical question A rhetorical question is a question asked by someone that does not necessarily require an answer."Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb?" (Job 38:8) . In my own estimation there is perhaps no more profound example of rhetorical questioning as can be found in the Book of Job. thus the sudden breaks in the sentences. questions that no man could ever answer. like living stones. It's primary purpose is to make a certain point and to allow the reader to ponder the thought or reasoning rather than providing an answer.rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him * you also. Job is presented with a series of many questions by God."Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion?" (Job 38:31) There are many more that follow."Have the gates of death been shown to you?" (Job 38:17) . Instead of God answering Job's questions.

who as he claims. is the worst of all sinners. Just as we have been forgiven we too should also continuously forgive others as long as they are truly repentant and seeking our forgiveness. but seventy times seven. Irony Webster's dictionary defines irony as. I tell you. "Up to seven times?" Jesus' response was quite amazing."45 When Jesus was explaining to the religious leaders who his Father was.awesome power and sovereignty. "Jesus answered. One such example can be found in Matthew 18:21-22. the underlying point is that Christ can save anyone. that's it no more forgiveness. He meant that we shouldn't even keep track of how often we should forgive someone. when expressing how Christ Jesus came to the world to save sinners. the leaders were responding by saying God was their Father. Additionally. Litotes A litotes is an understatement or a negative connotation to express a positive point or affirmation. The King James version says he was the "chief" of sinners. Hyperbole A hyperbole is simply an expression used to emphasize a point by using slight exaggerations. Nevertheless. he referred to himself as "the least of all God's people" (Ephesians 3:8). "the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning." Jesus obviously did not mean for us to forgive someone only 77 times and after that. Peter went up to Jesus and asked him how many times shall we forgive a brother when they sin against us. Peter went on and asked. Paul referred to himself as the "worst of sinners" (I Timothy 1:15). When Paul was expressing how God had given him the grace to preach to the Gentiles. "You belong to . not seven times. even Paul. Jesus then responded with.

then He equivocally continues by saying. "I call on you. "the devil". Oxymoron An oxymoron is an expression containing two opposing words to make a point."For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?" ." (John 8:44) At first glance it sounds as if Jesus was agreeing with them saying. "You belong to your father. He goes on to agree that they do in fact carry out their father's desires. For example: .."What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?" .your father. O God.. the devil.46 Perhaps an example of a pleonasm can be given from Psalm 17:6. and you want to carry out your father's desire. Pleonasm A pleonasm is a repetition of words or the adding of similar words. The word oxymoron comes from two Greek words * oxus ("sharp") and moros ("stupid"). "Give ear to me and hear my prayer" seems to be a slight repetition of words or expression."Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" . Instead." The passage. give ear to me and hear my prayer.47 Paul gave many oxymorons when he was addressing the Corinthians about the importance of not being yoked together with unbelievers. for you will answer me. "give ear to my prayer" and the question would've been the same with less words. the Psalmist could've said."."What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?" .

"49 A good example of a paronomasia can be be found in Matthew 4:19.These can also be construed as rhetorical questions. and I will make you fishers of men. these questions contain opposing words to enforce the issue more clearly. This is considered a paradox. I live by faith in the Son of God. Like bringing fish out of the water so to were Peter and Andrew to bring men out of one element into another. "But many who are first will be last. Paranomasia A paronomasia is better known as a "play on words". Onomatopoeia This is a word by which the sound of the word itself is also the . The life I live in the body.48 An example of a paradox can be found in Galatians 2:20. "Come." Jesus knew Peter and Andrew's trade as fishermen. and many who are last will be first. However. Paradox A paradox is an expression of terms containing what might seem an absurdity or contrary to normal opinion. follow me. "to call with a slight change of name. Additionally. an oxymoron. Paul was not literally crucified with Christ on the same day Christ was crucified on the hill at Golgotha. Webster's defines paronomasia as." Obviously. Jesus said." (Matt. These words sometimes contain a two-fold meaning. He knew they could catch fish physically. the term "crucified" is not synonymous with "life" such as how Paul uses it in this passage. 19:30) Here are two opposite phrases used together in the same sentence. Instead Jesus chose the words. but Christ lives in me. who loved me and gave himself for me. "fishers of men" so that Jesus could show them how to be productive spiritually. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live. Another oxymoron can be found when Jesus was speaking of who will be first in the kingdom of God.

" The word "gong" is not only a percussion instrument. etc. brighter than the sun. why do you persecute me? It is hard for . Culture seems to have a substantial influence on how idioms are used. ring. why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4) The literal Aramaic rendering of the term. "Why do you continue to kick against the goads?" This term is used later when Paul is giving his defense before King Agrippa. Zuck gives an example of the differences in the expression. blazing around me and my companions. How does this differ from a typical figure of speech? It differs only because the expression is unique to a certain people group or country. a figure of speech is generally acknowledged or better understood universally and is more commonly used. These are all examples of an onomatopoeia. the expression means. Idiom An idiom is an expression used that seems strange or foreign to certain people because the expression itself is unique to another group of people. the Lord appeared to him. clang. "He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him. I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Additionally. Paul uses an onomatopoeia in verse 1. However. "Saul. or indifferent to another's needs or desires. buzz."50 Quite the opposite of our English rendering of the expression. O king. "why do you persecute me?" is. as I was on the road. chirp. One example of an idiom used in the Bible can be found in the book of Acts. "If I speak in tongues of men and of angels. "He has a hard heart. Such examples are: bang. the word "clanging" is also the very sound a cymbal makes (clang) when struck together. it is also the sound it makes. in the Shipibo language of Peru. "About noon. I saw a light from heaven. Saul. but have no love. "he is brave. Saul." which in English means. he is stubborn. and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic. Whereas. In the famous love chapter of I Corinthians 13. Saul. We all fell to the ground. At Paul's conversion while he was on the road to Damascus.very meaning of it.

the interpreter will be ignorant to the meaning of certain idioms and expressions used throughout the Scriptures. Like figures of speech. Without referring to Bible reference books. Saul was making a pointless effort in urging the Christians to recant or turn from their faith. ultimately he was only hurting himself. The translators had to come up with an interpretation that the natives could readily understand. The only light they were familiar with was the light that emitted from small contained fires. In their attempt in translating the Bible to the local natives they ran across many obstacles of linguistics. He was "kicking against the goads". just enough to light up a small village. "Idioms should not be thought of as mistakes in the Scriptures. A universal light. I once read a story about a group of men from Wycliffe Bible Translators who were missionaries/Bible translators living in a remote village of Central Africa. he will get a certain idea as to the true meaning of what the writer was originally trying to convey."52 When the interpreter begins to understand the underlying meaning of a particular expression. "Light of the world" is an expression used that a specific group of people were simply unfamiliar with. a goad is." (Acts 26:13-14) According to Webster's dictionary. One such example was their attempt in trying to translate the expression. an idiom can mistakenly be considered to go against literal interpretations or be considered as mistakes. Idioms should not be thought of as that. they are ways in which the thought is conveyed in that native language. in this case an idiom. by consulting his Bible tools such as a Greek lexicon.51 An oxgoad was a pointed stick commonly used in the Middle East generally to prod cattle. So the interpreters had to provide a translation into their native tongue that best describes a light unto the world.you to kick against the goads. "light of the world" found in John 8:12. Symbols . The local natives had no idea what the expression meant since they themselves knew not what light was. Zuck explains. "a pointed rod used to urge on an animal". This is an example of an idiom.

It is apparent to us as Protestants that this is obviously a fallacy. If no meaning is given in the verse. and meaning). The partaker then consumes his flesh and blood and is thus receiving Christ into his or her own body. 2. there is perhaps no more profound and controversial symbol used than that of the Lord's Supper. For many years the Catholic church believed in the literal partaking of Christ's body and blood in what is called. they are: 1. his blood is transformed into the wine. Observe the three elements in symbols (the object. The bread is symbolic of His broken body. .A symbol is a depiction represented by an object or action to give a meaning or purpose. check other references to it within the Scriptures. 3. 4. This is in essence similar to a minor form of cannibalism. the wine/fruit of the vine is symbolic of His shed blood. the symbolism of the Lord's Supper/Communion has been very divisive. Likewise. It was because of this symbolism. or wafer. They believe that Christ's body is literally transformed into the bread. We most certainly believe that partaking of the Lord's Supper is symbolic of Christ's body that was broken and His blood that was shed for us. "transubstantiation". the reference. For centuries past. In my own opinion. Determine the meaning or resemblance. if any is assigned to the text. How can we better interpret what is meant to be symbolic versus a literal interpretation? Zuck provides 9 essential principles in determining and interpreting symbols. one of the reasons the Protestant church was formed. Remember symbols have their base in reality. Briefly.

Realize one referent may be depicted by several objects. Be cautious in assigning the correct characteristics to the symbol.5. Do not assume all future things prophetic are symbolic when it is possible to be literal.Who wrote the book? Paul? Moses? Luke? David? Who in fact did write Hebrews? . and to whom it is addressed to. "What does it mean?" As discussed earlier. Within the process of interpretation. Look for major point or resemblance.53 Interpretation Interpretation is the second of three steps in the process of interpreting the Bible. 6. Some of the questions the interpreter might ask are: . the interpreter must first perform a thorough and concise observation of the book or passage prior to continuing on with the remaining steps of the interpretation process. This step asks. 9. 7. the interpreter is to determine the meaning of the passage or book. Pertaining to prophetic literature. 8. do not assume the whole passage contains symbolism.What is the overall theme of the book? About God's grace? God's love? The establishment of the Law? Paul's missionary journey's? .

D. or is it a system? . "God so loved the world." Who is the world? Only those that believe? .What does the passage mean? When Jesus said. ignored." What is the vine referring to? What does the term."10 If ever there were a step that should not be avoided. "I am the vine. what is the difference between the Holy Spirit of the Old Testament such as in Psalm 51:11 and that of the New Testament at the day of Pentecost.? Or is it yet future? As can be clearly seen. How does Luke describe the account of Jesus' miracle of calming the storm versus Matthew's account? Or. it is obvious that the interpreter will have to again consult his or her Bible references and tools during this process.Does the passage only refer to that particular generation? Or does it similarly refer to our generation of today? . in comparing similar passages that can be found throughout the synoptic gospels.Can certain passages be generalized? Or must it be specified? Is it literal? Is it symbolic? The Beast of Revelation. it's first arrival after Christ's ascension? These are but a few of the many questions that can be asked within this vital step of interpretation. It is worth noting that this crucial step of the interpretation process. Additionally. For example. Allegory . a lot of cross-referencing will be made as well. "last days" mean? Was it at the time of the destruction of the temple in 70 A. After confidently analyzing and interpreting the applicable book or passage.Who is the third person? Me? God? Jesus? Who is the "I" referring to? Daniel? When Christ said. the next step of the interpretation process is application. "is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming of these three steps. Is it an actual man. or even misused.. it is this one.

For example. The mountains were covered with its shade. its shoots as far as the River. In verse 11. "It sent out its boughs to the Sea. Parables What is a parable? A parable is simply a fictitious story that illustrates a religious principle or truth. and it took root and filled the land." This is referring to the nation of Israel's outermost reaches and boundaries. Verses 9-10 describes Israel's expansion throughout the newly conquered land. Perhaps most famous are those told by Christ to His disciples. The word finds it's root in the Greek word parabole which refers to short statements and proverbs also called similitudes. A correct example of allegory is shown in Psalm 80:8-11: "You brought a vine out of Egypt. "a narrative or word picture which may or may not be true-to-life. many times Christians have suggested that the nation of Israel of the Old Testament is symbolically representative of the Church. You cleared the ground for it."16 Zuck summarizes allegory as.C. "the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence. There is a correct place for allegory to be interpreted in the Bible just as there is not. and their geographical establishment as a nation.Webster's dictionary defines allegory as. ."17 Both of these definitions accurately describe allegory. These both have been mistakenly interpreted as an allegory. It sent out its boughs to the Sea (probably the Mediterranean). There are many parables found throughout the Bible. "You drove out the nations and planted it. with many parts pointing symbolically to spiritual realities. the inner chambers of the Jewish Temple is symbolic of the inner recesses of man's mind and heart." The "vine" in verse 8 is undoubtedly the nation of Israel and refers to it's exodus led by Moses in 1446 B. its shoots as far as the River (Euphrates or Jordan). it says." This is referring to Israel's many victorious battles against the people who inhabited the land of Canaan. These are just a few examples of correct and incorrect allegorical interpretation. the mighty cedars with its branches. Or. "a symbolic representation." Or. you drove out the nations and planted it.

I personally have made an observation that a majority of the parables contain some form of element relating to agriculture or farming. He desired for them to learn and grow from these most profound illustrations. 7:15). On the other hand. Zuck states. Generally."55 However. The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7). Such examples as the parable of: Sheep and Wolves (Matt. Pharisees. The Mustard Seed (Luke 13:18-19). Jesus also knew the effectiveness of using parables. they contained much more than that. just to name a few. However. Jesus knew that these parables would be forever written on the hearts of men and women and would make disciples of of people for centuries to come. this was a common way of life for most people living at that time. they are found extensively in the Synoptics. Jesus was able to maintain their attention and focus and effectively communicate to . i. Saducees. "One was to reveal truths to his followers and the other was to conceal truth from "those on the outside" (Mark 4:11).54 The Parabolic Teachings of Jesus The question is asked. these two purposes seem to contradict one another. there were legitimate reasons behind these purposes.e. 20:1-6). "Why did Jesus teach in parables?" Jesus used parables primarily for two purposes. He also knew that the ones who were plotting to kill Him. such as the religious leaders. exhort. they were "meat" for spiritual growth and stories to help illustrate godly principles for living. He employed the use of parables to enlighten. and setting out to destroy Him. The Workers in the Harvest (Matt. The Soils (Mark 4:4-8). Because of this. etc. would be unable to understand or comprehend the true underlying spiritual meaning of his parables.However. these particular forms of parables are not found in John's gospel. and edify the believers. on the surface these parables seemed like mere stories containing good moral principles. He used stories containing elements that the average person could relate to. But as you will see. They were simply blinded by the hardness of their hearts and their unbelief. Unlike today. To the unbeliever. Jesus wanted to truly impart his truths and teachings to his disciples unhindered.

Jesus was obviously well acquainted with the purpose and effectiveness in using parables.them the underlying spiritual implications of these stories.11 Some of the questions the interpreter might ask are: . or not. his enemies. "How does it apply to me?" Without this step.To whom is the passage addressed to? Timothy? Titus? The church at Colosse? . Parables were commonly used in the era in which Christ lived. and Generic. It stimulated the mind and aroused their curiosity. the reader will not properly understand how the passage pertains to his or her life. Additionally. This step asks. It would cause growth for some. He knew what the results would be in using His parabolic teachings.What is the passage about? Church government? Marriage? How to approach a brother who might be in error? Spiritual gifts? . It moved them to enact and apply the message to their own lives. Additionally. This step is the final of three steps in interpreting the Bible. it must be determined if the passage can be applied directly to all. It required much thought and effort to understand and decipher the meaning of the parable. at any time.Who is the passage directly applied to? Me? Timothy? Anyone? . Application Last and foremost is the application process. Indirect. these parables moved the listener to think. Even more so in the Middle East. Perhaps the most important aspect of this step is in determining who the passage is both directly and indirectly addressed to. These determining factors can be better labeled as: Direct. yet blind others.

- How would it be indirectly applied? Written directly to Timothy, but indirectly to pastors? Spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6 applied directly to the church at Ephesus but could it be indirectly applied to any of us today?

- How can I determine if it is a generic application? What key words are observed in determining this? For example, all, you, I, the church at Philippi.

Using Galatians 3:26-27 as an example. "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." We must determine to whom Paul has directly and indirectly applied this passage to. Clearly, the passage was directly written to the church in Galatia. By using the interpretation process, the student will have seen that in Roman society, a youth coming of age laid aside the robe of childhood and would put on a new toga.

This represented his passage into adulthood with full rights and responsibilities. Paul combined this cultural understanding with the concept of baptism. After being baptized, the Galatian church were becoming spiritually grown up and ready to take on the privileges and responsibilities that came along with being more spiritually mature.12 Indirectly, this passage can be applied to all of us today. Some of the key words can be observed, "...all of you who were baptized into Christ". All of us who have been baptized must recognize we too have now put on new robes and have clothed ourselves with Christ, ready to take on anything the Lord might give us. After all, we have had the honor and blessing of being called, "sons of God".

It should never be taken for granted that today, there is easy access to the Scriptures. About the time of the reformation William Tyndale literally translated the Bible into English whilst on the run and being pursued by those trying to take his life for doing so. Thomas Cranmer was burnt alive for his defense of the same and today people attempt to edit sections of the Holy Bible that they are

uncomfortable with or that they perceive to not be authentic.

In this day and age liberals and higher critics literally meet together in an attempt to determine the meaning of scripture and which portions should be interpreted literally, which parts should be removed and which segments were supposedly written at a later date.

The date of the writing of the book of Daniel was questioned for the above reason as it provides such an accurate depiction of the Empires that succeeded the Babylonian one. Interestingly, a visit to the British Museum contains historical items relating to the book of Daniel which supports the orthodox Biblical record. Scripture Interprets Scripture

The best commentary on Holy Scripture is Scripture itself, which helps Bible students to understand its meaning. For example, a detailed analysis of the gospel of John and the epistles of John will reveal that the epistles of John are basically a commentary on John's gospel.

Also, a verse or even a passage should not be read in isolation to form an opinion but it should be understood in the context of the whole passage, book or even better the whole Bible. Many people can derive independent theologies from using a particular verse out of context to suit their own agenda instead of interpreting the verse in light of the rest of Scripture.

Literal Versus Allegory

In their favor, allegorical commentators note that if a hyper literal approach is granted the meaning can be nonsensical.

Bible passages should be read literally in their common sense

plain meaning unless it is obvious that it relates to a symbolic truth. For example, it is apparent that Jesus isn't a literal lion or a lamb but two of His titles are 'Lamb of God' and the 'Lion of Judah' as they are descriptive of His character and can be understood more easily if read in context.

Since the creation story provides a systematic non-allegorical description of the Garden of Eden, surely it should be understood that way. Each day of creation is treated literally, morning passed and evening came. Adam is listed in a literal chronological framework in Genesis 5:1 Chronicles 1, Matthew 1 and Luke 3. The Tree of Life in Genesis concurs with the Tree of Life in Revelation Chapter 22.

If allegorical or symbolic explanations are given for the creation story or the flood, interpreting the Bible can degenerate into guesswork. The rest of the Bible consistently treats these as literal historic events.

Due to the historical, cultural and linguistic difficulties, certain parts of the Bible can be difficult to comprehend. Currently though, numerous commentaries, Bible Dictionaries and lexicons are available to assist in this process. In addition, did not James say though "if any of you lack wisdom, let Him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5)


These rules will enable you to arrive at a critically sound interpretation. Some of these rules are the outgrowth of a high view of scripture. In other words, the entire Bible is the product of one author (God) at the same time that it is product of many authors. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to seek to find a consistent message throughout the Bible.

* Interpret in light of the context of the passage. Follow the thought development in the book you are reading, and make sure your interpretation flows along with the general direction of argument. Sudden changes in subject are unusual. If you have the thought development of a book centering on one subject, suddenly switching to another, and then back to the first, your interpretation is almost certainly wrong.

Consider the larger context as well: which Testament? which author? what time period? Never view a passage in isolation from its surroundings. The context should be considered the most important kind of evidence in the interpretation of a passage. Usually context supplies all we need to know. We should turn to other explanations only when we can find no critically feasible interpretation based on the English text in context. Anyone who claims to see a break in context bears the full burden of proof.

o - Mt. 16:28 - Referring to the transfiguration (in context of passage)

o - I Cor. 14:34 - Means to disrupt (see I Cor. 11:5 - context of book and passage)

o - I Cor. 3:17 (thought development of the passage limits interpretation)

* Interpret in light of progressive revelation(Heb. 1:1,2). While God's purpose for man has never changed, His strategy in accomplishing that purpose has changed. He has dealt with man under different "covenants," or programs. Therefore, it is important to ask "Under which program was this written?."

Primary application of the passage will be to the people operating under that program, but not necessarily to others. There may be secondary applications for other programs based on principles which have universal application. Note special problems here in connection

Therefore. Never build a doctrine on an unclear passage. Sabbaths. festivals.Theocracy was commanded in Old Testament.Animal sacrifices. 8).17.Acts 2:38 could either be referring to baptismal regeneration. 7:14) o . 3:7-12 . or simply adding baptism as a desirable adjunct to the minimum requirement for salvation (i. .in context of the testament (see Num. 22:21. dietary laws. 14:22-29) * Interpret scripture in harmony with other scripture Since the Bible is inspired by God. never interpret scripture in such a way that it clearly contradicts other scriptures. Heb. but secular government is affirmed in the New Testament. 13:1-7. o . holy days. 3:2) o . Scripture teaches every major. but taught against in the New Testament (I Tim.with the ministry of Christ before the cross. Deut. o .Polygamy was permitted in the Old Testament. IIChron. then choose the interpretation that doesn't contradict other scriptures. 2:16. o . essential truth clearly and many times. o .Jas. it does not contradict itself. priests and liturgy have all been fulfilled in Christ and are thus obsolete (Col.e.Mal." * Interpret the unclear in light of the clear. faith). 18:21-24. (Rom. First discover the allowable range of meaning for a passage. Mt. 2:14-26 "justify" can also mean "justify before men.

I Cor. o . o . especially when the text is a literary genre prone to figures of speech or colorful statements. * Interpret the "spirit" of the passage. o . Not every child will go right.Proverbs 15:1 Not every gentle word will turn away wrath. o . 16:9 is used by Roman Catholics to support indulgences. but not all are absolute promises.33).Proverbs 22:6 The book of Proverbs contains many general maxims. but most will. Don't base a doctrine of falling away on such a passage. not necessarily the "letter". unknown practice used in Corinth.Proverbs 3:5 "Lean not unto your own understanding" means we should avoid approaching the Bible on a primarily analytical level. 15:29 mentions an obscure. .f.Lk. I Cor. o . allowing Him to teach you. * Interpret with dependence upon the Holy Spirit. or the literalistic meaning.o . 10:32. Today the Mormon church uses this passage to elevate dead ancestors to a higher status in the afterlife. Mark T or F. 11:1-18 .I Cor. o .In some New Testament passages interpretation by the "letter" contradicts the "spirit" of the passage (c.I John 5:16 The sin unto death is never defined. but in most cases it will.

“What are your rules of interpretation?” “What are your hermeneutics?” Is your objective to determine what the author was meaning to say? There is no question that authors of Scripture would sometimes use symbolism.Unless we approach God's word with a deep reverence for God and a passion to know His will for our lives. we should choose the latter. given the culture and time of the author. Jesus spoke in parables. and it was clear that he was doing so.If the rules of interpretation give one answer and the Holy Spirit shows another.We should pray before studying that God will enable us to understand the passage. we may often get the wrong interpretation. Brown ( www. the interpretation of a passage may be different for different people.” John was not saying that Christ is literally an animal. o . o . John the Baptist called Christ the “Lamb of God.org ) The first and most important question that must be asked when interpreting Bible prophecy is. Problems with Allegorical Interpretations of Prophecy Philip B.o . it would be hard to believe that . o . But what if the natural reading of an author’s words reads like it could easily be literal? What if.Since the Bible is "living and active".newwine.

Yet. So how can anyone reasonably apply Zechariah 14 to 70 AD? It’s done by the use of allegorical interpretation. But allegorical interpretation is used to reverse this victory and basically say that Zechariah’s was using “figurative language. 14:4). Using allegorical interpretation. this passage is often attributed to 70 AD. There was no military victory for Jerusalem.the author was saying anything other than it’s “historical and grammatical” interpretation? Do we have the license to say that the author’s words are “figurative. at the last moment.” and do not say what the author himself would have understood? Consider the words of Zechariah 14. Jerusalem is falling. Zechariah goes on to describe this victory. and Jerusalem was destroyed. And we read of all the wealth that is collected from all the nations who attacked Jerusalem.” The women are being raped. There was no gathering of plunder from the nations that attacked Jerusalem. There was only defeat. In verses 12-15. the feet of God stand on the Mount of Olives (Zech. and there is victory. when Jerusalem was surrounded by Rome. Then we have a description of Jerusalem being attacked by “all nations. Verse one begins with a statement of victory in battle: (NIV Zechariah 1:1) A day of the LORD is coming when your plunder will be divided among you. Yet. We read of their eyes rotting in their sockets and their tongues rotting in their mouths.” and that the actual fulfillment was the opposite of what he literally was saying. how do they deal with this victory? . we read of the panic that the Lord strikes into the invading armies. Did Zechariah himself believe this battle would end in defeat or in victory? There is no question that Zechariah himself was doing his best to describe a victory for Jerusalem.

And the literal interpretation of Zechariah 14 is that all the nations will be forced to worship at the Feast of Tabernacles (verses 16-19) after Christ returns. who did this in order to . and for all it’s high learning. It was a part of the old covenant. Alexandria was second only to Rome in the Roman Empire. Harmony can be found in Scripture without. Such apparent contradiction is only a sign that we should reexamine our understanding of what all authors of Scripture meant to say. The book of Hebrews teaches that Christ was the one sacrifice. changing the meaning of Scripture. and that animal sacrifice is no longer needed nor wanted by God. would never apply this prophecy to 70 AD. The allegorical interpretation of Bible Scripture dates back to Alexandria. By calling upon allegorical interpretation and “figurative language. is true.” there is always some way to make the words say what you want them to say. along with many other Jews. So why do otherwise conservative Bible scholars reverse the meaning of Scripture like this? It’s because they have problems fitting this apparently literal prophecy with the book of Hebrews. Until the time of Constantine. in effect.They would simply say this gathering of plunder is representative of the victories the church would have during the centuries that followed 70 AD. Philo (15 BC – 50 AD) was Jewish (not Christian) and lived in Alexandria. Alexandria was named after Alexander the Great. Philo learned about allegorical interpretation from the Greeks. Everything that the book of Hebrews says. philosophy. But anyone who is truly honest in wanting to know what Zachariah himself would have understood. as understood by that author. and Greek culture. and it was known for it’s great library. That Old Testament feast included animal sacrifice. as he understood it? Such apparent contradiction is not a reason to reverse the interpretation of Scripture. But is this reason to effectively reverse the intended meaning of Zechariah. The History of Allegorical Interpretation It may be helpful to examine some of the history of allegorical interpretation.

and that the Logos is the Son of God. Such knowledge was the true gnosis. Solving the friction between grace and holiness verses. which was a Greek doctrine. Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD) followed Philo's lead. and did not stay with the . The Holy Spirit attracts men to Christ when they seek true knowledge. This fit right in with the Doctrine of Logos. God’s Word (Logos) was the source of both. This is not to be confused with the false gnosis of the heretics. But inheriting the kingdom requires lots of work. that Jewish culture was not inferior to Greek culture. Solved by applying ancient Jewish eschatology. The millennium as a free-grace alternative to Purgatory. Allegorical interpretation made the ancient Greek myths seem important to their culture. Scripture started to have meaning well beyond the simple historical accounts of Moses.D. Salvation is a free gift. Both were for the purpose of leading people to Christ. which claimed secret knowledge. Philo wanted to find this same deep level of interpretation in the writings of Moses. Would a loving God have a merciful plan for our loved ones Who have died having never heard or understood about Jesus Christ? Solved by applying ancient Jewish eschatology to the Church. Around A. especially about religion. The Logos is that which accounts for the design in the Creation.make their ancient Greek myths be more relevant to their everyday lives. John was probably influenced with this Greek doctrine when he wrote John 1:1. 200. Philo wanted to prove. through allegorical interpretation. In this Greek doctrine. the Logos is the source of all knowledge. He taught that God gave the Law to the Jews and that God gave philosophy to the Greeks. So Philo interpreted Moses as a philosopher who was the source of all later philosophy. Clement taught that the Logos was Jesus before becoming a man.

soul. But the emphasis was on allegorical interpretation to find "spiritual" knowledge (gnosis). He developed Philo and Clement’s methods of allegorical interpretation. historical meaning of what the authors of Scripture had said. But this was the deeper meaning (gnosis). and the spirit was the most important. was writing about a literal historical event. A young boy. He was with God in the beginning. These were the literal. then the literal event is least important. and could only be found by the use of allegorical interpretation. (NIV John 1:1-5) In the beginning was the Logos. his work was given to the young scholar. The light shines in the darkness. Origen was one of the most influential men of the early church. and spiritual meanings and corresponded to the body. wanted to join his father and be martyred during these persecutions. The soul (psyche) and the spirit (pneuma) are two different things in the Greek. . just as the body is least important. without him nothing was made that has been made. and that life was the light of men. and spirit of a man. The moral meaning of a Scripture corresponded to the soul (psyche) of a man. Clement left Alexandria. Even the historical Jesus was less important than as the Logos of Christ available for believers in the church and in the sacraments. And these meanings could only be discovered by the use of allegorical interpretation. After Clement left Alexandria. who for the next thirty years ran the school at Alexandria. but the darkness has not understood it. and the Logos was with God. Origen (185-254). The body was the least important. Clement did not deny the literal.knowledge given by the Scriptures. moral. Clement believed that the truth in Scripture is often hidden. Thus he did not join the martyrs. When the persecutions of Emperor Septimius Severus came. The Doctrine of Logos gave Clement a tool to unite Christianity with Greek philosophy. But his mother hid his clothes so that he would have had to go out naked. which corresponded to three aspects of man. such as Moses. Through him all things were made. The spiritual meaning of a Scripture corresponded to the spirit (pneuma) of man. In him was life. and the Logos was God. If an author of Scripture. He believed there are three levels of allegorical interpretation.

which is to use an early story or character as a “type” that shadows a later person. But the valued truth within was not about the Jews and ancient Israel. is that the early church had doubts about the Old Testament being God’s Word (Logos). the early church might have rejected the Old Testament entirely as being God's word. Similar to allegory is typology. not a future prophecy. Origen held it to be the inspired world of God. here. Hosea was clearly talking about the nation of Israel being called out of Egypt. This helped the church in wanting to keep the Old Testament as Scripture. or the church. While others devalued the Old Testament as being Jewish. But apparently the author of Hebrews found this meaning. He brings out a lot of meaning that is not evident in the original account beginning with Genesis 14:18. and showed the progress in our journey to the Kingdom of Heaven. There is nothing wrong with allegorical interpretation in and of itself. without error. New Testament text symbolized the sanctification of the soul. So instead of changing their views to conform to God’s Word. Paul used allegorical interpretation in Gal. The writer of Hebrews uses typology in his discussion of Melchizedek. But the Messiah comes from Israel. So without allegorical interpretation.” from Hosea 11:1. they used allegorical interpretation to alter the literal meaning that was intended by the authors. and you can argue that Christ’s name is . “Out of Egypt I called my son. because the followers of Marcion wanted to reject it. It was spiritual knowledge. not just in the more obvious Messianic prophecies. which was an historical event. 2:14-15 when he quotes. Origen found shadows of Jesus all through the Old Testament. Origen could just say they had not read deeply enough to see the true meaning (knowledge).Some Old Testament Scripture is obviously shadows of Jesus. 4:21-31. Rather than defending each story. Matthew uses allegorical interpretation in Matt. Crossing the Line Into Error The problem. They didn’t like what was being said.

I think Clement may have been right about the three levels of allegorical interpretation. I don’t doubt that John used the Greek Doctrine of Logos in making his point. The Nature of Scriptural Inerrancy Let’s go back and think about why we believe that Scripture is God’s Word. And yet the Holy Spirit revealed the doctrines and truths they wrote. I believe the God is powerful enough for Scripture . or deny. The Holy Spirit prevented them from making doctrinal errors. So men wrote Scripture. and Christ is everywhere in the Logos.Israel. 2nd Tim. rebuking. correcting and training in righteousness. There is nothing wrong with allegorical interpretation in and of itself. And each author understood those doctrines. 3:16 says that all Scripture is God-breathed. He had to understand them in order to write them down. But when these methods of allegorical interpretation in any way take away from. Therefore this is an allegorical interpretation. And I have no doubt that Origen was right about the Old Testament being full of shadows of Christ. The Scripture is the Logos. I also think there is truth and value to the idea that Jesus is the Logos. Some authors were better educated than others. then we have crossed the line into error. And I do believe that God’s Word has deeper meaning (gnosis) that can be discovered with allegorical interpretation. and the writing reflects it. There is even embarrassing grammatical errors in Scripture. I think it may be possible to find shadows of Christ in every Old Testament story. Each book of Scripture has the writing style and personality of the author. (NIV 2nd Timothy 3:16) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching. At the same time. the literal meaning that was intended by the author.

“Out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1). The Holy Spirit inspired the authors of both. 2:14-15). was something that Hosea clearly understood. The Holy Spirit gave Hosea this truth and he wrote it down with his words. Hosea may not have been specifically thinking about the coming Messiah when he wrote. But later Matthew was lead by the Holy Spirit to use these words in a little different way (Matt. and the authors of both understood what they wrote. because the Holy Spirit gave them this understanding. So Hebrews and Zechariah 14 are in harmony. We cannot use allegorical interpretation to deny the truth as understood by the authors of Scripture.newwine. Philip B.to have deeper meanings that we can find of which the authors themselves were not aware.org The Next Heresy At critical times in church history. Yet the fact that Israel was called out of Egypt. Brown www. God has assembled His people . and yet remained sinful. This in no way denies the truth that Hosea understood.

to identify and repudiate the devil's latest doctrinal innovations. Hermeneutics is that branch of Biblical studies which some of its practitioners style "the science of interpretation. which gave fundamentalism its name (1). * It reformulates Old Testament prophecies so that they do not appear to make verifiable predictions of events in the distant future. and this influence has not been helpful. Acts 15 reports the first defining moment of this kind. when the church separated itself from Judaizers. when a wide range of Christian leaders contributed articles to the volumes known as The Fundamentals. Wherever the church is firmly committed to inerrancy. I believe. the issue will be hermeneutics. . was almost a hundred years ago. partly through the influence of Harold Lindsell. There were many other defining moments during the early centuries of the church and again during the Reformation. (Fundamentalists were spared this moment because they had never admitted deniers of inerrancy to their ranks. the devil has been using the latest fashions in hermeneutics to lure people into positions I can only describe as forms of intellectual schizophrenia—positions which say in essence that the Bible is true because we must believe it is true. These volumes affirmed true Christianity in distinction from the liberal and modernist counterfeit." Its pretense to be science has won it an undue measure of influence in the church. many evangelical bodies declared inerrancy to be essential (2). this haveyour-cake-and-eat-it-too sort of hermeneutics has found ways of manipulating Scripture to suit contemporary thought. With respect to a wide range of issues. This time.) We seem to be on the threshold of another defining moment. Another minor defining moment occurred about thirty years ago when. but true only because it does not mean what it says. The last. * It treats much of the Bible as worthless for doctrine.

or other mumbo jumbo. Legitimate Hermeneutics The following are some of the hermeneutical rules that have long been recognized as valid and necessary. The only true meaning is what the author himself intended. the numerical values of letters. typological analysis. esoteric definitions.* It makes Genesis fit the modern ideas that the species of life appeared gradually over a long period of time. No reader has the right to impose his own ideas on the text. Authorial intent. or theology derived from the text is legitimate unless it is faithful to this single sense. In other words. We need not await a mystical revelation of a truer sense dependent on allusions hidden to ordinary readers. No spiritual application. * It limits the daily relevance of Scripture to a believer's needs by denying that a text can have any meanings or applications beyond the supposed immediate intent of the human author. Each demands that the interpretation of a text agree with an objective determinant of meaning. The single sense. no larger meaning may be construed which distorts what the words actually . This rule was first devised to combat allegorizing and other fanciful modes of interpretation which obscured rather than elucidated the sense of Scripture. * It casts aside any moral teaching of the Bible that offends modern sensibilities. The basic meaning of a passage is the single sense evident to any reader who allows the words their ordinary meanings and who expects the grammar and syntax to shape and combine these meanings in a normal fashion. and that any flood must have been local in extent.

3:8. 9:8-9). upon dissection of a text. Joshua (that is. Many heretical doctrines violate this rule. we could not be confident that the Old contains types and allegories. The New Testament informs us that Melchizedek is a type of Christ (Heb. That Joshua the high priest is a symbol of the Branch—that is. For example. The New Testament teaches that the rites of Mosaic religion furnish types of Christ's redemptive work (Heb. Scripture illuminates itself. 6:20-7:3). and the struggle within Abraham's family between Hagar and Sarah is an . Such clues may even clarify a passage that otherwise would be obscure.say. the Catholic teaching that Peter was the first pope appeals to Matthew 16:18. The context of a passage may supply clues to the correct interpretation. and we would scarcely know how to interpret them. 10:1-6). Jesus). “wondered at” can be translated “of symbol”). the New Testament explains the Old. Without the New. Israel's escape from Egypt is an allegory of Christian experience (1 Cor. But in context. but Christ. In general. In either instance the words may bear more than one basic meaning. Christ—is made plain even in the Old Testament (Zech. the rock is not Peter. Yet the rule should not be applied indiscriminately. With regard to many passages that would be otherwise be obscure. often found meanings that were alien to the natural meaning. but only from the perspective of the New Testament do we understand the significance of his name. This rule was first devised to combat medieval systems of interpretation which. A factual account in which each element represents something beyond itself is a common species of allegory. The same rule remains valuable today as a check against any effort to treat Scripture as an occult writing. A type is a person or event that pictures a person or event in the future. without recognition that Biblical writers may sometimes propound a riddle or engage in word play. Context. The teaching of Scripture elsewhere.

God is not a high tower. He merely in some ways resembles one. The literal sense. The Bible is to be taken literally unless it is using symbols or a figure of speech. According to Henry Krabbendam. "The recognition of the historical unfolding process ensures that the meaning of any biblical text will be established in the light of previous Scripture" . That he means "previous Scripture alone" is implied by his later assertion that "the meaning of the biblical text is determined by that text as addressed to and understood by its original audience". A figure of speech is an expression implying an idea other than what is actually stated. No less than six metaphors occur in a single verse (Psa. Illegitimate Hermeneutics Fallacy: The possible sense of a passage is limited by the knowledge and capacity of the human author. 18-23). backbone of Hebrew poetry. 13:1-9. 18:2). A metaphor speaks of an equivalence when there is no more than a resemblance. The most common kind of figure in Scripture is the metaphor.allegory of the conflict between law and grace (Gal. . 4:21-31). Another type of allegory hides spiritual truth in a plain statement about something else. An important corollary follows from restricting the sense to the author's own conceptions. 9:9-10). Probably the clearest example of symbolism in Scripture is the mysterious drama in Revelation 12:1-6. Another clear example is the Parable of the Sower (Matt. Paul encourages us to see allegories in minor provisions of the Mosaic law (1 Cor.

it is obvious from the context that the beasts in Dan. the meaning transcends his finite limitations. 44:28. God is the author we need to consider when we apply the rule of authorial intent. familiar only with prior revelation. 45:1). Yet a text may also convey truth intelligible only in the light of later revelation. In other words. One outstanding example is Isaiah's ability to name Cyrus as the deliverer of Israel (Isa. the single sense permitted by the ordinary meanings of words must always be understood literally. Indeed. It is true that a text generally conveys truth in language understandable to the original readers. they augment this confusion in two ways: . Although each text is stamped by the personality and style of the human author. We reject the all-too-prevalent practice of using the NT fulfillment as an 'open sesame' for OT predictions". Reply: While no hermeneutical scholar would purge all larger meanings from the Bible (for example. "The reader will notice that we have deliberately avoided all references to using later texts. 3:16). Writers on hermeneutics do little to dispel this confusion. such as the NT in order to interpret the OT . for he is merely God's mouthpiece. . Without the New Testament.According to Walter Kaiser. students too often come away from rudimentary instruction in hermeneutics with the idea that no text has any significance beyond the literal meaning. It has always seemed obvious to believers that the New Testament offers itself as the interpreter of the Old. . 7:1-8 signify something beyond themselves). God was able to lead the human author to write about doctrine beyond his understanding and about future events beyond his historical imagination. what sense could anyone make of Moses' lifting up the pole in the wilderness or of numerous other pictures of Christ and His redemptive work? Fallacy: The literal meaning of the text is the only meaning. Reply: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim. .

will through the supply and assistance of the Spirit . and others'. ." But anyone misled by this quotation to think that Owen was on the side of modern hermeneutics should look at his introduction to James Durham's commentary on the Song of Solomon. it has no meaning at all. . They are in the habit of inveighing against multiple meanings.A. any set of meanings can be synthesized into a new meaning. . pardon the expression. This plasticity in the number of meanings wherever we look is responsible for the two . B. Like Durham. Kaiser's handling of prophecy furnishes an example of this procedure: "God gave the prophets . . Some writers mask their acceptance of multiple meanings by treating any larger meaning found in the text as a component of the single sense. lead humble and believing enquirers. the Lord Christ and his church . . . so the safe rules of attending to the true meaning of the original words. . the analogy of faith. and that word for the future". Often quoted are the following words attributed to that giant among the Puritans. John Owen. "The more general persuasion of learned men is. into such acquaintance with the mind of God. "If the Scripture has more than one meaning. that the whole is one holy declaration of that mystically spiritual communion. Therefore. . as may tend to their own. . edification". . Also. meaningless. of the future in which the recipient saw as intimate parts of one meaning the word for his own historical day with its needs . a vision . depending on how finely we divide them or how completely we join them. Yet the meaning of any abstract idea is componential. in the several particulars of it. by collation with other scriptures. . . the context of the discourse. Owen regards the Song as an allegory depicting the love between Christ and His Church. the nature of the allegorical expressions . . the question as to the number of meanings in any expression of language is ultimately. and the experience of believers in common. There are as many meanings as we wish. that is between the great Bridegroom and his Spouse. .

Bernard Ramm offers a more modest definition. Yet no man-made system of Biblical interpretation can guarantee access to the mind of God. "Hermeneutics is the science and art of Biblical interpretation" . Enthusiasts . These are often seen as reading too much into the text. But Scripture must be spiritually discerned (1 Cor. then any unregenerate reader would be able to understand Scripture as well as any believer.'" according to Krabbendam (10). Reply: No accepted definition of science can be stretched so far as to cover any form of Bible study. 2:10-16). Fallacy: Hermeneutics is a science. and to bolster the pretense that the results of hermeneutics are as assured as the results of true science. But the same God who wrote the Bible also packed many of the key numerical concepts of mathematics into the small equation e^i(pi) = -1 and all the design specifications of the human body into a single molecule of DNA. I can think of one tree in terms of its many constituent parts. of course. If it could. Johnson says. but still there is in reality only one tree. I can think of two trees as of one kind. "This science is called 'hermeneutics. "Hermeneutics is frequently defined as the science of textual interpretation of the Bible" . Either brand of philosophy is false. A student indoctrinated in the idea that Scripture has only a single sense is likely to be prejudiced against the discovery of larger meanings.main tendencies of philosophy—monism (the belief that all reality is essentially one thing) and positivism (the belief that we can have certain knowledge of nothing save fragmentary sense data). because meaning is not the same as reality. but still there are in reality two trees. Interpreting the Bible according to a set of rules is less similar to science than to baking a cake with the help of a recipe or to filling out an income tax form. The motive behind the claim that hermeneutics is a science is probably twofold: to steal a little luster from true science. Elliott E.

It undermines the basis of important Bible doctrines.for hermeneutics nevertheless claim. It was established as the preferred method of interpretation by Augustine and was dominant in Catholicism throughout the Middle Ages. moral. how many can find the full deity of Christ or the Millennium? Having masqueraded as science. revises Bible ethics. o Popes used this method to uphold papal supremacy. How many well-tutored but unbelieving Bible students can find the Trinity in the Bible? For that matter. and tightly fetters the application of practical Bible teaching.This method was used by many 2nd & 3rd century church fathers.The literal meaning of the text is either. I. or only one of many meanings. * Definition . mutes the supernatural in Bible prophecy. not the true meaning. 1 refer to the order of . attacks the accuracy of Bible history. The Allegorical Method * History . and spiritual) to correspond to man's body. The elements of each passage have a corresponding spiritual reality which is the "real" or ultimate meaning of the passage. o Origen interpreted Noah's Ark to have 3 meanings (literal. modern hermeneutics uses its stolen prestige for no good. "It must be conceded that an ignorant Christian is no match for a learned unbeliever" The best way to rebut this view is to consider specific doctrines. soul and spirit: salvation from the Flood. It is also used by amillenialists in interpreting unfulfilled prophecy. salvation of the believer from a specific sin and salvation of the church through Christ. Innocent III taught that the two great lights in Gen.

. the sun symbolized spiritual authority (i. See "Elements of Biblical Typology" by the present authors for a description of types. 4:21-31. * Why This Method Is Unacceptable o Since there is no objective standard to which the interpreter must bow. taught that the two swords held by the disciples meant that the apostles were authoritative in both the secular and spiritual kingdoms. numbers in the Bible (whether actual numbers. In numerology. Parables are usually not allegories. Boniface VIII referring to Luke 22:38. or the number of letters in names and passages) are seen to hold secret symbolic messages. It should be avoided at all times. Whose allegorical symbols are right? This question leads to the establishment of a church hierarchical authority which effectively replaces Scripture as the true locus of authority. o Allegorical interpretation is only rarely seen in scripture (Gal. the final authority ceases to be the scripture and becomes the interpreter. Thus. Types are restricted in several ways that allegories are not. There is no warrant in the Bible for this kind of interpretation.authority on earth. 10:1-4). The Literalistic Method * History .This method was used by the Jews after the Babylonian Exile. o Interpreters distinguish between types and allegories. the pope) and the moon symbolized civil authority (the emperor). I Cor. It is also used by extreme fundamentalists and many cults .e. II. When would allegorical interpretation be allowable? o An even more extreme example of this kind of overinterpretation is numerology.

1:15 to prove that Christ was a created being. The Naturalistic Method * History . 91:1-4. Any deviation from this rule is regarded as sacrilegious." etc. But "first. It is used by old-line liberal theology as their basic hermeneutic." "hand.e. see Ps.This system arose during the Enlightenment (18th century). o Mormonism teaches that God has a body because of references to God's "eye. III. and unlivable (i. However. * Definition . Jehovah's Witnesses. Lk. 22:19 leads to the doctrine of transubstantiation. etc.Every word is taken absolutely literally including figures of speech and symbolism. * Why This Method Is Unacceptable o Subscribers always use it selectively (see the above examples).born" was also used to refer to the inheritor of the family estate (Num. 14:26).. Mormons. However. 21:15-17).). contradictory. does this also mean that Christ is a door (Jn. o It makes scripture unintelligible.(Children of God. 7)? o Jehovah's Witnesses use Col. Does this mean He also has feathers and wings? o Roman Catholic interpretation of Lk. . Historical background is considered unnecessary and ignored.

o The attempt to separate the historical from the "legendary" has been proven to be impossible. o The goal is to rediscover the "true record" (i. Its founders. o Miracles are rejected as primitive explanations or myths. at that time. Neo-Orthodox Interpretation * History . When it does so.Neo Orthodox theology arose after World War I which shattered the optimism of liberal theologians..e.Neo-orthodoxy takes an approach to theology that places the religious experience of the interpreter in the center.* Definition . The Bible is important for stimulating such an experience. Friedrich Schleiermacher and Karl Barth. Neo- . or the "strata" in the Pentateuch) within the legendary accounts of the Bible. Scripture becomes intelligible only as ancient man's attempt to explain nature. It also assumes that religion has evolved through several stages which can be used to date the material in the Bible. the universe is a closed system of cause and effect) is the standard by which scripture must be interpreted. * Why This Method Is Unacceptable o It makes an unproved world-view the final authority. * Definition . it "becomes the word of God" for that reader. the "historical" Jesus.The naturalistic world-view (i.e. began a movement which dominates both Catholic and Protestant theology today. IV.

Of course. but feel that these do not affect the reader's ability to encounter God through it. our experience of his "resurrection" is superfluous (I Cor. we too are amazed to find that He has risen in our hearts. * Why This Method Is Unacceptable o The separation of "truth" or "encounter with Jesus" from the factual content of scripture lowers the Bible to the same level as any other book about religion. as we see the amazement of the disciples when they behold the resurrected Christ.This method grew out of the post-Reformation as a reaction against sterile creedalism. o The criticisms of the naturalistic school also apply. This is the system unconsciously .orthodox theologians are generally willing to accept the conclusions of the naturalistic theologians regarding errors in the Bible. o Unless Christ was physically raised from the dead. we can enter into the same sense of rapture. Thus. Devotional Interpretation * History . Thus the Neo-orthodox theologian can declare. "He is risen!" o Neo orthodox theologians routinely refer to miraculous events as though they were history. V. o Through seeing the wonder and rapture of the disciples as they behold the "miracles" of Christ. when they actually believe that the experience of the authors rather than the events themselves that are historical. whether Christ actually did rise from the dead is not important. 15:12-19).

o Extremists use Col. 8:6 to support the necessity of "brokenness" in the Christian life. historical background. and other important interpretive principles. Ideological Interpretation * History . Jn. VI. o Watchman Nee uses Mk. and 2) We have no way to read his mind and thus know his intentions.The "New Criticism" advanced in the 1940's began to focus on text and reader rather than on the author. o While the goals of this approach to Scripture are commendable. 3:15 to support being led by the Holy Spirit on the basis of feelings. It tends to ignore context.Ideological interpreters approach the Bible looking for material relevant to their ideology.used by most Christians today. They usually are open about . * Why This Method Is Unacceptable o Devotional interpretation can easily lead to uncontrolled allegorizing and inaccurate interpretation through eisogesis. Jn. 12:3. * Definition .The devotional method focuses almost exclusively on what is personally applicable and edifying. 3:30 & Mk. * Definition . The author has no more authority over the meaning of the text than anyone else because: 1) He didn't realize his own bias at the time he wrote. a critical analysis of the text has to precede the devotional question. 14:3.

Postmodern readers see the Bible. Most ideological readers also entertain a reader-centered hermeneutic. o Feminist Theology . but as a tool used for exploitation. Tends to interpret redemptive language in terms of economics and political power. not as teaching liberation.seeks to study women in the Bible. The authors of Scripture sought to legitimize the status quo of society by teaching people to obey their authorities. because the text . In general. including God as "she. These rules introduce objectivity to the interpretive process.seeks to show that the true intent of God in the Bible is to teach that poor and oppressed classes should be liberated from their oppression by the love of God. They also sought to justify aggrandizement of the state of Israel and the subjugation of neighboring peoples.the fact that they have an agenda. and usually claim they are correcting oversights from earlier years by focusing on their area of interest. 1:20ff. Some advance gender-neutral language in translation. and to demonstrate that the more enlightened speakers in Scripture were anti-patriarchy. They are skeptical about ever knowing what the author intended to say. * Why This Method Is Unacceptable o Most systems seek to decrease reader bias through the application of rules. o Marxist or Liberation Theology . Ideological and reader-centered methods hold that objectivity is never possible. and focus instead on how the text affects the modern reader. their studies are intended to explode the myth of patriarchy and to uncover cruelty to women. They see class struggle in much of the conflict in the Bible." sometimes based on lady wisdom Prov. o Deconstruction . The Bible is propaganda intended to show why patriarchy is appropriate. according to traditional methods.

why are there so many different interpretations of what He supposedly said?" Those who accept the Bible as the Word of God believe that God has spoken to us unambiguously. . http://www.org/essays/hermsys. but they hold that in this they are no different than other approaches except that they are more honest and less naive. the uncertainty of language means modern readers might as well supply their own interpretation.the meaning God intended when He "breathed" His word into the human author.htm Rightly Divided Skeptics often ask me. because such faith fails to take into account the arbitrary nature of language and the social forces which distort people's (both readers and author's) view of the world. To hold to such a thing as a "true" or "real" interpretation is naive. leaving the reader in authority. o Consequently. o The reader is not under the authority of Scripture. "If the Bible is God's Word. because we will never know what the "true" interpretation should be.xenos. reader-centered theories are openly biased. We believe that there is only one "right" interpretation of any given Biblical passage . The first act of interpretation was the author's decision about what to include and what to exclude in his text.was never objective in the first place. Also. Scripture is pressed into the ideological mold of the reader.

The Apostle Paul enjoins us to "be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed.If this view is correct. That is.the one the author (through inspiration of the Holy Spirit) intended. there must be only one that is valid. How. while a particular passage may have many applications. while avoiding error to the greatest degree possible. Proper hermeneutics provide us tools to help ensure that we are basing our interpretations on the truth as God has revealed it. Biblical hermeneutics is the science that teaches the principles and methods of interpreting the Word of God. A short bibliography and links to resources for additional research are provided at the end of this paper.seeks to provide a methodology to answer that question. .in all it's varied "schools" . it follows that of the many "different interpretations" skeptics refer to. then may we determine the proper interpretation of Scripture? The science of Biblical Hermeneutics . The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief introduction to some basic hermeneutical principles .principles that we strive to adhere to in the commentaries on this website. accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). it must have only one meaning . Using sound hermeneutic principles is not optional for the true disciple of Christ.

it would be a grave error to conclude that all Scripture is obscure or that it requires years of study to adequately interpret it. We must therefore admit that not all parts of Scripture are able to be easily understood.directly and indirectly . . does not say the difficult passages in Paul's letters are impossible to understand . Indeed.only "hard. regardless of their education or mental acumen. and when you rise" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 RSV). and shall talk of them when you sit in your house." Moses tells the people of Israel: And these words I command you this day shall be upon your heart. may read and understand its pages. However. The Bible itself . and when you lie down. and when you walk by the way.proclaims that it is written in such a way that believers. and you shall teach them diligently to your children.The Bible Affirms its Own Clarity The Apostle Peter reminded his readers that some things in the writings of the Apostle Paul are "hard to understand" (2 Peter 3:1516). Peter himself in the passage just quoted.

press this verse as proof against individual interpretation by ordinary believers. Some may wish to introduce 2 Peter 1:20 at this point: "No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation" (NIV). and if they were to discuss them on a regular basis. He says that his readers may be even more sure of Christ's exaltation because they have the "prophetic word" (verse 19) . They would have to. it is the creation of Scripture that is in view here. The New Testament writers often state it is the moral state of the . The Psalmist says: "The unfolding of your words gives light. but rather was the very Word of God Himself:: "no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will.The clear implication is that all the people of Israel were able to understand Moses' words clearly.is not a matter of the prophet's own "interpretation" of what God intended. The prophecy of Scripture . if they were to teach these words to their children. but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (verse 21). This should be a great encouragement to all believers . even beyond a divine vision such as Peter was graced to see. it imparts understanding to the simple" (Psalms 119:130 RSV). Those who advocate that proper interpretation of Scripture is the sole province of the Church.that is. written Scripture. The context if this verse argues against such a view. it must first be understandable by them.for if the "simple" (those who lack intellectual ability and sound judgment) can be made wise by God's Word. not the subsequent interpretation of it.the declaring forth and recording of God's Word . He then explains why they may be more sure. which confirmed for those present the exalted status of the Son of God. Peter has just made reference to the Transfiguration. or an anointed class of specially gifted leaders. Thus.

It is helpful to keep in mind that Paul's letters were read to the entire church . customs.to all present. 4:3-4. culture.by unbelievers who read it sincerely seeking salvation. Hebrews 5:14. etc. and language are diverse and removed from our culture and way of life.). 2 Corinthians 3:14-16.reader. James 1:5-6. even Greeks with little understanding of Jewish culture and unbelievers.the post-Modern Western culture . that prevents clear understanding of Scripture (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14.is vastly different from that of the authors of Scripture." The Biblical writer’s history. we will sometimes find deep differences in what we take to be "givens" in a specific area of knowledge and what the Biblical writers took as their "givens. This is because in both cases the Holy Spirit combats the influence of sin which otherwise would make the wisdom of God appear obtuse to the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14). not the intellectual state. Cultural / Historical Perspective When attempting to interpret Scripture.the ancient Jewish or "Semitic" culture of the near East. environment. it is important to remember that the Bible was written in a specific culture . We will find that great gaps exist between eastern and western . and by believers who read it seeking God's help in understanding it. Paul affirms the clarity of his words to the church at Corinth: "We write you nothing but what you can read and understand" (2 Corinthians 1:13).. Our culture . Scripture is able to be understood by all .

Many in the New Testament churches did not understand the Hebrew of the Old Testament. and meditate upon God's Word (cf. We. Paul is writing to Timothy who was apparently gifted as a teacher.. Does this mean that we may safely ignore the cultural. and certainly the Holy Spirit provides the church gifted teachers to help us better understand God's Word. study. geographically. Paul describes the one who "rightly divides" the Word of Truth as a "workman. . Proverbs 4:2. 1 Timothy 4:13. therefore we need some help in bridging these gaps. historical.culture. yet the Apostles expected them to understand the truth of the Old Testament scriptures when translated into Greek. we believe God's Word to be universal in meaning and application. We believe the Holy Spirit will reveal all truth to us. The Holy Spirit inspired the Biblical authors and illuminates God's Word to those who earnestly seek its truth." thus proper interpretation comes through effort. as westerners. any more than we may rely on the Holy Spirit to teach us to speak or read or use logic. Psalm 1:1-3) .and this can only be done if we are prepared to be "workmen" and to test the things our teachers teach us against the pure measure of Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:21). particularly with regard to the Bible. historically and especially by language. but interpretation is properly the responsibility of individual Christians. but Scripture is quite clear that we are all to read. and language differences between us and the Biblical writer? I don't believe it does. will find ourselves separated from the Bible culturally. On the other hand.

it is impossible for anyone to demonstrate that I have wrongly divided the Word. if I say that the Holy Spirit provided me with the interpretation. or if there were subtle differences that may affect our interpretation. This interpretation. The "truth" I have arrived at is self-contained and ultimately incommunicable to you. This hermeneutic methodology (or really lack of methodology) provides ample opportunity for me to twist Scripture to my own destruction. The noble-minded Bereans in Acts 17 diligently searched the Scriptures. That is. we will may wonder if our two experiences really were identical. It may be helpful at this point to consider the definition of some terms and concepts that pertain to hermeneutics.. or the view that one's own. seeking to learn if the Gospel Paul was preaching to them was true. or my interpretation.") renders the interpretation non-falsifiable. and to that of any others who would follow my interpretation (2 Peter 3:16).. and even then. We may be certain that they held a common view an "orthodox" interpretation of the Scriptures they read . The view that all one must do is pray and read the Bible. idiosyncratic interpretation of Scripture is just as valid as that any other ("what this text means to me. and the Holy Spirit will provide the proper interpretation..by which they measured what Paul was saying.What This Text Means to Me. if contemporary Rabbinic writings are any measure.. You will have to "experience" the same personal revelation. was a careful application of principles like the ones we shall be considering. .

God ensures that His revelation is recorded accurately and without error. . to soften the heart. Illumination. Illumination The act of the Holy Spirit to convict the reader of the truth of Scripture and lead the reader to an "extra-exegetical" understanding of the general truth of God's Word. and Interpretation Revelation The act of God the Holy Spirit unveiling or uncovering truths that man through his own intellect. By "extraexegetical.Some Definitions: Revelation. vocabulary. experience. I use the term "superintending" to indicate that God uses the personality. not dictation." I don't mean to imply that the Holy Spirit is not involved in the process of exegesis (the interpretation of a given passage). The Holy Spirit helps us to know that what we are reading is indeed God's Word. but that illumination is properly understood to be an aspect of the convicting role of the Spirit. and investigation cannot discover for himself. and writing style of the author. Inspiration. God speaks to us through His written Word. By superintending the Biblical authors. Inspiration The act of the Holy Spirit superintending the writing of the truths that God wants man to know. Inspiration is divine guidance.. reason.

convicted of these general truths. have developed a number of different principles and methodologies. particularly the Old Testament. . humans being the way we are. But. people have recognized the value in using principles for interpretation. as being symbolic rather than literal. Here's a brief summary of the more popular hermeneutic "schools:" The Allegorical Schools of Interpretation This method of interpretation developed among the Helenized Jews and Christians who were strongly influenced by Platonic philosophies. applies hermeneutic principles to arrive at the proper meaning of specific passages. The Holy Spirit reveals general truths about God. the student.Interpretation The prayerful application of Scriptural principles by which the illuminated student of God's Word comes to an understanding of Scripture that corresponds as closely as humanly possible to the inspired meaning. Clement of Alexandria and Origen are two early church "fathers" who viewed Scripture. Schools of Biblical Interpretation Through the centuries.

This method of interpretation was rejected by all of the Reformers. The Devotional Schools of Interpretation The devotional schools emphasize the edifying aspects of the scriptures and their interpretation. such as the Book of Revelation. the manna in the wilderness. For example. Luther called it a scourge. the Catholic Church views the bread and wine of Melchizedek in the Book of Genesis. but argued instead that allegorical or symbolic passages were contained in clearly defined contexts. That is not to say that the Reformers rejected all allegorical interpretations. Those holding to the principles of the Reformation generally regard this method of interpretation as undermining the power and impact of the literal Word. as allegorical "types" of the Catholic Mass. and the oil in the diet of Elijah.The allegorical school teaches that beneath each verse of scripture (beneath the obvious) is the "real" meaning of the passage. Calvin called it Satanic. . The Roman Catholic Church allegorizes some passages of Scripture. Hidden in each sentence or statement is a symbolic spiritual meaning. with the goal of developing one's spiritual life.

Liberal theologians do not accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God and reject the verbal inspiration of the Bible. is unable to prove anything with certainty. when extrapolated to it's logical conclusion. which. . however. This is not the place to provide a thorough critique of liberalism in Bible Studies and its various critical methods (Source. Relativism is the inevitable result. figures of speech or fables of allegories do not admit to being of a literal interpretation.). let alone one's preferred liberal interpretation. one own intellect becomes the determining factor in questions of truth. The Bible is said to be useful for devotion and prayer. etc. Critics of the devotional school argue that while the Bible is uniquely able to spiritually edify and is the primary means by which God conforms us to the image of His Son. For instance. Form. this school's methodology can lead to idiosyncratic interpretations which have little to do with the truth of Scripture. The Literal Schools of Interpretation The literal method of interpreting the Bible is to accept the literal rendering of each sentence unless by virtue of the nature of the sentence or phrase or a clause within the sentence renders it impossible. but need not be studied. I note here. The Liberal Schools of Interpretation Theological liberalism is prevalent today.This method often advocated the reading of the scriptures as a means of obtaining a mystical experience. that once one abandons the verbal inspiration of the Bible. Historical Critical.

they interpret those passages literally. this is only school of interpretation that I believe has a Biblical basis. we have Biblical and extra-Biblical evidence that in the earliest days of Christianity. The Principles of Biblical Interpretation There are certain principles that will help us to accurately handle the Word of Truth. unless the context clearly militated against it. In case you haven't guessed. it is the foundation of the hermeneutical principles I attempt to follow in my own study of God's Word. These principles are embedded in the scripture . Thus. and Justin Martyr) indicate that they took Scripture literally. When the New Testament writers refer to the Old Testament scriptures. and as such.The spirit of literal interpretation is that we should be satisfied with the literal interpretation of a text unless very substantial reasons can be given for advancing beyond the literal meaning. Ireneaus. The writings of the earliest Church Fathers (Ignatius of Antioch. a literal interpretation of Scripture was displayed.

The . The Word of God is a perfect unit. Carson means the abuse of a single verse or phrase taken out of context to "prove" a particular view. meaning." of course. The Bible interprets itself (scripture interprets scripture). Principle #2: The Contextual Principle D. We generally take everyday things in life as literal or at face value. take every word at its primary. This is a common sense approach. Carson has been quoted as saying. unless the facts of the immediate context.” Therefore. which means to “weave.” The context is that which accompanies the text. The word "text" is derived from the Latin word." By "proof text. clearly indicate otherwise. The golden rule of interpretation is: “When the plain sense of the scripture makes common sense. seek no other sense.A. thus the literal meaning is foundational to any symbolic or allegorical meaning. usual. Even symbols and allegories in the Bible are based on the literal meaning of the scripture. We do not need to go beyond the boundaries of the Bible to discover these laws and maxims that are used to determine the meaning of scripture. Principle #1: The Literal Interpretation Principle We take the Bible at face value.itself. "A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text. studied in the light of related passages and fundamental truths.

or somewhere else in the Bible. Therefore. It was a long and progressive process." There are two essential 'rules' for applying this principle: 1) The context of the two passages must be the same.not the other way around! Principle #4: The Progressive Revelation Principle The Word of God is to be understood from the Old Testament to the New Testament as a flower unfolding its petals to the morning sun. we must take into account the then-current state of revelation to properly understand a particular passage. and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. God initiated revelation. and 2) The plain passage must be used to guide our interpretation of a less clear passage . This principle is best illustrated by what is known as "topical Bible study. a perfect unity. We must look and consider the verses immediately before. an interpretation of a passage in Genesis which assumed a fully delineated view of the "new Covenant" would not be sound. after. For example. ambiguous passage. As the saying goes. “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. Principle #3: The Scripture Interprets Scripture Principle We may rest assured that God did not reveal an important doctrine in a single.scriptures cannot be broken.” . and around the passage.either in the immediate context. but He did not reveal His truths all at one time. The Bible must be interpreted within the framework of the Bible. they all hang together. All essential doctrines are fully and clearly explained . We must consider the book of the Bible and the section of the Bible in which the passage occurs.

The truths of God made contact with the human mind at a common point.g.. The Christian presupposes the inerrancy and harmony of Scripture as a necessary result of a perfect Creator God revealing Himself perfectly to Mankind. Psalms 17:8). The Bible was written in three languages: Hebrew. although that verse may have many applications. and Greek. God does not have feathers and wings (e. The Bible was also created in space. Principle #7: The Harmony of Scripture Principle No part of the Bible may be interpreted so as to contradict another part of the Bible. to make God (and. nor is He our literal Father in the same sense our earthly father is. We must be careful. Aramaic. Principle #6: The One Interpretation Principle Every verse in the Bible has only one interpretation. the Bible. then. indeed. not to push accommodating language about God and His nature to literal extremes. The key . in time.Principle #5: The Accommodation Principle The Bible is to be interpreted in view of the fact that it is an accommodation of Divine truths to human minds: God the infinite communicating with man the finite. all of reality) knowable. and in history so that man could understand it. The one correct interpretation is that which mirrors the intent of the inspired author. Proper application of hermeneutical principles will resolve apparent conflicts.

Are we dealing with poetry or prose? Are we dealing with history or prophecy? It is important that when we interpret the Word of God. Proper interpretation must take the general literary category of any given passage into consideration.here.the genre of the Pentateuch of Moses .Biography and History The Epistles . we understand as much as possible the author's intent.Poetry Proverbs .Teaching and Doctrine ." for exegetical fallacies can easily result from a zealous but ill-informed attempt to "save" Scripture from an apparent contradiction. unless a variety of contextual markers compelled us to do so.Wise Sayings Isaiah . Principle #8: The Genre Principle Genre is a literary term having to do with the category or "genus" of literature under consideration. of course.it would not be proper to interpret a single reference (such as the speech of Balaam's ***) as a poetic personification.History and Prophecy The Gospels . is the word "proper. if the author is writing history . Here are some books of the Bible and their respective genres: Psalms . For example.

detailed exegetical commentaries . Principle #10: The Historical Background Principle The Bible was composed in a specific culture at a particular point in time. While we have several highly accurate translations of the Bible in English.that can provide a deeper understanding of crucial passages. when Jesus is called "the first fruits" (1 Corinthians 15:20). all translation involves a certain amount of interpretation on the part of the translator. While they are universal in application.Eschatology and Prophecy Principle #9: The Grammatical Principle The Bible was originally written in three languages: Hebrew.Revelation . the truths in the Bible can most fully be realized only when taking the surrounding culture and history into account. we may have some understanding of this title from the Old Testament. There are a number of tools available . This doesn't mean that every student of the Bible must learn Hebrew or Greek. Thus. Aramaic. but a study of Jewish religious practice in the first century can provide a deeper understanding of why Paul chose this title in this passage. grammar. Bible dictionaries." .lexicons. For example. the study of word meanings. and Greek. as opposed to another title with the same general meaning of "first. and syntax of the original languages is important for a proper understanding of Scripture.

Fortunately. It is solidly in the "literal schools" of interpretation. As its name implies. The phrase "at the right hand" was a figurative expression in Semitic cultures in Biblical times. signifying a position of authority. such as Jesus "sitting at the right hand of the Father. Some. take figurative language. this method of interpretation focuses attention not only on literary forms but upon grammatical constructions and historical contexts out of which the Scriptures were written. each of the principles of interpretation we have considered may be abused in various ways." few would take Him literally. the remedy for the resulting misinterpretation is generally as simple as recognizing which principle has been abused and the proper reapplication of that principle to the passage in question." to mean that the Father has a literal right hand (and thus. however. Some Common Exegetical Fallacies Unfortunately. a physical body). and is the hermeneutical methodology embraced by virtually all evangelical Protestant exegetes and scholars. Here are some common exegetical fallacies resulting from the misuse of hermeneutic principles.The Grammatico-Historical Method The exegetical commentaries on this website generally follow the "Grammatico-Historical" method of interpretation. Taking Figurative Language Literally When Jesus says that He is the "door. It embraces each of the ten principles enumerated above. .

Allowing the Implicit to Explain the Explicit Jesus is called "firstborn" on several occasions in the New Testament. Non-Trinitarians argue that we should interpret these verses in light of Jesus as "the firstborn. any more than the Great Commission is limited to the disciples who heard Jesus speak it. In Colossians 1:15. but rather that we approach it as we would any other book. which state that the Son pre-existed all things. some would suggest that Jehovah is really saying that He knows of no idols who are real gods . poetic personifications. and other figures of speech into account in our interpretation.It did not mean that the one exalted literally sat next to the one doing the exalting. Trinitarians point to verses like John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16. Jehovah says He knows of no other gods.but leaves open the possibility of other subordinate gods who are not idols." Trinitarians argue that the ." Thus. Since Jehovah is here engaging in a polemic against idol-worship. there is no warrant for taking an absolute statement and confining it to immediate context. The Literal Interpretation Principle does not mean that we woodenly take every word in the Bible literally. but this context does not limit His statement." Many nonTrinitarians see in these verses evidence that the Son of God was a created being . While we must safeguard against taking words or phrases out of context. hyperbole. taking figurative phrases.the first creation of Jehovah. He says this in the context of chastising those who worship idols. "all things" must mean "all other things. He is called the "firstborn of all creation. Over-Contextualizing Some view Jehovah's declaration that He does not "know" of any other gods in Isaiah 44:8 as limited to the immediate context.

1 Timothy 2:5. and thus may accommodate new or revised doctrines for the modern era. When contradictions between these "revelations" and the Bible are pressed.). God says in Hosea 11:9 that He is not man. and not the other way around. believe these verses present an apparent contradiction. The term translated "firstborn" has a figurative as well as a literal connotation. explicitly state that the Son existed before all things."firstborn" passages must be viewed in light of John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16. John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16. etc. 20:28. but He does not contradict Himself. on the other hand. so long as clarity explains ambiguity. It also calls Him God (John 1:1.is not a sound interpretive principle. and thus must be a figurative title. God may have chosen to reveal Himself gradually to humanity. NonTrinitarians that hold to the principle of the harmony of Scripture. Some. etc. Scripture indeed interprets Scripture. But progressive revelation may never be used to overthrow the principle of the harmony of Scripture. Harmonization by Denial The Bible declares that Jesus was a man (John 1:14. and thus they believe that it implies the creation of the Son in some fashion. Allowing the implicit to explain the explicit the possible to explain the certain . believe that this modern day revelation has produced new scriptures. non-Trinitarians typically do not believe that the Son of God was literally born. like Latter Day Saints.). these groups often respond that God's revelation is progressive. and indeed that all things came into existence through Him. . Even if taken literally. and they resolve this contradiction by denying the fully Deity of Christ. Modern Day Revelation Some groups claim that God continues to reveal Himself in various ways to an elite cadre of spiritually mature and/or gifted individuals.

. some genres such as "proverbs" . pp. For example. and such exegesis depends in no small part on the proper understanding of genre.A. Carson notes." (Exegetical Fallacies. Proverbs 23:3-4 seem to offer contradictory advice: "Do not answer a fool according to his folly . If we truly believe in the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16).offers some considerable challenge. 137138). Thus. Problems Relating to Literary Genre To properly take genre into consideration. or they argue that He must be a lesser divinity and not true God. However. to deny what Scripture affirms both explicitly and implicitly is not a sound hermeneutical methodology. this is not difficult. However. our Christology) in such a way that Scripture is harmonized by complete affirmation of its teaching. as D. we should allow Scripture to shape our theology (or. Answer a fool according to his folly. when Scripture tells us the Christ is both Man and God.. Careful exegesis is necessary to resolve this and other apparent contradictions. Misunderstanding Proper Application of Grammar A wide range of fallacies can result from a misunderstanding or misuse of grammatical. tools. In most cases. we should allow these truths to shape our view of Christ's nature. in this case. a simplistic approach to "word .those who approach the book of Proverbs in this fashion are likely to be disappointed when the expected promise is not fulfilled. It is certainly exegetically valid to deny what Scripture does not explicitly or implicitly affirm. Further. rather than deny one or the other. we must first understand the genre in its historical context.They either favor grammatical arguments that remove the attribution of "God" to Jesus. A proverb is not a promise .

by the 1st Century. we must be careful to use them as a part of an overall methodology that takes all aspects of the text . they soon become intertwined with the interpretation of other passages to such a degree that it is difficult to separate the theoretical . and a careful examination of the older lexicons reveals that they were dependent on classical Greek texts. Jehovah's Witnesses." which is why the majority of English translations render kolasis this way. not texts contemporary with the New Testament." The NWT translates kolasis as "cutting off. The interpretations of the New Testament offered by scholars such as those in the Jesus Seminar depend largely on theoretical reconstructions of various "communities" in the early years of the Christian Church. While the reconstructions may originate from deductions based on certain passages of Scripture. While word studies are important to proper interpretation.studies" can produce a number of problematic interpretations. defend the rendering of the Greek word kolasis in Matthew 25:46 found in their New World Translation (NWT) with what may be termed an "etymological fallacy. Some Witnesses may cite older lexicons in favor of the NWT translation." While kolasis originally had this meaning in classical Greek times. Witnesses confuse the original meaning of kolasis with the common meaning in the contemporary setting. Historical Fabrication The reconstruction of Biblical history presents a whole host of opportunities for interpretive fallacies. for example.including then-current word usage into account. but no modern lexicon provides "cutting off" as a valid translation of any 1st Century text. A common misuse of lexicons or Bible dictionaries is to assume that the "literal" or "original" meaning of a word pertains in a given context. kolasis had taken on the meaning "punishment.

Inaugural *Viri validis cum viribus luctant. Rhetorical Terms with Examples Alliteration: repetition of the same sound beginning several words in sequence. but it is a fallacy to think that speculative reconstruction has any force in informing our interpretation of Scripture. This fallacious approach to Scripture is true whether the reconstruction in question is the result of liberal Historical Criticism run amok. Ennius *Veni. The problem is that we have almost no access to the history of 1st Century beliefs outside the New Testament. vici. Some speculation based on extracanonical texts is certainly possible. *Let us go forth to lead the land we love. vidi. Julius Caesar . J. F. or the superficial attempts by Non-Trinitarians to portray "Biblical Monotheism" as anything but monothesim. Kennedy.reconstruction from the interpretation.

Cicero. we shall defend our island. Vivit? Immo vero etiam in senatum venit. In Catilinam . hic tamen vivit. *We shall not flag or fail. Cicero. quod non ego non modo audiam. clauses or lines. We shall never surrender. Churchill. *Nihil agis. We shall go on to the end. Francis Bacon *Senatus haec intellegit. *Agreements entered into when one state of facts exists -. we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. we shall fight in the hills. we shall fight in the fields and in the streets. whatever the cost may be. consul videt. we shall fight on the beaches. we shall fight on the landing grounds. servants of fame. *Men in great place are thrice servants: servants of the sovereign or state.133 Anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases. We shall fight in France.Anacoluthon: lack of grammatical sequence. specifically. nihil moliris. and servants of business. sed etiam videam planeque sentiam. a change in the grammatical construction within the same sentence.are they to be maintained regardless of changing conditions? J. we shall fight on the seas and oceans. In Catilinam *Aeschines 3. nihil cogitas. Diefenbaker Anadiplosis: ("doubling back") the rhetorical repetition of one or several words. repetition of a word that ends one clause at the beginning of the next.

or contrast of ideas or words in a balanced or parallel construction. Hitler invaded Poland -. . the ship moved on. Anastrophe is a form of hyperbaton. most often found in Latin in the case of prepositions and the words they control. In 1939. Hitler occupied Austria -. *In 1931. On the Crown 13 Antistrophe: repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive clauses. On the Crown 48 Anastrophe: transposition of normal word order. Against Eratosthenes 21 *Demosthenes. Cicero *Demosthenes.without warning. Italy invaded Ethiopia -.without warning.*Lysias. Roosevelt *Aeschines.without warning. Franklin D. yet never a breeze up blew.and the United States --without warning. Coleridge. ten years ago. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner *Isdem in oppidis.without warning. In 1935. *The helmsman steered. Against Ctesiphon 198 Antithesis: opposition.without warning. Later in 1939. In 1938. And now Japan has attacked Malaya and Thailand -. Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia -. Japan invaded Manchukuo -.

Olynthiac 2.26 Aporia: expression of doubt (often feigned) by which a speaker appears uncertain as to what he should think. or do. *Demosthenes. *Then the steward said within himself. . On the Crown 129 Aposiopesis: a form of ellipse by which a speaker comes to an abrupt halt.) or modesty. Julius Caesar *The vases of the classical period are but the reflection of classical beauty. the vases of the archaic period are beauty itself. etc.*Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Barry Goldwater *Brutus: Not that I loved Caesar less. say." Sir John Beazley *Demosthenes. Shakespeare. On the Crown 3 Apostrophe: a sudden turn from the general audience to address a specific group or person or personified abstraction absent or present. but that I loved Rome more. seemingly overcome by passion (fear. excitement. moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. 'What shall I do?' Luke 16 *Demosthenes.

thy will be done. Lincoln.*For Brutus. *We shall pay any price. or words. de consulatu Asyndeton: lack of conjunctions between coordinate phrases. we cannot hallow this ground. T. in a larger sense. O you gods. meet any hardships. Judge. *Pipit sate upright in her chair Some distance from where I was sitting. how dearly Caesar loved him. Julius Caesar Archaism: use of an older or obsolete form. S. bear any burden. *Thy kingdom come. F. as you know. oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. *O fortunatam natam me consule Romam! Cicero. Eliot. Inaugural *But. Kennedy. clauses. we cannot dedicate. we cannot consecrate. Gettysburg Address *Demosthenes. Shakespeare. On the Crown 200 . J. "A Cooking Egg" Assonance: repetition of the same sound in words close to each other. support any friend. was Caesar's angel.

MacArthur. Ellipse is often used synonymously. *We want no parlay with you and your grisly gang who work your wicked will. from shape of the Greek letter chi (X). *Aeolus haec contra: Vergil. Churchill *O Tite tute Tati tibi tanta tyranne tulisti! Ennius Catachresis: a harsh metaphor involving the use of a word beyond its strict sphere. *Those gallant men will remain often in my thoughts and in my prayers always. W. The suppressed word or phrase can usually be supplied easily from the surrounding context. Propertius I. but with thirsty ear.Brachylogy: a general term for abbreviated or condensed expression. *I listen vainly.1.1 Cacophony: harsh joining of sounds. MacArthur .1 Chiasmus: two corresponding pairs arranged not in parallels (a-ba-b) but in inverted order (a-b-b-a). Farewell Address *Cynthia prima suis miserum me cepit ocellis. Tacitus. Annales I. non Sullae longa dominatio. of which asyndeton and zeugma are types. Aeneid *Non Cinnae.

or clauses in an order of ascending power. come to inform her that unfortunately something has . phrases. non ad mortem rapi. but strong in will To strive. Cicero.a wife in this situation finds herself staring at the front door as if she no longer owns it or controls it--and outside the door would be a man. and in council skill'd. *When the final news came.*Renown'd for conquest. Ulysses *Nonne hunc in vincula duci. non summo supplicio mactari imperabis? Cicero. Republic 494e Climax: arrangement of words. there would be a ring at the front door -. *One equal temper of heroic hearts. and not to yield. In Catilinam *Facinus est vincere civem Romanum. On the Crown 179 Euphemism: substitution of an agreeable or at least non-offensive expression for one whose plainer meaning might be harsh or unpleasant. Addison et pacis ornamenta et subsidia belli. scelus verberare... Made weak by time and fate. Pro lege Manilia *Plato. Often the last emphatic word in one phrase or clause is repeated as the first emphatic word of the next. Tennyson. to find. Cicero. prope parricidium necare: quid dicam in crucem tollere? verbo satis digno tam nefaria res appellari nullo modo potest. In Verrem *Demosthenes. to seek.

not to mention all the clothing. has been reduced to a charred hulk with wings and shanks sticking out of it. this ornamentum of some mother's eye. grammatical agreement of a word with another word which it does not logically qualify. burned a blackish brown all over. in a word. His Majesty the Baby of just twenty-odd years back. "burned beyond recognition. Cicero. with what remains of the arms and legs bent at the knees and elbows and burned into absolutely rigid angles. greasy and blistered. gentleman. More common in poetry.30 . fried. *It sure is nice and cool today! (for "pleasantly cool") *I love the Lord. to express a single complex idea. officer. so that this husband. burned a greasy blackish brown like the bursting body itself. Odes III. De oratore Hypallage: ("exchanging") transferred epithet. Psalms 116 *Perfecti oratoris moderatione et sapientia. father. because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Tom Wolfe. The Right Stuff Hendiadys: use of two words connected by a conjunction. Horace. but also the hands and feet. *Exegi monumentum aere perennius regalique situ pyramidum altius. instead of subordinating one to the other. and her husband's body now lies incinerated in the swamps or the pines or the palmetto grass." which anyone who had been around an air base very long (fortunately Jane had not) realized was quite an artful euphemism to describe a human body that now looked like an enormous fowl that has burned up in a stove. with not only the entire face and all the hair and the ears burned off.happened out there.

Andrew Marvell." West Side Story lyric by Stephen Sondheim (submitted per litteram by guest rhetorician Anthony Scelba) . dein secunda centum. 165 Hyperbole: exaggeration for emphasis or for rhetorical effect. Smoke on your pipe and put that in. *Speluncam Dido dux et Troianus eandem Vergil. and more slow. "To His Coy Mistress" *Da mi basia mille.from the song "America. to his. often to emphasize the first of the separated words or to create a certain image. is considered the more important. deinde centum. Catullus. *"I like the island Manhattan. *My vegetable love should grow Vaster than empires. Dein mille altera. But thirty thousand to the rest.Hyperbaton: separation of words which belong together. Aeneid 4. though later in time. Hysteron Proteron ("later-earlier"): inversion of the natural sequence of events. often meant to stress the event which. Two hundred to adore each breast." -.124. deinde centum. Deinde usque altera mille. An hundred years should got to praise Thine eyes and on thine forehead gaze.

by denying the contrary of the thing being affirmed. Cicero. Julius Caesar Litotes: understatement.) *A few unannounced quizzes are not inconceivable. *Yet Brutus says he was ambitious. *War is not healthy for children and other living things. Shakespeare. (Sometimes used synonymously with meiosis. *Life's but a walking shadow. the words say one thing but mean another. a poor player. but in one analogous to it. for intensification. the word is used not in its literal sense. In Catilinam Irony: expression of something which is contrary to the intended meaning. And Brutus is an honourable man. Macbeth . That struts and frets his hour upon the stage.*Put on your shoes and socks! *Hannibal in Africam redire atque Italia decedere coactus est. *One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day. (meiosis) Metaphor: implied comparison achieved through a figurative use of words. Shakespeare.

*I must be cruel only to be kind. . Churchill Metonymy: substitution of one word for another which it suggests. Onomatopoeia: use of words to imitate natural sounds.*. Shakespeare. while he learned the language (that meager and fragile thread . . Absalom. *By the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat thy bread. *He is a man of the cloth. . an iron curtain has descended across the continent. W. by which the little surface corners and edges of men's secret and solitary lives may be joined for an instant now and then before sinking back into the darkness. Hamlet . ) Faulkner. . *At tuba terribili sonitu taratantara dixit. Ennius Oxymoron: apparent paradox achieved by the juxtaposition of words which seem to contradict one another. Absalom! *From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic. . *Festina lente. . accommodation of sound to sense. *The pen is mightier than the sword.

Billy Bathgate *Thou art Peter (Greek petros). Churchill *Laudandus.goes God. Matthew 16 *The dying Mercutio: Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.. E. Alistair Cooke on the Duke of Windsor *There but for the grace of God -. *. and then it turned into a gold cache. and upon this rock (Greek petra) I shall build my church. *He was at his best when the going was good. ornandus. but that may yet have some truth in it. or cold cash. often etymological word-play.L. George Bernard Shaw Paraprosdokian: surprise or unexpected ending of a phrase or series. Shakespeare. Cicero on Octavian Paronomasia: use of similar sounding words. Romeo and Juliet .culled cash. tollendus.Paradox: an assertion seemingly opposed to common sense. *What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young.. Doctorow.

" and it was dark and there was water standing in the street and no lights and windows broke and boats all up in the town and trees blown down and everything all blown and I got a skiff and went out and found my boat where I had her inside Mango Bay and she was all right only she was full of water. often enriching the thought. Hemingway. *Ears pierced while you wait! *I have seen no stranger sight since I was born. Cicero. will be excepted. *No one. "Who killed him?" and he said. rich or poor. odit ac metuit et iam diu nihil te iudicat nisi de parricidio suo cogitare. phrases. Lord Nelson *Nunc te patria. After the Storm . Polysyndeton: the repetition of conjunctions in a series of coordinate words. *I said. "I don't know who killed him but he's dead all right. or clauses. Personification: attribution of personality to an impersonal thing. In Catilinam Pleonasm: use of superfluous or redundant words. *England expects every man to do his duty.*Hic est sepulcrum haud pulchrum feminae pulchrae. quae communis est parens omnium nostrum.

Aeneid 4. De senectute Praeteritio (=paraleipsis): pretended omission for rhetorical effect. Aeneid 4.*omnia Mercurio similis. longing still . Cicero.. in adjectives or nouns. and I shall therefore pass it by. also. Thucydides. *Vixi et quem dederat cursum fortuna peregi. nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur. Vergil.653 *Consider the lilies of the field how they grow. since the facts are not yet all in. *That part of our history detailing the military achievements which gave us our several possessions . nec quid sequatur sciri potest.558-9 *Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni. "Funeral Oration" *Let us make no judgment on the events of Chappaquiddick. A political opponent of Senator Edward Kennedy Prolepsis: the anticipation. the positioning of a relative clause before its antecedent.. is a theme too familiar to my listeners for me to dilate on. *My love is as a fever. Simile: an explicit comparison between two things using 'like' or 'as'. vocemque coloremque et crinis flavos et membra decora iuventae Vergil. of the result of the action of a verb.

139 Synecdoche: understanding one thing with another..For that which longer nurseth the disease. Eliot. with each of which it is understood differently.. Like a patient etherized upon a table.) *Give us this day our daily bread. you and I. Hume [?] *Let us go then. Benjamin Franklin Synchysis: interlocked word order. Matthew 6 *I should have been a pair of ragged claws Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. "The Love Song of J. *We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately. Alfred Prufrock" . While the evening is spread out against the sky. the use of a part for the whole. Sonnet CXLVII *Reason is to faith as the eye to the telescope. D. or the whole for the part.S. T. S. (A form of metonymy. *aurea purpuream subnectit fibula vestem Vergil. Aeneid 4. Eliot. Alfred Prufrock Syllepsis: use of a word with two others. The Love Song of J. Shakespeare. T.

nor war's quick fire shall burn The living record of your memory. phrase. with charity for all. The members of the U. Romans 6 *Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria.S. a kind of anacoluthon. *For the wages of sin is death. *Nor Mars his sword. and not by the grammatical form. Aeneid . (Instead of. Acts 6 Tautology: repetition of an idea in a different word. Vergil. and preached Christ unto them.*The U. boxing team won three gold medals. Second Inaugural Zeugma: two different words linked to a verb or an adjective which is strictly appropriate to only one of them. *With malice toward none.S. or sentence. Lincoln.) Synesis (=constructio ad sensum): the agreement of words according to logic. won three gold medals. *Longa tibi exsilia et vastum maris aequor arandum.

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