To maintain integrity in interpreting the scriptures, certain principles should be adhered. This avoids personal application of meaning and presuppositions. It takes discipline to hold to these principles when they fly in the face of our preconceptions.
Biblical Hermeneutics – This order of interpretation allows the scripture to interpret the scripture. Great confidence can be given to this type of interpretation. This is particularly useful when examining apocalyptic and end-of-the-world language. Interpret the Old Testament in light of the New.
Apostolic Hermeneutics – This is similar to biblical hermeneutics. When we allow the New Testament apostles to tell us the meaning of Old Testament prophets, we have truly discovered the foundation of the church. Though I believe apostles and prophets still exist in the church today, I think the meaning of Ephesians 2:19 -22 is most fully understood in the light of the church being built upon the foundation of the New Testament apostles and the Old Testament prophets. That is, the words of the Old Testament prophets are interpreted by the New Testament apostles, “. . . you are . . . of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
Contextual Revelation – Interpret the scriptures in light of the context. This principle is commonly ignored. Too often verses are taken out of context and made to mean something entirely differently. This means of interpretation should always be used. There may be allegorical benefits to scriptures, but the context is the authority for interpretation.
Clear Revelation – Interpret the difficult passages in light of the clear passages. This is similar to biblical hermeneutics. We include this principle, however, so as to keep the meanings interpreted in light of already easily accepted revelation. Do not do the opposite and try to understand the clear passages by the difficult ones.
Comprehensive Revelation – Interpret scriptures within the scope of the whole counsel of God. Scriptures even in context still need to be placed within the wider view. This prevents the doctrine from being built upon isolated passages. The overall theme of God’s purposes and plan gives stability in interpretations
About the Author:
Glenn Shaffer is the author of Apostolic Government in the 21st Century, Christianity 101 and Discipleship 201. He has a Masters of Ministry degree in leadership studies from Southwestern Christian University and is working toward a Doctorate in Ministry at ORU in Tulsa.
Glenn and his wife, Ami have been married for 40 years with two sons, Matt and Daniel. Together, they co-see the elder pastoral care of Destiny Life Church, one church in two locations (Owasso and Claremore, Oklahoma) where they have been serving for almost 4 decades. It is a non-denominational church, based on a New Testament Apostolic form of church government. Together, they also serve as the directors of ATI- Apostolic Teams International, an emerging network of churches and ministers.
One thought on “Five Principles of Interpretation”
I love this Glenn! I know you’ve already taught us this, but I love reading it again…being reminded. Thank you for all you do that brings abundant fruit to the kingdom. It’s not hard to see that you abide in the vine. All of us “tender sprouts” need to see the results of being connected to the true vine. Blessings on you and Ami this Thanksgiving Day! See you soon!