THE GOLDEN RULE OF INTERPRETATION
When the plain sense of scripture
makes common sense, seek no other sense;
therefore, take every word
at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning
unless the facts of the immediate context,
studied in the light of related passages
and axiomatic and fundamental truths,
indicate clearly otherwise.
COURTESY OF D. L. COOPER
1. DEFINITION: THE LITERAL METHOD OF INTERPRETATION
The literal method of interpretation is that method that gives to each
word the same exact basic meaning it would have in normal, ordinary, customary
usage, whether employed in writing, speaking or thinking.
2. If the words are employed in their natural and primitive signification,
the sense which they express is the proper literal sense; whereas,
if they are used with a figurative and derived meaning, the sense, though
still literal, is usually called the metaphorical or figurative
sense. Examples through comparing John 1:6 and 1:29.
3. Application of isagogics: This considers the historical and cultural
context of the passage of scripture. Recognizing that customs differ from
culture to culture and from time to time, a word or concept may not mean
today, what it meant in the time and place recorded in the bible.
A secondary application in this area is to realize that the King James
Version of the bible uses the English language of AD 1611. Many words and
phrases have no meaning to us today or have entirely different meanings
than what they had 380 years ago. This has led to serious misunderstandings
of the bible and many erroneous practices and false doctrines.
4. Application of categories: This considers the individual topics of the
bible by properly evaluating every reference where that particular
topic is mentioned, and understanding the dispensational differences and
ramifications of that topic as it relates to the church age.
5. Application of exegesis: This considers the grammatical structure of
the bible through a detailed analysis of that structure as it occurs in
the original languages of the bible; Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
6. COMMENTS ON TRANSLATIONS
There are many different translations of the Bible of various quality and
reliability. Everyone has there favorite. Probably most of us have been brought
up on the King James Version and might show prejudice toward it for sentimental
reasons. However, the translations are made from the original languages of the
Bible and carry no inspired authority in and of themselves. Some are more
accurate and more literal than others. Some try to communicate in a more modern
English. Some are in foreign languages and have no connection whatever to our
English translations including the King James Version. Recourse back to the
original languages should always have precedent when trying to arrive at an
accurate understanding of any text. The issue will always be the Greek and the
Hebrew and not the merits of any particular translation. The biggest problem in
evaluating these translations is whether to use the traditional or majority text
of the Greek for the New Testament (which the King James is based on), or to use
the critical text (which the NASB and NIV are based on). When differences
between the majority and critical text occur, it is appropriate to simply point
out the difference and include it as a factor to be considered. To elevate any
one translation above another, as having more spiritual value or reliability is
not consistent with proper interpretation.
7. Comments on the transmission of the text: The Inerrancy of the Bible
A In practicality, there are MANY transmission errors within the many
manuscripts that we possess.
1. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew and Aramaic, these are very minor, but do
2. It is in the New Testament manuscripts where we find a great many errors of
transmission, divided into two types; unintentional and intentional.
3. Of the unintentional types we have, errors of sight, writing, hearing, memory
4. Of the intentional types we have grammatical, liturgical, harmonization,
doctrinal, attempts to correct, and attempts to compromise or conflate.
B. Although these errors are numerous, they are of a relatively minor nature and
considered within the scope of the entire New Testament, NEVER affect any major
1. The vast majority of these errors can be easily recognized and eliminated
through the science of textual criticism.
2. However, in reality, errors between the manuscripts do exist, and one cannot
say that we have a PERFECT copy of Godís word.
3. On the other hand, from the perspective of SIMILARITY of manuscripts, most of
them are identical in over three-fourths of their text, and we have a uniform
and accurate transmission.
4. This, together with the CORRECTIONS of the OBVIOUS errors in transmission
through the application of textual criticism, based on point B above, we have a
reliable copy of Godís word, which must be believed to be by Divine design.
DETAILED ANALYSIS OF BIBLE INTERPRETATION
By J. Dwight Pentecost, from Things to Come.
questions are always welcome!
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