Rules that Guide
A Theologian's Interpretation of the Bible
If the plain reading of the text makes sense, don't try to make it say something else.
Most of what the Bible says is plain and easy to understand. The first rule is, If the Bible makes sense read just as it is, then don't add other meanings to it.
For example, When the Bible says that Jesus went to a feast at Jerusalem, (John 5:1), then don't interpret it to say something like, "The feast is symbolic of the heavenly feast all believers will have with Jesus. Jerusalem is symbolic of the heavenly Jerusalem, that is, heaven. This scripture (John 5:1) is talking about what we will be doing in heaven."
All that scripture means is, Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate a national feast.
Let the Bible interpret itself.
When the Bible interprets itself, let that be the interpretation.
Revelation 1:13 & 20: "And I turned and saw seven golden candlesticks".... "The seven candlesticks you saw stand for the seven churches..."
Daniel 8:3 & 20: "I looked up [in my vision] and saw a ram with two horns"... "The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia."
The Bible also interprets the story of Sodom and tells why it was destroyed in Ezekiel 16:49-50. Homosexuality is not at all mentioned in that explanation, yet, so called "scholars" assure us that is why Sodom was destroyed. They will pay for their sins.
If you want to read story of Sodom and discover why it was destroyed, read the chapter titled "The Story of Sodom."
One mention of a topic in the Bible should not be used to create a doctrine. Doctrines should be formed by taking scripture throughout the Bible that says it, implies it and practices it.
"And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
That is taught nowhere else in the Bible, yet some Christians use it as a proof text that in their worship of God they ought to handle venomous serpents.
There is another verse they might also want to consider, Deuteronomy 6:16, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."
A proper doctrine ought to be taught in both the Tenach (Old Testament) and the New Testament. It should be implied by scriptures throughout the Bible. It should be practiced by the people talked about in the Bible. If you don't have that, then you don't have a good Biblical doctrine.
There are plenty of church doctrines that has none of those; however, that's just what they are: church doctrines.
The Bible should not contradict itself. If you think it does, then look for alternate, reasonable explanations.
The Bible is composed of 66 books written by forty people over a period of 1,500 years, beginning in 1400 B.C. They talk about one thing: God's dealing with mankind. With such a vast span of time, culture and personality concerning one topic, a person would expect numerous contradictions, logical errors, historical errors, and human fantasy.
However, we do not hold that the Bible was authored by forty people. We believe the Bible was authored by one person, God, and written by forty people over the years. Therefore, the Bible must be cohesive.
The Bible is, for the most part, cohesive, non-contradictive and self-explanatory. Nevertheless, there are some parts of scripture (not many!) that are difficult to understand, and sometimes seem to contradict other parts. We believe that, instead of contradicting each other, these few scriptures are not fully understood. The result is, sometimes we improperly create a doctrine that should not have been created.
For example, some theologians claim that homosexuals have been rejected by God and a homosexual cannot be a Christian. On the other hand, the Bible says that anybody who comes to God through Jesus will be saved and forgiven for any sin whatsoever. So who is wrong? It's got to be that theologians have come to the wrong conclusion, because they teach a doctrine that contradicts a basic, clear doctrine that is taught throughout the entire Bible.
That's not to say homosexuality is a sin. But people who say that gays cannot be saved also say homosexuality is a sin. Even if it were a sin, the Bible says God will forgive all sin, upon acceptance of Jesus. But homosexuality is not a sin, which is a second error of theologians. For proof of that, read Key to Biblical Doctrine.
The Bible should neither create science nor contradict it.
There is a difference between scientific theory and scientific fact; let's not confused the two. Scientific theory once said the earth was the center of the universe and the sun, moon and stars revolved around it. Scientific fact said otherwise.
Once, Biblical doctrine was created to agree with that theory. When it became evident the theory was wrong, it caused the church great consternation to change their doctrine. Church doctrine should not be created based on scientific theory, and great caution should be taken by theologians when they preach for or against a theory, for what if that theory proves false or true, to their error? Not all scientific theories are false. Sometimes they are proven true. Sometimes they are proven false.
Once, scientific theory by Sir Isaac Newton said gravity was caused by attraction of physicals bodies. Now scientific theory says gravity is a falling towards a physical body because of a warp in space.
The Bible should not be tested by scientific theories, but it should be interpreted based on scientific fact. If God created the universe and also authored the Bible, the word of God should not contradict the work of God. They should be used together to understand one another.
The Bible talks about the four corners of earth. "I saw [in my vision] four angels standing at the four corners of the earth." (Revelation 7:1) Now we know, scientifically speaking, that earth does not have four corners, although when that statement was written, such knowledge was not common. Today we understand that statement to mean, "North, South, East and West," in other words, to cover the entire earth, which is evidentially what the prophet meant.
Proper logic should be used to understand the Bible.
The King James Version of the Bible uses the word "sun" 164 times. Ninety-six times it says non-specific things such as "the sun is hot," but sixty-eight times it talks about the sun's relationship with the earth. Sixty-eight times it says that the sun revolves around the earth, such as in Psalms 19:4-6.
Shall we therefore condemn the Bible because it obviously is not accurate and therefore made up by superstitious simpletons? If we do that, then we must also condemn for the exact same reason everybody who talks about the sun rising the the east and setting the the west. The sun neither rises nor sets. The earth rotates.
God was not trying to teach us about the sun. God was trying to teach us about himself, using the sun as an example and speaking in terms that we understand; speaking in our own vernacular.
Bible interpretation is not hard and can be done properly by most people. Certain parts of the Bible, such as prophecy, was written for another generation, and will be understood properly by those people at that time. In the meantime, don't be afraid to read the Bible. It's easy enough and understandable enough by the common person and general public.