A. Know what it says before you even think about thinking about what it means—whether “IT” is a verse, a paragraph or a book.
- Diagram the sentence –Who/What (subject) did what (verb) to whom/what (object). Which of these do the other words modify (go with).
- List repeated words/phrases.
- Analyze: Why is it in this order? Where does this “Or” or “Therefore” refer back to? Are there any pivot points that divide one side from another, e.g. “Gal 5 The works of the flesh, the works of the spirit?
- List words that need more study and thought.
- Note the context, the broader subject this passage is part of.
- Note the atmosphere of the passage—confrontational Jn 8, Sarcastic 2 Cor 11, Hostile Ax 7, Instruction 1&2Timothy, Plea Philemon.
- Be sure your interpretation includes every word and phrase in its natural/normal meaning. Nothing was written without purpose. Stray words and phrases cannot be dismissed, find their purpose.
- Look for the author’s outline of a book or subject. Your interpretation must fit it. John’s 7 signs, In 1 Cor 8-11:1, the interpretation of10:1-13 must fit the purpose of the section.
- Note repetition—When the Bible skips so much we wish to know, why is this repeated? e.g. Moses receives the Tabernacle plan (Ex 25-31) and then the building of it is described almost word for word (Ex 36-40); 2Kg 19-20 copies Isa 37-38.
B. Figurative language is a special part of knowing what it says.
- Words should always be interpreted with their literal meaning unless there is compelling reason to make it figurative. Such as 1) impossibility, 2) is said to be figurative, 3) common sense e.g. God is a Rock cannot be literal.
- A figure makes only one point e.g. the parable of the sower is talking about what kind of soil one chooses to be and no point can be made about sowing, in fact, the man was a poor sower, The rich man and Lazarus is about the power of God’s word and points about the afterlife are tenuous at best.
- Metaphor -- The Lord is my shepherd, neath his sheltering wings….
- Metonomy – The part is put for the whole or the whole for the part. “Come see my new wheels.” Jesus, “Not one jot or tittle shall pass from the law” Paul, “the word of the cross.”
- Hyperbole – exaggeration for emphasis. Beam in eye, camel through the eye of a needle, salt lose its saltiness.
C. Note the type of literature your passage is in. Each type must be interpreted differently.
Drama: Job, and much of it is false (all the speeches of the friends), so be aware of who is speaking
Wisdom: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, speaks in generalities and its truths are not 100% true, just generally so
Thesis: Rom, Eph, Heb, John, very organized,
Epistle: organized but more casual.
History: Samuel, Kings, Acts; History is written with purpose.
- Note the author’s stated purpose Jn 20:30, Gal 1:6-8, 2Pet 3:1, 1Jn 1:4, 2:1, 5:13
- The Bible is written to persuade: Note how the passage under study fits into the logic of the thing being discussed and determine what we are being persuaded of.