Last time we looked at several principles we should use as we read and study God’s Word. By way of review we learned that hermeneutics is the science of Biblical interpretation, exegesis is the interpretation of a text, and exposition is the finished product of exegesis. Let’s examine a very important hermeneutical principle.
We should interpret Scripture plainly/literally unless given a reason otherwise. The Bible should be read like any other book. Scripture teaches us that God made Adam and Eve. The common sense reader interprets this literally to mean exactly what it says. A real God created a man named Adam and a woman named Eve. The student of Scripture is not given a reason to interpret this in any other way but literally.
The unfortunate danger is that some choose to view the Bible as a book of symbols that carry subjective meanings. This is often referred to as spiritualizing the text. Priority ought never to be handed to an allegorical, symbolic, or typological interpretation. If these other kinds of interpretation are to take precedence, let it be first demonstrated that the plain-sense cannot make sense.
Plain interpretation takes into account symbols, figures of speech, and types. Metaphors, parables, and similes are used to convey a literal truth or meaning. For example, the saying “it is raining cats and dogs,” conveys the literal truth that it is raining hard.
There should always be a bias in favor of the “plain-sense” reading of the text. Here are three arguments for promoting a heavy preference toward a literal or plain interpretation:
God created language for the purpose of communicating and revealing Himself to man. We should abide by the normal rules of language that God created.
If most of the Bible is to be interpreted literally, such as fulfilled prophecy, then literalism should be the preference.
If one does not use the literal/plain interpretive model then all objectivity is lost. Wild, diverse, and unorthodox doctrines will quickly ensue.
Next time we’ll examine several more principles for Biblical interpretation.
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Bro. Oxendine serves as the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at Golden State Baptist College. He has been teaching at GSBC since 2001. He also teaches the College Sunday school class at NVBC.