Five Qualifications to Interpret Scripture


hermeneutic

Introduction

         We know that God does not make mistakes; we know that his Word is without error. We know that even as the prophets and apostles God chose to write His Word, were not perfect themselves, every word they wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was. So neither God nor the original writers are the problem. The problem was, the problem is and, the problem will continue to be found in, the interpreter; that is… us!

         It is of fundamental importance that we develop a relationship with God, that we learn to hear from Him[1], that we study the Scriptures, that we grow in our knowledge of good theology and sound doctrine and, that we get a hold of hermeneutics as a tool to properly interpret Scripture. This post is designed to help us do just that.

Offer a list and description of the qualifications needed for an interpreter to offer a proper reading of Scripture.

     Klein offers five qualifications for the interpreter of Scripture. Klein adds that the following set of qualifications “put the interpreter in the best position to obtain valid interpretation of the biblical text.”[2] Those are,

  1. A reasoned faith in the God who reveals.
  2. Willingness to obey the message.
  3. Illumination of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Membership in the church.
  5. Willingness to employ appropriate methods.

Give the importance of each qualification for understanding Scripture.

A Reasoned Faith in the God who reveals

     Klein states, “all understanding requires a framework or context within which to interpret.”[3] As it refers to us as believers it is essential, as Klein also points out, “that we have a relationship with God in order to fully understand the book God has authored.”[4] Klein also includes faith as “foundational for a full comprehension of Scripture. It is not the only qualification, nor does it guaranty correct interpretation.”[5]

         As I read this portion of our reading assignment I am reminded of First Peter 3:15, “ but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (New American Standard Bible)

         No doubts that we should be ready, able and willing to give a reasonable account for why we believe what we believe. However, I believe we must also keep in mind that ultimately, the gospel is foolishness to the world (First Corinthians 1:18). I am not saying that we can’t apply reason to our faith, but without scientific evidence how can we be considered reasonable to the world when giving the story of Eve speaking to a serpent, or Jesus born out of a virgin or demons, miracles, etc.?

Willingness to Obey the Message

         This is the “willingness to put oneself “under” the text, to submit one’s will to hear and respond to the text in a faithful manner. The truly faithful reader seeks to obey what God reveals in Scripture.”[6] This is true humility before God, refusing to be wise in our own opinons (Proverbs 3:7), dying to self (1 Corinthians 15:31), personal agendas, ideas culture, etc. and a willingness to submit ourselves to the truth of the Bible.

Illumination of the Holy Spirit

     Klein connects this third qualification with the first two already mentioned; “…is to allow the Holy Spirit to complement the process of exegesis. For this part, God provides the resources for an obedient understanding of his truth: the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.”[7] The Holy Spirit gets the job done; if the goal is to show the true principle and application of the text, that is Holy Ghost territory.

Membership in the Church

   We are indeed a family… a big family. There is nothing in Scripture that promotes or support individualism; no Rambo Christians. The church should be the primary place where the family of God is able to learn about God and these tools of Bible interpretation. If anything, it should be the place where we can humbly listen to what other believers have to say and as Klein adds, “Likewise, our conclusions, if they are correct, have importance for the other.”[8]

Willingness to Employ Appropriate Methods

     If we are Born Again believers, if we love God and if we love others, there will be willingness in our hearts to study and understand the Scripture. How can we love anybody and have no interest in listening to what he or she has to say? Impossible. However, I am at peace with the fact that, as Klein explains, there are different levels of proficiency from the uneducated Christian to the scholar,[9] I believe that God is able to reveal the necessary truth to each believer according to their call.

Which of these qualifications are most important?

     In my opinion, they are all important; if I have to place them in order of importance it will go something like this: 1) A Reasoned faith in the God who reveals, particularly because here Klein speaks about the vital importance of having a relationship with God. Everything starts there. 2) Illumination of the Holy Spirit. The ultimate goal of Scripture is to show us the way of God, his righteousness, the way he wants us to live this life, etc. Only the Holy Spirit is able to do that. 3) Willingness to obey the message. The flesh in us, we know is weak, but the spirit of a born again believer is willing (Matthew 26:41). That willingness to follow God is the fruit of the Spirit in the believers; it is Christianity becoming real in the life of a believer. 4) Willingness to employ appropriate methods. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (NASB) I believe that this kind of hunger and thirst for righteousness creates a willingness in a child of God to employ any method that will assist them in knowing God and his Word in a more intimate way. 5) Lastly, Membership in the church. Without implementing the first four qualifications when interpreting Scripture in our lives, I don’t think the church experience will be as rich and, worst of all, we may be unaware or desensitize to heresy, bad theology and false doctrines.

Which do you think are not as necessary?

     They are all necessary, in my opinion.

Give reasons for your choices.

     I chose “A reasoned faith in the God who reveals” with emphasis on cultivating a relationship with God. Jesus die, not only to save our souls, but to give us the precious gift of being able to have a direct relationship with the Father. We don’t need a priest to go to God in our behalf; we can go to God ourselves. That does not mean that we throw out the teachers, the need for pastors, the need to study and utilize these diverse tools such as hermeneutics, but we are aware of first things first, we are called to love God above all things.

What role does the Holy Spirit play in interpretation?

     I feel very uncomfortable with limiting the Holy Spirit in anything. As far as I know, the only thing God cannot do is lie. The role of the Holy Spirit is central and is vital in interpreting Scripture. The cultural, social, economical and languages spoken at the time the Scripture was written are of secondary importance.

     The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals the meaning and he reveals that meaning to whomever he wants; to children (Matthew 21-15-16), to uneducated men such as the original apostles, the humble man in the church that does not speak much and the old lady who prays a lot. We can’t forget that God choses the foolish and the weak to shame the strong (I Corinthians 1:27).

How do we determine the impact of the Spirit on an individual’s interpretation?

     The whole law of the prophets was summarized in two commandments, to love God above all things and to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). I believe that Augustine answers this question perfectly as he states, “the first principle of Bible interpretation is that it leads readers to love God and to love others.”[10] Furthermore, Professor Roy B. Zuck offer fourteen powerful points concerning the Holy Spirit and interpretation of Scripture, for the sake of space I will only quote one,

The role of the Spirit in interpreting the Bible does not mean that one’s interpretations are infallible. Inerrancy and hence infallibility are characteristics of the Bible’s original manuscripts, but not of the Bible’s interpreters. The manuscripts were inerrant because of the Holy Spirit’s guarding and guiding the writers to record what He wanted recorded, word for word. But such a superintending work cannot be claimed for interpreters of the Word. In inspiration the Holy Spirit superintended the authors in order to override any human error. In interpretation the Holy Spirit guides but He does not guard against infallibility. To elevate one’s interpretations to the level of infallibility would blur the distinctions between inspiration (a past, now completed work of the Spirit in the recording of Scripture) and interpretation (a present, ongoing work of the Spirit in helping interpreters in the comprehending of Scripture). Also it would ascribe to Protestants a level of infallibility for human leaders which evangelicals reject in Roman Catholicism.[11]

Conclusion

         I have no doubt that a non believer will be able to look at the Scripture and apply certain aspects of hermeneutics, perhaps better than some of us. Some of them perhaps would be able to explain the culture of the time or even understand the language in better detail that some Christians that are not trained in those matters. Nevertheless, unless the Holy Ghost reveals to them the principle, they will not be able to see it nor accept it; they are blind to the things of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Klein brings this point home when he states, “…full understanding comes only to the sincere follower of the God who revealed – the follower who diligently seeks to practice the message of the text studied.”[12]

         Klein is very cleaver in describing the arrogance of those that totally reject hermeneutics, exegesis or any other tool[13] and I agree with him. That arrogance also exists in the academic world. So the problem is not necessarily refusing to use those tools or using them diligently… the problem is pride! Not everybody is able to afford classes at Liberty University and not everybody is bless with a pastor that actually understands and takes the time to teach hermeneutics, but everybody has access to the Holy Ghost!

         Humility is indeed the key; when our opinions do not lineup with Scripture we must let it go; when we insist in doing things our way, then we are operating in pride and we know that “…God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 NASB)

Bibliography

Klein, W.W., C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition. Zondervan, 2017.

Zuck, Roy B. The Role of the Holy Spirit in Hermeneutics, Biblioteca Sacra: 1984.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition (Zondervan, 2017), 202

 

[2] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 202

[3] Ibid. 202

[4] Ibid, 202

[5] Ibid. 203

[6] Ibid. 205

[7] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 206

 

[8] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 208

[9] Ibid. 210

[10] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 87

[11] Roy B. Zuck, The Role of the Holy Spirit in Hermeneutics, (Biblioteca Sacra: 1984) 122

[12] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 206

[13] Ibid. 206 – 208

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