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How to Interpret the Bible 101

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I believe many people don’t read the Bible because it can be complicated. Oftentimes people read Bible verses and they totally take it out of context and apply a meaning that it was never intended to have. That is how we misinterpret the Scriptures. So, how can we understand and interpret the Bible the way it was intended? In the book, “How To Study the Bible,” Robert West says “Each verse of scripture has only one intended meaning even though there may be many applications. The Bible isn’t written to mean different things to different people. The issue in every verse is always what God means by it, not what it means to me.”

In seminary, one of the first classes I took was hermeneutics. That’s just a fancy word for interpreting the Bible. I LOVED this class because it gave me a clear path and process for understanding the text the way God intended.


Writing this article has been a challenge for me because I want to give you an easy process that you can follow NOW that will help you understand God's Word which will help you build a relationship with God. It is only through His Word that we will know Him and become familiar with His character. My desire is that you know God because it’s this relationship that will truly transform your life. LITERALLY!


1. Pray


Pray that the Holy Spirit would lead you to all truth by communicating to you what God is saying according to John 16:13 and 2 Peter 1:20-21.


John 16:13 (NIV)


But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.


2 Peter 1:20-21 (NIV)


Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.


2. Engage the Word with Objectivity


We are all influenced by where we grew up, our culture, politics, our geographic locations, and our families. Everything we believe was influenced by something in the world. The Bible shines a light on any beliefs that are not in alignment with the Word of God. Mark 4: 21-23 (NIV) states “He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”


To interpret the Bible objectively, we must put aside presuppositions and preunderstandings. Presuppositions are foundational beliefs and preconceived ideas that we have embraced knowingly or unknowingly. Preunderstandings are assumptions and attitudes that we use in our perception of reality. The Bible says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord" (Isaiah 55: 8, NIV). We must recognize that the goal is not to understand the Word with our ideas, thoughts, and beliefs but the way our Heavenly Father intended. That is where true change occurs where we become more like Christ, demonstrating His character.


3. Read


Just read the Bible. Don’t interpret it. Don’t try to look for deep theological understandings. Just read what is happening. Understand the story.

  • Read the verse.

  • Read the chapter.

  • Read the book.

Begin to write down any questions you have about the text. Write any words that you don’t understand.


Resource: You can use a Bible dictionary to help you find the definitions of those words. You can view FREE Bible dictionaries at Bible Study Tools.


4. Observation


West (2007, p. 6) encourages us to ask 6 questions to help us observe and determine what is happening in the text.

  1. Who is writing the text? Who is the text written to? Who are the p