HOW NOT TO INTERPRET THE BIBLE

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“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, RIGHTLY DIVIDING the word of truth” (2Ti 2:15).

 

 

From personal observation, the most common type of biblical exegesis I’ve observed is the ‘Allegorical method of interpretation.’ This refers to the idea that although a bible text says one thing, it actually ‘always’ signifies something else, something ‘deeper’ than what is said. It is the notion that ‘all’ Scriptures have a hidden, secret, mystical meaning underneath the plain and obvious meaning of a text.

 

Here is one common example. Often, we are told in many sermons and prophecies (quoting from Joel 2), that ‘God is raising a Joel army.’ Have you heard that before? People even go on to claim that prophecy desiring to be part of that ‘Joel army.’  But reading carefully will help you realize that God raising a Joel army is not a good prophecy at all! The army referred to in the book of Joel are the enemies of Israel. Israel had sinned against God, and so God stirred up their enemies against them- the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians! (Joel 2:1-3).

So you see, God actually asks the Israelites to prevent the coming of the ‘Joel army’ by repenting (Joel 2:12). The opposite is often implied today.

Why did we get it wrong? Our method of bible interpretation is the cause. The bible, like many other literature uses a lot of figures of speech. We haven’t be taught to understand that. And so when we see canker worm and Palmer worm in Joel 1 verse 3, it must refer to witches in the village! Nobody asked if the writer really referred to them. That’s the idea of allegorizing: “Just apply it as led.”

 

Often, for the sake of pragmatism, we leave the original message and context, applying ‘every’ scripture to our career, business, relationship…in every service! There are simple and clear scriptures addressing this areas, but they are not ‘spectacular’ enough. Allegorizing pushes you to go for something deep and mysterious.

 

Are there allegories in the bible? Yes there are. But the ground rule is that we must seek to understand the information the writer of the book intended to convey. If symbols were used, what do they mean? To whom do they refer? How does this affect me? These are questions you should ask yourself when studying the Bible.

 

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