I was recently told of a couple who claim to love the Bible so much
that every day they set their Bible on the table, let its pages flop open
to anywhere, and then randomly point to any verse to read. They then
derive some sort of meaning from the verse.
This approach to Bible reading is not new. People have done this for
years, but itís no way to read the Bible. Do we read the news paper by
just randomly pointing to any sentence on each page and then claim to
understand the news of the day? We donít. The Bible is our prize
possession as Christians and we should take it more seriously than that.
Picking an isolated phrase from the Bible and then claiming you
understand what itís saying is just down-right foolish and certainly is
not good hermeneutics. "Whatís hermmmÖ, or whatever it is ",
you ask? You might be like many Christians, not ever hearing this word
before. Iím guessing if I ask the average Christian what the word
hermeneutics means, heíd have no clue how to answer me. Thatís part of
our problem Weíre just average Christians. We need to be above average.
Websterís Dictionary defines hermeneutics this way. Hermeneutics
"is the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as
of the Bible) You still donít understand? Okay, how about I define the
word. Hermeneutics is the logical and methodical approach to interpreting
any kind of written material. This means our interpretation of Biblical
passages is both logical and has a method, meaning thereís certain rules
to follow. This applies to any written or spoken word, not just the Bible.
Thereís just a lot of common sense connected to understanding the Bible,
something that some Christians lay aside because they think the Bible is
too spiritual to be logical.
One simple common sense rule of hermeneutics is that you donít take
one sentence out of a paragraph and make it mean more than what the
paragraphs wants it to mean. When you point your finger to any old
sentence at random and then try to derive its meaning, youíre breaking
The old fashion promise box, where you have a box full of isolated
verses of promise on little cards breaks this rule. Some daily devotionals
break this rule.
Iíve personally found a chronological verse by verse study through
the Bible to be the best form of study, even beyond word and topical
studies, which Iíve done for years.
Hereís another common sense rule. If Peter, Paul, or even Jesus says
something to a specific individual, it doesnít necessarily mean what is
said applies to you and I. For example, Jesus told the rich young ruler to
sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor. Jesus spoke this
to the rich young ruler, not to you or I. If Jesus personalizes these
words to you through the Holy Spirit then you better obey Him and sell
everything you have, but donít personalize that onto someone else. If
Jesus doesnít personalize these words to you, they are not directed
towards you, although we can learn lots from them. If you insist that
these words apply to everyone, then you should have a big yard sale. That
would be fine with me. I know of one poor guy who would appreciate the
proceeds from your yard sale.
Studying the Bible in a logical and methodical way is becoming a lost
art. Thereís more common sense rules than these two. Some like to read
and not think about what they read. This is our "fast food"
approach to devouring Godís Word. Yet the fast food approach doesnít
work, especially if youíre trying understand the book of Romans You need
to exercise your brain as you read.
Others like to read, hoping the Holy Spirit will make a truth jump out
at them and clobber them over the head with it. Sometimes this happens,
but thereís more to Bible study than that. Donít get me wrong, we need
the Holy Spirit to help us study, and sometimes because of our denseness,
He does clobber us over the head with truth, hoping to shake our brains
A few years ago my friend and I on separate occasions suggested to our
pastor that we could teach a class on hermeneutics. He didnít see the
need, so it never happened. I suppose if we learn how to interpret the
Bible better, we might have to change our thinking on some of our
favourite doctrines. I just donít know why one has to attend a Bible
College in some far off place in order to learn such things. The local
church should be teaching things like this, yet in all my years, Iíve
never seen this happen. Wouldnít you think that helping people
understand how to study and interpret the Bible would be a good thing to