Robert A. Herrmann, Ph.D. 21 Aug. 2005. Revised 11 FEB 2013.
In theology, there are theories of how words should be interpreted. Although I attempt to avoid technical terms whenever possible, this is the subject area of the discipline many call Biblical hermeneutics. When rules are presented for what are claimed to be the correct approach, the human traditional approach to interpretation, I don't recall in such a list of principles the only method that should be used that will assure one that the interpretation is correct. I place this at the top of my list. I am not certain that a translation is certain unless I apply 1 John 2:27. When this occurs and the translation is verified, I am very emphatic when the interpretation is employed. I attempt not to use qualifying terms like, "might be, could be, possibly, etc."
Obviously, certain words used in a Biblical language as well as most other languages can have distinct meanings. There are traditional methods that allow one to select a meaning. The most basic form of interpretation stems from the basic laws of linguistics. The major one is the Law of Reciprocation.
Every thought symbol, the moment that it is placed in connection with others, both influences the meaning of its neighbor and is itself modified by them.
This obvious rule describes the fact that the meaning of word is contextually driven. As far as the immediate context is concerned, there are various forms called figures of speech. They have various names, but the most important aspect is to recognize that passages are figures of speak and, thus, some of the words tend to loss their literal meanings. For these passages, interpretations can vary and, indeed, there are controversies as to whether the passages are indeed figures of speech.
The interpretations I use depend upon strictness or literalness. This method is coupled with other rules such as consistency and figure of speech determination. I use the Concordance Method and other sources, where a fixed meaning for a word is consistency assigned. Using the most ancient extant manuscripts and semantical analysis (i.e. etymology), a word is assigned a meaning that I consider as "close" to the common and strict meaning as would be understood at the time the word was originally transcribed. Then if slight alterations appear to be necessary, the various contextual nuances are determined without application of any doctrinal requirements.
An alteration in a strict literal meaning is also indicated when such a meaning conflicts rationally with previous or the surrounding material or when there is a preponderance of evidence that strictness is not the intent. When it is rather obvious or when these methods fail, I consider the verse to be poetic or metaphorical. The Bible is a very unique document. For this reason, I reject assigning meanings based upon any comparison with a other literature within some specific category. I do not accept alterations in a strict meaning as certain unless I apply 1 John 2:27.
For the Bible, unless God specifically states otherwise, I do not accept that a particular word or group of words has some sort of hidden meaning to be later discovered by others, especially philosophers who consider themselves as "special." What word groups meant to the peoples to whom they were originally addressed must be maintained. Certainly God would be considered as being deceptive or even a liar otherwise. God would have little difficulty in developing the original Biblical languages so that misconceptions would not be the result. The Old Testament does present straightforward predictions of future New Testament events. However, I repeat, unless God specifically states otherwise, I don't accept that the Bible contains any "hidden" meanings that are unknown to those to whom Biblical passages are addressed. Of course, as usual, other groups during all of Biblical times wrote differing doctrines using their own special interpretations.
The modern man-made rules for interpretation are faulty if they do not include the only true way that the accuracy of a translation and its intent can be ascertained. I use the methodology of Paul as describe in 1 Corinthians 2:13, 2:16, Philippians 2:3 and elsewhere, and, as mentioned, the method described by John in 1 John 2:27 to select the proper meanings. I take very seriously Paul's warning in Colossians 2:8. I am not concerned whether these selections correspond to those presented by others throughout Biblical history or whether they might not correspond exactly to some constructed interpretation rule that minimizes God's supernatural power as well as His substantial influences throughout time.
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