How to Interpret the Bible

How to Interpret the Bible
1. What does this passage say?
a. What is the genre of this passage?
i. i.e., Historical Narrative, Poetry, Wisdom Literature, Prophecy,
Discourse, Gospel, Parable, Ethical Instruction, Apocalypse.
ii. There are many various proposed categories of biblical genres and
the various genres have differing authorial intentions and
interpretive implications.
b. Study the meanings of words or phrases in their original languages.
i. At this point lexicons and websites such as and are very helpful.
c. It is very important that all words are examined, not simply words or
phrases a person already recognizes and understand to be “the important”
i. We would do well to treat every word/phrase/sentence as equally
inspired by God, and thus important to our understanding of
Scripture…not just “key chain” verses.
2. What did this passage mean to the original audience?
a. Aids such as commentaries and study bible notes can be helpful here.
b. At a minimum, close to 2,000 years separates the world of the original
audience from us. Many similarities exist between their world/life and
ours, but so do many differences. Do not assume that their understanding
of everyday life and customs are automatically in agreement with ours.
3. What does this passage mean to us?
a. How does your understanding of the passage change in light of what it
meant to the original audience?
b. What issues in your life does this passage clearly apply to?
c. Are there unexpected areas of your life that this passage has become
relevant to?
4. What does this passage teach about the character of God?
a. How does the work of Jesus relate to this particular passage?
i. In light of Jesus’ redemptive work, as the Word of God Himself,
all Scripture (interpreted accurately) must be understood through
the lens of Christ.
ii. Every passage of Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments,
either creates a longing for – or gives an evidence of…the work of
b. What other passages in Scripture agree with this piece of God’s character?
© 2013 Jarad Corzine
5. How should we live in response to God’s grace due to this passage?
a. Who can you share your understanding with in order to create likemindedness and accountability?
i. Almost none of the words of the Bible were originally written to
any one individual. Almost all of the “you’s” of Scripture are
actually plural.
b. How does your prayer life need to change in light of this passage?
c. How should this passage impact the various roles of your life?
i. i.e., as a Spouse, Parent, Child, Friend, Worker, Resident, etc.
Other Things to Consider:
• It is OK to disagree with experts in the field of Bible scholarship. The smartest
and most qualified men and women who have studied the Scriptures disagree with
each other on various points. If examine your beliefs hard enough, you probably
don’t agree 100% or disagree 100% with any one person.
You have to consider what is “closed-handed” and what is “open-handed”…what
aspects of your interpretation of Scripture will you hold onto tightly with a closed
fist, and which ones will you allow yourself to hold onto loosely based upon the
views of others or reasonable ambiguity?
o “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
–Augustine of Hippo
All genuine pursuit of God’s character through the Scriptures must result in the
glorification of God (in its various forms), as well as a balance of confidence and
humility for the Christian. We grow in confidence because we trust in God’s
character and promises more fully. We grow in humility because it is God’s
grace through the Holy Spirit, not our efforts alone, that guides us into all truth
(John 16:13).
© 2013 Jarad Corzine