There have been many principles proposed for how to properly interpret Scripture. Some of those principles actually come from Scripture. Here are some examples of principles which seem to come from Scripture:

  • All Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16)

  • Prophecies in Scripture are not open to personal interpretation (2 Peter 1:20)

  • The Old Testament was written for our instruction (Romans 15:4)

There are other principles which do not appear to be explicitly taught in Scripture. (That is not at all to say they are not true, valid, or useful.) Here are some examples of principles which do not appear to come from Scripture:

  • Human language is inadequate for conveying divine truths accurately and completely

  • Scripture should be understood in light of an understanding of the historical and grammatical contexts

  • Scripture should be understood in light of what we learn from the "Book of Creation" (i.e. nature)

My question is, of those principles which come from Scripture, which is the most foundational?

Answers do not need to cite a single verse which explicitly states the principle, but should clearly demonstrate that the principle comes from Scripture. Answers should also provide an explanation for why this principle is the most foundational. Thanks!


7 Answers 7


My answer might not be in line with the question if you only mean technical methods. However there is the obvious notion of prayer and reliance upon the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to what He has written to us. After all if the Spirit is the true author and men only the medium, we have more advantage in understanding the words by the Spirit than we would if we could talk to the original author. I would put this upon the same level as understanding the literal language itself. What I mean is:

Without a spirit of payer in our meditation of the living word, we are like fools reading a book from another language only guessing at what each syllable means.

-(1) Reading the whole Bible in a spirit of meditative prayer and submitting to what God manifests to us, through the Spirit, is the most effective means of understanding it.

Sample bible verses that make this a fundament principle of exegesis are:

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. (NIV Psalm 119:18)

We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (NIV 2 Corinthians 3:13-18)

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (NIV Ephesians 1:17-19)

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

After meditative prayer with expectation that God will manifest the meaning by His Spirit, I would put (not in strict order):

-(2) Understanding the language.
I do not mean a degree in the language. I simply mean recognizing each of the words in the text. The Bible uses a fairly extensive vocabulary and each word has special meaning for the Holy Spirit to have chosen it above others.

-(3) Knowing the ‘whole Bible’ to form a wide context and recognizing the gradual unfolding of the redemption plan in it.
The Messiah is the central point of which all other words stem. He is like the head of the body of scripture and when we twist any word away from the head we have dosconnected it from its organic place.

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. (Coloassians 2:18-19)

-(4) Understanding what men of God from previous generations have thought.

-(5) Reaseraching related secular history surrounding any historical biblical texts, or making the symbols used in them more plain. This ‘related history’ is usually very conveniently found under (4). However, I would caution that balance is needed here. Possibly 80% - 90% of scripture does not need any special historical background to fully follow the logic of the passages.

-(6) Understanding the language as it was 'originally written' in Hebrew or Greek. I would put this much higher if the original texts were not already translated into our own language by learned people.

-(7) Using anything else that helps Anything that helps, regardless of its origin, whether discoveries in science, archeology, art, even philosophy, your grandma’s jokes, anything in all the earth ---> if it helps, can be used.

Why we can use anything: Although (7) amounts to very little help in most instances, they are still valid. Even appealing to bare ‘nature’ is used as valid exegesis by the Apostle Paul. Therefore, all those things I listed that seem not directly derived from within the Bible, can be covered under our God given natural reason, including everything man made that is derived from what is studied in nature. Basically, I am keeping ‘all doors open’, with little expectation from the result. I doubt any advancement in knowledge over the next one thousand years will have any impact on 99% of biblical interpretation. Also, most related history can already be gleaned from old commentaries. Therefore, whatever might appear "eisegetical" to some may just be a weaker form of what is "exegetical" ---> if it is reasonable. If it is 'persuasive' and has 'truth' and can be argued to relate to any given biblical text, then it can be associated with ‘reason’ to which the scripture pertains and of which comes from God. Of course, when anything claimed as reasonable, contradicts that which is clearly intened by the human author as derived from strictly ‘exegetical’ methods, such claims looses their persuasiveness immediately, upon the same reason and light of nature from which all they were pretended. In summary, 'any reasonable thing' can be used and is exegetical, for from nature comes natural reason, science, etc. and Paul argues this way from nature, here, for example:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (NIV Romans 1:18-20)

Back to the main point though, studying the Bible is primarily not an intellectual exercise but a 'spiritual encounter' with the voice of God. If we are not willing, hearing and submitting to His voice, our study will further confuse our minds. God's word never comes back void; it will harden or soften the heart. We will do what they did if we resist what is plain:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (NIV Romans 1:21-24)

A defense to this view The worldly ‘objection’ that people might have to the 'self evincing' 'perfect word of God' by the 'illumination of the Holy Spirit', is that it exposes fools into claiming God has ‘taught them something’ special, like a private interpretation. For example, the cults, etc. However this objection is using incorrect exegesis in the meaning of 'private interpretation'. This objection has no relevance because fools will do that anyway, whether claiming 'private revelation' or 'private exegeses'. The fact is, since the days of Christ, simple bible believers have shared a common faith and it seems hardly fair to say such unanimous beliefs, derived from the overwhelming 'persuasiveness' of God’s word, under the 'power of the Holy Spirit' is ‘private’. On the contrary, it is private only if it is 'man made'. Unless the 'same Spirit' reveals 'to us' the 'same truths', that the Spirit who originally spoke through the prophet made known to the prophet (which therefore was not the prophets private opinion) can we say we do NOT have a private interpretation. Every other form of exegesis is a 'private interpretation', because it comes from the will of man and the understanding of his flesh, which are by definition not from God.

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 Peter 1:20-21)

By the same Spirit who carried the prophet along, also carries us along into an understanding of the text. We are by this means to collect our manna direct from Him in a humble broken spirit, though we do have to 'get up' and 'find it' and 'prepare it' and that is much more difficult to us then it sounds:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (NIV James 1:5)

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    Excellent answer. Thanks! One suggestion, though - most people won't read an answer this long, especially if it's not organized (with summary, titles, bullets, bars, etc.) You might consider organizing it a bit and pruning it down if possible so people will read it; I definitely think it deserves to be read by everyone who comes across it.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 17:57
  • @Jas3.1 - noted. I am usually tapping away on my iPhone and have to come back for clean up later. Good question it forced me to think.
    – Mike
    Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 23:11
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    Good answer. I would, however, push back on the "original languages" section as it is substantially more important than is credited. I would, actually, swap 6 and 2 since there are fascinating grammatical nuances that may remain unrendered in English.
    – swasheck
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 18:16
  • I would argue that Paul did not appeal to "bare nature" but in fact was making the point that "the natural man says long hair is a shame" and knowing that for the Nazarite it was his holiness (the spiritual interpretation) produced a riddle which must be answered. Christ bore our shame on the cross (symbolized by long hair), but it was not his shame, he was holy.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 21:35
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    @swasheck - I am not fully committed to the order I placed these secondary bullets. I think I need to make better use of the original languages myself. The good studious people on this site are helping me in this regard. I love that this site has this emphasis. It distinguishes itself apart from other sites because of it. I am not aware of another site that has as many quality qeustions and answers. I would prefer my own posts to be closed in order to maintain the serious exegesis attempts on this site, if that were required. My answer is not intended to downplay the value of serious study.
    – Mike
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 1:23

Disclosure: This represents an Eastern Christian perspective (yet its applicability is not confined solely to Eastern Christians).

I've met many very intellectually gifted Protestants who share their hermeneutical approach to scripture and yet come up with widely varying positions on the interpretation of various passages. Hence 23,000+ Protestant denominations. We have seen from the scriptures themselves that they can be difficult to understand and even lead people into deceit and error. Peter acknowledges that Paul's writings are difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16). Even the devil cited the scriptures in order to tempt the Savior (Matthew 4:1-11). My point is that scripture is always interpreted through tradition, whether we acknowledge it or not. Any close examination of church history will demonstrate that Holy Tradition guarded the faith in early Christianity, not an appeal to biblical texts (which hadn't even been canonized yet).

For many, all talk of tradition is suspicious. They supposedly live by the guidance of scripture alone (sola scriptura), under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit. There is an undeniable naiveté to this approach, however. Tradition is inescapable in any human society. Whether we call it custom, habit, routine, quirk, frame of mind, or bias, tradition marks human existence. Everyone operates within a context of tradition to one degree or another. At it most basic, this may look like having dinner at the same time every day or having the same morning routine. For as many churches out there that claim to be non-traditional, I would contend that if you tried to change their order of worship on Sunday morning you'd quickly find out how firmly committed to tradition such a church is. For most Americans, we operate under many individualistic biases that we hold thanks to the Enlightenment and the French and American revolutionary wars.

In a nutshell, I believe that scripture contains all that we need to know Christ. This is why I consider Western Christians to be my brothers and sisters in Christ (I'm a quasi-Protestant myself, I call myself an Eastern Lutheran these days). So please do not hear me questioning the legitimacy of Western Christianity or anything like that. But do hear me issuing a challenge that even postmodern thought has brought to light: no one approaches the text in a vacuum. I do believe in absolute truth, I simply believe that this truth is a person: Jesus Christ, and that He is utterly beyond our comprehension (in His fullness) and yet He is within us, and He is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14; 14:6; Colossians 1:27).

But when it comes to interpreting scripture, the bible wasn't intended to be a blueprint for the entire Christian faith (and early Christians didn't see it as such). Rather, the bible contains all that is needed to point us to Christ as the Messiah in the Old and New Testaments and all that is needed for eternal life and salvation. It is given to us in addition to the apostolic tradition that was transmitted orally and in practice. One need only read the letters of Paul to discern that they were in response to problems within various churches. They don't really describe the positive aspects of gatherings, only those things necessary for correction. John acknowledges at the end of his gospel that "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written" (John 21:25). From Adam to Moses, there were no sacred books. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself delivered his divine teachings and ordinances to His disciples by word and example, not by writing. The same method was followed by the apostles also at first, when they spread abroad the faith and established the Church.

The apostle Paul teaches Christians to "stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15, emphasis mine). Thus, Holy Tradition is the deposit of faith given to the Apostles by Christ and then passed on from one generation to the next in the Church without addition, alteration or subtraction. While it is unchanging in dogma, it is dynamic in application. Insisting on sola scriptura ignores this reality as well as several key factors about the experience of early Christianity:

  • The first generation of Christians did not have the New Testament at all. The first of St. Paul's letters weren't written until at least A.D. 50. The first Gospel wasn't written until probably at least A.D. 60. The Gospel According to St. John and the Book of Revelation probably weren't written until at least A.D. 90.
  • There are many Christian writings that were read and admired by early Christians that did not end up in the New Testament. Some examples: The Shepherd of Hermas, The Letters of Clement and The Proto-Evangelium of James.
  • There are also a plethora of writings that claimed to be Christian, but were rejected by the ancient Church. Some examples: The Gospel of Judas, The Gospel of Thomas, and The Hypostasis of the Archons.
  • The process of determining which books should be in the New Testament took centuries. For example, The Book of Revelation was popular in the West, but not in the East; whereas Hebrews was quickly accepted in the East but not the West.
  • Sola scriptura ignores the authority by which this process happened — the ancient Church Herself through the activity of the Holy Spirit.

As I've also pointed out in response to another question, in John 16:12-13, Jesus said, "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." It should be noted that in both instances, the word "you" is plural. This promise was not made to individuals, but to the disciples, they that would become the Church and form the apostolic tradition that was to be guarded and passed on (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6). In reality, without tradition, we wouldn't even have the bible. The bible comes from the Church's tradition. We would do well to consult this tradition when interpreting it, lest we assert our own private interpretations (2 Peter 1:20).

A Postscript on Sola Scriptura, Protestantism, and Tradition

It has been said that "to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant," and I've found this to be true for myself. This does not mean that I disrespect the contributions of Martin Luther or early Reformers (recall earlier that I consider myself an Eastern Lutheran). I believe that given their context, the Reformers reacted as best they could. However, the Protestant movement must evolve (many Protestant scholars are asserting the same thing today) and recognize that there is a lot of church history prior to 1054 and the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church. This doesn't mean that everyone should become Eastern Orthodox, but it does mean that one really cannot be intellectually honest and ignore the impact of Aristotelian thought and scholasticism on Western Christian thought (even Luther rejected this to the best of his ability, but he had no access to many works of Eastern antiquity, not to mention that he thought Tertullian was the most ancient church father).

Finally, I wish to say that Holy Tradition is a dynamic thing that is critical of its past voices. It is not a blind assertion that all those who came before us are always correct (it is "giving our ancestors a vote" vs. a "tyranny of the dead"). For instance, the Cappadocian fathers repudiated how Origen and Irenaeus integrated Platonic and Neo-Platonic thought into their theology many years after their death. Jaroslav Pelikan wrote, "Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name" (The Vindication of Tradition, p. 65).

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    WOW!! Thank you! I can see you have a pure heart and a passion for truth. I really, really appreciate some of the points you've made here. Those points on which I disagree, I would love to discuss further when we get time. (+1)
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Jul 7, 2012 at 5:33
  • I look forward to the discussion, hopefully I'll catch you in chat one of these days ;)
    – Dan
    Commented Jul 7, 2012 at 5:51
  • One question: How do you reconcile your high view of tradition with your "Eastern Lutheran" doctrines? (Probably both the Catholic and Orthodox churches would say that your views are contrary to true, valid tradition.)
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 2:44
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    I don't think you'll find any true, pure, and perfect tradition. But no smart Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox theologian would assert that their tradition is perfect. It is self correcting, later decisions change earlier ones - and this trend will continue. That's part of the process, we must give our ancestors a vote ("democracy of the dead"), that doesn't mean we allow a "tyranny of the dead" whereby we must blindly follow tradition (this is where my Western/Lutheran tendencies come into play).
    – Dan
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 14:03
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    It's just that there is a lot more in the tradition than just scripture - specifically how we worship (Divine Liturgy / Divine Service).
    – Dan
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 14:04

I was taught in seminary 2 foundational rules to remember before all others.

  1. Pay attention to the text.
  2. Pay attention to the context.

While you won't see these rules stated verbatim in Scripture, you will certainly see them applied. Notice throughout the NT how the phrase, "It is written" and similar phrases appear. These are always used with quotes of Scripture. Therefore, we conclude that we are to pay attention to what Scripture says. In Gal 3:16, Paul is even specific about the number (singular or plural) of "seed" in Gen 22:18.

  • @Jas actually, these rules are derived from the text, but a bit simplistic: To let scripture interpret scripture: 1. Read the scripture 2. Read the scripture around the scripture. The first goes without saying, but the second is too broad to be helpful. What is the context? In SP it is the context of all the scriptures which are linked by way of using the same words and ideas in the text and immediate context of the verse being considered.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Jul 8, 2012 at 13:56

I find this to be a little bit of a loaded question; it makes a broad assumption that I don't fully agree with. But let me illustrate:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.—John 20:30-31 (ESV)

So near the end of John, the author explains that his purpose in writing is to help people to understand who Jesus was and to believe. 1st John 5:13-15 states the same purpose. So it would be reasonable to assume that one hermeneutic principle that Scripture establishes is the principle that we are to see Jesus in Scripture and believe in Him.

Next we read:

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
    and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?—Mark 4:10-13 (ESV)

Here we see that Jesus used parables precisely because they are difficult to understand and hide the truth. He purposely doesn't want people to believe. And of course Jesus is directly quoting from Isaiah 6, that monumental description of the LORD calling the prophet Isaiah to a life of futile pronouncements.

Now, I know that this isn't an impossible contradiction. The fact is, you have probably already thought of one or two ways to resolve this particular difficulty. Maybe the difference is that in parables and prophesy, the truth needs to be hidden until such time as the audience comes to faith, while in letters and gospels, the truth must be exposed to encourage faith. Or maybe the truth needed to be hidden until it was revealed on the cross. Or...

But look what we are doing here: we've already started using hermeneutical principles in order to discover hermeneutical principles.

The issue we really have, therefore, isn't a hermeneutical issue, but an epistemological one. How do we know what we know? Clearly we don't have time to go into that subject the way it deserves, but I think Scripture is clear from beginning to end that it is God who does the revealing. If you think about the passages I quoted above, it's also clear that God reveals what He wants, when He wants, and how He wants. Sometimes, He speaks clearly through plain writing and other times He speaks cryptically through symbolic writing. If you are committed to a belief in God as Author of Scripture, it makes more sense to think not of Scripture interpreting Scripture, but of something closer to divine revelation.

But even that is too derivative, in my experience. I've lead studies in which the only thing available is the text. On one sheet of paper, typewriter-style, double-spaced, no verse numbers, no commentaries, dictionaries, concordances, or even the rest of the book (much less the corpus of the canon), we used an English translation that was the result of thousands of years of scholarship and we were able to interpret the text. I've finished a session like that and turned to a commentary I trust only to find that, not only did we get the "right answer", but our study went deeper and found more truth than whoever wrote the commentary. That's also one of the reasons I love this site!

You see, the authors of the Bible, like all authors, want to implant thoughts in your mind. The text is their only tool. Certainly they might borrow from other texts as a sort of shorthand as Jesus did when he quoted Isaiah. But ultimately, every single book in the Bible is there because it has, on it's own, communicated something to people through the ages. Even to people who begin with the assumption that "God" is the mythological wish-fulfillment of fools, have, at times, discovered something important communicated in these books. Beyond a desire to understand what the author is trying to say, literally everything else is a luxury when it comes to hermeneutical principles.


The fundamental principle of hermeneutics is to simply read and grapple with whatever text is before you, the reader, and to trust that the author will communicate effectively.

  • I love the first half, and the second half, but the two halves seemed disconnected, and it made my head spin a little. Can we understand the text before us, or does God have to reveal the meaning to us? (As we discussed in chat, this may lead to a new question.) +1 though, for bringing up two good points! (heheh...)
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Jul 7, 2012 at 5:35

Yes, I would suggest pay a lot of attention to the context, start basically when Jesus started, the exegetical rules of His time. One of the major hermeneutic approach of His time descends from the principles that Rab. Hillel recorded. The Seven Rules of Hillel:

They are as follows:

  1. Ḳal (ḳol) wa-ḥomer: "Argumentum a minori ad majus" or "a majori ad minus"; corresponding to the scholastic proof a fortiori.
  2. Gezerah shawah: Argument from analogy. Biblical passages containing synonyms or homonyms are subject, however much they differ in other respects, to identical definitions and applications.
  3. Binyan ab mi-katub eḥad: Application of a provision found in one passage only to passages which are related to the first in content but do not contain the provision in question.
  4. Binyan ab mi-shene ketubim: The same as the preceding, except that the provision is generalized from two Biblical passages.
  5. Kelal u-Peraṭ and Peraṭ u-kelal: Definition of the general by the particular, and of the particular by the general.
  6. Ka-yoẓe bo mi-maḳom aḥer: Similarity in content to another Scriptural passage.
  7. Dabar ha-lamed me-'inyano: Interpretation deduced from the context.

For my argumentation I will explain the first one, the kal vahomer rule says that what applies in a less important case will certainly apply in a more important case. A kal vahomer argument is often, but not always, signaled by a phrase like "how much more..."

There are several examples of kal vahomer in the New Testament. Jesus often uses this form of argument:

If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?—John 7:23


What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.—Matthew 12:11-12

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    See also: a fortiori argument. I assume you are using the KJV here? Also, this takes just one of Hillel's principles and argues for it, but you mean that all 7 can and do apply, right? Very interesting. Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 17:53
  • Yes, all 7 do apply too, the last one is the more important nowadays, the interpretation deduced from the context. By example, in Latin America many people (uneducated) thinking Jesus was a roman. this is a huge decontextualizing.
    – Wlanez
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 16:44

Joh 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

An orthodox Christian site says:

"A Biblical Christian is the one who, wherever he looks, on every page of Scripture, finds everywhere Christ."

The fundamental rule is that all the scriptures speak of Christ, and until you see him in them, you have missed the point.

How do we interpret scripture? Christologically.

  • Excellent! Thanks. I appreciate having another wonderful perspective on this.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 6:00
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    +1 Though John 5:39 does not explicitly say "that all the scriptures speak of Christ" Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 16:32
  • @Jack No, but that's why I included the quote from an Eastern Orthodox site. The church has always believed that he primary purpose of the scriptures is to reveal Christ. And in practice, since I am finding that they all do, as it gets documented, it will become more difficult for skeptics to deny.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 16:38

Establishing the most foundational rule of hermeneutics is a bit like choosing your favorite child. The reality is that exegesis is a combination of methods to arrive at the best exposition of the true meaning of a passage. These methods include a variety of principles or rules, some of which are justified by the internal claims of the Bible itself, and some of which are justified by applying the God-given common sense that we have.

Having said that, the primary aim of hermeneutics is to objectively examine a passage to uncover the truth proposition that it is making. Therefore, I'd assert that a primary principle for the hermeneutical endeavor is to strip away a majority of the biases with which we approach a text (which I just did today and was called out on it) and attempt to discover the timeless truth that exists in the mind of God that he has chosen to reveal to us. Under that is an umbrella of tools and principles which we could delineate and prioritize, I guess.

Having said that, hermeneutics is a method developed by people to do this very task much like the scientific method is a way discover and describe the nature of something. I'd stop short of saying it is a God-ordained activity and so there's no real mandate to be biblical scholars - just to teach, observe, and witness. Hermeneutics is a way to support these mandates with some solid fact-finding and application.

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    If I am going to consider the origin of this rule to be "from Scripture", I would need to see some Scripture references which teach this rule.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 19:04
  • So you need a passage from Scripture to justify tha application of common sense? How about Genesis 1:27 where it is clear that God created humanity in His image. From there the applIcation of faculties that have been divinely transmitted may be justified
    – swasheck
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 5:02
  • Or perhaps the whole of the Timothy correspondence in which Paul exhorts Timothy to faithfully study and dispense the word of god.
    – swasheck
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 5:16
  • If you consider this to be a principle which is "drawn from Scripture", I just need you to link the Scriptures in your answer. I don't think that is an unreasonable request, since that was the whole focus of the question. I am in agreement that this is a great principle, and was looking forward to seeing how you handled the Scriptural justification. My comment wasn't meant as a personal attack.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 6:12
  • @Jas 3.1 and swasheck: It seems like you guys have a fundamental difference about how hermeneutics works. Comments aren't usually the best place to discuss these types of differences. Perhaps we can all meet in the Library? Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 15:44

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