Does the Scripture, Holy Bible, have it’s own principles to interpret itself? If so, what are they and in which specific sections of the Scripture are they found?

  • 3
    Well hermeneutics as a discipline is on topic, but this question isn't really focused enough.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 14:50
  • 1
    I agree with @curiousdannii. Principles of interpretation are legit on this site (having a set of tags ready to be assigned to the questions), but the question is too broad. Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 16:09
  • 3
    Related question What does it mean that 'Scripture interprets Scripture ?.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 16:17
  • William Branham preached a sermon ones titled "God is his own interpreter". Moreover, there are a few hymns with the title: "God works in mysterious ways". Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 10:07
  • @NigelJ, your comment was instrumental in my decision to change this from "closed" to duplicate of the link you posted. I was already aware of both, but your simple mention persuaded me.
    – Jesse
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 8:38

3 Answers 3



Yes, the Bible does contain one key principle for interpreting itself, and Jesus Christ revealed that key to us.

The key is simple, but profound. It is paradigmatic, but it will never be replaced by a new and different or superior key which has more and better explanatory power, elegance, and parsimony.

It is found in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 24:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted [explained, expounded] to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (v.27, ESV, my italics).

I frequently tell the students in the Bible classes I teach, "I'd happily give my right arm to have been with Cleopas and the other, unnamed disciple on the road to Emmaus, listening to the Master interpreter as he hermeneuticked (really, "diermeneusened") in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself, which in NT Greek is rendered:

καὶ ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ Μωϋσέως καὶ ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν προφητῶν διερμήνευσεν αὐτοῖς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς γραφαῖς ὰ περὶ ἑαυτοῦ

Jesus's method was systematically to interpret (explain or expound) the following:

  • all that the Prophets had spoken (v.25), including Moses (v.27)
  • all that was written of him (and subsequently fulfilled by him) "in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms" (v.45).
  • the necessity of suffering before entering his glory (v.26); in other words, suffering and death before resurrection (v.46)

As Dan G. McCartney observed in his paper entitled "Should we employ the hermeneutics of the New Testament writers?"

. . . there is a sense in which we must emulate the exegetical practice of the New Testament writers. If we do not adopt the viewpoint of Jesus and the apostles that Christ’s death and resurrection is the key focus of the Old Testament, that Christ is himself the centerpiece of all God’s promises, that Christ is the true Israel, true Son of God, that the meaning of the biblical texts for the present-day people of God has to do with our relation to God in Christ, then how can our interpretation be deemed in any sense Christian?


A christological approach to interpretation does not mean that every pericope from the Scriptures (specifically, the Tanakh) is going to contain prophecies about the coming Christ. A christological approach, however, is the forest, as it were, and the grammatical-historical exegesis and interpretation comprise the trees.

One of the dangers of the grammatical-historical approach to hermeneutics is missing the forest for the trees. According to Jesus himself, the theme writ large in all the Tanakh is messianic; that is, Christ-centered (i.e., "the things concerning himself"). To switch metaphors, the messianic prophecies, shadows, and types, are the tree's roots and trunk, whereas the other scriptures are the branches which give symmetry to the tree as a whole.

While typology is a branch of hermeneutics which is subject to abuses leading to bad interpretations (just as Jesus's parables are sometimes made to say more than Jesus intended for them to say), it is nevertheless a tool which the Holy Spirit of God uses to aid us in understanding just how Christ-centered the Scriptures are (see John 16:12-15; and John 5:39, reproduced below):

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me . . . (NASB).

The Scriptures speak eloquently of the person and work of Christ, but they do so by means of content writ small. Typology is one such means, and the Book of Hebrews wades into the subject of typology perhaps more than any other book in the Bible. As John, the writer of voiceoftruthblog has observed,

Typology in the Bible is a method of interpreting Scripture in the light of Scripture itself wherein a relationship is established between people, places, events, or institutions and other people, places, events or institutions. The relationship represents an argument from the lesser to the greater and is often found in discussion of how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament. Usually, the lesser (type) points to the greater (anti-type) and most often refers to either Christ or His work on the cross.

Typology has sometimes been accused of being allegorical, but this is a misrepresentation because typology finds its foundation in actual, historical people, places, events, or institutions. Sometimes typology is clearly spelled out for the biblical student such as in John 3:14-15 . . . where Jesus says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” So Jesus identifies the event of Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness as the type, and the event of His crucifixion as the anti-type. Likewise, the representation of the serpent being “lifted up” finds its greater reality in the “lifting up” of Christ on the cross. In typology, much like in the reading of parables, it’s important not to force every single detail from the lesser into the reality of the greater. So in this example, there is no reason to force meaning of the use of the serpent onto Christ beyond what is expressed by Scripture.

In conclusion, lest you think I am somehow opposed to an interpreter's focus on the "trees" of grammar, history, and what I call the "microscopic" aspects of textual interpretation, including--but not limited to--the original authors' intentions, rest assured I am not. As long as the microscopic view does not leave the macroscopic view out in the cold, I am convinced that hermeneutists need both foci if they are to fulfill in their generation the charge of the apostle Paul:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 NASB, my bolding).

  • Which arm would you give? The writing arm? +1 Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 2:27
  • The notes from the road to Emmaus are in the New Testament. Each gospel is a snapshot in time of the teaching of the apostles as the Holy Spirit reminded them of what they were taught. Each is 10-15 years apart and the differences reveal what they remembered as they studied the scriptures. When you can read the OT like they did, you will see Christ everywhere. Read Rev 1:1 again. The revelation was given to Jesus, before the cross, speaking of the cross, which he shared with his disciples before the cross, which they forgot, which John is now remembering, being reminded by the Holy Spirit.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 15:22

Does scripture have it's own principles to interpret itself?



Before you begin to interpret scripture, you must identify it's genre. The Bible has something to say about this.

Jesus said that the scriptures speak of him [1] , yet modern theologians will tell you that it is a literal-historical work which speaks of the history of Israel. Which is it? It is both. The genre is prophetic riddle. There is a literal-historical layer with a hidden prophecy within. The very lives of the people recorded speak of Christ in riddle.

This is why one must 'seek' to find the Kingdom of Heaven [2] , which is his teaching. It is hidden in riddle. [3] [4] [5]

Many do not seek, but only casually read scripture, and more often listen to what people say about scripture and read books about scripture. The genre is 'prophetic riddle'. God caused it to be written as a literal history written by men, all the while nudging them to write in prophetic layers the human authors did not themselves see. It was written this way to be an analogy to life where we live they way we do, oblivious to God working silently and invisible behind the scenes to accomplish his purposes.

Believe God

In order to interpret scripture you must believe that God has more to say to you than the literal layer alone. This should be obvious that one does not look for treasure which he doesn't believe exists. [6]

Not only must you believe that there is something worth looking for, but you must believe God before you believe men. [7]

We have a system of theological education which surpasses that of the Pharisees in it's arrogance. We adopt the position papers of men seeking PhD's over the word of God. We assume that modern researchers are more capable of interpreting scripture than those ignorant fishermen who misappropriated scripture as they wrote their gospels, [8] all the while confessing that we can't read the OT scriptures the way they did.

If you wish to interpret scripture, you must accept what it says about itself.

  1. God spoke with Adam in a language they both understood. [9]

  2. Eyewitnesses to the events wrote Genesis [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15]

  3. The Hebrew square text was the language from the beginning. Theologians want us to believe that the Hebrews wrote their most sacred text in the language of their enemies, rather than believe that their enemies took that which was holy and defiled it. [16]

Jots and tittles

Jesus said that not one jot nor tittle would disappear from the law [17], suggesting that every jot and tittle has meaning. Since he said it all speaks of him; every jot and tittle speaks of him. The letters of the alphabet are all formed using jots י and tittles ו (horns).

Hebrew is a language like no other. Words derive their meaning from the letters within. Since the rabbis don't remember how this works, you will find many attempts at giving meaning to Hebrew letters. The attempts fall apart at trying to recreate the dictionary from the meanings derived using free-for-all allegory. They also fail the test of speaking of Christ.

One proposed solution stands apart [18], being derived by reverse engineering 8000 Hebrew words. The alphabet gives a catechism of the Christian faith when read in order: [19]

Aleph א - God spoke and created the heavens and the earth [20]

Bet ב - He revealed to man

Gimel ג - that he pursued them

Dalet ד- with a commandment

He ה - which they did not understand

Vav ו - They were distinguished

Zayin ז - as the bride

Chet ח - when they did understand it

Tet ט - Through a marriage

Yod י - they became a new creation

Kof כ - The Son of God

Lamed ל - taught

Mem מ the promise of the Father

Nun נ - The Son of Man

Samech ס - fulfilled the promise

Ayin ע - He was made to be flesh and bore our sin

Pe פ - taught in parables and riddles

Tsadi צ - and exchanged his righteousness for our sin

Qof ק- The Son of God died and rose again

Rosh ר - revealing

Shin ש - his word returned with an increase

Tov ת - His revelation produced new life (It is finished)

The final state of things - final forms of letters

Final kof ך - The Son of God died

Final mem ם - completing the promise of the Father

Final nun ן - The Son of Man was restored to Glory

Final pe ף - Prophecy was fulfilled

Final tsadi ץ - Judgement is ended

Final shin - We became co-heirs with Christ


The alphabet is validated 2 ways: used to understand words, as used by the New Testament writers.

The word for 'In the beginning' contains doctrine about the beginning in the letters which form the word: 'bereshith' בראשית.

'bereshith' בראשית - in the beginning 'A revelation to man ב It is revealed ר that God spoke and created the heavens and the earth א His word returned with an increase ש His new creation י was finished ת'

'bara shith' ברא שית - created six (in six days)

'bar ishi th' נר אשי ת - Son burned (totally devoted) (as an object)

'barit' 'aish' ברית אש - Covenant with man at the center

Adam אדם came from the ground 'adamah' and is made of blood 'dam' דם and the Spirit [which hovered over the waters] א. The blood is the commandment ד finished by the Son of God ם .

Hebrew words validate the proposed alphabet. The New Testament authors also were familiar with the proposed alphabet.

Yeshua does not mean 'God with us' like Emmanuel does. But Matthew understood that the shin ש which has been represented above as 'the word came back with an increase' is a metaphor which can be represented by the actor, the action, or the result. The result was a marriage wherein Christ and his bride returned to the Father. The Actor was the Holy Spirit which gave life to the bride, enabling the marriage. [21] [22] He says that Yeshua is 'Yahweh with a marriage in his heart' (the middle of the word). This is 'God with us'.

John understood that the word for heaven 'shamayim' שמים includes metaphor for Father, Word, and Spirit [23]. He also knew that he word for earth 'eretz' ארץ includes metaphor for Spirit, water and blood. [24]

The strokes, the letters and the words are observed in all of the Old Testament. They help you understand the meaning of the Hebrew words you read.

The rules

The prophets of old packed away the mystery [25]. Modern prophets unpack it by the Spirit to solve riddles [26]. They validate what the Spirit tells them by these rules of Sensus Plenior (SP).

Divine meaning

Since God’s word is established forever [27], a metaphor/shadow means the same thing everywhere is it used. If a donkey is a metaphor of a prophet, everywhere there is a donkey, it is a metaphor of a prophet. This rule alone makes the metaphors humanly impossible to fabricate as it requires the interlocking of a double entendre found in all the scriptures. (This keeps us in awe)

Free-for-all allegory has been properly criticized because allegorical or metaphoric meanings produced in this manner have no way to be verified. We are persuaded by the loudest proponent of a meaning. This rule of "Divine meaning" dis-allows free-for-all allegory by setting an impossible standard for the use of allegory. Every donkey is a prophet, every garment is a work, etc. such that every scripture participates in a hidden picture of Christ. Such a phenomenon is impossible for men to produce and therefore when we observe it occurring, we can have confidence that it is God’s intended meaning.

Consequence of lack of Divine meaning The resulting interpretation is likely to be free-for-all allegory and eisegesis.


The riddle of Samson [28] tells us Christ is the answer to all the prophetic riddles. If the shadow (prophetic riddle) doesn’t look like Christ, it isn’t a good shadow. (This keeps us focused)

Jesus told the disciples on the road to Emmaus that all the scriptures spoke of him [29], and chastised the scribes and Pharisees for searching the scriptures to seek life, but rejecting him, since they spoke of him. [30] If we don’t see Christ in the scriptures, we have missed the primary purpose of the scriptures. [31] And if Christ is not central to a proposed interpretation, it is to be rejected. This rule alone separates SP from Gnosticism, Kabbalah and Midrash.

Consequence of lack of Christocentric meaning: You miss the point of the scriptures in revealing God through Christ.


And since we are to let everyman be a liar and God be true [32], outside references are not required to solve the riddles and see the shadows. (This keeps us devoted)

Not only are we not going to bring in extra-biblical books to determine the meaning of scripture, but we will not make apostles out of historians by elevating their writings concerning the meaning of scripture. We will not make apostles out of document critics. Errors to documents spoil the hidden narrative and once the hidden narrative is known, the proper document can be discerned. Nor will we accept what God has shown you personally, unless He has shown it to you through the scriptures.

Consequence of using outside resources: You make the historian, or the document specialist into an apostle, giving him power over the interpretation of scripture.

Self examination

Jer 17:9 The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Our assumptions about scripture and the rules we use to guide our interpretation effect the ultimate meaning that we get from scripture. It is important to evaluate those assumptions and rules to ensure that they permit the scriptures to speak for themselves rather than permitting us to impose our own meaning upon them.

My assumptions and convictions are these:

  1. The Bible is the word of God which has been protected for us in such a manner that it is considered infallible in every jot and tittle. By using the proper methods of interpretation, as taught by the apostles, errant manuscripts may be discerned.

  2. The meaning of the Bible is contained in multiple layers as described by the church from the earliest days, as a literal and a spiritual layer. These layers are in complete agreement with each other in every way.

3.The hidden spiritual layer is discerned using methods taught by the apostles in the New Testament. It is called the meat of the gospel, whereas the literal meaning is called the milk of the gospel. The milk is sufficient for salvation. The meat provides the spiritual nourishment to enable a mature faith and walk.

The rules are discerned using the same methods as discerning SP, so it should be expected that those practicing literal methods may disagree with how the rules are determined. That doesn't matter. SP needs to be evaluated to see if it is self-consistent as well as if it produces verifiable. meaningful and orthodox results.

Consequence of not doing self-examination: The measure of truth becomes the individual and the standard changes to meet your own goals.


Since God has said that not a jot or tittle will pass away [33], until one knows why each jot and tittle is there, a complete understanding has not been derived. (This keeps us humble)

Such humility is exemplified by one who listens to others’ opinions and based on scripture, tests all things to hold fast to those things which are good [34]. Such humility is missing in one who insists that only his opinion is correct, and uses phrases like “The Bible says so” while pulling passages out of context and displaying an attitude of unwillingness to discuss the meaning or context of those passages.

Consequence of lack of humility The scriptures are wrested or twisted to mean what you want them to mean.

2Pe 3:16 As also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as [they do] also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.


Since man shall live “by every word” [35] [36], a doctrine is not sound until it sums up and includes all that God has said about it. (This keeps us searching)

This attitude of searching recognizes that the Bible is full of meaning, and that perhaps one person in his own studies has not yet identified or considered all the applicable passages. This attitude is missing when a few verses are used as a shotgun to force a discussion to a preconceived conclusion.

Consequence of lack of completeness Conclusions may be premature.

Pr 18:13 ¶ He that answereth a matter before he heareth [it], it [is] folly and shame unto him.


Since every word concerning life and death must be established by two or three witnesses [37], every shadow must have at least two supporting scripture witnesses. This means we cannot define a shadow with a single verse. The shadows speak of Christ and the cross. There is no other topic which addresses life and death for all men. (This keeps us rigorous in methodology)

A shadow is a hidden meaning which is not contained in the literal meaning [38]. Shadows are not the product of a wild imagination and are therefore verifiable by the scriptures. When a shadow has two or three witnesses, it should be regarded as a tentative meaning. This rule specifically forbids a single verse from becoming definitive.

Consequence of lack of rigor: Conclusions may be premature and/or wrong.

If one skims through the rules without comprehending them, or like Naaman hears the instruction but is insulted at their apparent simplicity [39], the results of exegesis will look like nothing but the free-for-all allegory of others. It should not be expected that using the 'Syrian waters' of free-for-all allegory should produce a result any different than before; free-for-all allegory with none of the verifiability of the Hebrew hermeneutic.


  1. Joh 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
  2. Mt 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
  3. Mt 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
  4. Lu 11:9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
  5. Pr 1:6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
  6. Heb 11:6 But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
  7. Ro 3:4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.
  8. The fact is plain: the Apostle Peter would get an “F” if he preached his Acts 2 sermon in Moody’s class, “Communication of Biblical Truth”. The professor, vigilant to eliminate any interpretation that went beyond the “original authorial intent,” would give the classic critique to the apostle: “this text used out of its context!” [1]
  9. Ge 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
  10. see P.J. Wiseman on the 'toledoth'
  11. Ge 2:4
  12. Ge 5:1
  13. Ge 6:9
  14. Ge 10:1
  15. Ge 11:10
  16. Da 5:23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath [is], and whose [are] all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:
  17. Mt 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
  18. https://sensusplenior.net/wiki/Pneumnemonic_Hebrew_for_Beginners
  19. These are not the metaphors for the letters, but one expression of the metaphor. Other expressions are also valid.
  20. The aleph is is expressed in scripture as a metaphor containing all of these ideas: The Spirit between the waters, the firmamnent, war between heaven and earth, separation of Holiness and Love, etc.
  21. Job 33:4 The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
  22. Joh 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life.
  23. 1Jo 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
  24. 1Jo 5:8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
  25. Pr 25:2 ¶ [It is] the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings [is] to search out a matter.
  26. 2Pe 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
  27. 2Sa 7:25 And now, O LORD God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish [it] for ever, and do as thou hast said.
  28. Jud 14:18 And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What [is] sweeter than honey? and what [is] stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.
  29. Jud 14:18 And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What [is] sweeter than honey? and what [is] stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.
  30. Joh 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
  31. Joh 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
  32. Ro 3:4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.
  33. Mt 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
  34. 1Th 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
  35. Mt 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
  36. Lu 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
  37. [[De 17:6 At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; [but] at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.
  38. Heb 10:1 ¶ For the law having a shadow of good things to come, [and] not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
  39. 2Ki 5:11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.

The most relevant passage that applies here - for Christians anyway - is, I think, the account of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-31

But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert road. And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

This passage states very clearly - I think - that Scripture does not establish principles whereby it interprets itself. Rather, as seen here, one must be guided by someone appropriate skilled.

  • Jer 17:5 ¶ Thus saith the LORD; Cursed [be] the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. Too many trust other men to tell them what God said.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 0:42

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