When interpreting biblical texts:

  1. Is assuming a need for 'Systematic Theology', where biblical texts are assumed to conform to a single consistent pattern of meaning, a valid hermeneutical method for ascertaining the meaning of individual biblical texts?

  2. If it is valid, then is it more or less important than local textual considerations (authorship, context etc) in correctly interpreting the text?

  • 1
    @NigelJ - no need for deference, I appreciate both the downvotes and close votes, as the important thing is the community's consensus rather than my own view. I did think for a long time about whether this belonged on Meta or the main site, but came down on the side that it's ultimately a question about the application of hermeneutics, not the BH.SE site. If I'm wrong on that then I can re-ask it elsewhere. Any suggestions on honing the question further are welcome.
    – Steve can help
    Jan 12, 2021 at 15:07
  • This question is good to raise awareness when interpreting text. Obviously the answer is YES, especially when interpreting Paul's letters, since we need to bring Paul's others thoughts in other books when interpreting Romans. A good BH.SE answer should show conscious effort in separating local (verse, chapter, and book level) interpretation from systematic (thematic, author level) considerations when interpreting a particular verse. I didn't vote / close, but I think the question belongs to the meta as a guideline for using Systematic Theology in a BH.SE answer. Jan 12, 2021 at 15:44
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Steve can help
    Jan 12, 2021 at 15:47
  • I thought the basic question was okay, as it concerns the hermeneutical circle, but perhaps the wording could be tightened up.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 12, 2021 at 22:45

1 Answer 1


My belief is that it is not a question of priority at all. It is impossible to interpret scripture without the light of some theological system, and contradictions in that system need to be resolved.

But systematic theology, concerns of linguistics, local concerns about what we know of the author's intent, background, and rhetorical style -- all of that play the role of consistency checks. They can disqualify or refine poor readings, even as the scriptures themselves are an important source of theology, knowledge of the author and culture/linguistics. So the question is not what creates what, but whether the combination of all these is consistent.

The source of interpretation has to be revelation, but it is very easy to fool yourself into thinking that something is a revelation when it is not, and for that you need to throw everything at the revelation to see if it can withstand it, and systematic theology would be one of those things thrown, along with everything else.

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