How to Correctly Interpret the Bible

4-22-22 How to Correctly Interpret the Bible

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The Atheist Challenge:

Want to know a lot about the bible? talk to an Atheist!

They’ve read it more thoroughly than religious  people.

Which is why they don’t believe in it.

And here’s a couple of reasons…

Cannibalism, wizards, talking donkeys, talking snakes, incest, dragons, Roman propaganda, etc.

 

My initial comment:

Atheists demonstrate they do not know how to read old books. They have hardly read it more thoroughly than well-grounded and carefully studied Bible believing Christians.

To read a work of literature properly you must read it in terms of its worldview, not yours.

To read a work of literature properly you must know and follow the rules of interpretation.

Others have well said that it takes more faith to be an atheist than to be a Bible believing Christian.

 

A responder to my comment asks:

“RULES” of interpretation? “RULES”? Not guidelines, but “RULES”?

What in the anunnaki are you talking about? “Rules of Interpretation”, as far as my knowledge is concerned, is ONLY used in Legal Parlance.

To be fair to you, I’d like to ask for a reference to this “RULES” of Interpretation when reading literature.

Thanks a lot.

 

I answered:

I have posted 24 rules of interpretation at my website:

 

How to correctly interpret the Bible

How to correctly interpret the Bible–A few more common-sense rules

 

I like your insight regarding rules of interpretation being a part of Legal Parlance. I have a number of books in my personal library written by attorneys who discuss, among other matters, the rules of evidence. They utilize the rules of evidence to establish the historicity of the New Testament.

My favorite has been a volume written by Irwin H. Linton titled A Lawyer Examines the Bible. Linton introduces a number of substantial classic works on Christian evidences from more than a century ago. He observes that good arguments do not go out of date.

One of the most significant titles he references is Simon Greenleaf’s Testimony of the Evangelists, Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered by the Courts of Justice. Greenleaf was a noted authority on the rules of evidence as the author of a major work on that subject.

Another is a much more recent volume by attorney William Mark Lanier, Atheism on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Case for Unbelief.

I attended a graduate seminar at Wayne State University. I mentioned during the seminar that I employed rules of interpretation when I taught my students how to interpret poetry. The professor was literally horrified. That just shows she had never studied the fascinating volume by I. A. Richards titled Practical Criticism. What he did is what I did in my classroom instruction before I ever  knew of his book. I shared a list of about twelve rules of interpretation with my students. It is from that list I developed my fuller list of 24 rules after many discussions regarding Bible interpretation with many others both on line and in person.

4-23-22

APD responded:

Seriously? You are IMPOSING these “RULES” (would you agree if I imply that these are laws? Considering that these are “rules”?) that you’ve made, to people who does not have the concept of faith and/or belief to a deity/ies?

The concept of not having faith or belief to a god is ultimately unbeknownst to you. I suggest you set your mind secularly before engaging with atheists and the like. Meaning, you must STABLISH your conversations with them rationally and/or logically first.

Otherwise, they will only see you as someone who believes in Santa Claus.

You present to us, “RULES” which is tantamount to “LAWS”, that “YOU MADE” for purposes of “BIBLE STUDY”, and you expect us to follow said “LAWS” that “YOU MADE”?

Seriously, this sounds logical to you?

 

My response to APD:

For many years I was made by profession a reading specialist because I was successful in helping students improve their reading comprehension.

I suggest that your response to my comment indicates you may have failed to accurately comprehend what I stated, though I greatly appreciate that you have taken the time  to respond.

My original 12 “rules” were in part devised to assist my students to know why some interpretations of poetry are better than others. In other words, these are principles of literary judgment written in a form even my high school students could understand and apply.

When I was asked by the school administration to sponsor the Bible Discussion Club, those discussions were the help and motivation to further expand my set of Rules of Interpretation to address the principles helpful to resolve differences in Bible interpretation as they arose.

This was in answer to the assertion, “That is just your interpretation.” Well, of course, if I presented my case or position, it is my interpretation. If you have a better interpretation, how do you justify it? How do you determine the basis for judging that your interpretation is better than mine?

The answer, of course, is that if your interpretation better conforms to the rules of interpretation, then you have shown that your interpretation is superior to mine, and if I am honest to my own principles of literary judgment, I will change my mind and agree with you.

A long and careful reading of my responses to commenters on my site would reveal that I frequently remark that if any commenter disagrees with me and demonstrates better evidence supporting a different position than I presently hold, I will change my mind. On my site there are several instances where I have done just that.

You will kindly note that I answered your original question using strictly secular principles. I directed you to where I presented a listing of 24 Rules of Interpretation. I mentioned the horror my secular professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, expressed when I affirmed there are principles of literary judgment that are useful in teaching students how to interpret poetry. I shared with you the title of a secular work of literary criticism by I. A. Richards who, unknown to me at the time, though I then owned the book but had not read it yet, used the same procedure for teaching poetry that I did.

I therefore conclude that any genuinely literate atheist would concur with me that my principles of literary interpretation and judgment are most valid in arriving at justifiable and correct interpretations of any written discourse, including the Bible.

And as for me being logical, your response to me reveals the validity of my comment, when I stated that “Atheists demonstrate they do not know how to read old books.” Of course, my principles of how to understand written documents of any kind apply to any work, whether old or new.

4-24-22

APD replied:

as I am right that the concept of not having faith is unbeknownst to you. There was nothing secular about your set of rules nor your comments/replies.

Such rules are irrelevant to art, where one MUST have general knowledge of the art form in order to technical interpret it and/or emotional connection to a certain art to interpret the same.

Artful forms of literature cannot be interpreted with the same set of rules as interpreting historical accounts/fiction, essays, novels, fables, etc.

Each of these types of literature has a totally different form from each other, and cannot be interpreted using the same rules.

If your book was to help/assist students, then such rules are not rules. Using hyperbole on a title is generally used in news casting, to which imo is unethical, an alloyed form of writing, commonly used by con artists, propagandist, activists, and extremists.

 

I responded:

You state:

“as I am right that the concept of not having faith is unbeknownst to you. There was nothing secular about your set of rules nor your comments/replies.”

(1) You have no basis in fact to affirm that “the concept of not having faith” is not known to me.

That is not the subject I am addressing, so I have made no comment about that issue. I will say that anyone who will read with care the Gospel of John is capable of experiencing the result John states is the purpose for writing his Gospel:

John 20:30  And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

John 20:31  But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

(2) So far, you have not given any evidence that you know anything about the rules of interpretation I have been referencing, even though I furnished the necessary link to access them. Do you even know what they are?

The rules of interpretation are not limited to the genre of poetry. The rules of interpretation work well for fiction or nonfiction. They are especially relevant to judging the validity of interpretations of the short story. I used them with the story “The Bet,” by Anton Chekov. I wrote about this on my site also.

 

(3) As for “There was nothing secular about your set of rules nor your comments/replies.”

There is nothing secular about the title of this site, “Christians do you REALLY know your Bible?”

Nevertheless, you will find it hard, if not impossible, to prove that using the principles and practices advocated or illustrated by I. A. Richards is anything but secular.

In my initial comment above I stated:

To read a work of literature properly you must read it in terms of its worldview, not yours.

4-25-22

APD replied:

You have not addressed my points, especially the last. Should I assume that those are correct?

I responded:

Is this the point you refer to?

“If your book was to help/assist students, then such rules are not rules. Using hyperbole on a title is generally used in news casting, to which imo is unethical, an alloyed form of writing, commonly used by con artists, propagandist, activists, and extremists.”

Now that you mentioned it, let me tell you just a little bit about my book:

When I began teaching, I was assigned the two bottom-ability homeroom groups of students to teach reading and English. These students were 3 to 4 years behind in reading achievement as measured by the tests used by the school district.

Many, if not most, of my students were unable to read the English book (Enjoying English 7, by Don M. Wolfe and Lela T. Hamilton, published by the L. W. Singer Company), so I wrote my own instructional material in the form of short units on 3 by 5 file cards using programmed instruction which I had learned about by reading Shelly Uman’s book, New Trends in Reading Instruction.

At the end of the semester I gave the required reading comprehension test (Stanford test of reading comprehension). The lowest ability group (the only class I used my programmed instruction units with) showed the greatest improvement. The class as a whole advanced two years in grade level reading achievement in one semester. The highest scorers were reading at a grade level that was as  many years ahead as they had been behind.

You can find my book on Amazon by searching for my name and the title, The Language Enrichment Program.

 

Were you to actually check out my reading program you would find it entirely secular.

So much for your mistaken judgment that, in your opinion, my book “is unethical, an alloyed form of writing, commonly used by con artists, propagandist, activists, and extremists.”

APD replied:

Let me say that again, to quote: “If your book was to help/assist students, then such rules are not rules. Using hyperbole on a title is generally used in news casting, to which imo is unethical, an alloyed form of writing, commonly used by con artists, propagandist, activists, and extremists.”

I say didn’t your book was unethical  It seems you are the one who needs some lessons on reading comprehension. Or is it that you are indeed one of’em con artist trying put words into somebody else’s mouth.

You should have not used hyperbole on your title, that was all that I was saying.

I responded:

It may be you are the one who may need some lessons on reading comprehension! If you do, I shared with you the title of the reading program I have written that is available on Amazon. It has helped thousands of students in my classes and elsewhere and works with students of any age from third grade to graduate school.

My references to the Rules of Interpretation are not references to a book but references to a list of 12 rules of interpretation devised to help students understand why some interpretations of a literary work are better or worse than other interpretations. There is nothing necessarily religious in applying rules of interpretation to literary study. My approach to interpretation in my school setting is entirely secular. I furnished you evidence for that by referring to the work of I. A. Richards who did what I did.

There is no hyperbole involved by labeling my lesson plan “Rules of Interpretation.” If you knew more about the subject you would understand that if you violate any of these rules in devising an interpretation your interpretation will be wrong or less than ideal or satisfactory.

This entry was posted in Apologetics Issues--Atheism, Education Issues, How to Interpret the Bible Correctly and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How to Correctly Interpret the Bible

  1. ken sagely says:

    greetings jerry enjoyed interptation of the bible its always been encouraging your emphasis on the dependence on the Holy Spirit to guide us and enlighten our under
    standing of the Word of God like you have said before we must be in fellowship with Holy Spiirt in our daily reading of His Word that comes with confiession of our sins
    1 john 1.9 i have a few promises to share on Holy Spirits ministry to us. 2 peter 1.21 For the prophecy came not any time by the will of man,but by holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2.12 Now we have not received not the spirit of the world,but the Spirit of who is of God;that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God. appreciate it excellent article!!

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