Reading the Bible is not as simple as it sounds. I think the hardest thing is that we bring so much to it through our unknown pre-suppositions. Different parts of the Body of Christ use different hermeneutical systems. The way you read the Bible will underlie your entire Christian experience, also entire movements. Now that I’ve been under several systems, I’ve developed a real interest in starting from the best possible angle. Here are several approaches used today:
- Text and Background — This is my way of describing the approach commonly taught in the evangelical seminary. The emphasis here is placed on backgrounds to the text, the structure of the text, original language studies, etc.
- Inductive Bible Study — Inductive Bible Study places more emphasis on the reading the Bible in your vernacular language. Instead of spending lots of time in background study and original language, you spend lots of time in the Bible in your language. This method is more of a populist method, and is common among many evangelicals. Kay Arthur has written several good books on this. Although I’m just exploring it, I really like the premise.
- Imagery and Typology — This is not an approach all on it’s own, but it is sometimes a missing component from the other systems. Only recently are scholars starting to accept what has long been known by spiritual Bible readers — there are complex types and images which are important in truly applying the text. These should be studied as an enrichment.
- Prophetic Hermeneutics — The problem with standard Hermeneutics is that it leaves out the Spirit. The factual proof of this is that you cannot use seminary hermeneutics to explain the way that apostles quote the Old Testament in the New Testament. Charismatic/Pentecostal preaching uses what Mark Stibbe has called “This is That” hermeneutics. In this system, the context of the application draws meaning out of the text by the illumination of the Spirit that may not be visible from a “bottom up” rational investigation.
I’ve been trained in Seminary in the first method, and it has created a dissatisfaction It’s not practical enough, and drives you into knowledge, not into God or the Bible. I’ve been around a lot of people who use the second method, and I’ve sat under teachers who have used the last two methods, and I’d like to get more of that. I’ve been fishing up some books on the topic… more on that later.