The Interpretive Journey

Journey into God’s Word:
Lesson 1
The Interpretive Journey


Many of you have been reading the Scriptures much longer than I. I began reading the Bible in May of 2003. Through the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, God saved me from the penalty of sin, he is now saving me from the power of sin, and he will save me from the presence of sin.

I will be teaching a hand’s-on approach to reading, interpreting, and applying the bible in the small group that meets in my home. I will be teaching 15 lessons adapted from: Duvall, J. Scott and J. Daniel Hays. Journey into God’s Word. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008. I will post these lessons to my blog. Each blog can be found under the subject hermeneutics.

Recently I attended a class by our pastor Phillip Dancy on praying through the Scriptures. I thought that the class was great because it is my habit to read the scriptures daily and pray in relation to what I just read. What he taught coincides with my personal daily practice of reading the Bible and praying what I read. However, if we are to interpret the meaning God intended we must go deeper into God’s word than simply reading the text. Duvall and Hays call the process of interpreting and grasping the Bible a journey into God’s Word. It is a journey because we are separated from the biblical audience by culture, language, situation, time and sometimes by covenant.1

New Testament believers are under the New Covenant; therefore, we approach God by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ through faith. The people of the Old Testament were under the old covenant; therefore, they approached God through the Mosaic and Levitical law.2

For these reasons an intuitive interpretation will not work. Typically, Christians take three approaches to reading and interpreting Scripture. If the text looks as though it can be directly applied to their lives they do so. If not, they may spiritualize or take an allegorical approach to interpreting biblical meaning. Or they may skip past the passage all together and move on to a different passage.3

The goal for this lesson is to interpret the meaning of the text that God intended. We shall not create meaning but seek the meaning already in the text. We must do this because the Bible is God’s communication of himself and his will to us.4

Interpretive Steps:
  1. Grasp the text in their town - What did the text mean to the biblical audience? This will take a little willingness to do research.
  2. Measure the Width of the River to Cross - What are the differences between the biblical audience and us? Once you understand the biblical audience’s culture, language, situation, time and covenant you can answer this question.
  3. Crossing the Principlizing Bridge - What is the theological principle in the text? See criteria for principles. 
  4. Grasping the Text in Our Town - How should individual Christians today apply the theological principle in their lives? There are many ways that the principles can be applied. Depending on your personal walk with the Lord there may be an application of the principle that is right in your life that would not be right in the lives of every believer. This is where interpretation might get personal but not so for the other steps.5
Criteria for Principles:
  • The principle should be reflected in the text.
  • The principle should be timeless and not tied to a specific situation.
  • The principles should not be culturally bound.
  • The principle should correspond to the teaching of the rest of Scripture.
  • The Principle should be relevant to both the biblical and the contemporary audience.

J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Journey Into God’s Word(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 12.
Ibid, 13.
Ibid, 14.
J. Scott Duvall and Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hand’s-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible Laminated Sheet, 3rded. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 1.