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The Science of Interpreting the Scriptures

Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing (Strong's: dissecting correctly)
the Word of Truth. - 2 Timothy 2:15

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Author: Dr. David L. Cooper

Editor's note: In many places in the Scriptures, the believer is encouraged to study the written Word as the foundation for a holy, godly and fruitful life before God and man. But how are we to study this unified, but daunting, compilation of sixty-six books written by over forty authors between nineteen hundred and thirty-five hundred years ago in languages and cultures that may be totally foreign to us? Enter the science of hermeneutics.

To understand hermeneutical principles is to be equipped for an intelligent study of the Word of God, tending greatly to our approval before God as workmen that do not need to be ashamed.

In our previous six Shofars, we've been treated to sound instruction by Dr. David L. Cooper, founder of the Biblical Research Society, in interpreting Scripture, a critical skill to master, particularly in an age in which the Babel of interpretations is legion. With "Rules of Interpretation," a study in sixteen parts (introduction and fifteen section), we are engaging in what will be our most extensive and detailed study thus far on the topic and continue to hone our skills in rightly dividing the Word of Truth that we might be a clear and accurate voice for the Lord. Let us apply ourselves.

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Part 1

Dr. David L. Cooper


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In order to fully understand the Word of God (the Bible), there are certain requirements that you must yield to. The Bible is a spiritual book, and it must be spiritually discerned. Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually examined (I Corinthians 2:14).

I. The Spiritual Requirements for a Clear Understanding of the Word of God are as Follows:
A. One must love God

Deuteronomy 6:5: And you shall love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Matthew 22:37: Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

Mark 12:30: "... and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." This is the first commandment.

Luke 10:27: And answering, he said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 10:37: He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

Luke 14:25-35:  25 And great crowds went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me, he cannot be My disciple.
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he may have enough to finish it; 29 lest perhaps, after he has laid the foundation and is not able to finish, all those seeing begin to mock him, 30 saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not first sit down and consult whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So then, everyone of you who does not forsake all his possessions, he cannot be My disciple. 34 Salt is good, but if the salt has become tasteless, with what shall it be seasoned? 35 It is not fit for the land, nor for manure, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

1 John 2:7-11:  7 Brothers, I do not write a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the Word which you have heard from the beginning. 8 Again, I write a new commandment to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true Light now shines. 9 He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no offense in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because darkness has blinded his eyes.

1 John 4:7,8,20:  7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. 8 The one who does not love has not known God. For God is love.... 20  If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if he does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

B. One must have the will to do God's will
John 7:17: If anyone desires to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak from Myself.

Psalms 40:6-8:  6 Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You have not asked. 7 Then I said, Lo, I come, in the volume of the Book it is written of Me; 8 I delight to do Your will, O My God; and Your Law is within My heart.

Acts 13:22: And when He had removed him, He raised up David to them to be their king; to whom He also witnessed and said, I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after My own heart, who shall fulfill all My will.

Matthew 19:29: And everyone who left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

Mark 10:29-31:  29 And Jesus answered and said, Truly I say to you, There is no man that has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my sake and the gospel's sake, 30 but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands with persecutions, and in the world to come, eternal life. 31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Colossians 1:9-11:  9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 that you might walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing, being fruitful in every work and increasing in the knowledge of God, 11 being empowered with all power, according to the might of His glory, to all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness,

Ephesians 5:17: Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

I Thessalonians 4:3: For this is the will of God, your sanctification, for you to abstain from fornication,

John 14:21: He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18:  16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

C. One must be willing to lay aside human theories and practices of men which are contrary to the will of God
Matthew 23:15, 29-36:  15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you compass sea and the dry land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves....  29 And moving from there Jesus came beside the Sea of Galilee. And He went up into a mountain and sat there. 30 And great crowds came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others. And they cast them down at Jesus' feet. And He healed them, 31 so much so that the crowd wondered when they saw the dumb speak, the maimed sound, the lame walk, and the blind see. And they glorified the God of Israel. 32 Then Jesus called His disciples and said, I have compassion on the crowd because they continue with Me for three days now and have nothing to eat. And I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. 33 And His disciples said to Him, From where should we get so many loaves in the wilderness, so as to fill so great a crowd? 34 And Jesus said to them, How many loaves do you have? And they said, Seven, and a few little fish. 35 And He commanded the crowd to sit on the ground. 36 And He took the seven loaves and the fish, and gave thanks, and broke, and gave to His disciples. And the disciples gave to the crowd.

Isaiah 66:1-5:  1 So says Jehovah, Heaven is My throne, and earth My footstool. Where, then, is the house that you build for Me? And where is the place of My rest? 2 For all those My hand has made, and all those exist, says Jehovah. But to this one I will look, to the afflicted and contrite spirit, and the one who trembles at My Word. 3 He who kills an ox is as if he killed a man; he who sacrifices a lamb is as if he broke a dog's neck; he who offers an offering is as if he offered swine's blood; he who burns incense is as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations. 4 I also will choose the things that delude them, and I will bring their fears on them, because I called, no one answered; when I spoke, they did not hear. But they did evil before My eyes and chose that in which I did not delight. 5 Hear the Word of Jehovah, you who tremble at His Word; your brothers who hated you, who cast you out for My name's sake, said, Let Jehovah be glorified. But He will appear to your joy, and they will be ashamed.

Ezekiel 14:4,5:  4 Therefore speak to them, and say to them, So says the Lord Jehovah: Every man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face, and comes to the prophet; I Jehovah will answer him in it by the host of his idols; 5 so that I may capture the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are estranged from Me by their idols, all of them.

Acts 17:10,11:  10 And the brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. They, when they arrived, went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 And these were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily to see if those things were so.

Galatians 6:12: As many as desire to look well in the flesh, these compel you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.

Ephesians 4:17: This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should not walk from now on as other nations walk, in the vanity of their mind,

Isaiah 29:13-16:  13 And Jehovah said, Because this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the command of men; 14 therefore, behold, I will go on doing among this people, a wonder, even a wonder. For the wisdom of their wise ones shall perish, and the understanding of their intelligent ones shall be hidden. 15 Woe to those who go deep to hide their purpose from Jehovah! And their works are in the dark, and they say, Who sees us? And who knows us? 16 O your perversity! Shall the former be counted as the potter's clay; for shall the work say of him who made it, He did not make me? Or shall the thing formed say to him who formed it, He had no understanding?

D. One must pray to the Lord, Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law (Psalms 119:18).

Proverbs 2:3: yea, if you cry after knowledge and lift up your voice for understanding;

Psalm 119:160: Your Word is true from the beginning; and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.

Daniel 4:37: Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and exalt and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth and His ways judgment. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.

II. The Intellectual Requirements are as Follows:
One must study the Word in order to get its messages.
II Timothy 2:15: Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

One must discipline one's mind to memorize the Word.
Psalm 119:11: I have hidden Your Word in my heart, so that I might not sin against You.

Psalm 37:31: The Law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.

Psalm 40:8: I delight to do Your will, O My God; and Your Law is within My heart.

One must worship the Lord with all one's heart.
Proverbs 1:7: The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 9:10: The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 15:33: The fear of Jehovah is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.

Psalms 111:10: The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom; all practicing them have good understanding; His praise stands forever.

Job 28:28: And to man He said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom! And to depart from evil is understanding!

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Reprinted by permission of the Biblical Research Society,
where other outstanding studies by Dr. Cooper may be found.
A brief biography of Dr. Cooper appears at

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