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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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 ten 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 that will span perhaps seventeen Shofars, we are engaging what will be our most extensive and detailed study thus far on the topic and continuing to hone our skills in rightly dividing the Word of Truth that we might be clear and accurate voices for the Lord. Let us apply ourselves. - Editor

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Dr. David L. Cooper

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Part Three: Rules of Interpretation Proper

"The knowledge of certain rules of interpretation and the observance of these rules when studying the Scriptures is very important and helpful in arriving at a clear understanding of God's Word."

Rule 2: Discover the Facts and Truths Presented in a Given Passage
and Note the Exact Wording of the Text


"Discover the truths in every passage and analyze them in the light of the great and fundamental principles or truths which control man in every sphere of his activity."


II. The second rule of interpretation


A. Note carefully every statement that is made and
every fact that is stated in any given passage

1. "Facts" defined: A fact is that which has been done, a reality, truth. (Facts always overthrow theories that are not
    in harmony with truth.)

2. Collect the facts under the following headings:
    a. Historical Facts
    b. Scientific Facts
    c. Physical Facts
    d. Spiritual Status

3. Classify the facts which are presented by any text of Scripture under rules of grammar.
    a. Analyze every sentence for every part of speech used.
    b. Take note of type of sentence used.
    c. Note the theme of the paragraph or passage.
    d. Note whether or not the subject is acting or being acted upon.
    e. Note the motive if any, which prompted the act.
    f.  Note whether or not anyone is affected by what is said or done.

B. Discover the truths in every passage and analyze them
in the light of the great and fundamental principles or
truths which control man in every sphere of his activity

1. The physical world is controlled by laws.
2. The mind is controlled by unbreakable laws and principles.

3. In the field of ethics and religion there are inflexible truths and principles.

4. In the spiritual realm also unchangeable and unvarying principles and truth are operating.

C. Note the exact wording of the text

1. Words are symbols of ideas.

2. Every word and every group of words sets forth a definite, specific meaning. This is especially true of the
    Scriptures, which are the profoundest of writings and which are more than the writings of uninspired men.

3. Analyze every word for its true meaning in any given text.

D. The following is a limited application of this rule:

1. The text: Genesis 1:1:2: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was waste and
    void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

2. Analysis of the text:
    a. In the beginning. This is a prepositional phrase referring to that part of eternity which antedated time (time
        began with creation).
    b. God is the subject and He did the acting.
    c. The verb created denotes to bring into being that which had no prior form or substance.
    d. Heavens and earth constitute the object upon which God acted. (It would take Glenn or Carpenter 13,743
        years to travel to the nearest star at the speed of 17,500 mph.)
    e. In the light of Isa. 45:18, And the earth was waste and void may be understood as follows: But the earth
        became a desolation and a waste.

    f.  And darkness was upon the face of the deep implies that there was light here first, but that after a catastrophe
        darkness enveloped the earth.
    g. In the light of fundamental truths of the Bible the clause and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the
reveals that the Third Person of the Trinity moved or brooded upon the face of the waters.     

3. Exercise: Analyze Psalm 2:1-3.

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Links to prior studies in the "Rules of Interpretation" series may found in our Library

Reprinted by permission of the Biblical Research Society, where other outstanding studies by Dr. Cooper may be found.
Links to the entire "Rules of Interpretation" series may be found at
A brief biography of Dr. Cooper appears at http://www.hadavar.org/brsocietyfounder.html.

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