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Regarding Rules of Interpretation of Scripture

The meaning of the individual parts of a passage of Scripture (or any other writing) is determined by the larger context in which the parts are found. However, when we happen to have a fixed agenda — a list of things we want to prove from Scripture — we can contort Scripture out of context and get it to say something different. We often do this without being aware that this is what we are doing. We just have our agenda glasses on, and we see how the text might be understood in a way which fits into our agenda, so obviously it must be understood to fit into our agenda because, of course, our agenda is right and true and necessary — or so we think.

Sometimes our agenda actually is right and true and necessary, and the text actually is meant the way we want to take it, and we seem to come out right. But if the text itself is reasonably open to other interpretations, then we would be wrong to use it as conclusive proof when in fact it is only supportive, not conclusive. In other words, we should distinguish texts which really prove a point from texts which only seem to fit well with the point, admitting that the texts might fit with something else as well.

2 Timothy 2:15 Be conscientious to present yourself {tested and} approved by God, {namely,} a laborer who has no reason to be ashamed, {because he is continually} handling the word of truth with accuracy.

Sometimes our agenda is indeed right and true and necessary, but the text happens to be talking about something else, so when we twist and squeeze our agenda into it, we are actually building a false foundation which will — in the long run — subtly undermine both the truth which happens to be in our agenda but not in the text we have forced, and also undermine the truth which is actually meant in the text but which we suppress by the overlay of our agenda.

Sometimes our agenda is wrong, and false, and potentially harmful, and you can guess where that leads: we twist and squeeze our agenda into a text, and we actually build a false foundation which will — in the long run — subtly (or maybe not so subtly) undermine the truth which is actually meant in the text.

In other words, we can change a text into a pretext (a rationale, a grounds for action) — which pretext then becomes a platform from which we launch our agenda.

So we can reduce the entire science of interpretation (hermeneutics) down to just four words: Context rules; pretext drools.

We all need to check one another’s interpretations because we all have this tendency to turn texts into pretexts out of contexts.

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