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The Interpretation of the Scriptures.
The Principle of Induction.
pp. 6 - 10
Continuing our investigation into this most important subject, and putting into practice
the important principle of settling the interpretation of a passage first, we should attempt
to discover its real and basic meaning, and not attribute one to it that appeals to us. If we
do this we are only reading our own ideas, or those of other people into it, and this is
always destructive of truth. Luther wrote: "The best teacher is the one who does not
bring his meaning into Scripture, but brings it out of Scripture". Wise words indeed!
Happy is the person who can approach the Bible relatively free from personal prejudices,
bias and pre-conceived notions. Too frequently God's Word is marred by traditional
ideas, or is cited merely to support some peculiar concept that appeals to the person
concerned or the denomination to which he or she belongs.
The Lord Jesus warned the religious leaders of His day in Mark 7: 13 that they
made "the Word of God of none effect through their tradition". They emptied it of its
real meaning so that they could keep their own ideas (7: 9), and there is scarcely
anything more spiritually blinding than human tradition. The task of the interpreter is to
discover the true meaning of Holy Scripture, not to verify his prejudices or to try to
bolster up the peculiar tenets of the sect to which he belongs. God's Word must not be
used as a peg on which to hang religious opinions.
The Preference for the Clearest Interpretation.
Sometimes the searcher for truth is confronted with two or possibly more probable
interpretations as far as grammatical rules permit. The rule then is to choose the clear
rather than the obscure and the one that fits in best with the context and the general
teaching of Scripture. Obscure passages must give right of way to clear passages. We
can be thankful that everything essential to salvation and man's basic needs is clearly
revealed in the Word of God. Essential truth is not tucked away among incidental
remarks, nor is it contained in passages whose meanings are not yet understood.
Furthermore, obscure and difficult portions of Scripture should not be used as a sole basis
for doctrine. This betrays weakness. For instance, our conception of future punishment
should not be based on the book of Revelation alone. This part of Scripture is universally
admitted to be difficult of interpretation. When this sort of thing is done it nearly always
is an indication that the Scripture is being used to support preconceived ideas and is
Scripture interprets Scripture.
The next guiding principle for us to observe is that Scripture interprets Scripture. The
apostle Paul expresses it in this way: