Help with interpretations

I am trying to understand a perspective on bible interpretation. Namely, what is basis for solely relying upon a grammatical-historical framework?

I would love to see the bible and extrabiblical support for this?

I am currently taking Hermeneutics…grammatical-historical interpretation is an important part of understanding text, but doesn’t stand alone. No method of interpretation should stand alone. The bible teaches that the Holy Spirit leads us into revelation of scripture, that scripture affirms scripture, scripture affirms Spirit, Spirit affirms scripture. If someone relies on only one way of interpretation, the truth is rarely found.

And that doesn’t sound the least bit circular to you?

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It’s completely circular, how is that a problem? Maybe more mobius infinite…

On the plus side, GH takes seriously genuine human authorship, treating the Bible as genuine literature, and divine accommodation and desire to communicate. It also does a good job of avoiding some of the crazy allegorization, etc. Negatively, sole dependence on GH is anachronistic, in that it does not represent (a) the apostolic tradition (e.g., the way NT authors handled the OT), or (b) even the best of the history of interpretation in patristic, medieval, and Reformation periods. A strict GH model is too tethered to the Enlightenment and modernism. Also, it can downplay the divine authorship of Scripture by equating the divine intent with the human intent (sometimes even denying typology).

The recent emergence of the sub-discipline the Theological Interpretation of Scripture is a way of recapturing the positives of patristic exegesis (pre-modern) and taking advantage of some of the positives of post-modern approaches. (Of course, care is still needed.)


Circular arguments are not generally considered valid. If you aren’t concerned with valid arguments, no problem.

I recently discovered the idea of the clarity/perspicuity of Scripture and how central it is to Protestantism. I understand some of its use and how it went against the dominant Catholic reliance upon the clergy/experts. I just do not find either conclusive biblical or extrabiblical support for this idea and wondered about its underpinnings and its connection to GH.

The doctrine, classically understood, is limited to the way of salvation…or one could add the basic character of God or even the basic Christian ethics. Nowhere is the doctrine (rightly) claimed to say the whole of the Bible is “clear.” If someone ties this doctrine to GH, he is mishandling and misapplying the doctrine.

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I’m not familiar with Catholicism, but if true, I think that the Muslim/Catholic idea of needing an interpreter to understand the word of God is just mans way of controlling religion and controlling other people.

I have been memorizing Ephesians 1, in doing so the meaning of the scripture becomes more and more clear. Paul presents revelation as something very personal between the individual and God, concluding

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your [f]understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

I understand this passage in this way: that though we may need guidance in understanding scripture intellectually, God alone opens our eyes to the truth that brings us to salvation.

I think we would both agree that there is not much of a valid argument in scripture. You would say that makes it meaningless and not factual (not that I would put words in your mouth, this is just what I would assume your argument to be)…

I would say truth does not require an argument at all, it is just truth. I cannot convince anyone of God’s grace or mercy through an argument, God would need to reveal it to them. I would also argue that scripture is purposefully non-sensical to people who claim to have knowledge of their own, God uses foolish things to shame the wise (1 Cor 1:27).

But we do agree, even though on opposite poles of the theological spectrum, that the bible is not a “valid argument”.

Thanks Kenneth,

I was struggling with finding this level of specificity. I kept finding in my evangelistic and YEC sources a high reliance upon this principle and “plain reading” but I always found it problematic and without much support.


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I always ask, “Plain to whom?” Even within a GH approach, we must seek authorial intent and what was “plain” to the original audience. Often this resonates with our reading (in a translation), but often it’s quite different.

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Your questions seems rather vague to me. Can you be more specific, please?

I am a Catholic and the idea of having a infallible, central authority to interpret core Biblical texts makes perfect sense to me. Without it, how can you know which interpretation is correct?

Furthermore, non-Catholic Christianity is built upon two fallacies:

  1. the Bible is the primary source of Christian faith;
  2. The Holy Spirit gives each individual believer the power to infallibly interpret the scriptures.

The primary source of Christian faith is the Church, which is the “fullness” of Christ (Eph 1:22-23), and it is the Church that teaches believers correct doctrines (and thus, the correct interpretation of scripture (Eph 4).

Incidentally, I was not always Catholic - for several years I was a very anti-Catholic Protestant.

If you are referring to the OP,

here is the tl:dr

Group A claims GH and plain reading must be used when reading Scripture unless explicitly told to otherwise. For example, literal “plain reading” of Genesis 1-11 leads to YEC. I entirely fail to see scriptural evidence for this interpretative choice and wanted to know where it comes from.

Okay, thanks for that. Before the scientific discoveries that strongly suggest an old earth and old life on earth, most Bible scholars accepted a young earth interpretation of Genesis, although not not all of them did.
The Catholic Church (to which I belong) has never taught a definitive interpretation of the Genesis creation accounts, and I would say that these days, virtually no Catholic theologian reads the first few chapters of Genesis literally (although Catholics are free to do so).

Many “born again” Christians insist Genesis is literal, which forces them to reject scientific discoveries about the history of life on earth.

#2 is false. No Protestant denomination or theologian would suggest this.


I would disagree in your assessment of the fallacies (however, I agree there are many false teachings).

  1. Jesus is the primary source of faith, as well as the target of faith, but you could argue Jesus is the word and be correct.
  2. The word is infallible, not each individuals interpretation. The word is perfect, I am not.

Or at least these are the things that I glean from scripture, not necessarily mans teaching. Faith is a personal journey, even Jesus warned of following the chief priests and claimed Himself to be the only true teacher. If the Spirit is personal to me, how can anyone else tell me the truth?

Faith is certainly a personal journey, but it is not done alone - it is done under the guidance of an in communion with the Church. The Church is not simply a collection of believers - if so, it could not possibly be the “fullness” of Christ (Eph 1:22-23). The Church is part of Christ himself.

Jesus gave the “keys of the kingdom of God” to one man - Peter (Matt 16) - because Peter was the first leader of the Church. What happened to those “keys” when Peter died? Did they disappear or get lost? If not, where are those “keys” today, and who holds them? Do you hold them?

Christ did not give you the authority nor the power to teach yourself what the truth is - Christ gave us the CHURCH to teach all believers true doctrine:

” 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the [e]edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
Ephesians 4:11-16

This is confusing. You say your interpretation of the scriptures is not infallible, but then you seem to claim that the HS personally teaches you the truth …

Eph 1:22 says the “Church” is the “fullness” of Christ. Therefore what the Church teaches is what Christ himself teaches. Christ himself is not here to teach us directly - so he does that through his Church, which is his body.

In that case, who can you rely on for the correct interpretation of scripture? Anyone?

Really? If the HS doesn’t give individual believers the power to interpret the scriptures, then who does the HS give that power to? An organization? If so, which one?

Or are you saying the HS gives no one the power to interpret the scriptures?

Notice how you changed the claim. The original one used the word “infallibly.” If this were the case, we would have no interpretive disagreements among Spirit-filled believers (let alone denominations). I suppose Catholicism’s claim to papal infallibility logically overcomes this problem, but I personally don’t find it convincing as a dogma. And the history of the Catholic Church doesn’t bode well for it to claim to be the one true church. (Though I do consider Catholics fellow believers and appreciate much of what Catholic theologians and scholars offer.)

There are different takes on the doctrine of illumination. The popular notion is that the Spirit helps believers interpret Scripture, but not infallibly. One problem with this is that non-believers have shown themselves quite capable of interpreting Scripture. After all, God communicated through common human language. (Some of my best resources in my library are from non-Christians.) Another option for illumination is that Spirit does not so much aid (supernaturally) to do the grunt work of exegesis, etc., but to (1) help an individual see the bigger picture (e.g., unity of worldview, Christocentricity), and/or (2) help individuals with application of the historic text for life today.

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Have you ever read Psalm in Arabic? I think it is good to read because it has just finished recently, there are many new things about its interpretation from various scientific aspects. The title: The Damascus Psalm Fragment: Middle Arabic and the Legacy of Old Higazi

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