Wednesday, November 7, 2007

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth

Principles for Interpreting Narratives

I'm using as a handout for our Women's Bible Study on the Book of Esther tonight. This has been an excellent guide over the past couple of years which I keep referring to.

Ten summarizing principles for interpreting Old Testament narratives that should also help you avoid certain pitfalls as you read. (from How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, pg.106)

1. An Old Testament narrative usually does not directly teach a doctrine.
2. An Old Testament narrative usually illustrates a doctrine or doctrines taught propositionally elsewhere.
3. Narratives record what happened – not necessarily what should have happened or what ought to happen every time. Therefore, not every narrative has an individual identifiable moral application.
4. What people do in narratives is not necessarily a good example for us. Frequently, it is just the opposite.
5. Most of the characters in Old Testament narratives are far from perfect – as are their actions as well.
6. We are not always told at the end of a narrative whether what happened was good or bad. We are expected to be able to judge this on the basis of what God has taught us directly and categorically elsewhere in Scripture.
7. All narratives are selective and incomplete. Not all the relevant details are always
given (cf. John 21:25). What does appear in the narrative is everything that the
inspired author thought important for us to know.
8. Narratives are not written to answer all our theological questions. The have particular, specific, limited purposes and deal with certain issues, leaving others to be dealt with elsewhere in other ways.
9. Narratives may teach either explicitly (by clearly stating something) or implicitly (by implying something without actually stating it.)
10. In the final analysis, God is the hero of all biblical narratives.

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