4 Ways to Greater Depth in Personal Bible Study

  1. Historical interpretation: (literal or plain meaning) translation of meaning of events for historical purposes with no underlying meaning - what God and our ancestors did e.g. What did the 10 Commandments mean to ancient Israel?
    • Compare 1st and 5th - authority of God and humanity
    • 2nd with 6, 7 & 8th - dignity of God, human life, family, property
    • 3rd and 9th - commitment to God’s name and humanity (mutual trust)
    • 4th and 10th - rights and privileges of God to receive honor, humans to receive rest, rights of protection, justice, fair treatment and fair wages
When critics attack Christianity, they usually only assault this literal dimension of our faith and totally miss the deeper, spiritual meanings.
  1. Prophetic interpretation: (hidden anagogical meaning) dealing with the future events of Christian history, heaven, hell, judgement day - where we all end up e.g. What do the 10 Commandments mean for our eternity with God?
    • Revelation 21:8 eternal punishment for commandment breakers
    • Romans 6:23 wages of sin
    • Hebrews 10:26-31 sinful lifestyle not compatible with conversion
    • Ephesians 5:5 covetousness is idolatry
    • Hebrews 4 Sabbath rest in God for eternity
  1. Allegorical interpretation: (the Midrash or deeper meaning) connecting the events of the Old Testament with the New Testament, particularly drawing allegorical connections between the events of Christ’s life with the stories of the Old Testament  - where our faith and belief are hid e.g. What do the 10 Commandments mean as a way of salvation?
    • Galatians 4:21- Hagar and Sarah represent the old and new covenants - Paul was very strong on allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament
    • Hebrews 9:9 sacrifices illustrated need for clear consciences
  1. Moral interpretation: (often comparing texts) the application, how one should act in the present - guides to daily life e.g. What do the 10 Commandments mean as a guide for holy living?
    • 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 commandment breakers not in heaven
    • 3 John 1:11 evil doers not from God
    • Ephesians 4:24 created to be like God (theosis, divinization, perfection)
    • Romans 6:1-23 wages of sin is death
    • Matthew 5:16, 48 light shine by good deeds, be perfect like God
    • James 2:14-17 dead faith without works