Special Principles For Understanding The Holy Bible

Many of the points in our previous lessons on understanding the Holy Bible dealt with all types of content within the written Word. However, some specific types of content need to be addressed to gain a better understanding of any passage we may come across.
Special Principles For Understanding The Holy Bible
Source - Image owned, uploaded and copyrighted 2015 by the author, Peter P. Macinta (BrotherPete).

Before we begin with this lesson, if you have not done so please see the three previous articles{1} dealing with the foundational, general, and deductive principles of Holy Bible interpretation. To my knowledge, this current lesson will be the last major article in this series. However, due to the rise of iniquity throughout the world, and as the Holy Spirit prompts, I might have to add additional principles. Aside from that, future articles along this line will mostly be dealing with allegations of contradictions in the Holy Bible as well as presenting clarity on certain passages that have been misunderstood

by many and even purposely misrepresented by some.

This last major article deals with certain types of passages one will come across in the Holy Bible that could be considered unique in themselves. Many, if not all, of these types will be found in non-Biblical literature as well, but our concern for these lessons is solely with Holy Bible.

1. Prophetic

In the basic sense, prophecy is speaking forth the will God and at times has nothing to do with the future. However, for these lessons I am referring to the futuristic aspects of the plans and purposes of God.

Prophetic passages might not give all the events predicted in the order they will occur. They might be very general, taking in numerous years, and they might be very specific, just focusing upon one event. For an example of these two points, let us say you are reading Micah chapters 4 and 5. 4:1-7 speaks of the millennial reign of Christ, 4:8 to the middle of 5:1 seems to deal with element leading up to, and including, Armageddon, the latter half prophesying about the smitten Messiah and then verse 2 speaking of the birth of Messiah. That is starting from the millennial reign and working backwards. Then 5:3 speaks in a general sense about the time period from when Israel would be dissolved as a nation to the time it is restore and in verse 4 we are back in the millennial reign.

I know as a young Christian my head seemed to “be spinning” when I read passages like that. However, the spinning is put into control when one remembers other principles that we have discussed like, “Context,” “Determining References of Address,” and “Scripture Interprets Scripture.” The book of Daniel is a main helper on that last principle because within that book we see some time lines in prophecy.

But a major aspect is that insight to such passages is often brought about the by following the Foundational Principles, like being active in prayer and being guided by the Holy Spirit. 

2. Accommodation in Presentation

God revealed aspects of Himself in ways that people would understand it in their times. For example, to express the fact that He is omniscient, that He knew the spiritually weak heart of King Asa who relied on Syria and not on God, He moved upon the prophet Hanani to say to Asa (2 Chronicles 16:9), "For the eyes of YHVH run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him."

Accommodation in presentation also occurs in figures of speech at times (see the example just below about God "baring His arm").

3. Figures of Speech

Most languages, if not all, have figures of speech. The same holds true for Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. In modern times we now know the earth rotates on an axis and so we have day and night, but we still say sunrise and sunset. So there is nothing wrong with the Holy Bible saying sunrise and sunset. Even our scientific meteorologists use the terms “sunrise” and “sunset.” The same goes for the "four corners of the earth" which can simply mean the four main directions. God "baring His arm" (this is an anthropomorphism) meant He was ready to take action.

4. Parables and Allegories

Parables are stories that condense a spiritual truth so we might understand it better. 

In regard to allegories, Beuttler{2} writes . . .
   "a. Allegory defined - An allegory is an extended metaphor which presents a spiritual truth in symbolical narrative, Ecc. 12:6.
   b. Allegory and parable differentiated:
     (a) The personages in the parable are representative, e.g., Matt. 13:3-9, while those of an allegory are symbolical, e.g., Ecc. 12:6.
     (b) The meaning of the parable is to be sought apart from the imagery of the story, while the meaning of the allegory is implied in the symbolical use of the words."

5. Paradox

In rare cases, a passage will purposely present at least two statements that are opposite to each other and state each as truth. The objective of such a passage is to make you think (exercise your mind) of the actual message it wants to convey. My favorite is Proverbs 26:4 and 5. The actual message is--stay away from a fool! While some definitions for paradox might be something like a statement that is seemingly contradictory yet perhaps true, when it comes to the Holy Bible, there is no "perhaps" in a truth a paradox would present.

6. Poetry

Certain books are mainly poetry or forms of poetry: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. Sections of poetry occur in other books of the Bible. Just like our poetry, there are times unnatural attributes are given to certain things to express a thought in a powerful way. In this, and in other cases when it would not be sensible or be against the other principles of interpretation to take what is written absolutely literal  we are to focus upon that powerful thought of course.

There are also times that the Holy Spirit permitted the human authors to express emotions you and I would shrink from. For example, read Psalm 137 where the psalmist vents his emotions in regard to how the Jews were treated by the Babylonian captors. The concluding verse states, "Happy shall he be, that taketh and dashes your little ones against the stones." One thing the Holy Spirit is showing us is the deep, grievous hurt the Jews felt as they fell prey to their human enemies after falling prey to sin.

Figures of speech and accommodation in presentation are often interwoven within Biblical poetry. Prophetic passages are sometimes poetically written, totally or in part. See the section above on prophecy studying in such areas.

7. Promises

God has made a number of promises. However, some are only for the Jews, some for Gentiles, some for everyone, and some just for individuals. Also, most promises have a condition we have to follow in order to get the results.

In Acts 16:31 Paul and Silas told the Philippian jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Some have taken this as a promise that if a person believes to salvation, everyone in their household will believe unto salvation. This is not necessarily so. The jailor's household was apparently more receptive to the Gospel than many households today. There are numerous people who have truly committed to Christ, but their family has not. Consider what Christ said in Luke 12:51-53: "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."

8. Types

These are things that were a representation of what was to come. For example, many of the offerings in the OT typify Christ. In some cases, they can also typify the true believer or the true Church. Sometimes people

were types.

Beuttler{3} writes, “A type in Scripture is a preordained representative relation in which certain persons, places, institutions, etc. of the Old Testament hold to corresponding persons, places, institutions, etc., of the New Testament, e.g., Heb. 7:1-2.”

He continues with bringing forth the following essential characteristics of a type:
    “(a) Notable points of analogy - There must be some notable point or points of analogy between the type and its antitype. In addition, there must also be striking points of contrast; and the antitype is always higher and nobler than the type. e.g., I Cor. 15:45-49.
    (b) Evidence of divine designation - There must be evidence that the type was divinely designated and appointed to represent the person or thing typified. Thus more than resemblance is needed to constitute a type. The correspondence must be intended by God. In other words, typology does not rest upon the capricious support of the imagination of the expositor, but upon the solid foundation of the word of God.
   (c) Prophetical import - A type must prefigure something future [from the time the type was presented]. It is this feature which gives the type a prophetic character and makes it a shadow of things to come. e.g., Heb. 11:1."

9. Symbols

Beuttler{4} writes that in symbolic wording that truth is conveyed, "by means of emblems or signs, the meaning of which is inherent in the symbol, Dan. 2:31-38." He also states, "A symbol is an object, animate or inanimate, standing for, or representing something, moral or intellectual as an idea or a quality..."

Before we continue, it needs to be said the literal aspects of a symbol are not necessarily to be laid aside just because something could be symbolic. For example, concerning Zacharias’ service in the Temple, we read in Luke 1:11, “And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.” All of that, of course, is literal. It actually occurred. But the fact that an angel of the Lord, which we later read is Gabriel, standing on the right side of the altar of incense is significant. The Word could have just said the angel was standing by the altar, but it is specifically brought out that the position of the angel was at the right side of the altar. As you read the Holy Scriptures you would learn this speaks of authority, and that point is underscored by the fact that Gabriel said he stands in the presence of God (verse 19). As you continue to read this account in Luke you see Gabriel not only tells Zacharias he will have a son, but announces the purpose of that son which would be connected with the fact Messiah would soon be born.

To be sure of their meanings, we can usually find out what symbols mean by going to the first time they were used in the Holy Bible, or view how they are used throughout the Holy Bible. We can also learn what they mean from their context and other principles of interpretation.

Throughout the Holy Bible, a symbol might have more than one meaning or one or more of its qualities applied to two different entities. Context, again, will help to determine that. The following is an example. Satan's destructiveness is conveyed by using the term "lion" in the simile of 1 Peter 5:8, but it is used for the kingship of Christ in Revelation 5:5. Later in Revelation 13:2 it shows the Beast, the Antichrist, will have a "kingly" manner of speaking.

Clothing in God's Word is often symbolic of righteousness, whether it is ungodly self-righteousness or God-given righteousness. A rainbow speaks of God's faithfulness in keeping His promises.

Numbers often symbolically carry meaning. Here are a few examples:
One: God, unity, beginning
Two: Witness, division (as in one person against another), multiplication in blessing or punishment.
Three: Trinity (Godhead), strength, completeness
Four: Universal, fullness
Five: Congregational (based on the usage of five in the construction of the Tabernacle)
Six: Man
Seven: Spiritual perfection, completeness
Eight: New beginning
Nine: Service and / or fruitfulness
Ten: Order (whether godly or ungodly)

You'll find books and web sites that find symbolism in just about every word of the Bible, which is definitely not the intent of the Holy Bible. The meaning of a symbol in the Holy Bible is how the Holy Bible uses it, not what man wants to assign to it.

I will now give you another series, but that should be sufficient for now since much could be said about symbols. Colors:
Black-Sin, death, guilt, etc.
Blue-Heaven, heavenly, etc.
Gold-Deity, godliness, etc.
Red (and crimson, scarlet)-War, redemption, sacrifice, etc.
Purple (violet, etc.)-Royalty
White-Purity, innocence, clean, etc.
Silver-Deity, godliness, etc.

Closing Comment

We have looked at hermeneutic (Holy Bible Interpretation) principles with this article and the three previous ones{1} associated with it. If you have read them it is easy to see that much of such interpretation boils down to godly common sense coupled with Holy Spirit led study of the Word of God by a true disciple of Christ. While there were some technical points, we now live in a time where personal research into the only written Word of God is within reach of many, if not most people. I encourage you to study the Holy Bible using a reliable translation like Young’s Literal Translation or some work by Jay Green.


{1} This concludes a series of four articles on Holy Bible interpretation. The three preceding ones were as follows:
Foundational Principles, http://thesureword.expertscolumn.com/article/foundational-principles-for-understanding-holy-bible 
General Principles, http://thesureword.expertscolumn.com/article/general-principles-for-understanding-holy-bible
Deductive Principles, http://thesureword.expertscolumn.com/article/deductive-principles-for-understanding-holy-bible
All four articles have been generally based upon Protestant Biblical Interpretation by Bernard Ramm (Boston: W. A. Wilde, 1956). Most future articles in this blog will be dealing with alleged Holy Bible contradictions and passages often misunderstood or too difficult for some to understand.

Please also read my articles, You Can Know The Holy Bible Is The Word Of God, The Nature And Purpose Of The Holy Bible, and Holy Bibles Good And Bad.

{2}{3}{4}Beuttler, Walter: Principles of Bible Interpretation (publisher, location of publisher, date are unknown), selected. (This study by Beuttler, along with some others I have, were sent to me via e-mail by Brother Ken Madden, to whom I am grateful.)

Article Written By BrotherPete

I am a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, having served over forty years as a pastor. I graduated from Northeast Bible College of Green Lane Pennsylvania and have a Bachelors Degree in Bible. I am enthused about the Word of God and how it can make a positive change in the life of anyone once it is teamed up with faith and the Holy Spirit. I am happily married. Visit www.sapphirestreams.com.

Last updated on 25-06-2016 315 2

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  • nbillett  28-12-2016
    And as the noise has increased in the world, and as we have invited it into our lives, it has become harder and harder for us to hear the voice of God.
    reply 0
  • ashutoshd dwivedi  31-01-2015

    the principles are well explained and now only i aware of various new things that makes the better understanding of this wonderful scriptutre, as we hinduism calls it, all informative and well explained regarding what this holy bible is all is preaching us to live with the defined and certain princilkes that are nto borrwoed from anywhere.

    reply 0
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