Thursday, May 28, 2009


Hermeneutics - The rules and principles by which we study a text.
Classic Hermeneutics - The rules and principles by which we study classic literature.
Sacred Hermeneutics - The rules and principles by which we study the sacred text of Holy Writ.

Ten Basic Principles of Biblical Interpretation Agreed Upon By Most if Not All Historic Baptists

1. The Bible as we know it, 66 books, contains the infallible inherent word of God.

2. The New Testament is the final revelation of God, and the final interpreter of the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

3. Apply the literal, grammatical, historical method of interpretation.
A. Literal - We take scripture literally, as God's actual word.
B. Grammatical - God has communicated through human authors, to human audiences.
C. Historical - There is a historic context that we must apply to the text.

4. Scripture interprets scripture, never tradition.

5. Perspicuity of scripture, in that it can be understood (and should be read and studied) by the layman.

6. Unity of scripture. The Old Testament and New Testament are complimentary of each other, not contradictory.

7. Diversity of scripture. Scripture is written by various authors, in various historical contexts, and each should be considered in interpretation.

8. The New Testament clarifies and explains the types and shadows in the Old Testament.

9. Typology of scripture. Old Testament scripture is filled with types and pictures of the coming Christ. Again, these are explained in the New Testament.

10. Near context is related more than far context. In other words, if Paul uses an illustration of a vine, we should look at the immediate context for the understanding. If he quotes an Old Testament passage we might find it's meaning there. But to go to Peter who perhaps could be speaking of a vine as an analogy of sin growing, and apply to Paul's analogy which is actually speaking of the kingdom growing, we greatly abuse scripture.

Finally, a didactic or systematic study of a subject is more significant than a historical or descriptive narrative. In other words we derive our doctrine of public corporate worship by studying the New Testament Epistles which command various elements be found in worship. For example, this is more profitable than reading the book of the Acts of the Apostles, and then determining our worship based upon what we see happening in various situations found in that historic narrative which chronicles many happenings in an infant New Testament Church.

I posted this because I genuinely believe that developing a proper hermeneutic is a key factor in Baptists rediscovering their historic faith. These easy to understand principles are expounded upon by Fred Malone at the 2005 Southern Baptist Founders Conference, and can be heard here. May the Lord bless your study in the wonderful words of life!


  1. Joey,

    This article is well put and accurate however I would quibble over #4: Scripture interprets scripture, never tradition.

    The question here is what do you mean by "tradition"? If by tradition you mean customs or practices that have no basis in the Bible or have been denounced by the Bible directly then I would share this point with you, (for instance: praying to the dead or for the dead; unlawful foods, etc). However, if by tradition you mean things taught by our historic fathers of the faith then I would disagree.

    Tradition can mean many things and usually when people see the term "tradition" they are start thinking about a Roman Catholic ideaology of "tradition" (one that places Scripture on the same heremeutical footing with tradition). However, tradition can be many things such as family upbringing, theological and scholarly research into the various topics and texts as well as historical analysis of various issues that the Church has faced throughout her history. There are certainly other aspects here that may be under the heading of "tradition" that are invaluable in our approach to the texts of Scripture.

    There is also the idea that no one comes to Scripture without a theological and historical grid and filter. Everyone does this and the question for the interpreter is whether their own culture, tradition and bias cuts across the meaning of the texts.

    For instance, if one arrives at a conclusion (using the rules you offer here) that disagrees overwhelmingly with the historic understanding (or "traditional view") of the Christian faith then it is very likely that the conclusion is in error. Our traditions do help us frame various interpretive points, expecially on matters that affect orthodoxy.

    Overall, however, I do agree with your offering in this post. More people in Christ's Church should employ these methods when they sit before the Scriptures

    Perhaps we can engage in further discussion on this issue here on your blog. Thanks for sharing this with your readers.

  2. History of Baptist hermeneutics: steal from the Presbyterians and modify inconsistently. HA!

  3. That is really helpful Bradford....thanks! ROFL!