What the Bible Means by What It Says

How to Understand What the Bible Means by What It Says

What the Bible Means by What It Says

Taken and Abbreviated from the New King James Version Study Bible
Earl D. Radmacher, Th.D., General Editor
The Full Text can be Found Here*

If the reader is going to understand what he or she is reading, then the rules of communication must be diligently followed. These are the same rules that are followed in everyday conversation when understanding takes place. In other words, there is not a special or secret set of rules for understanding God’s Word.

The Basic Principle

Central to everything else in this process is the recognition that meaning is singular, not plural. For example, the popular response often heard, “there are many different interpretations of that,” is clearly false. There may be ten suggested interpretations, but at least nine of them are false. The interpretation is what the writer intended with the vocabulary he used. But this does not limit application, because although the interpretation is single, application may be multiple. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to illumine hearts to see a variety of applications to life. But the applications, to be valid, must be true to the author’s intended interpretation as expressed in written text.

A Four-Step Process

If there is only one valid interpretation of a biblical passage, how then is it to be understood?  Paul’s challenge to “rightly divide the word of truth” may be fulfilled by using the following four-step process:

First step: Word Focus
Second step: Word Relations
Third step: Context
Fourth step: Culture

Word Focus

“An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”. This handy tool for the English reader by W. E. Vine gives precise meanings of Greek words. It serves as somewhat of a combination dictionary and concordance.

Word Relations

Word studies are enlightening and fun, but words do not stand alone. Rather, they are related to the words around them. We call these relationships grammar or syntax (“to place together”) and studying them is crucial … .


Immediate context
Book context
Bible context


The final step in our four-step process is the cultural study. This seeks to recreate the setting. …  There are three major areas of culture … :

Social – the customs of the times
Temporal – the period in history
Geographical – the place on earth

Many helpful books are available for this area of study, especially Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Perhaps … the appropriate word for all of us as we now approach God’s Word, is “Hear Him!”

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Did Jesus Teach Legalism?

Short answer: no, not at all. But the question wasn’t yes or no; it was how to deal with this kind of problem. All you need is two of the foundational rules of Bible interpretation from R. A. Torrey. More …

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What did Jesus mean by “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15)?

If God loves us unconditionally, how do we account for those scriptures that link His love with our obedience? More …

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The Basics of Sound Biblical Interpretation

1. Grammatical, 2. Historical, 3. Theological More …

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Interpretation of the Bible

Hermeneutics is the science of interpreting what an author has written. In Christian theology, hermeneutics focuses specifically on constructing and discovering the appropriate rules for interpreting the Bible. More …

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What is hermeneutics and why is it important?

What’s Your Lens? Think optometry. Hermeneutics is the pair of glasses. It’s what you wear when you interpret something. The lens. Not what you look at but what you look with. More …

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Hermeneutics and Christ

1. Apostolic hermeneutics, 2. Early Christian hermeneutics, 3. The struggle for an orthodox hermeneutic, 4. Medieval hermeneutics, 5. The hermeneutics of the Reformation, 6. Enlightenment hermeneutics, 7. An evangelical approach. More …

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Cereal Aisle of Hermeneutics

Combating the “cereal aisle” of contemporary thought, Scripture does not put us in the place of autonomy or sovereignty. We are created, not Creator. We are stewards, not owners.
These categorical truths, which dominate the pages of the Scripture, must take their rightful place in our study of it. We are recipients of Scripture’s meaning, not creators of it. More …

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Also see
* Chicago Statement: Biblical Hermeneutics
The Purpose and Premise of this Website
The Importance of the Words of Jesus

Other Websites Relevant to this Topic
* The Full Text can be Found Here


Last updated: March 2, 2016 at 12:12 pm ET USA