Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The following material is based on the books:
1. Carl B. Gibbs Principles of Biblical Interpretation
2. Gordon D. Fee, Douglas Stuart How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth

Principles of interpretation of epistles:
1. Epistles were written in certain situations. In order to understand them, it is important to find these situations:
1) Who was the author? What was his relationship with the readers? What and when did he write?
2) Who were the readers? What was their culture? What was their spiritual condition? What were their outward circumstances?
3) What was the case when the epistle was written? Does the epistle correct errors, answers questions, interpret doctrines, or instruct in behavior? Where and when the epistle was written?
4) What is the subject and the content of the epistle?
5) Was the epistle written to one person or a church (or a group of churches)?
6) If the epistle was written to a church/a group of churches, does it present doctrines in systematic way or its purpose is to give explanations regarding a certain case?

2. Find out the structure of the epistle. Main parts of an epistle:
1) Introduction:
a) Greetings
b) Prayer
2) Main part:
a) Doctrines (teaching, correction)
b) Instruction (practice)
3) Conclusion - plans of missionary journeys, blessings

3. Find out the principles from the epistle:
1) Notice what instructions of the epistle are related to general matters of faith and morality.
2) If the instructions were related to specific situation or culture, find out general principles applied in that situation.

How to distinguish culture related and universal instructions:
1. Distinguish the kernel doctrines of the Bible from its peripheral doctrines.
2. Distinguish the concepts that the New Testament considers as moral in their essence and those it does not. For example, Paul never mentions culture related matters in lists of sins.
3. Notice toward what matters the New Testament has the same attitude in all the passages and in what matters there are differences.
4. Sometimes, the New Testament indicates whether a principle is universal or local.
5. Consider the possible choices in the author's culture and his choice.
6. Consider the cultural differences between 1st and 21st centuries.

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