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Biblical Interpretation

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Presentation on theme: "Biblical Interpretation"— Presentation transcript:

1 Biblical Interpretation
Understanding the Scriptures

2 Biblical Inerrancy As Christians we believe that the Bible does not contain any error, this is called Biblical Inerrancy. This does not mean, however, that the Bible contains perfect scientific and historical facts, “The Bible does not teach how the heavens go but how to go to heaven” (Galileo). How can this be? Wasn’t the Bible written by men? Aren’t men fallible? Yes, true, men are fallible but we also believe that the men and women who wrote the Scriptures were Divinely inspired. Divine Inspiration is the belief that the authors of Scripture were prayerfully inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the words of God. The different authors of Scripture account for the different writing styles in Scripture. Scripture contains poetry, historical writing, wisdom literature, autobiographies, law, etc. It is important to understand that God uses human beings, their gifts, talents, and writing styles, to construct His message. God does not possess human beings to make them write exactly what He wants, He uses our own gifts and talents with His Holy Spirit to communicate His message to the world.

3 One Word, A Variety of Traditions
In the ancient world papyrus was an expensive commodity and the number of people who were educated enough to write was few. The Bible was originally handed down by Oral Tradition. Oral Tradition is the handing down of Scripture through storytelling. The Jews had a great tradition of storytelling in which they would memorize various Scriptural stories and pass them onto their children from generation to generation. The memorization techniques that they employed allowed them to pass on their Scriptures in an accurate way so that when they were finally written down they were an accurately copied.

4 Canonicity The Biblical Canon is the official list of the books of Scripture – 46 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament. The Canon of Scripture was set early on by the Church based upon the accepted Greek version of the Old Testament (The Septuagint) and the accepted New Testament writings. In the early life of the Church there were writings of Christian inspired fiction which were excluded from the official list of the books of the Bible. These books were known as the Gnostic Gospels. The Gnostic Gospels were a collection of writings authored by a breakoff group of Christians called the Gnostics. The Gnostics taught that matter and the body were evil and the spirit was good. Their writings were an attempt to tell the stories of the Gospels to reflect their own flawed philosophy. The Church rejected these books because they did not authentically tell the story of Jesus; however the negative influence of the Gnostic Gospels lives on in popular modern fiction, like The Da Vinci Code.

5 So How Did They Decide? The Church followed certain criteria to determine if a writing was worthy to be included in the Canon of Scripture: 1. Apostolic Origins – the writing had to originate from an eyewitness to the life of Jesus or a close associate of an eyewitness. 2. Universal Acceptance – the writing had to be known by and accepted by the various Christian communities. 3. Liturgical Use – the writings had to be used in the early Christian liturgy and used for teaching the faith. The original texts were written in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. The Canon of Scripture was set very early on in the Church’s history and confirmed throughout Church history by Ecumenical Councils (a world-wide meeting of the Pope with all the bishops). St. Jerome completed a translation of the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures into Latin (the common language of the time) in the late 300s.

6 Interpreting Scripture
Since the Bible contains different literary forms, the meaning of Scripture is not always clear; it is therefore necessary to interpret Scripture to discover the original meaning intended by the author. The process of interpreting Scripture is not to be taken lightly, it should be done prayerfully asking God what He intended to say. What if you don’t know what He intended to say, who do you ask for help? The Church has been in the business of handing on the message of God for 2000 years; the interpretation of the Church is always a necessary part of Biblical interpretation.

7 Biblical Exegesis Biblical Exegesis is the scholarly process of interpreting Scripture through the lens of the Tradition of the Church and the wisdom of the Saints. The purpose of exegesis is to try to find the fullest meaning of a Scriptural passage. Exegesis allows a person to engage Scripture so as to find the deeper meaning and apply it to his/her life. Some questions to ask when looking at a Scripture passage: What type of Scriptural literature am I reading? (History, poem, biography, etc.) What is the context of the passage? What happened directly before what I’m reading? Does the passage connect with any other passages? (Often other passages will help clarify or connect other passages) Are there any explanatory footnotes – footnotes can help clarify difficult passages. Have any saints written on this passage? Often the scholarship of learned saints can help reveal the deeper meaning of Scripture. How does this passage relate to my life? Putting yourself into the story can help you see how it can apply to your life.

8 The Senses of Scripture
Since Scripture contains a variety of writing styles, there are a variety of meanings in Scripture: 1. The Literal Sense – the words mean exactly what they mean. This is the most direct means of Scriptural interpretation. 2. The Allegorical Sense – an allegory is a story which is meant to teach an important lesson; Scripture often utilizes allegory to teach a deeper spiritual message. 3. The Moral Sense – is used to teach how one is supposed to live their life. 4. The Anagogical Sense/Typological Sense – is used to make connections between events in the Old Testament which are illuminated by events in the New Testament. For example: Israel’s passing through the waters of the Red Sea is made clearer by looking at Jesus’ Baptism for we see that the Old Testament event was a shadow of the Sacrament of Baptism. The Contextual Approach – is the Catholic means of interpreting Scripture by which we look at the literary forms, historical context, cultural influences, the unity of the entire Scripture, Tradition, and the connection to all the beliefs of Christianity.

9 “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” St. Jerome
When we know how to read and interpret Scripture it makes it a meaningful way to pray! “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” St. Jerome “Your Word, O Lord, is a lamp unto my feet and a light upon my path” Psalm 119:105

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