Basic Rules in Bible Interpretation...

There are several ground rules in Bible interpretation that must be followed before anyone even attempts to study Holy Scripture. I will show but a few important ones.

The first rule is:

"In what sense am I interpreting a particular verse?"

Is it to be taken literally, or figuratively, or is it a parable? For more on this please read "The Senses of Scripture", elsewhere on this website.

The next rule is:

"Context, context, context."

Never take one verse out of context in order to try to "prove" a point. This is the one rule that is broken most often by detractors of the Catholic Church. Remember this, "A text taken out of context is a pretext, and nothing more". Verses taken out of context can be made to look like what the detractor is trying to "prove". Remember this axiom, "A text without a context is a pretext".

The next rule I will mention is:

"The Law of First Mention."

When something is mentioned in Scripture the first time, the same meaning for that verse holds true for subsequent verses. An example of this law is in Genesis 17:5, where GOD gave authority to Abram by changing his name to Abraham, and making him "The Father of a Multitude of Nations".
Next is in Genesis 17:15-16, where GOD gave authority to Sarai, by changing her name to Sarah, and making her "The Mother of all Nations".
Then there is Matthew 16:18. GOD changed the name of Simon to Peter, and gave to him the authority of the Church, and supremacy over all of the other Apostles.
The "Law of First Mention" functions here, to show that authority is given when the persons name is changed by GOD.

Another rule is:

"How many times something is mentioned."

If it is mentioned three times or more, it is certainly to be taken literally.
In John chapter 6, Jesus emphasized nine times, "This IS My Body".
He also said it in Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, and Luke 22:19. And if that isn't enough, St. Paul said it again in 1Corinthians 11:24.

"THIS IS MY BODY" falls not only under this rule, but also under the "Law of First Mention", doesn't it, starting with Matthew 26:26?

"THIS IS MY BODY" also must follow the "Senses of the Bible". These verses are literal. There is nothing said in these chapters to indicate any other sense.

How can anyone deny that Jesus meant what He said, when He said it so many times?
How can anyone break three basic rules of Bible interpretation, by saying "It is only a Symbol, or a representation of His Body"?

Of course everyone is aware of this next rule:

"You must take into account the meaning of the words, in the languages written by the authors at the time, and not necessarily the English translation of them today."

For example, the word "brethren" had many meanings, only one of which is "brother". It meant cousins and other kin, as well as friend, comrade, fellow believer, etc.

Another rule that should be mentioned here:

"The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New."

It takes a little bit of Bible study to realize this, but it is true. There are hundreds of prophecies about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, and a lot of parallels. For more on this, see "100 Prophecies Fulfilled", elsewhere on this website.

If you break any of the rules, you are NOT interpreting Scripture properly...

Written by Bob Stanley, December 12, 1997
Updated September 26, 2001
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