Principles of interpretation

Steve Johnson
4 min readAug 17, 2021

Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved and tested by trial, a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing, accurately dividing, rightly handling, and skillfully teaching the word of truth [1]. The Greek word from this verse translated “rightly dividing” in the King James Version is “orthotomeō.” It means to cut straight, to cut straight ways, to proceed on straight paths, hold a straight course, equivalent to doing right, to make straight and smooth, to handle aright, to teach the truth directly and correctly [2]. When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense. Therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise [3].

One of the best examples of the principle of taking the Bible literally is Bible prophecy. Prophecy is God’s roadmap to show us where history is going. The Bible’s predictions claim literal and specific fulfillments that verify that such prophecies are indeed from God. Where God intends for us to interpret symbolically, he makes it obvious. One of the reasons the book of Revelation is difficult for some people to understand, for example, is that they try to spiritualize the symbols in the book. However, many Old Testament prophecies have already been fulfilled, such as God turning water into blood [6]. Therefore, it should not be difficult to imagine that future prophetic events can and will be literally fulfilled at the appropriate time. Only when symbols or figures of speech make absolutely no literal sense should anything but a literal interpretation be sought. This is also true of the prophecies of God to Israel to be fulfilled in the latter days. Prophecies about Israel’s punishment during the Tribulation have absolutely nothing to do with the church. When the Bible talks about Israel in the New Testament, it is talking about actual Israel. It is presumptuous for some Christians to try to say New Testament references to Israel always refer to the church just because a true Israelite is one spiritually. Just because all Israelites are not truly of Israel doesn’t mean every reference to Israel should be spiritualized. When symbols are present, the Bible itself interprets their meaning. For example, the word “beast” is used over 30 times in Revelation. In the book of Daniel, beasts are symbolic of either kings or kingdoms [8]. By examining the contexts in Revelation and Daniel…

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Steve Johnson

My interests are Jesus Christ and all things Christianity, news and politics, current events, conservatism, sports, and entertainment. And I love to write!