How to Interpret the Bible?
The Bible is undoubtedly the most controversial book in the world; even so among people who believe in God. For example, although we all believe in one Bible and one God, there are more than 850 denominations of Christianity.
One might question, “why are there so many?” The reason why there are more than 850 different denominations is because all 850 denominations interpret the Bible the way they want, so that it can fit to benefit their own doctrine and congregation.
Then, how can we avoid misinterpreting the Bible and understand it correctly?
Important Principles of the Bible.
Let’s look at some important principles of the Bible that will help us to understand it, and should keep us from misinterpreting it.
“Do not Add or Take Away”
Revelation 22:18-19 “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
In the last page of the Bible, God gave a strict warning to everyone. The warning is simple: do not add or take words away from the Bible. In short, God is saying, “Leave the Bible as it is!” Yet, though God was very clear with this teaching people go beyond what is written, and they add or take away from the word of God. By doing this, they end up setting their own word and their own way of thinking above God’s.
The Bible is Written in Parables
It’s understandable that one may not comprehend something from the Bible while reading it. Yes, the Bible is a profound book. I agree. That is because the Bible is a book of prophecies, which are written in parables (Matt 13:10-11). But just because we don’t comprehend something does not mean we should construe the Bible with our own understanding, using our experiences and feelings. The Bible is written in accordance with the will of God, which is how we should study it and understand it.
So, when something doesn’t make sense to us when reading the Bible, what should we do?
3. One Word Can Have Multiple Meanings
One important principle of the Bible is that many words in the Bible have more than one meaning. Let’s take the word “lamb” for example. Here, Jesus is described as the sacrificial Lamb who came as prophesied:
John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
1 Corinthians 5:7 “… For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
We can clearly see that here, Jesus is described as a lamb. It’s not because He is an actual lamb, but because of the prophecy He fulfilled by coming into this world as the Savior to forgive us our sins.
Let see another way the word lamb is used in the Bible.
John 10:10-11 “… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
John 21:15 “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.””
In the former verses, the lamb meant Jesus who came as the Savior. Here, the lambs that Jesus is talking about refer to the children of God.
The word “lamb” appears in the Bible a plethora of times. But just because it appears in different verses, does that mean it always has the same meaning? No it does not because in the former verses the lamb represents Jesus who came as the Savior, and in the latter verses the lamb represents the saints of God. That is why we need to understand the context it’s being used in.
Now, let’s take a look at the word “water” in the Bible.
John 4:14 “… but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring welling up to eternal life.”
Here we see that water represents the water of life that only God can give us. Christ came to this earth to give us the water of life which gives us eternal life.
Now, let’s see another part of the Bible where the word “water” is used:
Revelation 17:15 “Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.”
Here we see the word does not represent the water of life, but instead indicates human society or the earth. It’s the same word. Yet, it has two very different meanings.
Then does the word water only indicate eternal life or human society every time it is being used? Let’s look at another part of the Bible.
1 Peter 3:21 “and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also…”
Here the word “water” represents baptism. Though God used the same word water in different verses, it has a different meaning every time. In one verse, God used the word “water” to represent water of life, in another it represented the earth and then in yet another verse it means baptism.
We can clearly see that sometimes words not only have double meaning. They can even have up to triple meanings in the Bible. Through these two examples we can understand that according to the context, the word can be interpreted as a completely different meaning.
Without realizing this biblical principle, it is very easy to misinterpret or even deny the truth taught through the Bible. Although scholars and Christians acknowledge this principle, they come to ignore it only to justify their denial of the truth.
Since it is now clear that words in the Bible can have more than one meaning, what is the meaning of the word ‘bride’ in the bible?