We just finished another course at school and the end discussions surrounded the topic of appropriating the Scriptures. In the sense of Bible study it is how a person processes the Scriptures that they just read. How a person takes the Word of God in is very important thing to consider for having a healthy spirituality. It’s not so much about the type of Scriptures (Gospels, poetry, wisdom, prophecy) that we like to read but more the way (sometimes even subconscious) a person internalizes and interprets what they read. In short there are three ways that people do this, 1) Pneumatic, 2) theological, and by 3) original meaning. When we interpret the scriptures it would seem that a balance of all three would be best path we take.
This first approach takes on a highly personal and spiritual perspective to reading and studying the Scriptures. The idea leans heavily towards meditation on the Scriptures until the Spirit brings illumination to spiritual truths. The strength of in this approach naturally is that a person comes to the Bible to sit under the Holy Scriptures and places it a at high place of authority. It also shows a heavy dependence and trust in the Holy Spirit. A weakness is that there is no outside grounding to a persons interpretation. Outside of scholarly work and the consensus of the church that person also places their personal experience in high authority. That in turn can lead to many false interpretations, theology being pulled out of hat, and spiritual pride and division.
The second approach looks towards grounding interpretation in the historical church and present church. It places a large amount of trust in the past illumination of the Spirit and seeks then to apply it to the modern situation. The past illumination of the Spirit may also be in that person’s own personal history, their local church, or denomination. It implies a common approach or widely accepted stance on the faith and practice of it. There is strength with this in that it can take final interpretative authority over scripture and places it on the much wider shoulders of the church then one person. This could look as simple as an groups articles of faith or more complicated hidden laws and rules. The weakness is that a persons experience or denomination may hold a forceful grip and continue to skew the interpretation that they arrived at. A type of theological tradition superiority and pride.
Original Meaning Appropriation
This final approach looks toward history for discovering spiritual truths in a Scripture. This recognizes that there were particular occasions for the Bible authors to write. Therefore, there were very specific meanings given to the original audience and in this historical search a person hopes to find light on their contemporary issue. The strength is that in following this approach a person could come the closest to an original understanding that the original audience would of had. The weakness is that they can remain in the past and bring nothing into the present for their current conditions. Especially if a person forgets that the Scriptures are to us also. It is in this approach that many scholarly believers and non-believers interpret the scripture. It is also in this approach that most modern bible study methods has focused on.
What’s you approach? How do you process and interpret the Scriptures? By what you feel the Holy Spirit tells you only? By your Church’s traditions or examining past ancient near eastern cultures and history? Of do you approach Scriptures with a combination of any of the three or all three?