Interpreting the Bible must follow rules… the rules of hermeneutics (the science of interpretation). While hermeneutics is a secular science, the fundamental rules help us keep the main thing the main thing as we seek to understand the Scriptures.
First, we must ask if a text is rooted in the unchanging nature of God, or his absolute laws, or created order, or his love, etc. What is the context of a particular text of Scripture? Every text has a context that is critical to understanding the text.
Second, we must ask if a text is rooted in a cultural practice in a period of time—like bowing your head to an elderly person as opposed to getting up when they enter the room, or doing nothing. Greeting one another with a holy kiss (Rom. 16:16; I Cor. 16:20; II Cor. 13:12; I Thess. 5:26) is a cultural practice, but the principle of greeting brothers and sisters—recognizing our special relationship in Christ—is transcultural.
A good example of a transcultural concept is the New Testament relationship between a husband and wife. The respect and love commands are based upon the relationship between Christ and his church—the Bride of Christ. They are applicable at all time and in all ages. The particular expression of respect and love might vary by culture. What shows love in one culture may be different from another culture. The same is true for respect.
So, the bottom line is to apply the transcultural teachings of the Bible in our culture today. We are told in James 1:22a NLT “And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to.”
Principles cited in this blog: We must look at a text in its biblical context to determine if it is cultural or transcultural, but the most important thing is to obey the Word of God and not just be a hearer only.
Application for ISI ministry: We must teach students how to understand, interpret, and obey the Scriptures.
Next blog topic: Using Wisdom Literature
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson