THE PROPER APPROACH TO INTERPRETING THE BIBLE
A) THE BIBLE IS TO BE INTERPRETED BY THE NORMATIVE RULES OF LANGUAGE, CONTEXT AND LOGIC
Upon careful examination of the Bible it becomes evident that the authors who wrote every word exclusively utilized the normative rules of language, context and logic. In the absence of evidence anywhere in the Bible or elsewhere that it is to be interpreted with a specialized set of rules outside of what man - to whom the Bible was written - would normally expect; and in view of the evidence that a strict adherence to the normative rules of language, context and logic produces the most trustworthy, non-contradictory, immutable, consistent interpretation; we must thereupon follow the writers' plan of how to interpret their work of the Bible.
In order for an individual to properly build an interpretation of the Bible he needs to determine the meaning of one verse at a time, in the passage in which it was written, in the order it was written by determining the proper context of that passage via the proper application of the normative rules of language, context and logic to that passage. Hence he does not have to be the author; nor does he have to be a scholar; nor is there someone special - a pastor, or teacher, etc., through whom he must go in order to determine what the Bible is saying. In essence this is simply a matter of applying ones own reading skills in a proficient, honest and objective manner.
On the other hand, it takes time and self-discipline to properly dig into the text including making repeated efforts to check every conclusion one makes - especially those conclusions that others insist the Bible teaches. Most people, especially pastors and teachers, read into a text by going elsewhere in the Bible or by adding personal thoughts and conclusions that the text at hand does not warrant; instead of working hard and long to limit themselves to only what the text is saying via the normative rules. That's why we have so many differing points of view about the Bible and so many denominations. Actually the Bible is very clear if you take the time to study it thoroughly one passage at a time, one verse at a time, one word at a time - by simply "listening" to what the author is saying and not by adding your own or someone else's thoughts to it. If an author of one of the books of the Bible did not see fit to address a certain point you or someone else feels is important, you must put that thought aside and only 'listen' to what the author is saying because he was the one who wrote those words and he hasn't told you or I to go anyplace else in the Bible or outside the Bible to add those thoughts to his. Yes, you might argue that there are other passages that say more about a subject, but no one authorized you or I to be editors, we are to be honest listeners only. Something elsewhere may be true, but in the text at hand it may not be in view.
Once one has done a thorough job of "listening" to what a particular passage is saying, then it is logical to go to other passages and thoroughly listen to them and then compare them with the original passage via those same normative rules of reading. But to jump around from one passage to another is to disregard the normative rules of language, context and logic - to rush to conclusions to support one's own point of view. This is like cooking 10 meals at the same time without ever thoroughly cooking or preparing any meal. Just as one misses the point of the meals by ignoring the recipe instructions, so one is missing what the Bible is saying by not paying attention to the normative rules of language, context and logic.
There are places to go in order to find out what words in the Bible can mean: various study helps such as interlinear Bibles of New (Greek) and Old (Hebrew) Testaments, commentaries on Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, Hebrew and Greek lexicons, footnotes, cross references, English dictionaries, Greek, Hebrew and English grammar books, rules of logical / contextual interpretation, studies on principles of context and logic, etc. These resources set the rules on how words in a translated or original language may be interpreted. Furthermore, selected commentaries, pastors and teachers that by and large follow these rules may be used to suggest conclusions which one must then test out for oneself to see if they are in accordance with the normative rules of language, context and logic.
Manuscripts of the original and ancient languages and versions / translations of the Bible are not sources for the proper use of the rules of language, context or logic. Neither do they provide all the available meanings for a word in the original or translated language to verify that the correct word is in view; nor do they stipulate the rules of language, context and logic somewhere in the text in order for one to be able to interpret the text properly, especially if some special rules apply. If one uses a Bible manuscript or translation / version as if it were a dictionary / grammar or logic book, one is in effect relying on the writers / translators for what they are saying, and what one should believe. In view of the fact that there is so much disagreement on what the Bible says - including ancient manuscripts, versions, pastors and teachers; it is mandatory that one study to show oneself approved, (2 Tim 3:16) - to do ones homework and test every conclusion by the proven method of the normative rules of reading - using the available resources mentioned above. There will be nobody at judgment to help one defend his / her point of view to God. It's up to one to verify everything one believes before one gets there.
1) The Normative Rules As Defined Relative To The Bible Are The Normally Expected Meanings Using The Established Rules Of The Language, Context And Logic Of A Passage From The Bible
Just as individuals who communicate successfully today in American English by following the normative rules of language, context and logic - utilizing meanings which have been established by the very people of today who use that language; so the accurate interpretation of every passage in every book in the Bible is done in much the same way: by following the normative rules of language, context and logic for that original / translated language by the very people using that language at the time the particular book of the Bible was written / translated. These rules of language and word meanings have been carefully documented through the efforts of innumerable individuals in countless hours of study and research of thousands of documents written and copied in the original / translated languages at the various times that each particular book of the Bible was written / translated. Upon careful examination, it can be determined that the words of most versions / translations into the languages of the world have largely been written in accordance with the normative rules of language, context and logic in the timeframe of each language. But since there exists today neither a perfect set of ancient manuscripts of what was originally written by the writers of the Bible, nor a perfect translation of those original words, the individual must be very diligent in his study of the Bible, using every resource he can to arrive at what the Bible says as he himself applies the normative rules of language, context and logic - checking every conclusion that he believes in - even those conclusions that his pastors, teachers. commentators and others express to him.
2) Faithfully And Accurately Adhering To The Normative Rules Of Language, Context And Logic Results In The Most Trustworthy, Non-Contradictory, Immutable, Consistent Interpretation Of Passages In The Bible. This Is Proof Of The Validity Of This Method Of Interpretating The Bible
Whenever the normative rules are strictly adhered to, what results is the most trustworthy, non-contradictory, immutable, consistent interpretation of the Bible! This is especially evident in the area of prophecy relative to the prediction of future events - a record so far of 100% fulfillment in every detail - when the normative rules of interpretation are properly applied! Even alleged discrepancies, manuscript variants and differences amongst versions can be examined and resolved via a diligent application of the normative rules of language, context and logic - especially given today's resources of the Bible.
Therefore, all individuals of accountable age and linguistic capacity are without excuse. For they have been provided by God with the capability to understand the Bible through the normative use of their native languages - the established rules of language, context and logic for each language. So it is a matter of the will when one does not arrive at the truth of what the Bible teaches. It cannot be a lack of opportunity - even for those without the indwelling Holy Spirit. For all men who are individuals of accountabilty are given the opportunity to be led unto salvation by God the Holy Spirit, (Jn 16:7-11; Ro 1:19), and thereafter be led into the ever increasing knowledge of the Bible, (Jn 14:26; 1 Jn 2:27; Eph 4:11-13)
The fact is that the Bible can be clearly understood by all individuals of accountable age and linguistic capacity. One does not have to be an expert in the ancient languages of the Bible because there are many resources available from the proper teaching of pastors, teachers and fellow believers who follow the normative rules, to the accurate and reliable translations, dictionaries, commentaries, grammar books, concordances, interlinear Bibles, study lessons, etc., etc; all of which will enable the diligent student of the Bible to discern what the Bible teaches.
So, rather than imposing one's own preconceived meaning on a particular word or phrase in the Bible; one should follow the normative rules of language, context and logic; and using the inductive approach inherent in those rules, let the author of that word or phrase in the Bible tell one what it means.
3) The Words Of The Original Bible Were Written In Specific Languages At Specific Times - Languages In Which Many Thousands Of Manuscripts Were Carefully Preserved / Copied So That The Meanings Of Those Words, Verses, Passages, Etc., In The Original Bible Could Be Frozen In Time And Then Could Be Accurately Interpreted And Translated Into The Languages Of The World For All Ages Via The Normative Rules Of Language, Context And Logic Of Each And Every Language. Otherwise One Could Impose What He Wished Upon The Bible Due To The Ever Changing Nature Of Languages. So A Particular Word Used In A Particular Time In God's Original Word In A Particular Context Will Only Have One Meaning And Not Be Subject To Change As Languages Change
The words of the original Bible were written in specific languages at specific times - languages of which many thousands of manuscripts were carefully preserved / copied so that the meanings of those words, verses, passages, etc., in the original Bible could be frozen in time and then accurately interpreted and translated into the languages of the world for all ages via the normative rules of language, context and logic of each and every language.
Otherwise one could impose what he wished upon the Bible due to the ever changing nature of languages. So a particular word used in a particular time in God's Original Word in a particular context will only have one meaning and not be subject to change as languages change.
4) Since The Interpretation Of Any Passage In The Bible Via The Proper Use Of The Normative Rules of Language, Context And Logic Proves Itself To Be The Most Trustworthy Non-Contradictory, Immutable, Consistent Interpretation Of Passages In The Bible; Then The Interpretation By These Rules Will Not Be Something That Can Be Changed, Or Modified Into Something Different By Information Derived Elsewhere In The Bible Or Outside Of The Bible, As Some Contend. On The Other Hand, The Normative Rules Permit Referral To Parallel Passages When They Are Stipulated Or Referred To By The Author In Order To Define Specific Words Or The Context Of A Passage At Hand. And Parallel Passages, Normatively Interpreted, May Also Be Used To Corroborate The Meaning Of A Passage At Hand - But Not Change It
Since the interpretation of any passage in the Bible via the proper use of the normative rules of language, context and logic proves itself to be the most trustworthy, non-contradictory, immutable, consistent interpretation of passages in the Bible; then the interpretation by these rules will not be something that can be changed, or modified into something different by information derived elsewhere in the Bible or outside of the Bible and still accurately represent the Bible, as some contend.
Objectors to this principle of immutability established by the normative rules contend that one cannot just take a particular passage to teach some Biblical truth such as the one which is contained in Ephesians 2:8-10 or John 3:16, and hundreds of other passages - all of which properly and normatively interpreted within their own contexts, teach that believing - a moment of believing - in the Son of God / Jesus Christ results in being saved unto eternal life. Objectors to this normatively arrived at interpretation falsely maintain that there are other passages throughout the Bible - Old and New Testaments - that teach on salvation unto eternal life and add to what authors Paul, John and others say a man must do to be saved unto eternal life. This implies that the passages about salvation unto eternal life in Ephesians, John and in many other books are contradictory / incomplete with errors of omission when normatively interpreted by themselves within their own particular contexts without being modified to conform with the rest of what they falsely state the Bible teaches via their own methodolgy of interpretation. But this is an approach to the Bible which would make the understanding of any passage in the Bible unreachable until one had completely mastered every other passage in every book of the Bible and allowed for passages to be modified into their 'final' meanings. So one cannot master the first verse he reads in the Bible until he masters every verse in the Bible beforehand!! If this system of interpretation is true,
a) then it would require more than a lifetime of careful study to master the first verse one begins to read in the Bible.
b) then there is no language that has such a complex structure that can convey such indetermination within each verse so that one might understand that when reading a verse in the Bible its meaning cannot be determined until every other verse in the Bible is fully mastered.
c) then the saints of Old Testament times would not have all the information they needed to be saved unto eternal life because they did not have the completed Bible with the 27 books of the New Testament to study and master. So Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; David and Moses - all the Old Testament saints - would have been placed in the condemned part of Hades to perish forever in the Lake of Fire, since they were not provided with New Testament revelation.
d) then the Old Testament, Ephesians, the Gospel of John - every book of the Bible is indeterminate without a full understanding of every other book of the Bible - every passage, every verse, every word.
e) then the rules to interpret the Bible are beyond the normative rules of language, context and logic available to all men - with no clear declaration anywhere in the Bible, or anywhere else as to what those rules are - as to what each verse's meaning is dependent upon.
f) then this puts the Bible out of reach of mankind, except perhaps the select few who allegedly claim to have a unique, special gift from God.
g) then God has permitted His Word to be indeterminate unless one has been specially given the unique rules of interpreting the Bible and has been supernaturally enabled by God to master every passage in it.
h) then for most if not all of mankind, the Bible is impossible to read and therefore it is untrustworthy.
On the other hand, just as a cook can follow the directions of a recipe in order to produce the stated result of, for example, an angel food cake, without having to go to another recipe, like one for roast beef;
so an individual can follow the normative rules of language, context and logic and read that Ephesians 2:8-9, John 3:16 and hundreds of other verses stipulate within their own particular contexts that believing - a moment of believing - in the Son of God / Jesus Christ results in being saved unto eternal life without having to go to other alleged passages which might add corrections and/or directions, (even if there were any in the Bible - and there are none). In this manner, one can relatively quickly and easily discern the teachings and build an understanding of the Bible by studying one passage at a time, following the normative rules of interpretation, without years of agonizing examination of the entire Bible. Thereby one can determine what the Bible is saying one passage at a time. Passages in the Bible, by and large, declare a clear message of what they mean by themselves; or at times with the use of one or more parallel passages that are stipulated or referred to as cross references by the original author in the passage at hand in order to provide definitions of terms or to help define the context of the original passage. According to the normative rules, further investigation of parallel passages - those with sufficiently matching contexts - often provide the same message corroborating the original passage; but without additional essential information needed to be gleaned for the interpretation of the original passage, or needed to be added to it.
Finally, when properly analyzed in detail in accordance with the normative rules, there simply are no contradictory passages anywhere in the Bible, or any passages that need correction.
5) In Order For The Bible To Be Properly Interpreted Via The Normative Rules Of Language, Context And Logic, Inductive Rather Than Deductive Reasoning Must Prevail.
In order for the Bible to be properly interpreted via the normative rules of language, context and logic, inductive rather than deductive reasoning must prevail.
a) Deductive Reasoning Defined:
[Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Co, Springfield, Ma, 1980, pp. 293]:
'capable of being deduced from [preconceived, external] premises...'
'deduce...to infer from a [preconceived] general principle..'
'inference...the act of passing from one proposition, statement, or judgment considered as true to another whose truth is believed to follow from that of the former.'
In other words, to employ a deductive procedure on the Bible is to approach a passage from an external point of view - with a preconceived notion as to what it should say and then to find evidence in that passage which verifies one's preconception.
b) Inductive Reasoning Defined:
[Webster's, op. cit., p. 583]:
'of, relating to, or employing mathematical or logical induction... reasoning...'
'induction..the act, process, or result or an instance of reasoning from a part to a whole, from particulars to generals or from the individual to the universal'
In other words, to employ an inductive procedure on the Bible is to use an internal approach and study what the words, grammar, context and logic actually add up to say, independent of what one might have determined beforehand by deduction.
c) A Deductive Approach To The Bible Means Presupposition & Can Often Result In A Bad Interpretation Unless The Inductive Approach Is Allowed To Prevail To Support Or Refute The Clues Arrived At Through The External / Deductive Approach
To approach the Bible from the first mentioned standpoint of deductive reasoning is to maintain that what you already believe is true and then to look for support in the passage one is examining. This approach may provide a clue as to what a passage at hand might be saying, but it can often result in selecting some parts of the passage to support one's presupposition, skipping over other parts that contradict it, redefining terms into meanings that conflict with the way the Bible defines them, and ignoring differences in the context of passages being compared - unless the inductive approach is allowed to prevail to support or refute the clues arrived at through the external / deductive approach.
In the final analysis, deductive clues must be resolved through a careful, inductive / internal reasoning of the passage in view in order to avoid imposing an unwarranted external point of view on that passage. This takes time and objectivity in order to not impose external information on that passage; and instead to limit oneself to the context, language and logic of that passage.
d) On The Other Hand, Approaching The Bible Normatively - Letting Inductive / Internal Reasoning Prevail, Especially When It Comes To A Very Careful Consideration Of The Context Of The Passage At Hand, Means Taking A Risk Because One Is Putting Ones Personal / Deductive / External Beliefs To The Test Against What The Words Are Normatively / Internally Saying
On the other hand, approaching the Bible normatively - letting inductive / internal reasoning prevail, especially when it comes to a very careful consideration of the context of the passage at hand, means taking a risk because one is putting ones personal, deductive / external beliefs to the test against what the words are normatively / internally saying - letting the individual words, phrases and passages normatively interpreted correct or verify ones belief system.
6) Since The Interpretation Of Any Passage In The Bible Via The Proper Use Of The Normative Rules Of Language, Context And Logic Results In The Most Trustworthy, Non-Contradictory, Immutable, Consistent Interpretation; Then This Result Is Proof Of Its Own Validity And There Is No Other Viable Means By Which The Bible Must Be Interpreted
Since the interpretation of any passage in the Bible via the proper use of the normative rules of language, context and logic results in the most trustworthy, non-contradictory, immutable, consistent interpretation; then this result is proof of its own validity and there is no other viable means by which the Bible must be interpreted:
a) Otherwise Men Who Are Of Accountable Age And Capacity Could Plead Ignorance At Judgment - But With The Normative Rules They Are Without Excuse
If the Bible is not to be interpreted utilizing normative rules of language then men of accountable age and capacity could plead ignorance at God's Judgment Throne because they would not have been able to understand the Bible from some unexplained, unknown framework.
b) Otherwise God Would Have Conspired To Restrict The Knowledge Of His Word To Only A Chosen Few
Since the interpretation of any passage in the Bible via the proper use of the normative rules of language, context and logic proves itself to be the most trustworthy, non-contradictory, immutable, consistent interpretation of passages in the Bible; yet if there is supposed to be another means by which it must be interpreted, as some contend; then, if this is true, then it must be concluded that God has conspired to restrict the knowledge of salvation and the rest of His written revelation to a chosen few enlightened ones, deceiving the rest of mankind because they only knew the normative rules of language, context and logic. And if this were so, then the great majority of humanity would be condemned to the Lake of Fire without a chance. For if normative language cannot be relied upon to communicate what God has to say in His Word, especially relative to eternal life, then the great mass of humanity who do not have a special revelation by which to interpret the Bible, has no chance to accept or reject the truth. This would speak ill of a God of love, justice and righteousness Who is not willing that any should perish.
So, given Who God is - a God of justice, love and mercy - there is no mystical set of rules or supernatural communications from heaven, nor certain chosen ones of God needed for mankind to be able to understand the Bible and convey that understanding to those whom they choose. The words are plain and clear in their normative sense as God intended them to be to every individual of accountable age and linguistic capacity.
c) Otherwise God Would Have Deliberately Confused Mankind By Permitting Multiple False Interpretations
Without a universally known, consistent and sovereignly structured system of interpretation, the result would be what happens today when the normative rules are not adhered to:
multiple contradictory interpretations reflecting untruth which create a lack of confidence in the validity of the Bible when individuals trust in such subjective methods of interpretation.
Furthermore, in answer to objectors who insist upon imposing their own rules and word meanings on the Bible or promoting multiple interpretations on the Bible even to the extent of creating a maze of contradiction and confusion or imposing 'today's' viewpoint on the Bible because viewpoints of the past are supposed to be obsolete, (and individuals of every age maintain this false concept); ...in view of all of the aforementioned objector viewpoints... consider that if any of these interpretation systems were true, then there would exist the impossibility for billions of people throughout history of truly understanding what God intended to communicate in the Bible because the words would then not convey their normative meanings as everyday people understood them.
d) Otherwise The Bible Is Made Subject To Whatever Rules Of Interpretation Mankind Can Dream Up With The Aid Of The Devil, The World And The Sin Nature
In general, misinterpretation occurs because the devil, the world and the sin nature can create in man an unwillingness to be structured into truths from the Bible. Even truths about God which He made evident from creation are purposely suppressed.
So people tend to make up their own rules, not willing to be structured into God's established and sovereign order of communication of His Word, aided by the devil, the world and the sin nature. Such subjective methods inevitably lead to error and the consequent misleading of others. Unsubstantiated symbolism, spiritualizing where a normatively arrived at figurative meaning according to the context is intended, arriving at multiple contradictory interpretations for the same passage are prime examples of approaches which produce error and sin.
So it is not surprising to find so many denominations and other religious organizations maintaining that their particular interpretation is the one true one. Nor is it surprising to find millions upon millions of individuals who insist that their own personal speculations or interpretations are just as valid as anyone else's.
e) Otherwise The Word Of God Could Be Interpreted By How The Individual Chooses To Apply The Words To Himself, As Some Contend. But There Are No Private Interpretations Of The Bible
Since the Bible is to be interpreted by normative rules of language, context and logic which produces the most trustworthy, non-contradictory, immutable, consistent interpretation of the Bible, then the meaning of a passage cannot be made subject to how an individual decides to apply the passage to himself.
In the same way that a tool can be applied to any number of uses - some effective, some not and some a patent misuse of the tool; so when one applies truths from the Word of God to one's life, one verifies what that truth can and cannot do without changing the basic truth itself, i.e, its basic interpretation.
This is contrary to objectors who claim that there is no end to what a particular passage in the Bible teaches because each individual applies such truths to himself in his own unique way, thus drawing the false conclusion that such unique applications add to the meaning of that truth in the Bible. However, when the passage is carefully examined in accordance with the normative rules of language, context and logic, one finds that this is not the case: any scriptural application must verify what the passage already teaches - not something else. And any unscriptural application which contradicts what that passage teaches must be rejected and not applied at all!
f) Otherwise The Holy Spirit Is Not Involved In The Interpretation Of The Bible
Any interpretation that is a violation of the normative rules of language, context and logic indicates that the Holy Spirit, the Source of every word in the Bible, (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20-21), is not involved in that interpretation. Therefore that particular interpretation is not communication from God. Subjective methods of interpretation which by nature are driven by the devil, the world and the sin nature, will inevitably differ from the Bible and add private interpretations to the objective normative method - thereby contradicting it, causing error and confusion relative to the Bible. This is a result which violates the character of communication from God. Hence the method is not a valid means to interpret what the Bible says or to compare with the Bible.
So any interpretation of the Bible which violates the normative rules could not be what God intended to communicate.
Just as God's sovereignty prevailed over man's penship of the 66 books of the Bible and produced an inerrant work by the hand of man, so He sovereignly prevailed over the languages of men which they used so that what man has established as normative use is what is reflected in His Word so that all men of accountable age and linguistic capacity might be able to choose to understand God's revelation to man.
7) Neither An Individual's Feelings, Nor His Experiences, Nor His Interpretation Of His Feelings / Experiences Can Override, Add To, Supplant Or Modify What The Bible, Normatively Interpreted, Says
Neither an individual's feelings, nor his experiences, nor his interpretation of his feelings / experiences can override, add to, supplant or modify what the Bible, normatively interpreted, says. Experiences and feelings may be real, but they are too often misinterpreted due to insufficient evidence, jumping to false conclusions, stereotypical prejudices - perspectives which are unbiblical. Deep within each individual is a sin nature - which can be influenced by the devil and the world causing within one a propensity to think, say and do wrong which effects each individual's interpretation of what is true and righteous.
8) Suggested Routines / Resources To Arrive At The Normative Meaning Of The Bible Of A Passage / A Chapter In The Bible
a) Determine The Wording Of A Passage / A Chapter Of The Bible That Is Closest To The Original Text By Following The Normative Rules Of Language, Context And Logic - One Verse At A Time In The Order That It Appears
1) Take notes relative to variants in the original language from one or more interlinear Bibles of the original language, aided by one or more commentaries on the original (Greek / Hebrew) text and one or more books on the subject of Bible difficulties.
(Resources: Complete Biblical Library OT & NT Interlinear available in Public Libraries or purchase electronic version at Wordsearchbible.com; NT Text and Translation Commentary by Comfort, other interlinears available online .or at bookstores; Alleged Discrepancies by John Haley available to download online in PDF; Bible Difficulties by Geisler and Howe available electronically at Wordsearchbible.com or at bookstores; the LXX - Septuagint Greek OT available to download online in PDF)
2) Make a list of the variants for a verse including which manuscripts have each variant and the proposed reasons offered for selecting one variant over another. Consult the Bible difficulties books you have to see if they offer any information on the verses with variants. Also check out the New Testament Text And Translation Commentary.
3) Write down what you have determined is the closest to the original text with the English wording for each verse with variants in 21st Century American English that best fits the language, context and logic of that verse.
4) If there still remains a significant difference in the variant texts so that you cannot be definitive on what the original text might be; present the various possibilities based on the internal evidence of the passage without making a decision for one or the other.
This is not disastrous because the Bible repeats itself all the time relative to the doctrines of the faith. So missing a doctrinal message in one passage, one can be assured that doctrine will be more clearly available elsewhere in the Bible. The better skilled you become at this, and the better your resources, the fewer such passages will be a problem for you. More often than not, the context of the passages carefully considered will rule in favor of one variant or another; or the variants do not make a difference in the meaning of the passage.
b) Arrive At A Translation In 21st Century English Of A Passage / A Chapter Of The Bible Which Best Reflects The Original Text By Following The Normative Rules Of Language, Context And Logic
1) Compare a passage / a chapter of the Bible in the interlinear Bible of the original language - including those verses with variant problems which you have already resolved - with at least seven versions / translations in English in order to select the version - as modified by you - which best reflects the original text in 21st century English by following the normative rules of language, context and logic. Make your own modifications in [brackets] to comply with those rules of interpretation. Each of the seven+ versions you choose to use should have been translated largely in accordance with the normative rules - avoiding paraphrases, substituted words and restructuring sentences whenever linguistically possible in the English language. Many versions are available online . The versions you choose to compare with the interlinear should include a number of versions which are noted for their literal translation, and a number that attempt to be faithful to the word order of the original text such as the YLT, AV, and the KJV which do both. These three versions and others have archaic words which need to be corrected to 21st century English by consulting an archaic English dictionary available on line and/or comparing them to 21st century English versions. Archaic words often have significantly different meanings than what the same word means in today's English. Also trustworthy are the following versions in 21st Century English: NASB, NKJV, HOLMAN STANDARD, NIV. Occasionally the LXX Greek OT might be needed since it is often quoted in the New Testament. It is available online in PDF format. Select the most accurate version / translation [as modified by you] from amongst those seven+ versions / translations - add in brackets your corrections in accordance with your personal study of the original language manuscript.
The version / translation you select and [modify] from the group of versions you are comparing to the interlinear Bible original text to represent a translation in English of the original text of each verse should:
a) reflect the proper meaning of each word in modern 21st century English that best fits the context of that verse. Note that the interlinear Bible defines each word as to its particular part of speech, tense, number, gender, mood, voice, person, stem, etc., etc. to aid in your understanding, interpretation and decision. And the 7 or more versions of the Bible and Hebrew / Greek and archaic English dictionaries will aid as well. Hebrew / Greek dictionaries offer a number of possible meanings which may or may not agree with the interlinear Bible's rendering of the word in English. Take care to note differences amongst the versions and dictionaries you are using and determine the best meaning for the context. Refer to grammar books some of which usually come with the interlinear Bible to explain the parts of speech as needed. Other Greek / Hebrew grammar books are available online or in bookstores.
b) keep the word order of the original language as far as possible - within the framework of the normative rules of 21st Century American English grammar - in order to maintain the emphasis points and the context established in the original text. The YLT as compared to the NASB and the NKJV are very useful in this task; and the AV and KJV are often helpful on this as well. Sentences in 21st century English may at times be awkward in order to be accurate and best represent the original text; but they must not violate the rules of 21st century English grammar - of acceptable English sentence structure.
c) keep the verb tenses consistent with the original text by referring to Greek / Hebrew grammar books and dictionaries - comparing these with the 7 or more versions in order to be faithful to the verb form of the original text. The YLT and other versions often attempt to be faithful to the original verb form. Compare what it says with the NASB and NKJV as well as other versions until you arrive at a determination of the closest version of the 7+ versions to the original text within the normative rules of the English language, context and logic. Refer to Greek / Hebrew dictionaries and grammar books when questions arise as to the proper translation of the verb tense of the original word. Note that it is better to have an awkward but accurate sentence than a smooth sounding, inaccurate one.
d) have in brackets the changes you make to the translation in accordance with the normative rules in order to signify your particular interpretation. Reference the reasons for the bracketed changes with footnotes.
2) As you determine the best version / translation of each verse of the original text, put the verses together in the order that they appear in the passage / chapter under study.
(Resources: NASB, NKJV, HOLMAN STANDARD, NIV, KJV, AV, YLT, LXX / Septuagint. Take care to change archaic words into 21st Century English which appear in the last 3 versions. Hebrew and Greek lexicons and grammar books come with the Complete Biblical Library. Other Greek / Hebrew lexicons and grammar books are available online ..or at bookstores. Make sure that lexicons are not limited to Strongs meanings only. All available meanings should be listed in the dictionaries in order to allow you to match the best available meaning with the context at hand - to make up your own mind. Versions are not perfect).
c) Arrive At Your Own Personal Commentary Of The Passage By Following The Normative Rules Of Language, Context And Logic - One Verse At A Time Grouped Together In Accordance With The Verse Order Then Topics And Subtopics
1) Make careful observations, following the order of the verses, grouping the verses together according to verse order followed by topics and subtopics so as to keep your observations organized. Use an outline format such as I, A, 1, a, i, so that when a verse or topic has changed, your observations will be easier to read and edit.
2) Compare your observations with more than one commentary, making sure you only use a commentary's observations that are directly related to the words in the passage at hand, not from elsewhere, no matter how true. Use topical points by which commentaries organize their observations; but accept only those which are in accordance with the normative rules of language, context and logic: those that are limited to the context of the verse at hand. Work those observations from commentaries into your own personal words in order to verify in your own words that what you use is strictly in view in the verse and passage at hand, and not from elsewhere.
(Resources: Bible Study Manuals , Expositor's Bible Commentary, Bible Knowledge Commentary, The Complete Bible Commentary, and others available online, in bookstores, electronically from wordsearchbible.com. The LXX Septuagint OT Greek Bible is available online . Note that most commentaries digress beyond the context of the verse at hand to such an extent that they are not worth using on a regular basis. Certain specific issues with a Bible verse may be researched for reading online and compared with Bible difficulty books. Carefully critique commentaries and topical research studies to make sure the comments you decide to use from them are in accordance with the normative rules of language, context and logic - staying within the confines of the context of the verse(s) at hand, proving out each point with the proper evidence).
3) This process requires a lot of time, prayer, meditation, review, changes - editing of all kinds until you are satisfied you have covered all that each word, verse, passage has to convey.
MORE SPECIFIC RULES OF INTEPRETATION IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE NORMATIVE RULES OF LANGUAGE, CONTEXT AND LOGIC