Interpreting the Old Testament

Continuing the written interview with swbtsbloggers, here is the third question.

Question: What is the best way to read and interpret the Old Testament?

Answer:The most important activity in reading and interpreting the Old Testament is reading the Old Testament. I realize this observation may sound trite, but I find it amazing how many people are explaining the Bible without paying attention to what the Bible says. Too often people are consumed with the “gaps” of information within a biblical text. They become distracted by guessing what Abraham must have been thinking, or where Cain got his wife, or other matters that the text simply does not address. The point in reading the Old Testament is to trace the message of the author through the pages of his text. Attempting to answer questions that the text does not answer is not reading the Old Testament.

Second, I find it important to read with the big picture in mind. No passage of Scripture is written in isolation from the other parts of Scripture. Each passage serves a function within the larger strategy of the author of the book. Finding how each passage fits together is an important, and often neglected, aspect of biblical interpretation that requires a serious reading of the biblical material over and over again. The Old Testament is an incredible world of text with a myriad of inner-connections. Sometimes the connections exist within a book; other times they exist between two books. Understanding the larger picture of Scripture goes a long way to understanding any particular passage as well.

Third, it is important to remember that the Old Testament is a theological book. It has become commonplace to speak of reading the Bible theologically. However, it seems better to think of the task of biblical interpretation as reading theology rather than reading theologically. The former is a statement regarding the nature of revelation; the latter is a statement regarding the predisposition of the reader.

The interview was first posted at swbtsbloggers.

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