One cannot avoid the problem of interpretation when reading the Bible. It’s a book originally written in Hebrew and Greek, and we are in all likelihood reading a translation. In translating from the original languages the scholars are doing their best to interpret the meaning of the original words while taking the context into consideration. This is not an exact science, which is why there are so many different translations of the Bible.

Also, as we read the Bible, we cannot avoid bringing to it our “pre-understanding”, the world view, likes and dislikes, perceptions and prejudices which have come to us through our life’s experiences. Our individual personalities would also influence the way what we’re reading impacts us, causing two people reading the same passage from the same translation to come away with different understandings.

Unless we have some guidelines for Biblical interpretation it becomes very difficult to distinguish truth from error.


New Harvest applies the following principles in interpreting the Bible:

  • Cultural context. What did it mean to the original readers? This requires us to research the background, context and purpose of the passage.
  • Let the Bible interpret itself. What light does the rest of the Bible throw on the passage? Allow the New Testament to interpret the Old, the clear passages to interpret the obscure.
  • Consider the type of biblical literature. Is this passage historical, prophetic, poetic or apocalyptic? This will influence whether we interpret the passage literally or figuratively.
  • Scholarly research. What have other students of the Bible to say about the passage? Allow the findings of Biblical commentators to influence our interpretation.
  • Be open to the Holy Spirit. What new insight is the Lord giving us into the passage? Allow for this possibility, but test the inspiration by means of the other principles.
  • Let the Bible interpret the present context, not vice versa. What does the Bible say on this matter? This will prevent us from seeking to justify Biblically a conclusion we have already reached.