Ask anyone who regularly reads the Bible, and you will learn that people sometimes find certain books of the Bible more difficult to understand than others. Try reading through Revelation, Lamentations, and Leviticus, and you will find several people scratching their heads in confusion on how to interpret them.

The Bible is comprised of 66 books that collectively describe God’s creation of mankind, relationship with mankind, and the plan to redeem mankind through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus. It is the story of a loving God who continues to hang onto a relationship with people who hurt Him more than love and respect Him.

Thankfully, there is a way to help in properly interpreting the stories of the Bible, especially to learn how truly relevant God’s truth is to our lives today. Hermeneutics, specifically biblical hermeneutics, presents the methods to interpret content that could be difficult to understand at first glance.

Now the real questions are, what are the methods of biblical hermeneutics and how can we include them in our regular Bible reading so that we can embrace God’s Word for all it can be for us?

What Does Hermeneutics Mean?

Hermeneutics is identified as “the study of the methodological principles of interpretation,” both singular and plural.

Hermeneutics may largely be associated with the Bible’s interpretation, but hermeneutics have also been connected in understanding the Quran and philosophy.

However, most connect hermeneutics to studying the Bible and going deeper into God’s meaning for situations that happen to us and the world. Since the Bible pertains to divine revelation from God, biblical hermeneutics is needed to understand how certain stories and lessons provide spiritual guidance.

Biblical hermeneutics is needed because not everyone arrives at the same interpretation of the Bible. Some see God’s Word as literal and to be taken as such in our daily lives; others see that there could be a more spiritual message God is giving us through these familiar stories, while others believe the Bible could be a combination of literal and figurative.

With that in mind, four distinct methods of biblical hermeneutics were established to assist with all the ways people believe the Bible can be interpreted.

What Are the Four Methods of Biblical Hermeneutics?

The four methods of biblical hermeneutics include literal, allegorical, anagogical, and moral.

The first method, literal, views the Bible as literal, using what the authors were historically experiencing at that time, use of grammar, and word choice to determine the content’s meaning in its exact nature.

The second method, allegorical, strives for finding the message above what many first interpret of the biblical text. The allegorical approach believes that there is another form of reference beyond the initial meanings regarding people and events in the text – something more than meets the eye. It could be seeing aspects of foreshadowing in different Bible stories that don’t seem self-evident, such as presenting “types” (foreshadowing) of people, places, and things that could stand for the church, Jesus, and other elements (the typological method).

The third method, anagogical, is also referred to as the “mystical” method and focuses on what the Bible tells of biblical events to happen in the future. Mariology, which focuses on the doctrines related to Jesus’s mother, Mary, is one form of this method. It is basically to understand the significance of certain people and events recorded in the Bible and what they may tell of the future to come.

The last method, moral, deals with the ethical lessons that come from the Bible, sometimes hidden within the text. For example, it is mentioned how some believe the command in the book of Leviticus to not eat specific animals is because you could also ingest their bad habits as well.

How Do We Practice This?

There are ways to determine what might be the best approach to take in interpreting the Bible, probably reflected most in what your belief of the Bible is. Do you see the Bible as not needing in-depth interpretation to understand, or do you believe there is more God is trying to reveal to us in additional layers within the stories and parables?

Before beginning any of the methods, it is recommended you start with prayer, opening your heart to what method God would like you to follow. You may feel you are ready to use the allegorical method to study the Bible, but God may be drawing you to the moral method. Let Him lead you on the path you must go.

Keep in mind while reading the text what the context of the Bible story is, what historical attributes and cultural traditions were prevalent in that time. Also, don’t be afraid to look up definitions of words. Understanding more of the common practices in the timeline of the story or parable and researching the meanings of words will help you better interpret what God is revealing.

Most importantly, remember that every word of the Bible is to draw us back to Jesus, the one who is our Savior and died for our sins. As you go deeper in understanding the Bible through biblical hermeneutics, you will begin to see how certain events and people represent what Jesus was to do on the cross and how this would restore our relationship with God again.

So, should Christians consider using biblical hermeneutics while interpreting the Bible? Yes, because there is so much richness and relevance within the pages of the Bible. We may think the Bible is ancient text that can’t connect to our fast-paced life right now, but we would be wrong. Lessons about pride, lust, anger, evil, handling finances, and loving the unlovable are just as applicable now as they were for those alive when the stories were first written. God did this because He knew we would need to re-learn these lessons, these truths, over and over again, until we finally realize how much we need Jesus in our lives.

What Method Is Best for You?

Trying to narrow down what the stories of the Bible mean can be easier said than done, especially when you try to comprehend the lessons written in books like Revelation. This is why methods of biblical hermeneutics were established to assist us in fully grasping all the treasures of knowledge the Bible has to offer.

The methods of biblical hermeneutics cater to your perspective of the Bible: from believing in the literal sense of the Bible to seeing secondary meanings, from striving to find the text that foreshadows future events to uncovering the hidden lessons of ethics within the pages of Scripture.

The overall goal is to have a greater appreciation for what God’s Word shares and how it impacts our lives for the better. Regularly reading the Bible helps us realize we have a loving God who wants to guide us through the storms of life we face and remind us that we are just as loved by God now as when we were first created.

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Blair Parke is a freelance writer for BibleStudyTools.com, and previously worked for eight years with Xulon Press. A graduate of Stetson University with a Bachelor's in Communications, Blair previously worked as a writer/editor for several local magazines in the Central Florida area, including Celebration Independent and Lake Magazine in Leesburg, Florida and currently freelances for the Southwest Orlando Bulletin.