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impossible. For the doctrines of revelation can only be learned from a correct understanding of the oracles of God. Historical Theology, also, tracing as it does the thought and life of the Church, must needs take cognizance of the principles and methods of scripture interpretation which have so largely controlled in the development of that thought and life. The creeds of Christendom assume to rest upon the teachings of the inspired Scriptures. Apologetics, polemics, ethics, and all that is embraced in Practical Theology, are ever making appeal to the authoritative records of the Christian faith. The great work of the Christian ministry is to preach the word; and that most important labour cannot be effectually done without a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures and skill in the interpretation and application of the same. Personal piety and practical godliness are nourished by the study of this written word. The psalmist sings (Psa. cxix, 105, 111) :
A lamp to my foot is thy word,
For the joy of my heart are they.' The Apostle Paul admonished Timothy that the Holy Scriptures were able to make him wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Tim. iii, 15). And Jesus himself, interceding for his own chosen followers, prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth” (John xvii, 17). Accordingly, the Lord's ambassador must not adulterate (2 Cor. ii, 17), but rightly divide, the word of the truth (2 Tim. ii, 15). For if ever the divinely appointed ministry of reconciliation accomplish the perfecting of the saints, and the building up of the body of Christ, so as to bring all to the attainment of the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God (Eph. iv, 12, 13), it must be done by a correct interpretation and efficient use of the word of God. The interpretation and application of that word must rest upon a sound and self-evidencing science of hermeneutics.
All scripture quotations in the present work have been made by translating directly from the Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek originals. To have followed the Authorized Version would have necessitated a large amount of circumlocution. In many instances the citation of a text is designed to illustrate a process as well as a principle of hermeneutics. It is often desirable to bring out, either incidentally or prominently, some noticeable emphasis, and this can be done best by giving the exact order of the words of the original. The observance of such order in translation may sometimes violate the usage and idiom of the best English, but, in many cases, it yields the best possible translation.
QUALIFICATIONS OF AN INTERPRETER.
In order to be a capable and correct interpreter of the Holy Scriptures, one needs a variety of qualifications, both natural and acquired. For though a large proportion of the sacred volume is sufficiently simple for the child to understand, and the common people and the unlearned may find on every page much that is profitable for instruction in righteousness, there is also much that requires, for its proper apprehension and exposition, the noblest powers of intellect and the most ample learning. The several qualifications of a competent interpreter may be classified as Intellectual, Educational, and Spiritual. The first are largely native to the soul; the second are acquired by study and research; the third may be regarded both as native and acquired.
INTELLECTUAL QUALIFICATIONS. First of all, the interpreter of Scripture, and, indeed, of any other book, should have a sound, well-balanced mind. For
Defective mendulness of apprehension, defective judgment, and an tal powers disextravagant fancy will pervert one's reason, and qualify. lead to many vain and foolish notions. The faculties of the mind are capable of discipline, and may be trained to a very high degree of perfection; but some men inherit peculiar tendencies of intellect. Some are gifted with rare powers of imagination, but are utterly wanting in the critical faculty. A lifetime of discipline will scarcely restrain their exuberant fancy. Others are naturally given to form hasty judgments, and will rush to the wildest extremes. In others, peculiar tastes and passions warp the judgment, and some seem to be constitutionally destitute of common sense. Any and all such mental defects disqualify one for the interpretation of the word of God.
A ready perception is specially requisite in the interpreter. He must have the power to grasp the thought of his au- Quick and clear thor, and take in at a glance its full force and bearing. perception. With such ready perception there must be united a breadth of view and clearness of understanding which will be quick to catch, not only the import of words and phrases, but also the drift of the
Comp. the import of ikavoi, ikavórns, and inúvwoev in 2 Cor. iii, 6, 6.
argument. Thus, for example, in attempting to explain the Epistle to the Galatians, a quick perception will note the apologetic tone of the first two chapters, the bold earnestness of Paul in asserting the divine authority of his apostleship, and the far-reaching consequences of his claim. It will also note how forcibly the personal incidents referred to in Paul's life and ministry enter into his argument. It will keenly appreciate the impassioned appeal to the “ foolish Galatians” at the beginning of chapter third, and the natural transition from thence to the doctrine of Justification. The variety of argument and illustration in the third and fourth chapters, and the hortatory application and practical counsels of the two concluding chapters will also be clearly discerned; and then the unity, scope, and directness of the whole Epistle will lie pictured before the mind's eye as a perfect whole, to be appreciated more and more fully as additional attention and study are given to minuter details. The great exegetes have been noted for acuteness of intellect, a
critical sharpness to discern at once the connexion of
thought, and the association of ideas. This qualification is of great importance to every interpreter. He must be quick to see what a passage does not teach, as well as to comprehend its real import. His critical acumen should be associated with a masterly power of analysis, in order that he may clearly discern all the parts and relations of a given whole. Bengel and De Wette, in their works on the New Testament, excel in this particular. They evince an intellectual sagacity, which is to be regarded as a special gift, an inborn endowment, rather than a result of scientific culture.
The strong intellect will not be destitute of imaginative power, Imagination Many things in narrative description must be left to be
supplied, and many of the finest passages of Holy Writ
cannot be appreciated by an unimaginative mind. The true interpreter must often transport himself into the past, and picture in his soul the scenes of ancient time. He must have an intuition of nature and of human life by which to put himself in the place of the biblical writers and see and feel as they did. But it has usually happened that men of powerful imagination have been unsafe expositors. An exuberant fancy is apt to run away with the judgment, and introduce conjecture and speculation in place of valid exegesis. The chastened and disciplined imagination will associate with itself the power of conception and of abstract thought, and be able to construct, if called for, working hypotheses to be used in illustration or in argument. Sometimes it may be expedient to form a concept, or adopt a theory, merely for the purpose
needed, but must be controlled.
of pursuing some special line of discussion; and every expositor should be competent for this when needed.
But, above all things, an interpreter of Scripture needs a sound and sober judgment. His mind must be competent to Sober judganalyze, examine, and compare. He must not allow ment. himself to be influenced by hidden meanings, and spiritualizing processes, and plausible conjectures. He must weigh reasons for and against a given interpretation; he must judge whether his principles are tenable and self-consistent; he must often balance probabilities, and reach conclusions with the greatest caution. Such a discriminating judgment may be trained and strengthened, and no pains should be spared to render it a safe and reliable habit of the mind.
Correctness and delicacy of taste will be the result of a discriminating judgment. The interpreter of the inspired vol- Correct and delume will find the need of this qualification in discerning icate taste. the manifold beauties and excellences scattered in rich profusion through its pages. But his taste, as well as his judgment, must be trained to discern between the true and the false ideals. Many a modern whim of shallow refinement is offended with the straightforward honesty and simplicity of the ancient world. Prurient sensitiveness often blushes before expressions in the Scriptures which are as far as possible removed from impurity. Correct taste in such cases will pronounce according to the real spirit of the writer and his age.
The use of reason in the interpretation of Scripture is everywhere to be assumed. The Bible comes to us in the forms of human language, and appeals to our reason and judgment; it invites investigation, and condemns a blind credulity. It is to be interpreted as we interpret any other volume, by a rigid application of the same laws of language, and the same grammatical analysis. Even in passages which may be said to lie beyond the province of reason, in the realm of supernatural revelation, it is still competent for the rational judgment to say whether, indeed, the revelation be supernatural. In matters beyond its range of vision, reason may, by valid argument, explain its own incompetency, and by analogy and manifold suggestion show that there are many things beyond its province which are nevertheless true and righteous altogether, and to be accepted without dispute. Reason itself may thus become efficient in strengthening faith in the unseen and eternal.
But it behooves the expounder of God's word to see that all his principles and processes of reasoning are sound and self-consistent.
Use of reason.
He must not commit himself to false premises; he must abstain from confusing dilemmas; he must especially refrain from rushing to unwarranted conclusions. Nor must he ever take for granted things which are doubtful, or open to serious question. All such logical fallacies will necessarily vitiate his expositions, and make him a dangerous guide. The right use of reason in biblical exposition is seen in the cautious procedure, the sound principles adopted, the valid and conclusive argumentation, the sober sense displayed, and the honest integrity and self-consistency everywhere maintained. Such exercise of reason will always commend itself to the godly conscience and the pure heart. . In addition to the above-mentioned qualifications, the interpreter
should be “apt to teach” (DIDAKTIKOS, 2 Tim. ii, 24). Apt to teach.
He must not only be able to understand the Scriptures, but also to set forth in clear and lively form to others what he himself comprehends. Without such aptness in teaching, all his other gifts and qualities will avail little or nothing. Accordingly, the interpreter should cultivate a clear and simple style, and study to bring out the truth and force of the inspired oracles so that others will readily understand.
EDUCATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS. The professional interpreter of Scripture needs more than a wellbalanced mind, discreet sense, and acuteness of intellect. He needs stores of information in the broad and varied fields of history, science, and philosophy. By many liberal studies will his faculties become disciplined and strong for practical use; and extensive and accurate knowledge will furnish and fit him to be the teacher of others. The biblical interpreter should be minutely acquainted with
the geography of Palestine and the adjacent regions. Geography.
In order to be properly versed in this, he will need to understand the physical character of the world outside of Bible lands. For, though the sacred writers may have known nothing of countries foreign to Asia, Africa, and Europe, the modern student will find an advantage in having information, as full as possible, of the entire surface of the globe. With such geographical knowledge
he should also unite a familiar acquaintance with uni
versal history. The records of many peoples, both ancient and modern, will often be of value in testing the accuracy of the sacred writers, and illustrating their excellence and worth. What a vast amount of light have ancient authors, and the deciphered inscriptions of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia, shed upon the narratives of the Bible!