by Chinelle Flood

Biblical Interpretation might be better described as an Interpretive Expedition. Why an expedition? The word “expedition” has a tantalizing ring to it. It instantly perks the senses to something far beyond a mere trip across town to the local hardware store. It hints at adventure, fills the air with spices, peeks in on exotic locations, and has treasure hunters expediting their passports.

By the time a Bible student makes their way through the journey of interpretation, they will have been transported back to an ancient time, observed sacred yet living texts, discerned their purpose, touched what is holy, and will have found, through the power of the Holy Spirit, a clear applicable path that will take them ever closer to being like Christ and knowing Him better.

Stages of the Expedition

The first stage of the journey is about discovering what the text meant to the original audience.  Once we get an idea of what the text is saying, we move into ascertaining the literary and historical-cultural context of the passage.

Stage two measures the differences between the biblical audience and us. As it pertains to the Old Testament audience, we are separated by covenant, language, culture, etc., which often make that difference, or river, very wide.

The first two stages set us up perfectly for the third crucial stage of constructing a bridge, one made of principles. The principles should be timeless. They should correspond to the teaching of the rest of Scripture and be relevant to us as well as the original audience.

How to Determine the Meaning and the Principles

We must keep this in mind when making our principles: “We do not create the meaning. Rather, we seek to discover the meaning that has been placed there by the author.”¹ We must also make sure that our principles are consistent with the whole of Scripture. If our principles somehow contradict, then we need to go back to the drawing board.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17 NIV).

Since Scripture is God-breathed and the principles we are devising are ultimately for application, then they must be in harmony with the rest of the Bible.

Applying the Principles on Our Expedition

The final stage of the expedition asks this important question: How do we apply the principles discovered on our expedition in order to grow closer to God, know Him better and make Him known?

The Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments are alive and active (Heb. 4:12). This is no ordinary book filled with fairy tales, but true and living stories that can and will still live through us who believe, but we must be diligent to dig out the treasure to be found in it through careful, humble and prayerful study.

“Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matt. 13:45-46 NIV).

Note:  This article is an abbreviation of an essay originally written by Chinelle Flood for Artios Christian College Biblical Interpretation class and describes the stages of the Interpretive Journey as laid out in the textbook Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting and Applying the Bible by Scott Duvall and Daniel Hays.


¹ Duvall, J. Scott & Hays, J. Daniel. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting and Applying the Bible, 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. 195