Authority of the Scriptures
The Scriptures are the Christian's absolute and final authority for doctrine and practice. Nothing is more authoritative. They describe God's purpose and actions in the world, and man's purpose and place within it. As such they must be obeyed.
The New Testament is a coherent and consistent document. No book or author is autonomous and must be interpreted in light of the whole. No one book or author contains all knowledge revealed by God to his people. When tensions appear between various texts, their resolution is sought by proper exegesis.
The exegetical grammatico-historical method is employed here. This method determines the authors' intended meaning based on textual, grammatical, rhetorical, social, religious, political and general historical contexts. Given these considerations the texts are severely constrained in their meaning. The text cannot mean for us what it could not have meant for the author and his audience.
Hermeneutically, this means that we cannot apply the Word in a way inconsistent with the meaning we have found in our exegesis. Thus, applications must be consistent with the meaning of the text established by exegesis. Finally, the Scriptures are not read in a modern critical fashion, constantly questioning the authorship and authenticity of each passage. Instead, the Scriptures will be taken at face value; Christ's words remain his and similarly, Paul's and Peter's and others remain theirs.
Important Exegetical Contexts
The list below enumerates some of the more important contexts that must be considered.
- Occasional Context
Occasional Context Developed
The occasional context consists of the following.
- What is the occasion of the letter?
- What appears to compel the author to write the letter?
- Conditions under which the letter is written?
- With the author
- With the recipients
- Who is the author and the recipients and how are they related.?
- Who are the various recipients?
- What is their history?
- Is there an error being addressed?
- What is the error?
- Who holds the error?
- What is the correct position?
- How is the author arguing?
- What does the author appeal to to support his position?
- Is there conflict among the recipients?
- Who are the parties and what is the nature of the conflict?
- What is the author's remedy?
- Is there a conflict between the author and the recipients?
- Who is the party in conflict with the author and what is the nature of the conflict?
- What is the author's remedy?
- Are the recipients praised?
- Why is praise given?
- What are the recipients doing well?
More questions to pose to the text
Below are some more questions you may pose in your study of the text.
- What are our questions? What are their questions? How do they differ?
- What can be predicated of various things?
- How did the audience see this topic, idea, institution, etc.
- What were the underlying assumptions about religion, government, power, violence, coercion, economics, health, etc.
- What social, political, economic class (etc.) are they in? Exploited/preferred?
- What is their relationship to the author?
- What was the geography like?
- Was it an economically/politically important location?
- What was its relationship to government, power, wealth . . .
- What did they expect out of life?
- What was the relationship between the groups?
- Are there important economic religious or social practices? How do they tie in relationships, etc.?
- What is implied socially, religiously, politically, economically?
- What do the important words mean?
- Word/phrase/idea frequency?
- Identify comparisons and contrasts?
- Identify argumentation
- Types of and forms of argumentation.
- Look at sentence structure.
- Is the meaning of the propositions you have identified consistent with the other parts of the argument? Did you get his meaning right? How do you check this?
- Does one assumption make another area or assumption harder or easier to understand?
- Understand transitions (connections between sections, paragraphs and sentences)
- What must ve assumed to make this argument?
- What ideas are inconsistent with it?
- What are the questions/answers?
- What is the literary style.
- Fee, Gordon, New Testament Exegesis, 3rd. Ed. John Knox Press, 2002
- Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Zondervan, 2003
- Stuart, Douglas, Old Testament Exegesis, Zondervan, 2001
- Witherington III, Ben, New Testament Rhetoric, Cascade, 2009
- Wilder, Amos N., Early Christian Rhetoric, Hendrickson Pub., 1999
- Kennedy, George A., New Testament Interpretation Through Rhetorical Criticism, The Univerisity of North Carolina Press, 1984