Principles of Biblical Interpretation*

Dr. R. A. Torrey

Dr. R. A. Torrey, was for many years the associate to the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody.  He wrote many books addressing the fundamentals of the Christian faith.  He stated the following about proper interpretation of the Bible:

"Paul warns against 'handling the Word of God deceitfully (dishonestly)' 2 Corinthians 4:2."
"He further commands us in 2 Timothy 2:15 to 'rightly divide' the Word of God.  This is critical for proper interpretation."

The principles for interpretation listed in his book on Bible study are:

1.      Get absolutely right with God yourself by the absolute surrender of your will to Him.

2.      Be determined to find out just what God intended to teach and not what you wish Him to teach.

3.      Get the most accurate text.

4.      Find the most exact and literal meaning of the text.

5.      Note the exact force of each word used.

6.      Interpret the words used in any verse according to Bible usage.

7.      Interpret the words of each author in the Bible with a regard to the particular usage of that author.

8.      Interpret individual verses with a regard to the context.

9.      Interpret individual passages in the light of parallel or related passages.

10.  Interpret obscure passages in the light of passages that are perfectly plain.

11.  Interpret any passage in the Bible as those who were addressed would have understood it.

12.  Interpret what belongs to the Christian as belonging to the Christian; what belongs to the Jew, as belonging to the Jew, and what belongs to the Gentiles, as belonging to the Gentiles.

13.  Interpret each writer with a view to the opinions the writer opposed.

14.  Interpret poetry as poetry and interpret prose as prose.

15.  The Holy Spirit is the best interpreter of the Bible.

* Quotes from from Dr. Torrey's book The Importance and Value of Proper Bible Study, (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1921), pp. 55-90.