There has been a lot of interpretation of Christian Scripture here, so I thought I would post a common set of interpretive guidelines. These are Presbyterian, and they are pretty well accepted by most denominations.
Biblical interpretation is not tafsir. There is a tremendous emphasis in Christian exegesis on context and relating the text to the entire world of Christian teaching and the example of Christ.
I look forward to a discussion of the methodologies behind interpretation of Scripture in Islam and Christianity.Guidelines Concerning What the Text Says
A. The Use of Original Languages
The biblical text in Hebrew and Greek is to be used in theological
work. Translations are to be tested by these original languages.
B. The Employment of the Best Manuscripts
The best text as determined by textual criticism is to be
used as the basis for study and translations.
C. The Priority of the Plain Sense of the Text
Various ways of reading and construing Scripture (allegory,
second or deeper or spiritual meanings, free association) have
been and may be useful in the many roles that Scripture has in
the church. However, when establishing what the text says for
the purpose of doctrinal and ethical deliberations, the objective
is to identify the plain sense.
1. The Definition of Literary Units
Words, expressions and sentences should not be read in isolation
from the context of which they are an integral part Literary
units are to be understood in terms of the relation they bear
to the larger whole of the book in which they stand.
2. The Recognition of the Cultural Conditioning of
Language itself is a historical phenomenon The validity of
implications drawn from what a text says and the appropriateness
of using it for theological purposes depends upon the recognition
of its historical character.
3. The Understanding of Social and Historical Circumstances
While a particular text may name a subject with which we
are also concerned in the present, the assumption should not
be immediately made that the contemporary subject is the same
as that addressed in the biblical text or that the circumstances
and conditions of the biblical writer and modern interpreter
are similar The implications drawn from a text should not violate
its purpose and character.
Guidelines Concerning How the Text Is Rightly Used
A. The Purpose of Holy Scripture
The purpose of Scripture has to do with questions about the
ultimate origin, meaning, and goal of human life in relation
to God Scripture is not authoritative for any and everything,
in any and every question.
B. The Precedence of Holy Scripture
In matters of faith, life, and salvation, Scripture takes
precedence over all other authorities. However, the precedence
of Scripture does not call for the disregard of other authorities.
1. The Priority of Holy Scripture
The witness of Scripture on matters within its purpose is
authoritative over all other knowledge, opinions, and theories.
Since God is creator of all things, respect for the priority
of Scripture does not exclude but requires respect for the subordinate,
relative authority of such secular disciplines as the natural
sciences, psychology, sociology, philosophy, economic and political
2. The Use of Knowledge
The way in which the biblical testimony should be used needs
to be thought out in the light of contemporary claims, insights,
and theories that bear on the question. Scripture as norm does
not exhaust or limit what faith needs to know in seeking the
most faithful course of obedience and confession.
3. The Use of Experience
The entire company of believers is both a resource and a
participant in the process The church in its institutional life
must not discount the experience of its members, but hear their
questions and receive their insights as opportunities to read
Scripture again in the continuing search for positions and patterns
of contemporary faithfulness.
C. The Centrality of Jesus Christ
No understanding of what Scripture teaches us to believe
and do can be correct that ignores or contradicts the central
and primary revelation of God and God's will through Jesus Christ
Any teaching of the Bible on a matter of faith or life is to
be used in a manner consistent with scriptural accounts of Jesus'
own teaching and embodiment of the person and will of God.
D. The Interpretation of Scripture by Scripture
The observance of this principle involves searching of the
whole of Scripture for all texts bearing on the question under
consideration and using particular texts or groups of texts in
the light of the whole A special dimension of this guideline
has to do with the interpretation of the Old Testament in light
of the New Testament, as well as the interpretation of the New
Testament in light of the Old Testament.
E. The Rule of Love
The fundamental expression of God's will is the two-fold
commandment to love God and neighbor, and all interpretations
are to be judged by the question whether they offer and support
the love given and commanded by God Any interpretation of Scripture
is wrong that separates or sets in opposition love for God and
love for fellow human being.
F. The Rule of Faith
Scripture is to be interpreted in light of the past and present
Christian community's understanding of Scripture The confessions
understand full well that the church's traditional interpretation
of Scripture is fallible and subject always to revision and correction.
Nevertheless, they give it initial precedence over the interpretations
of individuals, both because the understanding of the whole church
over time is likely to be more adequate than the opinion of individual
persons at one point in time and because Christ himself through
the Holy Spirit has been at work in the church.
G. The Fallibility of All Interpretation
Every reading, confession, and theology that refers to Scripture
is subject to testing by further and more faithful searching
of the Scripture to see if it is genuinely in accord with the
H. The Relation of Word and Spirit
After we have done the best we can with all the means at
our disposal, we depend upon God's Spirit to enable us rightly
to hear and believe and obey.
I. The Use of All Relevant Guidelines
No interpretation of Scripture based on a single one or several
of the principles of interpretation we have mentioned is to be
accepted without testing it also be all the others that may apply,
or by still further principles of interpretation that may help
us in the faithful, honest, and accurate use of Scripture.