In the study of hermeneutics, one of the most critical steps is learning how to interpret narratives. Narratives are the story form of literature. 60% of the Bible is composed of historical narratives. How should we interpret an event that happened one time to one person or to one people?
Download Handout – Session 5 – Interpreting the Narratives
In reading the biblical narratives, we must be aware of the three levels:
- Top Level – the complete universal plan of the Sovereign God being worked through his creation
- Middle Level – key aspects of God’s plan centering around God’s people
- Old Testament – Israel
- New Testament – the Church
- Bottom Level – composed of hundreds of individual narratives that provide the content for the other two levels
- To grasp the full significance of the bottom level, we must read it with the other two levels in mind.
- God is the hero of every narrative.
- Narratives are not intended to give every detail of a story.
- Since narratives highlight complex people, they are often complex stories.
- Narratives are descriptive and not prescriptive.
- Just because the Bible records someone doing something does not give you the rights to do the same (E.g., Gideon putting out the fleece – Judges 6:36-40; Deut. 6:16).
- Search for editorial comments within the narrative to determine the author’s intended meaning.
- Authors often indicated thematic principles through the usage of repetition (E.g., Mark’s emphasis of the people’s amazement at Jesus – Mark 1:27-28, 45; 2:12; 3:7-12; 4:1).
- Don’t allegorize narratives. They are stories of what God did. That information is sufficient.
- Don’t decontextualize narratives. Ignoring the context and focusing on specific words, phrases, or events can detract from the intended meaning.
- Don’t moralize narratives. Narratives are meant to show God’s progress of his plan, not simply to illustrate moral principles.
- Don’t personalize narratives. Even when approaching the Bible, our self-centeredness can be revealed when we expect to experience the same outcomes as the positive biblical narratives.