by Michael Dolim


HERMENEUTICS by Bernard Ramm


For centuries, skeptics and atheists have attacked the Bible,

claiming it was nothing more than a collection of man's overactive

imagination. "Where did Cain get his wife?" became the question that

was supposed to discredit the Bible, silence its defenders, and place

it on the shelf with fairy tales and other works of fiction.


In a heated discussion over the reliability of the Bible, one

skeptic asked an evangelist, "Now tell me where did Cain get his

wife?" The evangelist answered with this question, "Are you going to

let another man's wife keep you out of heaven?"


Mark Twain once said, "Most people are bothered by those passages

of Scripture they don't understand, but for me, I have always noticed

that the passages that bother me are the ones I do understand."


People do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but

because it contradicts them. What the Bible has to say to us can be

very disturbing. This is why people have, for centuries, tried to

bury the Bible in their funeral services of ridicule. But, the Bible

gets resurrected over and over again, always managing to outlive its

pall bearers.


Voltaire, the outspoken skeptic said, "In a hundred years, the

Bible will be a forgotten book, found only in museums." One hundred

years later, the home in which Voltaire made that prediction was

occupied by the Geneva Bible Society.


Why does the Bible have this ability to survive its critics? Why

does it continue to be the number one best seller of all time, and the

most printed book in the world? Why is it the Bible never grows old?

We grow old. Our houses, cars, and cities grow old, but the Bible

never changes. It speaks a clear and vibrant word to every

generation, in every culture.


If the Bible offers us so much, why have Christians neglected to

study this amazing book? Many have attempted to study the Bible, only

to get discouraged and drop out. The scenario goes something like



Mr. Jones hears a rousing sermon about the importance of the

Word of God, and why we are to study to show ourselves approved. He

goes home, determined to read through the bible from cover to cover.

He enthusiastically starts with the book of Genesis, and is delighted

as he reads the colorful stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

Exodus comes next, which is full of the dramatic exploits of Moses,

and the escape of the Jews from Egyptian bondage.

Who hasn't seen the Book of

Exodus come alive in living color, as in Cecil B. DeMille's

extravaganza, starring Charlton Heston? Mr. Jones moves on into the

Book of Leviticus, expecting even more historical pageantry, but he is

stunned by the minute detail given to dietary regulations, sacrificial

offerings, and priestly performances. The endless material that seems

so foreign to Mr. Jones is so overwhelming, he closes the book in

discouragement, muttering, "I can't understand this." If only Mr.

Jones had someone to help him understand what he was reading.


The purpose of this study is to introduce some practical ideas to

help you in understanding the most unique book on earth. You will be

introduced to the basic and important rules of interpreting ANY piece

of literature (especially important in the Bible), and you will be

introduced to some of the tools and authors that help in studying the



This study is not 'gospel' in the sense of saying 'thus says

the Lord'. Rather, these are aids and ideas which have helped many

people understand God's Word. Many of the 'rules' are employed by

Bible Scholars and theologians who seek to ACCURATELY determine what

God is saying to man.

Up front, serious study of the Bible will demand two things of

you: time and money.

You must 'make' the time. Perhaps you will have to juggle your

schedule a bit, wake up earlier, go to bed later, take some leisure

time, break away from one of your favorite TV programs, or delegate

work to someone so that you can find the time. There is no short cut.

It will cost you time.

It will also cost you money. Reference books are not

inexpensive. As a mechanic makes a major investment in tools that

last him a lifetime, so will you have to make an investment in the

reference books that will serve you in an eternity of benefits. An

opinion on Bible reference books: I know of no other place where I

think it is justified to throw moderation to the wind. If you find

yourself really enjoying bible study and you really desire to get into

it, I think this is one safe area where you can freely indulge to your

heart's content. On the other hand, for those of us on tighter

budgets, take comfort in the fact that you don't need to run right out

and buy EVERY book referred to. It is highly advisable anyway that

you do this a little slowly.

When the reference books are discussed,

the more basic, or fundamental ones will be noted as the ones to get

first, again one or two at a time. Gradually, you will acquire a

respectable library of good reference books that will serve you and

your family throughout your lives.


The Bible was not addressed to just anyone. Sure, anyone can

read it, but not everyone can understand it - not even with a million

reference books! Not everyone is 'qualified' to understand the Word

of God.

"The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God;

for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because

they are spiritually discerned" (1Cor. 2:14).

"The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are

life" (John 6:63).

"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish

foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God" (1Cor.


Before even bothering to attempt to understand the Bible, in

order to qualify, you must be born again.


One of the charges made against being 'dependent' on using

reference books is that someone will say something like 'the Holy

Spirit will reveal the Word to me. What do I need man-made helps


Well, you're right in the sense that the Holy Spirit will

reveal the Word to you. No one else CAN! Concerning man-made helps

though, take a look at your bible. Notice that there are chapters and


These, themselves are man-made helps that ALL of us use.

Some of the reference books do nothing more than provide data and

background. Others aid you in understanding the Word by giving an

explanation of the passage.

Why use these works? Primarily, it saves time. Authors of Bible

Commentaries have spent years (sometimes lifetimes) building their

knowledge on others' study. They've written down the results of their

years of study.

Now you can benefit from what they've already done,

and go on from there. You will have to be cautious of course. There

are many wolves attempting to write 'sheep-books'. Your best defense

in the beginning is to be familiar with the basic doctrines of


"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1Thes. 5:21).

"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they

received the word with all readiness of mind, and SEARCHED THE


So we see that man-made aids and reference books can be valuable,

but understand that they can never replace The Word of God. They aid

you in understanding the Word, but they cannot substitute for your

reading of the Word.


We also must understand the purpose of the Bible. God gave us

His Word. He could have given us a million more books. He could have

given us less. What He did do is give us 66 books, written by over 40

people. Everything He had to say to man is in the Bible. Nothing in

the Bible is unnecessary, or not applicable to you and I today, in the

twentieth century. Everything from the Levitical laws to the extensive

genealogies have a purpose and a meaning to us. The purpose of the

Bible is to reveal Jesus Christ.

"the volume of the book is written of Me" (Psalm 40:7).

"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal

life; and they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39).

"For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for he

wrote of Me" (John 5:46).

It has been said that the Torah (the first five books, written by

Moses) lays the FOUNDATION for Christ. The Historical Books are the

PREPARATION of Christ. The Poetic Books are the ASPIRATION for Christ.

The Prophetic Books are the ANTICIPATION of Christ. The Gospels are

the MANIFESTATION of Christ. Acts is the PROPAGATION of Christ.

The Epistles are the INTERPRETATION of Christ. And Revelation is the

CONSUMMATION of everything into Christ. The Bible shows us God's plan

for man. It is quite condensed in the sense that EVERYTHING God wants

us to know is contained in it concerning our relationship with Him.

"And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His

disciples, which are not written in this book; But these are written,

that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and

that believing ye might have life through His Name" (John 20:30-31).

"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which, if

they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself

could not contain the books that should be written. Amen" (John


DON'T! Don't open your bible in front of a blaring television or

radio, and expect to put some quality time into your studying. You

need a quiet place and some quiet time alone. Make sure it's away

from ringing door bells, telephones, distractions, and interruptions.

Set aside a time and place. It may be morning or night that is more

convenient for you. Whatever that time is, guard it jealously. You

will be presented with many 'reasons' to set your study time aside.

Don't do it! Don't study in an inconsistent fashion. Letting five

days go by, and then, 'doubling up' to make up for lost time is an

enemy to good study habits. It would be far better to set aside less

time, and study consistently, than to lump a lot of hours together,

and study haphazardly.

Don't trust your memory. Even after you have

finished studying, your mind will continue to turn over the truths you

have gone over. Inspiration does not keep office hours. You will

discover it comes when you least expect it. So, keep a pad and pen

handy, and be prepared for a sudden burst of insight, or you will lose


It would be a good idea to keep a pad and pen handy near your bed

at night. There will be times when you will wake up in the middle of

the night with an insight, an idea, or an illustration. Do not remove

yourself from the passage you are examining. You must consciously

remove your twentieth century point of view, but do not remove

yourself. While you are reading, ask yourself, "What does this mean to


How would I have reacted, given the same situation? How would I

fit into this account?" Put yourself into the story. Figuratively,

slip out of your culture and surroundings, and get into the sandals of

the Bible characters. Feel the excitement in the air as you walk with

little David toward Goliath. Find yourself being forcibly taken to the

lions' den with Daniel. Walk with Ezekiel into the vision of the

valley of dry bones.

How would you have felt being asked to preach to

a pile of sun-bleached bones? Put yourself into the story. How would

you have handled it? What would you have done? You will discover a

very interesting phenomenon taking place on occasion. Sometimes, when

you hold a magnifying glass over the truth, you are made strangely

aware that the truth is holding a magnifying glass over you ...

scrutinizing and examining you. During moments like this, you will

discover how very personal your study can become.

DO! Have your reference books in a handy place, so you can

quickly get the information you may need. Play 'detective' with the

text. Go to the Bible as a private investigator who is on a case.

Use questions to uncover the mystery.

Kipling once wrote: "I keep six honest serving men. They taught

me all I know. The names are what, and where and when, And how and

why and who." Be alert when you read the Bible. Investigate the


Ask questions. Don't be afraid to probe. Some have found it

beneficial to keep a 'Bible Diary'. This can be structured in any way

that is comfortable to you. Some people keep binders, others use a

plain old diary or notebook, some people use loose-leaf paper and file

folders, they even have used 'Day Runners', or personal organizers.

Use anything you like. Arrange it any way you find comfortable. Some

people go through extensive planning in how they keep organized so

that they can always find something they wrote down. Always write down

your study. It has been my experience that when you write something

down, you will have learned it FAR better than if you didn't write it


Just the act of writing is a MAIN benefit. When you come to a

passage that you can't make any sense out of, it has been suggested

that you put Jesus Christ in the middle of the passage, and many times

the passage makes sense.

When you come to a passage that you don't understand, you have a

precious chance to do a lab experiment with The Holy Spirit. We have

a promise given to us by Jesus. John 14:26 says, "But the Comforter,

who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall

teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance,

whatever I have said unto you."

With this promise in mind, write down

your frustration in attempting to understand the text. The purpose

being to document the problem. Then pray about it and ask for

understanding. Leave the passage, go on to something else for awhile.

Come back to it in a couple of days and you will find that you

understand the passage completely, and can't understand why you never

understood it before. You will have experienced a miracle and will

have proven to yourself once again, the power of the Holy Spirit, and

the supernaturalness of the Word.


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