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The Interpretive Journey

Authors J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays point out that, “We are separated from the biblical audience by culture and customs, language, situation, and a vast expanse of time.”[1] For many Christians approaching Scripture, the enterprise of biblical interpretation involves intuitive or feels-right techniques.[2] However, the authors’ goal is to introduce a consistent technique that aims not to create meaning but “to find the meaning that is already there.”[3]

This interpretive technique involves five steps:

  1. Grasping the Text in Their Town: The goal is to determine what the text meant to the original hearers (i.e. biblical audience).
  2. Measuring the Width of the River to Cross: This involves identifying the differences between the original hearers and us.
  3. Crossing the Principlizing Bridge: Here, the reader must determine the theological principle in the text. “This is perhaps the most challenging step,”[4] says Duvall and Hays.
  4. Consult the Biblical Map: The task in Step Four is to see how the theological principle in Step Three fits with the rest of Scripture.
  5. Grasping the Text in Our Town: In light of the theological principle in Steps Three and Four, the reader must now ask the famous Francis Schaeffer question: How should we then live? In other words, how can the reader apply the theological principle to his life?

These five steps will essentially undergird the rest of the chapters in this book.

Check back next week for Chapter 3: How to Read the Book – Sentences.

We’ve barely scratched the surface with Grasping God’s Word! We highly recommend you purchase this excellent book here.

[1] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 39.

[2] Ibid, 40.

[3] Ibid, 41.

[4] Ibid, 43.

Speaker, Educator, President of A Clear Lens, Inc. and host of A Clear Lens Podcast. B.Sc., M.Ed. Lives in Las Vegas with his wife, two sons, and dogs.


  1. […] Just as the Spirit will not create new meaning, the Spirit will not “change the meaning of the Bible to correspond to our feelings.”[3] It is easy sometimes to strip a passage out of its context to apply directly to our current situations. This is not how a particular passage speaks to our situations. We must first appreciate the passage’s intended meaning in its context and then glean some kind of application for today. For more on that process, see Funsized Bible Study: The Interpretive Journey. […]

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