7 Principles for Teaching Kids to Interpret the Bible

The Gospel Coalition | 7/20/2019 | Joe Carter
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Of the three steps of Bible study—observation, interpretation, and application—the middle one is often the most daunting. We may hear words like “hermeneutics” (the science of interpretation) or “exegesis” (critical explanation or interpretation of a text) and think interpretation is something best left to experts.

While we should certainly take advantage of the expertise of pastors, scholars, and theologians, basic interpretation of the Bible is a necessary task for every believer. Here are seven principles that should guide your efforts as you teach children to interpret the Bible.

Never - Person - Living - Country - Access

Don’t Go It Alone — Never has the average person living in a Western country had access to such an abundance of superb biblical scholarship as we do today. Many excellent and inexpensive concordances, commentaries, and study Bibles are available, as well as a vast array of free online resources. Let these tools help you understand and interpret what God is saying in his Word. The Bible is a gift for the church, so we should join with our brothers and sisters (including through books and other resources) in searching for its meaning.

Context Is Key — Noting the various contexts—historical, social, political, and so on—will help them understand and interpret a text, but we should pay special attention to the literary context. Look at the verses, paragraphs, and chapters immediately before and after a passage to understand what the writer intended.

Plain - Obvious - Meaning - Passage - Context

The Plain and Obvious Meaning — A passage may be difficult to understand because its context is unfamiliar to us. But we should always assume the meaning is straightforward and would have been understood by the Bible author’s contemporaries. “A common and persistent myth about the Bible is that its real meaning is hidden behind the surface message,” Wayne McDill says. “Even though the Bible uses symbolic or figurative language, most of it is...
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