I just read an article found on The Apologetics Index which gave some ‘rules’ on grammatical interpretation which have been used and accepted by scholars past and present, so I thought I would post them here:
1. The Rule of Definition
A study of scripture, must begin with a study of words. For example, Greek words ‘allos’ and ‘heretos’ both translate as ‘another’, however, ‘allos’ literally means ‘another of the same type’ whereas ‘heretos’ means ‘another of a different type’. Studying words in the original language (Greek and Hebrew) to grasp the correct meaning will help you interpret scripture correctly.
2. The Rule of Usage
It must be remembered that the Old Testament was written originally by and for Jews, therefore the language would have been known and understood by them. The New Testament was written in a milieu of Greco-Roman culture, so we must not try to impose our modern culture when we try to interpret the text. Approaching interpretation with pre-conceived notions will likely lead to a mis-interpretation of the text. So it is important to recognise the cultural background.
3. The Rule of Context
Every word you read must be understood in the light of the words that come before and after. Text taken out of context becomes a pre-text and is not useful for anything. No text stands on its own in scripture, it relates to the verse, chapter, book and Bible as a whole.
4. The Rule of Historical Background
It is useful to have some knowledge of the of the life and society of the times with which the scripture was written, this can then give a better understanding of how to accurately understand the intended meaning of the text. Oliver Wendell Homes said:
Our only interest in the past is for the light it throws upon the present
5. The Rule of Logic
Interpreting is merely logical reasoning. The Bible was given to us in the form of human language and therefore is expected to be understood with logical reasoning. Scripture invites investigation; applying the laws of language and grammatical analysis.
6. The Rule of Precedent
Words have meanings which should not be altered to suit a doctrine. We cannot impress a new meaning on a word that has previous meaning. Words and meanings should be interpreted as they have previously been defined.
7. The Rule of Unity
A great example in relation to unity of scripture is the Trinity. Although not one verse says God is Trinity, we can see evidence of this in scripture. The Father is called God, Jesus (The Word) is called God and The Holy Spirit is called God, yet scripture teaches there is only One God. Scripture working in unity reveals God is a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Another rule of thumb is the old saying ‘The new is in the old concealed, the old is in the new revealed’. Scripture is not full of isolated stories or events, the whole of scripture in unity reveals the outworking of Gods plan for the salvation of mankind.
8. The Rule of Inference
Inference is a fact reasonably implied from another fact. It is a logical consequence. It derives a conclusion from facts. Such facts are sufficiently binding when their truth is established by satisfactory evidence. There is of course the ‘Law of First Mentions’ where you see the first occurrence of a text, but this will be the starting point of seeing something unfold through scripture. For example, Jacobs ladder Genesis 28:12 (first mention) which was then interpreted in John 1:51
These are just a few rules to keep in mind when approaching scripture which will help gain a correct understanding of the meaning of the text.