I have heard that reading is an art. The more I see the interpretations of various people and groups who read the same books, the more I think it is a lost art.
This is particularly true of the Bible.
And, the people who “get it wrong” usually get it wrong from the start. Many times, they aren’t being malicious, they are just undereducated about how to read.
For example; I have read that Moses could not have written the first five books of the Bible because they are different literary forms. What moron came up with this? (It comes out of “Higher Criticism”)
I am not as eloquent as the writer of these books was, and even I have written poetry, narrative, reports, observations and humor. If I can do this, surely privileged Moses could have.
I have heard that Isaiah is a three-part book written at three different periods. Thankfully, this is rejected by more and more scholars.
Before reading a book, or anything written for that matter, please consider the following:
1. Who is the stated author? What is his/her background, education, national origin, and the era He/She lived in?
2. What is Her/His purpose? Why are they writing this? When you think you know the reason, consider political, social, religious and ethnic perspectives.
3. Who are they writing to? Who is the intended audience?
4. What is the context of what you are reading? Sometimes, as in the case of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, we can read the result of the first letter in the writing of the second.
5. Don’t impose your ethnocentric, chronocentric, political, or philosophical views on a text. The ability to be totally objective may be impossible, but one must try. This allows for discovery and growth.
6. What type of writing is it? Categorize as poetry, narrative, report, or whatever literary genre best reflects the true nature of the writing.
7. Be fair. This is a lost art, in itself. The unwillingness to hear and consider another person/groups position enhances ignorance. Don’t excuse what’s being written, but don’t rush to judge it, either.
There are some other principles of interpretation that I would add to this list for those who would read the Bible. But, I think these first principles could go a long way to understanding the text and … each other.