Principles of Biblical interpretation

The Surprising God blog seeks to read Scripture in the light of Jesus, which means reading in alignment with a theology that is both incarnational (Christ-centered) and Trinitarian. This interpretive approach is grounded in the following key principles:

Scripture and gospel 

We view the Holy Bible as the written word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit to reveal, through the apostolic word of God (the Apostle's testimony of the gospel), the truth concerning the Living Word of God (Jesus Christ, and see John 5:39-40).

Reading the Scriptures (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)


We believe that Scripture is rightly interpreted in the light of the answer to this key question: Who is Jesus? Scripture answers that Jesus is both fully God (the doctrine of the Trinity) and fully human (the doctrine of the Incarnation). Through his representative-substitutionary life, death, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has united all humanity to God (the doctrine of the Atonement). Accurate understanding of Scripture occurs as we prayerfully conform our thinking to this revelation of the person and work of Jesus.

Universal and personal 

Accurate interpretation of New Testament passages (that then shed the light of Christ on Old Testament passages) often necessitates discerning between two "realities." One is God's reality (from above) - the truth of the universal (objective) inclusion of all humanity in God's love and life in Jesus. The other is human reality (from below) - the personal (subjective) experience of people as they either embrace God's reality or reject it (or, as is often the case, simply are unaware of it). Some passages testify to God's reality (and invite people to receive it - e.g. Col 1:15-20), while others testify to the results of not believing (and warn of continuing to live in the darkness of that unbelief, with its fallen distortion of God's reality - e.g. Col 1:21).

Context and language 

Careful interpretation also involves accounting for the historical, cultural and literary context of each passage of Scripture. In addition, because the richness and subtleties of the original biblical text are sometimes lost in translation, it is important to check multiple translations and consult Bible lexicons or other translation helps. For more on this principle, see Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Basic Guide for Students and Ministers by Michael Gorman.