On Sunday, November 15 in our Metaphysical Bible Class at Unity of Fairfax (meets Sundays from 10:10 am - 10:50 am), I shared with the class nine interpretive lenses that can be worn when interpreting scripture. There are other lenses as well; however, these nine are a start. I pulled this list from Wisdom for a Lifetime, by Alden Studebaker.
Nine Interpretive Lenses of Bible Interpretation
From Wisdom of a Lifetime, by Rev. Alden Studebaker (chapter 8)
Factual – “…we are attempting to determine if what we are reading actually happened. The factual level of interpretation is as close to a literal reading of the Bible as we can come.” P. 135
Historical – “Modern history books must pass some level of professional and scientific scrutiny. Their purpose is to be accurate. The biblical writers had no such intent. They wrote history, but with the aim of promoting a certain religious viewpoint. They wrote a biased history. As a result, many stories were apparently exaggerated for religious purposes.” P. 136
“The Bible, therefore, is a pseudohistorical book… They wrote not to perfectly preserve the events of the past but to tell the epic story of God’s chosen people and how God worked through them to bring it all about. They wrote to instill in their readers and listeners a sense of importance and magnificence regarding their spiritual origins. Along the way, these writers took some literary license in telling their tales.” P. 137
Dramatic – “Bible characters and their stories make for excellent soap opera… The Bible accurately depicts the human condition… These were not merely characters in a Cecil B. De Mille film, but were flesh and blood people with many of the same problems we have today. Their humanity is often what makes them approachable, touchable, and not at all unlike ourselves.” P. 138
Comedic – “To many Christians, it may seem irreverent to look for humor in the Bible…As in the case of the dramatic, the comedic interpretive lens calls us to see Bible characters as real-life people and, in the same breath, examine our own humanness.” P. 141
“Be aware, not all characters and stories have comedic potential.” P. 142
Literary – “…the literary relevance of the Bible [enables] the student to read it as one would any other spiritually oriented book… We are looking for good stories, poetry, anything that reads well… Our choice of English translation can make a significant difference in the way the Bible reads.” P. 144
Moral – “Many have come to equate the Bible and morality with some conservative religionist’s attempts to shove a rigid code of conduct down the throats of any persons in their path….Unfavorable results await those who do not conform to the edicts of the so-called moral authorities. A person may be labeled either a saint or a scoundrel, depending upon the rules of the appraiser.” P. 146
“The moral interpretive lens allow us to delve into the inner world of our own conscience, values, and ideals. Through this lens, we can locate and interpret those Bible verses that reaffirm what we already hold to be morally true for us and/or inspire us to new beliefs… you are looking for the precept behind the words.” P. 147-148.
Allegorical – Whenever we attempt to explain the meaning of something symbolically rather than directly, we are using allegory… Allegories make language interesting and rich.” P. 148
Parables. “Through the use of the allegorical interpretive lens, we are searching for the basic life truths beyond the concrete elements of the story.” P. 151
Prophetic – When we view the Bible through the prophetic interpretive lens, we always must be mindful of the primary audience of its oracles. In the majority of cases, these prophecies foretold events of ancient times. (Birth of Jesus’ in re Isaiah.) Many prophecies taken out of context seem strangely applicable to our current era. [Why?]
1. Because of the cyclical nature of history, prophecies have a universal quality
2. perhaps ancient prophecies do speak directly about future events of modern times.
3. although biblical prophecies usually relate directly to an immediate audience, their symbolism can be indirectly linked to the experiences of future generations.
“We are looking to the past to explain our won future. We hope and pray that these writings hold the key to knowing what is in store for us as a civilization. This is the nature of modern biblical prophecy. Our task as Bible students is to intelligently discern whether the prophecies are distinctly ancient, universally applicable, or point to our own era. Once we determine the answer, we can use our own intuitive deciphering faculty to unlock the messages of the ancient writings and convert them into usable present-day information.” P. 157
Metaphysical – “Metaphysical describes the realm of existence beyond what we can perceive through our external senses. A more palatable term for metaphysical is spiritual.” P. 157
“Metaphysical Bible interpretation allows us to embrace scripture at our spiritual core, at the place where we ask the question: Who am I? In the process we discover that the Bible is a story about our spiritual destiny… Metaphysical Bible interpretation is an inward journey into the soul of humanity. Through it, we grasp the psychology of our spiritual journey. We begin by asking: How do the characters, objects, places, and activities in the Bible relate to our spiritual growth? Questions that help us to find the psychological insights of the story include: Where am I experiencing the energy of this story in me? in my life? in my world?
Conclusion: The lens you select depends on your needs and inclinations. Always be aware that your comprehension of the Bible is directly determined by the nature of your interpretive lens. You broaden your understandings of a passage or a story by looking through more than one interpretive lens. Quite simply, if you want to see something new, change the lens.
On November 22, we'll dive into the metaphysical process as a group!
Peace be with you and namaste,
KEYWORDS: Spirituality, Personal Growth, Meditation, Self-improvement, Healing, Self-development, Consciousness, Spiritual Growth & Transformation, Christianity, New Age & Spirituality, Spiritual Healing, Contemplative Prayer