“Brief Rules for Interpreting a Text”
Excerpted from A Treatise On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons
“Brief Rules for Interpreting a Text” 
Preparation and Delivery of Sermons
John A. Broadus
Edited and Offered
Roger D Duke
1. Interpret grammatically. Endeavor to ascertain the precise meaning of the words and phrases used in the text. Inquire whether any of them have a peculiar sense of Scripture, and whether such peculiar sense holds in this passage. If there are key-words [sic] in the text, or words of special importance, examine, by the help of a Concordance, other passages in which the word is employed. This is best done in the original because our version will often have the same word where the Hebrew and Greek is different, and the same Greek or Hebrew word will be used in important passages where our version renders differently. . . .
2. Interpret logically. The connection to thought in which the text stands will of course throw light upon its meaning and is usually indispensable to understanding it. This logical connection will sometimes really be the entire book to which the text belongs. There are very few sentences in Hebrews, or in the first eleven chapters of Romans, which can be fully understood without having in mind the entire argument of the Epistle. Of course, this is not so strikingly true in most of the books, but each of them has its own distinct contents, connection, and character. . . .
3. Interpret historically. Apart from the logical connection of discourse in which a text is found, there is often important aid to be derived from general historical knowledge. In the narratives, which make up the larger part of Scripture, we have constant need to observing facts of Geography, which would throw light on the text. So as to the Manners and Customs of the Jews, and other nations who appear in the sacred story. Thus, much is obvious, though these helps for understanding texts are seldom used as diligently as they should be. But there is also much to be learned by taking account of the opinions and state of mind of the persons addressed in the text. . . .
4. Interpret figuratively, where there is sufficient reason. Whenever it is clear, from the nature of the case, from the connection, or from precisely similar expressions in other passages, that the literal sense is not designed, then we must understand figuratively. In the language of Scripture, as in all other language, the presumption is in favor of the literal sense. To explain away as figuratively whatever seems to conflict with doctrinal prejudices, or with fanciful notions and morbid feelings as to ethics or aesthetics, or with hasty inferences from imperfectly established scientific facts, is to trifle with that which we acknowledge as an authoritative revelation. Still, there is very much in Scripture that is clearly figurative; and very much more which might do readily be thus understood, in the light of other Scripture usage, and we ought to be careful about building important theories upon its literal sense. . . .
5. Interpret allegorically, where that is clearly proper. We cannot take it for granted that any passage has an allegorical, or so called “spiritual” sense, merely because the notion suits our fancy, or world promote our convenience. There must be good reason to think so. Whatever the New Testament so uses, is certainly allegorical; whatever else is precisely similar to matters so used in the New Testament is very probably allegorically. Farther that this, we have surely no right to go. We may derive illustration, our own illustration, of spiritual things from perhaps everything in Scripture history, prophesies, and proverbs, as we may from profane history and nature; but we have not more right to present the former as interpretation than the later. . . .
6. Interpret in accordance with, and not contrary to, the general teachings of Scripture. These teachings are harmonious and can be combined into a symmetrical whole. If a passage may have two senses, owing to the ambiguity of some word or construction, to the doubt whether some expression is figurative, . . . then we must choose one which accords with what the Bible in general plainly teaches, rather than one which would make the Bible contradict itself. It is a gross abuse of this principle—though one often practices—to force upon a passage some meaning which its words and constructions do not grammatically admit of, in some order that it may give the sense required by our system (italics added). . . .
 John A. Broadus, A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Smith, English & Co., 1871), 78 ff.
 A Broadus footnote in his text says: “The phrase, ‘according to the analogy of faith,’ commonly used in this connection, was derived from a misunderstanding of the Greek in Rom[ans] 12: 6, and ought to be abandoned, even if there is no technical phrase to substitute [for it].”
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