Why Use the Grammatical Historical Method to Study Scripture

The Grammatical Historical Method (GHM) approaches the Bible as the holy word of God and therefore strives to discover the biblical author’s initially intended meaning in the verse and passage under consideration. In other words, the interpreter asks, what did the author (like Matthew, Paul, or Peter) mean by what he said, and how did the original recipients understand his words. If correctly done, this method results in a biblically faithful interpretation, which permits us as interpreters, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to correctly apply the passage in various ways based upon the author’s meaning.

The GHM looks at grammar, history, and the culture of the time. The interpreter considers the passage’s immediate context as well as the broader context of the specific book and testament in which the passage appears to arrive at the author’s intended meaning. The interpreter’s race, sex, personal interests, or preferences are not relevant to the right interpretation if the method is used correctly; to make them relevant is to forsake the GHM.

Therefore, adding special lenses such as feminism, race, sex, or Critical Race Theory is not only unhelpful, it actually results in replacing the author’s (ultimately God’s) intended meaning with the interpreter’s desired meaning. Special lenses such as those mentioned are only needed when the interpreter wishes to find his desired meaning in the passage of Scripture under consideration.[1]

The GHM reverences the Scripture as God’s holy word (John 17:17). The quest of the interpreter is to seek God’s intended message; therefore, the worst first question when studying Scripture is what does it mean to me? Such a question needs to be asked later in the application, but when placed before what did God mean by what he said, the interpreter is no longer interpreting God’s holy word. Instead, he has taken God’s place at the center of Scripture and made Scripture all about himself rather than God.

The GHM extolls God as the author of Scripture, and the proper goal of study, which is to know what God said, and what he meant by what he said. Then, as guided by the Holy Spirit, to apply it to our lives. Both interpretation and application are necessary to follow God faithfully, but proper interpretation through the GHM must be first, or we end up following our desires masked as the desires of God.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

[1] Other more sophisticated methods are employed such as imposing a metanarrative or one’s theology upon every passage, but the outcome of the interpreter getting his desired message rather than God’s is the same. And, consequently, is a corruption of Scripture.

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Ronnie W. Rogers