It is important to understand the writer’s original meaning to avoid misguided reliance on the Holy Spirit (Walter Elwell and Robert Yarbrough, “Encountering the New Testament,” p. 14). The Word of God declares that we are to “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV). Additionally, Jesus told us that,
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you." (John 16:12-14, KJV)
These two references suggest that the Holy Spirit will guide and teach us, but we are also to study so that we are able to rightly divide the word of truth. Since there is a right way to divide the word of truth, this suggest that there is also a wrong way to divide the word of truth. Especially for new Christians that have not had the discipleship of more mature Christians; going off of feelings may prove to be a misguided reliance on what may be perceived as the Holy Spirit.
The world of the Bible is much different from the world of the 21st century, and thus a knowledge of that world is needed (Robert Wayne Stacy, “Jewish Setting,” course video). There are distances in time, culture, language, and geography that need to be considered when interpreting scripture; otherwise, we open ourselves to misinterpretation (Robert Wayne Stacy, “Negotiating Distances in Biblical Interpretation” course video). For example, it is known that King Herod had the foundations of a particular mountain moved to another location so that he could build his temple on the newly-created mountain. During that time, it was said that King Herod could move mountains. Our Lord Jesus used this historical and geographical piece of information to show the power of faith.
Without knowing the original meanings, one may consider that some findings from the Word of God are in error. For example, when the New Testament speaks on Satan taking Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and to be tempted, this suggest to the reader that a pinnacle was present. However, knowing the historical, cultural, and geographic background would clear up the mistranslation since King Herod did not have a pinnacle, but corner wing tower. Without knowing this information, one might read and do quick Google search to come to the conclusion that this is a false statement since the temple did not have a pinnacle.
The New Testament has affected the whole world and our lives (Walter Elwell and Robert Yarbrough, “Encountering the New Testament,” p. 14). Given this prominence in history and culture, it is only reasonable to suggest that a clear understanding of the writer’s original meaning and purpose is required. We may obtain personal bits and pieces at times, but the Word of God must also be properly interpreted with respect to the author’s culture, geography, and the time period in which they lived. It is appropriate to understand the circumstances the writers were facing, and then examine the purpose that the Holy Spirit used to inspire the writer’s particular contribution to God’s Word.
Elwell, Walter and Robert Yarbrough. Encountering the New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey, 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2013, p. 14.
Stacy, Robert Wayne. “Negotiating Distances in Biblical Interpretation,” course video.
Stacy, Robert Wayne. “The Jewish Setting of Early Christianity,” course video.