Sabbath School Lesson for May 2-8, 2020


Several aspects of why interpretation is needed when reading the Bible were examined this week. For example…

  • our presuppositions influence our interpretation–we aren’t capable of reading the Bible with a totally empty mind (Sunday)
  • it makes a difference how words are translated from the original languages of the Bible (Monday)
  • culture will always be different for the Bible writers and must be considered (Tuesday)
  • our sinful nature can affect how we interpret what we read (Wednesday)
  • the result of misinterpretation of God’s word (Thursday)


For us to get the most out of our Bible reading and study, there are several things to consider more deeply. We must grasp the full context of a passage, including first of all what kind of writing it is. Is it a prophetic-symbolic dream/vision, a parable or story illustration, or a historical recording of an event or person’s life? Deciding the context is an act of interpretation itself.

Also, deciding which translation or paraphrase to use will be important. It may depend on the purpose of your reading. Is it for serious study to know more about God, or merely reading for uplifting joy and inspiration for the moment? Remember that the skill of the translators largely determine the quality of the translation.

Randomly choosing a passage or verse to read is fine, unless you are doing it in serious need for guidance for some specific purpose. It’s easy to be led to wrong conclusions when we randomly lift one verse out of context and apply it as the answer to our problems.

Thus, reading the Bible without a knowledge of its full context can easily become reading it with our own pretext, in other words, twisting its meaning to fit our own ideas and agenda.

Memory Text: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 NKJV

Let’s remember to use our faith to guide us into truth. Faith in the God we are seeking. Diligently seeking, by the way. And He will greatly reward our diligent, fervent efforts to know Him.

Hymn for the Week: Trust and Obey, p. 590 in the SDA Hymnal

Sunday: Presuppositions

As we have seen with the disciples, it was difficult for them to understand the full mission of Jesus’ work on earth, because they had their own preconceived ideas about what He would accomplish for them. In particular, how the Jewish nation would benefit from the Messiah. During most of His ministry, they just couldn’t fathom that His mission included dying as a sacrifice for the whole world.

Jesus tried pointing them to see the greater picture, even describing His resurrection three days after His death. But they instead relied on what they had known and heard, their incorrect presuppositions about His mission.

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit can guide us to more correctly interpret the Scriptures when we invite His help. We must always read with an open mind to the Spirit’s influence and an honest heart that wants to know what the Bible really says.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

Luke 24:36-39, 44-45 and Matthew 16:21-23

  • Why were Jesus’ attempts to inform His disciples unsuccessful before His crucifixion?

John 16:13 and Genesis 1:2

  • We know that the Holy Spirit has always been with us, but how has the Holy Spirit’s role changed over the years, or has it?

Monday: Translation and Interpretation

Understanding the meaning of a biblical text is a process called hermeneutics (hr-muh-noo-tuhks). A knowledge of the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) helps scholars bridge the gap between our minds and the minds of those who wrote the Bible.

So, it’s quite important to be aware of this challenge, and seek out the best translators and Bible teachers (those with some knowledge of the ancient languages) to help us interpret what is in the Bible and apply it to our lives.

With several translations available to us today, it’s important to find the most appropriate one for our reading purpose. If our purpose is for Bible study and to determine doctrines, we would, of course, want to have the most accurate translation possible.

There is no real consensus for which translation is currently the most reliable, but deciding on which one to use is, for us, an act of interpretation itself. It’s probably best not to insist on one version over another too strongly, but just prayerfully seek the aid of the Holy Spirit, as we study the word of God and obey its teachings.

The Holy Spirit will guide us to the most helpful translation, and can impress and convict our minds to be able to get the best picture of God in whatever translation is available to us.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

1 Corinthians 12:10, 11 and 1 Corinthians 14:26-28

  • How do both these passages emphasize the need for interpretation into the languages of the people?
  • Why is it important to recognize and value every gift of the Holy Spirit equally?
  • Why are so many spiritual gifts needed for God’s church, including interpretation, and what is the best way to use them?

Acts 2:5-8, 11, 12

  • How does this miraculous manifestation of a spiritual gift illustrate the need for those who speak a language and those who interpret it?

John 1:41

  • Why is it important to remember that the word for Messiah is Christ? How does this impact our knowledge of who Jesus was and is?

Tuesday: The Bible and Culture

It’s hard to put our own culture aside and see things from the perspective of the different cultures represented by the writers of the Bible. This will come easier if we make an effort to learn all we can about their culture. This is necessary for us, if we want to understand the full meaning of the message God wants us to hear in the Bible.

Probably one of the most important piece of information about Near Eastern cultures, like the Hebrews, is that they gave God the credit for doing things that our modern minds see as Him merely permitting to happen, or not preventing from happening. Such as the flood, for instance.

So much of the Old Testament attributes bad events or experiences as be caused by God, while our culture sees them as the natural consequences of the actions of sinful man.

This cultural difference stems from their ultimate reverence for the power of God, as the Prime Mover of Universe. Indeed, they understood that all things were created by Him and are in His ultimate control.

Perhaps, we would be better off remembering this concept, when we see things start to crumble around us. God will be the One who sees us through any and all trials, when we have surrendered our lives to Him. He’s always in control of the final outcome.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

Acts 17:22-25

  • How does Paul speak in a way that might appeal to his Greek audience?
  • What principles here could we use when we witness to people in our everyday life?

Acts 17:26

  • Why is it important for us to remember that we are all “made from one blood”?

Wednesday: Our Sinful and Fallen Nature

Sin, which we are all victims of in one way or another, has taken a toll on our very existence. Pride so easily creeps into our thinking, making us spiritually blind.

This has to have an impact on how we derive meaning from the Scriptures. Our interpretation of what we read is jeopardized when we elevate anything above God, including our own sorry, sinful selves.

Pride, and the self-deception that comes with it, can lead to our doubting the authority of the Bible. This dangerous result, that is often accompanied by a critical attitude toward God, separates us from Him and the Bible, which is the expression of His will. It leads to disobedience of God’s requirements for a happy life, found in the Bible.

We must constantly be on guard and not allow God’s will to become less important than our own.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

John 12:42, 43

  • How is pride related to needing the praise of men?

Revelation 3:17

  • How would being in the condition described here make it difficult for us to interpret Scripture?

Hosea 12:8 and Matthew 19:20-22

  • Why does being wealthy make it more difficult to follow God?

Thursday: Why Interpretation Is Important

Knowing the consequences of driving too fast will often cause us to slow down our speed on the highway. First of all, we could get a fine if a police officer stopped us. And also, high speeds could result in a car crash, with car repair bills, injuries, and perhaps even someone’s death.

Knowing the consequences of misinterpreting the Scriptures then may also be what it takes for us to slow down and be more careful in extracting meaning from a text. Without care, words in the Bible can become twisted to the point that not only are we putting ourselves in danger of misreading God’s will, but others might be led astray by our thoughtless Bible study habits.

As a matter of fact, it might take only one misguided person to derail the whole mission and spiritual health of a church. Even a whole denomination!

So, let’s use utmost care when we study God’s word, praying fervently for the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and conclusions, as many people, may depend on our diligence as they, too, attempt to know God’s will from the Bible. Your family, friends, and fellow church members will thank you for your heartfelt effort to correctly interpret the Scriptures.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 8

  • Why is it acceptable to get help in understanding what we read in the Bible?
  • Who might be most helpful as we attempt to interpret correctly the Law of God?

2 Peter 3:15, 16

  • Who can we trust and who should we not trust, when it comes to understanding the Bible?

Matthew 16:26

  • Why is our spiritual well-being so important?
  • What does interpreting God’s word correctly have to do with our spiritual health?

Friday: What We Have Learned This Week

Looking back through the week, we discovered several things needed for proper interpretation of the Scriptures. We concluded with why these things are needed.

  1. We need an open mind and an honest heart, along with the Holy Spirit, in order to disregard our natural presuppositions about what a text means.
  2. We need good translators with trained hermeneutics ability, who know how to derive correct meaning from the original languages.
  3. We need some knowledge of cultural history of the Hebrews to make sense of their tendencies of expression that are different from ours (such as attributing everything that happens to God).
  4. We need to recognize our own pride, self-deception, and doubt, and how it threatens to color what we try to understand in the Bible.

The reason these needs must be met is that misinterpretation can result without them. And many in our sphere of influence may be affected by the disunity and confusion caused by our careless study and witness.

Let’s continue to read and study God’s holy word, but with an educated, observant ear to the will of God extended to us throughout the Book. This “love letter” from God must not be taken lightly.

Next Week’s Lesson: Language, Text, and Context

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