Step # 06: Study the author’s intended meaning for key words.

Step 6:  Perform a semantic analysis of the key words in all the sentences in the paragraph you are studying.; How do we decide which words are key words?  Obviously, we need to study the meaning of words that have meanings that we do not know.  Moreover, we need to study the meaning of words which are crucial to the meaning of the statement being considered.  It is possible that our supposed understands are diatorted or partial.  So we need to study all key words.

Words in statements vary in their importance.  The verb is obviously a key word.  Its Latin cognate (verbum) means “the word.”  It makes the statement about the subject.  Likewise, the subject is a key word; it is what the sentence is about.  Modifiers (i.e., adjectives and adverbs) are often keys to understanding statements.  These modifiers are usually added because they modify the meaning of the statement in some significant way. The bottom line is that you need to study all words that are crucial to the meaning of the central idea of the paragraph under consideration. 

A semantic analysis is, chiefly, an objective examination of the specific meaning of a word in a particular context.  However, it is also concerned with the total significance of the word in the original language from which it was translated.  Words are vehicles by which ideas are conveyed from one mind to another.  It is imperative that the serious Bible student truly understand what a biblical writer intended to say.  If you give a word a wrong definition, it conveys the wrong message to your mind.  If you have an incomplete understanding of a word, it will convey an incomplete meaning to your mind.  If you have an unclear understanding of the meaning of a word, it will convey an unclear idea to your mind.  When your understanding of the meaning of a word is correct, exact, and complete, you will gain a correct, exact and complete understanding.

A semantic analysis should seek to discover the basic meaning of a word in New Testament times, and most important of all, how it is used in a specific text.  There is a need for Bible students to know both the semantic field and the semantic context.  The semantic field is the broadest umbrella concept conveyed by a word and includes a variety of more specific meanings.  The semantic context is the more specific shade of meaning intended in a particular text.  By pursuing the semantic context, the semantic analysis also deals with the special problem of figurative language.

There are two ingredients to word meaning:  denotation and connotation.  Denotation is the basic part of the meaning, the dictionary meaning.  Connotation has more to do with meaning acquired by association.  Denotation is objective, but connotation is subjective.  Also, denotation is general, but connotation is culture specific, often even individual.  Words tend to elicit certain emotions and concepts because we associate them with particular occasions, experiences, people, and circumstances.

In a given historical and literary context, denotation and connotation combine to form the full meaning of a word.  Consequently, words go through an evolution of meaning.  Current English words have meaning they have acquired over the years.  So, words have present meanings; they also have past meanings.  We must not import present meaning into words of the past.  In the Bible, words do not have present acquired meanings, so we must not import present meanings into Bible words.  Objective Bible study requires that denotation be preferred in the semantic analysis.  If connotation is preferred, our Bible study will be subjective and inaccurate.  Current connotations really turn word meaning away from the biblical meaning.  Only the connotation that the word reflected to the writer and the first readers of his document is of value in Bible study.  However, connotations words had in the historical context of the document being studied, must be respected to fully understand their meaning in the biblical text.

Lexical Studies: When studying meanings of particular biblical words, it is far better if you can use the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament.  Through the use of the original languages you can engage in more direct, more independent, more thorough, and more exact Bible study.  However since not everyone can use the original biblical languages, there are a variety of methods of searching the meaning of words.  Some of these are of greater value than others.  A combination of all of them is best.

English Dictionaries: When students of the English Bible are performing semantic analyses, they usually first consults an English dictionary. When studying a text in a recent translation of the Bible, you can use a recent edition of a reputable English dictionary to some profit.  However, there are some problems associated with the use of a dictionary of modern English when studying an ancient document such as the Bible.

Dictionaries reveal the current usage of words and quite often differ from usage in biblical times, even differ from usage in the times when many translations were done.  Today’s meanings are different from past meanings.  You must be careful not to read today’s meaning into words of the past.  Past words must be studied in the light of past meaning.  No one has a right to import meanings the writers did not intend into biblical words.  Words must be studied in both grammatical and historical contexts.

A second problem is that it is difficult to convey the complete meaning of most biblical words with single English words.  Thus, it is difficult to learn the precise meaning of a word from a biblical text by studying an English dictionary.  It is even more difficult, even virtually impossible, to learn the full meaning this way.

The study of Bible words in an English dictionary is especially inadequate if you are using an old translation such as the King James Version.  English words often had a different meaning in the Elizabethan period (i.e., the period of the KJV–1611) than they have today.

Words often slightly vary in meaning from passage to passage.  The same word might have a slightly different shade of meaning from one passage to another.  This is taken into account in Greek-English lexicons and Hebrew-English lexicons, but not in English dictionaries.  English dictionaries offer several meanings, obviously without any reference to which is best in specific biblical texts.  English texts also include culturally acquired meanings.

Studies show that several Greek or Hebrew words may be translated by the same English word.  In such cases, the different nuances of meanings attached to the original words will not be accessible in an English dictionary.  In view of these five problems, it is evident that word studies which use only an English dictionary are definitely inadequate.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: A Bible student might also consult Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible in an effort to establish word meaning.  This concordance gives a number after the textual reference indicating where a particular English word may be found in the Bible.  In the back of the concordance there are two dictionaries: one listing Hebrew words of the Old Testament and their meaning and the other listing Greek words of the New Testament and their meaning.

When you look up an English word in this concordance,  you will find a list of all passages where it is found.  Following the brief quotation from the passage you are studying, you will find Strong’s assigned number immediately following the entry.  If you are studying a New Testament passage, you may turn to the section defining New Testament words and, under that number find the Greek word and its meaning.

For example, if studying Romans 1:17, you might want to know the meaning of the word “righteousness.”  You may look this word up in Strong’s and find Romans 1:17 listed with a brief quote from the passage.  The number 1343 is given after the brief quotation.  Looking in the section entitled “Greek Dictionary,” you will find the number 1343 followed by the word dikaiosune and a note that it is taken from word number 1342 and means “justification” or “righteousness.”  When studying an Old Testament passage, You should follow the same procedure to find Hebrew words and their meaning.

Wordbooks: Wordbooks provide more complete and valuable insights into the meaning of words.  You might use a book by W. E. Vine entitled Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words .  This book discusses the meaning of Greek words and how they differ from other Greek words translated by the same English words.  Under each English word, this book lists all of the Greek words that are translated by that particular word.  If the you have consulted Strong’s Concordance, you will know which of these Greek words is used in the text under consideration.  Under that Greek word, you will find a fairly complete discussion of the word under consideration.  In the discussion this book lists other passages in which this same word is used similarly.  There is a companion volume that deals with Old Testament words as well.  In fact these two may now be found in one volume.

Robert B. Girdlestone’s Synonyms of the Old Testament serves the same basic purpose as Vine’s dictionaries.  You should remember that the use of these books can provide valuable help, but they do not lead to the independent and direct study that most students desire.

There are several other wordbooks on the market that will help you to arrive at the meaning intended by biblical writers.  Kenneth S. Wuest has published word-study books on numerous New Testament books under the general title Wuest’s Word Studies. In these books, he gives information about meaning of words and the significance of grammar.  He then gives a proposed expanded translation that makes use of this information.  A.T. Robertson also has a set of word-study books on the New Testament.  This six volume set entitled  Word Pictures in the New Testament is designed for those who know little or no Greek.  They reflect a rich knowledge of Greek and New Testament times.

Marvin R. Vincent has authored a four volume set  entitled Word Studies in the New Testament. These books are designed to give syntactical, grammatical, and semantic insights.  This set a little more difficult for the English student than some.   They spell the Greek words with Greek letters, not as transliterated forms.

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, a three volume set edited by Colin Brown and written by a host of scholarly men, gives the Greek words it includes a much more thorough treatment.  This set of books discusses how particular words and other related words are used in the Greek classics, the Greek translation of the Old Testament–LXX, other Christian and Jewish literature of the koine period, and the New Testament.

There are many other wordbooks available.  Some of the above books list New Testament words alphabetically, and others deal with them by book, chapter and verse in the order of their appearance in the New Testament. Student should remember that these books are written by writers with particular theological biases and should be used cautiously.

Modern and Expanded Versions ;:  A comparison of the way in which various versions translate particular words can give helpful insights into word meaning.  You may simply read various versions of the text under consideration making note of the ways certain expressions are translated.  Remember, you should let a standard translation (i.e., translation done by large committees of recognized scholars from a variety of  denominational backgrounds) serve as your basic study text.  If a modern speech translation only expands the standard text, but does not differ from it, that text will enlighten you.  But, if the modern speech translation departs from the meaning supported by standard translations rather than expanding it, it might mislead you.  In such cases, you should look upon the modern-speech translation skeptically and study the problem more critically.

Commentaries: Commentaries may be consulted for enlightenment on word meaning.  The best commentaries give information relating to word meaning, grammar,  syntax, context, and historical background.  Such commentaries also refer to what is said about the subject at hand in other parts of the Bible.  They also often quote other scholars who both agree and disagree with their conclusions.

Following is a list of only a few of the commentaries that this writer finds helpful:  The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (written by men such as F. F. Bruce and Leon Morris), New Testament Commentary (by William Hendricksen), Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (by Bruce, Morris, Tasker, and others), The Living Word Commentary (a set covering both Old and New Testaments, written by John T. Willis, Anthony Ash, Raymond Kelcy, J. W. Roberts, Jack P. Lewis, and other scholars of the Restoration tradition), The Pulpit Commentary, Barnes’ Notes, Clarke’s Commentary, and many others.

Standard Greek-English Lexicons;: A serious student who does not read the Greek New Testament and is not skilled in Greek grammar, but wishes to perform Greek word studies, may use standard lexicons by observing the following steps:

1.  By using a Greek-English (interlinear) New Testament, establish what your word of interest is in the Greek text.  The student who does not read the Greek New Testament can identify the word by noting that it is just above the interlined English word.

2.  Using an analytical lexicon or a parsing guide, look up the word found in the text to discover its first form, i.e., lexical form.  Remember, the first form of nouns pronouns, and adjectives will be the nominative singular.  For verbs, the first form will be first person, singular, present, active, and indicative.  The word in the text is listed in the analytical lexicon alphabetically.  To its right, a grammatical analysis and then its lexical form follow the word.

3.  Look up the lexical form of the word in a standard lexicon (e.g, Baur, Arndt and Gingrich, and Danker) and seek to determine the semantic field. Often the semantic field is given immediately following the word, before the breakdown of various nuances is recorded.  If the most general meaning, i.e., semantic field, is not thus listed, you may discover it by writing a general summary of all of the specific meanings.  The general summary should tie all of the specific nuances of meaning together and show what they have in common.

4.  Study the specific meaning assigned to the word in the text under study, looking for the reference for the passage in which you are studying the word.  The meaning under which you find the reference of the passage you are studying is the meaning the lexicographer has assigned to the word in that passage.   Finding the reference for the passage you are studying can be a time-consuming and cumbersome task.  This time and energy can be saved by using the book An Index to the Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek Lexicon by John R. Alsop.  Alsop arranged the Greek words used in the Greek New Testament according to book, chapter, and verse and spelled them in a transliterated form–i.e., English letters which represent the Greek letters used in the spelling of the word.  Following the Greek word in the index, the author indicates the sections and subsections into which the lexicographers divide discussions of the Greek word.  On the right side of the column he gives the page number and quadrant of the page.  If you look in the specified quadrant of the page listed and under the section and subsection indicated, you will find the reference of the passage you are examining.  The definition under which you find the reference for your passage is considered the meaning of the word in that text–i.e., the semantic context.

This approach to word studies requires some indispensable tools.  The student trained in New Testament Greek will need A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament by Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, and Danker.  In addition to this, those who are primarily students of the English Bible will need the following books:  Zondervan”s The Parallel New Testament (or some other trustworthy interlinear Greek-English New Testament) and The Analytical Lexicon by Moulton.  Other helpful books are the Parsing Guide for Greek Verbs by Sakae Kubo and An Index to the Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek Lexicon by John R. Alsop.

Usage of Words in the Bible;. Students of Greek and/or Hebrew may use the above methods of arriving at word meaning.  Such will be easier for them because they can use Greek and Hebrew concordances, wordbooks that are designed for students of Greek or Hebrew, along with the Greek and Hebrew texts.  These students will especially find Greek-English Lexicons and Hebrew-English Lexicons helpful.  Through using such books they can establish the semantic field and the semantic contexts more easily.

However, the most profitable of all of these activities for both students of English and students of biblical languages is the study of how a word is used in the various passages listed in a concordance.  Usage studies are even more effective when approached through Greek or Hebrew words.  This exciting “safe-and-sure” method of word studies which is experienced by analyzing passages where Greek and Hebrew words are used.  This method of word study gives a student a first-hand view of the contexts and grammatical relationships in which words are used.  It fills the minds of students with thrilling truths related to and revealed through the use of New Testament words.  It also provides many examples and illustrations of each word’s meaning in real situations.

Concordances: Moulton and Geden’s A Concordance to the Greek New Testament lists Greek words alphabetically, lists all of the references where specific words are used, and quotes the Greek  form of the passage in which a word is used.  Although this concordance is excellent for those who have a command of the Greek vocabulary, it is not easily in the reach of those who are basically students of the English New Testament.

The Englishman’s Greek Concordance lists the passages where specific words are used, and the textual entries are quoted in English.  This concordance is very accessible to English students who do not have a command of the vocabulary of the Greek New Testament.  Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible lists alphabetically the English words found in the Bible.  Under the English entries, the various Greek and Hebrew words which they translate are listed alphabetically.   Immediately following the specific Greek or Hebrew form the passages using each Greek or Hebrew word are listed and quoted in English.

Stegenga’s Analytical Greek-English Concordance to the New Testament lists Greek words alphabetically as they are found in the Greek New Testament text.  You may look up a word you are interested in as it appears in the text.  Following the word, the concordance refers you to a root stem and the division under it where you will find your word, an analysis, all references where that form of the word appears in the New Testament, and the English translations of the word as they are found in the King James Version of A.D. 1611.  This concordance offers the analyses found in Moulton’s Analytical Lexicon, a list of references where a word is found in each form, a summary of the renderings in the KJV, and words listed under their most basic root.  This book has been published in English and Spanish.

Steps in Usage Studies;: You can perform studies of usage (i.e., concordance studies) by following the basic steps listed below:

1.  Determine the Greek word in the text by using a Greek-English New Testament.

2.  Discover the first form (lexical form) by finding the word in the text in an analytical lexicon or parsing guide.

3.  Look up the lexical form in a concordance and analyze the various passages listed under the word of interest.  New Testament words generally mean what they did to ordinary people using Koine Greek in everyday life.  However, words often have different meanings in various contexts and are used differently by different people and on different occasions (Stott, 13-14; Kaiser, 105-21).  Since words have different meanings from one time to another, one writer to another, and one passage to another, interpreters must not consider etymology apart from usage.  When studying word meaning, analyze the passages in which a words is used and determine meaning contextually according to the following descending order of priority

(1) The immediate context in which the word is used;

(2) Where the word is used in the same New Testament document (book);

(3) Where the word is used in other books by the same author and written for a similar        occasion;

(4) Other New Testament passages where the word is used in relation to similar        situations, topics, or problems;

(5) All other New Testament passages where the word is used;

(6) Old Testament passages where the same Greek word is used in the Septuagint    version;

(7) The use of the word in other early Christian literature;

(8) The use of the word in the Papyri by common people in everyday situations;

(9) The use of the word in other koine Greek literature.

4.  Make brief annotations (i.e., notes) of how the word is used in its various New Testament contexts.  From the texts, record only observations which relate to the use of the word being studied, not all that is said in the text.  Be sure to record all that the text indicates, but nothing more.  Also, be sure to consider what is said both explicitly and implicitly.

5.  Write a summary of the meaning indicated by the the passages studied, stating the conclusion in a word, a phrase, a sentence, or even a paragraph if necessary.

Internal Helps for Usage Studies:; The meaning of a word in its contexts may be discovered by observing the following internal helps, recording the data as evidence, and writing a phrase, sentence, or group of sentences that fully expresses the meaning inferred from these data.  The internal helps within passages where particular words are used that indicate their meaning are very revealing.

1.  Definitions and Explanations:  First, the most efficient help is the definitions and explanations given in texts by the authors themselves.  When Paul asserts that salvation is by grace, he defines grace by saying, “it is a gift of God” (Eph. 2:8, 9).  Likewise, Paul explains what he means by “be perfect” in 2 Timothy 3:17 because he says it means “thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”   When the writer of Hebrews says, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age” (or perfect, or mature), he explains what he means by “full age” or “perfect” by saying, “even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).

2.  Antitheses and Contrasts: Second, Antitheses and contrasts (i.e., words and phrases used in contrast to words of interest) given in particular texts provide strong evidence of the meaning of words.  Just as he defined grace, Paul also explained what it is the opposite of by saying, “–and this not from  yourselves” (Eph. 2:8), thus contrasting grace and something that is of, from, or performed by ourselves.  More examples of this help are given to illustrate antithetical parallelisms.

3.  Subjects, Verbs, and Modifiers With Which Used: Third, the subject of a sentence will often shed light on the meaning of the verb and other words in the predicate.  The predicate will also help to understand what the subject means.  The direct object of a verb will shed light on the meaning of a verb, and the verb on the direct object.  Even modifiers will help you to decide between the possible meanings of words.

Verbs and nouns point to particular meanings because verbs and nouns have features.  The features of some nouns require that the verb of a clause have one meaning over others.  These features cause nouns to be compatible with some actions and incompatible with others.  Likewise the features of some verbs make their actions incompatible with some nouns.

The following examples illustrate how subjects and verbs aid in discovering word meaning.  If a word used as a subject could mean either “horse” or “dog,” and the verb of the sentence is “barked,” the verb strongly suggests that the subject means “dog.”  If the verb could mean either “bark” or “bray,” and the subject is donkey, it is very probable that the verb means “bray.”  If you have a noun that could mean either “son” or “seed,” and the verb is “plant”; it is likely that the noun means “seed.”  If a word could mean either “voice” or “sound,” it would likely mean “voice” when applied to man and “sound” when applied to an inanimate object.

The word for “have lost his savor” in Matthew 5:13 can either mean “become foolish” or “make tasteless.”  Since the subject of the verb is “salt,” it is evident that in this passage it means “make tasteless.”  Likewise, this sentence says, “You are the salt of the earth.”  The subject complement identifies Jesus’ hearers as salt.  It is evident that the word “salt” is used figuratively.  It would be absurd to insist that men are literal salt.  The subject aids in determining that “salt” is used figuratively.

Jesus also said, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:16).  It is immediately obvious that the subject and verb “you are” show that, since the disciples were not literal light, the word “light” is used figuratively.

4.  Parallelisms: Fourth, parallelisms aid in determining meaning of words.  Synonymous parallelisms say the same thing in different words.  Paul, as a Jewish writer, was fond of parallelisms.  By them, he explained expressions by adding parallel statements of the same idea in other words.  For example, in 2 Timothy 2:13, Paul said, “If we believe not, yet he abides faithful: he cannot deny himself.”  The expression “he cannot deny himself” is an explanation of what is meant by “he abides faithful.”  Likewise, in Ephesians 2:8, Paul paralleled “grace” with the word “gift” and showed that grace meant gift.

Understanding Paul’s use of parallelisms is very helpful as we attempt to understand his statement in Philippians 2:5-8 that Jesus “emptied himself” (NASV) or “made himself nothing” (NIV).  He explained, by parallelism, that Jesus emptied himself by not grasping or exercising his equality with God (v. 6); by “taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (v. 7); and saying, “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v. 8).  This in no way suggests that Jesus gave up his divine nature, but simply that he obeyed his equal, becoming subservient to Jehovah.  These parallel statements explains what it meant for Jesus to “empty himself.”

Antithetical parallelisms also help define words.  In Ephesians 2:8, 9, Paul used an antithetical parallelism to explain salvation by grace.  He said, “and that not of yourselves.”  Thus, salvation by grace is the opposite of self-salvation.  In Romans 4:4-5, Paul also equated the non-saving works to works that exclude grace; he showed that grace is the opposite of debt; he revealed that the excluded works are equal to debt; and he shows that works that are ineffective are works of merit, not works of faith.

5.  Parallel Passages: Fifth, parallel passages (i.e., passages in which the same word occurs in similar connections, in reference to the same subject, or relative to the same situation) are an important help in discovering word meaning.  Jesus left us an example of this when he told his disciples what it costs to be his disciples.  According to Luke (14:26), followers must “hate” his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters or they cannot be his disciples.  We have a problem with the idea of hating those we love most.  However, when we read the parallel passage as Matthew reports it (10:37), we realize that the word “hate” was used to mean to love the Lord more, or to love family less than you love the Lord.  Parallel passages which are clear explain those which are more difficult.

6.  Relationships: Sixth, the ideas and situations to which words are related give insights into word meaning.  Some verbs are characteristically used in relation to God, and others never in relation to God.  Some nouns are always associated with particular kinds of circumstances.  Likewise, some adjectives are used only with certain other kinds of nouns.

7.  Appositives and Genitive Phrases: Seventh, words may be explained by genitive phrases, appositional phrases, or some other expressions which define.  Paul said that Christ is “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).  We normally understand that “hope” means “desire with expectation.”  In this text it is obvious, since Christ is called the “hope of glory,” that “hope” refers to the basis for our confident expectations of glory, not the expectation itself.  This is true since the subject “Christ” is followed by “the hope of glory” as an appositive.  This gives insight into the use of the word hope in this passage; it identifies Christ as our hope.

Figurative Language;: There is the special problem of figurative language.  Two questions must be solved in regard to the use of figurative language:  How can you know when language is figurative?  How can you know the meaning of figurative language?

Indicators of Figurative Language: There are some obvious indicators that language is figurative.

(1) A passage may be shown to be figurative by either the sense of the whole passage or by the immediate context.

(2) A passage is to be taken as literal unless a literal interpretation would cause it to create an obvious impossibility or absurdity.  “You are the salt of the earth” is obviously figurative because men are obviously not literal salt (Matt. 5:13).  “I am the vine, you are the branches” is obviously figurative because Christ is not a literal vine and men are not literal branches on a vine (John 5:5).  Consider also the words of Jesus, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:22).  Since “bury their  own dead” ascribes action to “the dead,” “dead” in this case obviously does not mean literally dead.

(3) The language of a Scripture should be taken as literal unless it will cause the passage to contradict one that is obviously literal.

(4) When a Scripture appears to demand an action that is wrong or forbids that which is good, it should be considered figurative.  For example, if Jesus’ instructions to hate father and mother literally meant to hate, it would require that which is wrong (Lk. 14:26; Mk. 7:10).

(5) When a Scripture says that it is figurative, it should be taken as figurative.  Jesus said that if the temple is destroyed, He will raise it up in three days.  He then said that he spoke concerning the temple of His body (John 2:18-22).  Jesus spoke of living water, and John said that He spoke this concerning the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39).

(6) When a statement is made in mockery, it is to be taken as figurative language.  When Elijah mockingly spoke of Baal as God, he was emphasizing that Baal is not a god rather than admitting that he is a god (1 Kings 18:27).  When the Jews mockingly said that the disciples were drunk on new wine, they were not saying that new wine or sweet wine could make one drunk.  They were accusing them of being drunk on wine that was well aged and fermented (Acts 2:13).

Rules for Interpreting Figurative Language: In interpreting figurative language, observe the following simple rules.

1.  Have a clear concept of the details involved in the thing on which the figure is based or from which it is borrowed.  This is important because the point conveyed by the figure is based on at least one or more of the resemblances between the figure and what it represents.

2.  Do not over extend the meaning of a figure, but make it a point to discover the principle idea of the figure.  An over extension of the figure of the children of God as heirs might lead to the supposition that the Father, God, must die for the child to benefit (Romans 8:16, 17).  The point of the figure is that God’s children partake of His blessings.

3.  Let the author give his own explanation of the figure, and do not go beyond his explanation with your interpretation.  Jesus explained the meaning of the parable of the sower in Matt. 13:18-23.  John explained that Jesus referred to his body when He said that he would raise the temple in three days.

4.  For deeper insight and clearer understanding, compare the figurative with a literal statement of the same things.  The prophecy of Joel 2:28, 29 is made clearer when you see the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the light of John 14:26; 15:26; 16:12-13; and Acts 2:1-4.

5.  Any inspired interpretation of or application of a figure should settle all questions about its meaning.  In Matt. 13:14, 15, Jesus applied the figure of Isaiah 6:9, 10 concerning people with dull ears and closed eyes.  Paul interpreted some Old Testament types and allegories (cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-8; Gal. 4:21-32).

6.  Do not expect a figure to represent the same thing every time it is used.  Leaven was sometimes used with a bad connotation  and sometimes with a good one.  Leaven represents Christian influence in Matt. 13:33; immoral living in 1 Cor. 5:6-8; and false teachings in Gal. 5:9.

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