The Grammatical-Historical Method

Grammatical-Historical Method

imagesThe Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy defines the grammatical-historical method as the literal interpretation of Scripture. It takes into account also all figurative language and literary forms found in the text.55 By literal interpretation, one understands the Scriptures in its plain or normal meaning.56

The grammatical-historical approach also interprets the grammatical constructions and historical contexts of a text.57 It relies heavily on the context of the text, in relation to the original recipients and biblical genre. This method uses all available “linguistic, grammatical, literary, historical, socio-political, archaeological, economic, and religious information” in relation to the text.58

Most Christians today read Scripture and then ask, “What does it mean for me today?” However, the grammatical-historical method seeks to establish first what the author meant. The key issue is what the author was telling his original readers, not what the 21st Century reader thinks about it. This approach is primarily author-centered, not reader-focused.

The grammatical-historical model then determines what the text would have meant to its original recipients in their original context. Grammatical-historical interpreters ask, “Would this interpretation have made sense and have been understandable to the original hearers?” If the answer is no, the interpreter must return to the text once again. He must ascertain its original intent to its original listeners. Only then, can the interpreter move on to the next task of clarifying how the text applies today.59

The grammatical-historical method then requires that readers must interpret the Bible literally or plainly, grammatically, historically, and contextually. In addition, there is the analogy of Scripture (allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture). One must also recognize the progressive nature of God’s revelation (that the revelation in Genesis expands throughout the Old Testament; and fully explained in the New Testament.)60

Further, the accommodation principle states that the Bible is “an accommodation of divine truths to human minds.”61 The one meaning principle affirms that every Bible verse gives only one meaning and interpretation.62 This one message of the text is the original intent of the biblical writer. The harmony of Scripture principle guarantees that no part of Scripture contradicts other parts. While the genre principle checks the general literary category of the text.63


55 “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article XV.” Cited __ Online:
56 J. Hampton Keathley III, “Bibliology – The Doctrine of the Written Word.” Cited __ Online: The Spirit did not use any other special language form or secret code in writing the Scriptures, except the normal language of the inspired writers. The plain method of interpretation promotes objectivity and guards against conflicting interpretations due to allegorizing or spiritualizing of the text. Scripture itself interprets Scripture in its plain, literal, normal sense (Ps. 22; Isa. 7:14; 53:1-12; Micah 5:2). Ibid.
57 “Biblical.” Cited __ Online: htm.
58 “Historical-grammatical.” Cited __ Online:
59 “Historical-grammatical.” Cited __ Online:
60 Keathley III, “Bibliology.” Cited __ Online:
61 “Biblical Hermeneutics.” Cited __ Online:
62 Parker, ed., Hermeneutics, 20.
63 “Biblical Hermeneutics.” Cited __ Online:

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