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EXEGESIS > Thoughts on Interpretation > Analogy of Faith  


Romans 12:6 (“in proportion to our faith”) provides the basis for a fundamental guideline in the interpretation of God’s Word’s: the analogy of faith (analogia fidei), meaning any interpretation of a specific Scripture must agree with the overall teaching of Scripture.

The part is interpreted in light of the whole
and must be consistent with the whole.

Ultimately, this rule is based upon the fact that God, who cannot lie, gave the information that we have; therefore, all of the content must agree and cannot contradict itself because contradiction is inconsistent with the Divine nature. Thus, there is one Truth that is normative, so the believer is not faced with options from which to choose.

One system of Truth characterizes Scripture and all of the various Scriptures contribute to the one Truth. No individual passage of Scripture can be given an interpretation that does disservice to the whole of Scripture. Isaiah does not contradict Moses; Paul does not contradict James; John does not contradict Joel. An interrelationship among the authors and their books exists, and they do not compete with each other.

Only after a consideration of the entire Scriptures can any single Scripture be interpreted properly, that is, no single text can be interpreted in such a way that the interpretation contradicts the entire Canon. Harmony among the many writings is a reality, and upon the Biblical theologian rests the burden of discovering and presenting this essential agreement.

The analogy of faith makes possible a theology,
with the insistency
that all the doctrinal formulations must agree with each other.

As a theology is developed, the theology is to be constantly judged by the Scriptures from which it is taken. It is to be consistent with the Scriptures, and it is to be harmonious like them. Doctrinal formulations cannot be anchored in solitary and incidental references. Also implied in this reasoning is the fact that the obscure must be viewed in light of the plain. Parameters are established by the clear passages, not the obscure. It is improper to rest orthodox beliefs upon the questionable.

Because of this oneness of the Truth, Scripture must be allowed to interpret Scripture (Scriptura sacra sui ipsius interpres). If it is accepted that Scripture is the revealed Truth of God and in the Truth there is no contradiction, then when one passage speaks interpretively of another passage that interpretation must be allowed to stand. It cannot be questioned; it must be accepted. For instance, in Acts 2:16 Peter, speaking of the advent of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and the event in relationship to the prophecy of the Old Testament prophet Joel, affirms: “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” Peter interprets for us the message of Joel. Scripture does not interpret all of the passages of Scripture, but when a passage is interpreted that interpretation must be honored.

Practically, this principle limits the number of possible interpretations. Only those interpretations that are consistent with each other are allowed; the rest are disallowed. But it does not follow that if an interpretation of a text does not violate the larger context the interpretation is valid. There are other considerations.

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