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How do you determine the meaning of Bible verses?

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Quick Answer

Theologians and church leaders have proposed different methods for the interpretation of Biblical passages throughout history, but one common technique that the Catholic Church and some other Christian communities use entails interpretation by means of the senses of Scripture. These senses are the literal sense and spiritual sense.

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Full Answer

As its name suggests, the literal sense of Scripture is the meaning found in a literal reading of the text, or the meaning that the author of a particular passage intended. Finding the literal meaning of a passage entails taking into account the wider context in which the passage occurs, as well as the genre of writing that the author utilizes. Not all books of the Bible are written in the same literary genre. Some books are collections of poetry, while others are libraries of prophecy. Some books are written in a more historical, narrative style.

The allegorical, moral and anagogical senses are the subdivisions of the spiritual sense. These categories carry interpretation beyond the literal meaning of a passage to seek out its deeper, spiritual significance. For example, the allegorical sense notes the relationship of individual passages to the ministry of Christ. The moral sense applies the Biblical text to the moral life, whereas the anagogical sense considers the text in light of eschotological realities, such as heaven, hell and salvation.

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