Expressions of Faith: Pre-understanding

Dr. Monterey D. Lee, Sr.

‘We have learned that interpretation is both a science and an art. Faith is the foundation for a correct interpretation. 1 Corinthians 2:14 validates that God’s truth belongs only to the spiritual person. As an interpreter, we must possess this faith to give the correct interpretation of the word of God. An interpreter needs to have the qualities of faith, obedience, illumination of the Holy Spirit, membership in church and proper use of appropriate methods. Pre-understanding may be defined as a body of assumptions and attitudes a person brings to the perception and interpretation of reality or any aspect. The categories of pre-understanding relate to many life experiences that shape our interpretation in studying the Bible.

I have always been involved in church and practice having a strong faith on a regular basis. From this ongoing relationship with the church, I received many complexes, methods, predispositions, and information. Receiving information from the Sunday school classes, Bible study and night services, I was able to learn about Jesus being the savior and knowing that the whole world is in his hands (John 3:16). My private Christian education background supports the information that has shaped my ministry today. These are examples of how the information category of pre-understanding has shaped my Biblical study. These experiences have also given me predispositions against other denominations that may not believe in the order of service I do. My most significant relation of pre-understanding would be the methods of teaching the Bible. I have had an interesting journey in living for God and applying the full application of His word. I have a very comfortable style of teaching the word of God more than preaching it. This correlates much with the methodological category of pre-understanding. The complexity of reality is one that I feel least impactful in Bible study. I have experienced racism, seen poverty, and been a crying shoulder to suicidal people. I have experienced at hand some of the hardest things in life. There are times when I wonder if this world can really change. I believe our society could be so much greater than what it is right now. Though my pre-understanding of the world has not affected my interpretation of scriptures.

When studying the word of God, you begin to grow in His wisdom, knowledge and understanding. You therefore begin to see the world, information, predispositions, and methods the way Jesus did. Pre-understandings emerge out of one’s personal situations, inevitability and pre-understanding influences. As an interpreter of pre-understandings you are responsible for the growth of your wisdom. This growth can be measured through the hermeneutical spiral. The hermeneutical spiral is a progressive spiral of development. As you experience new pre-understandings and continue to study the Bible, you begin to progress in a spiral understanding of God and His word. You don’t remain stagnant in your wisdom, knowledge and understanding. But as you experience God’s growth in your life, this alters the lenses by which you see and study the word. A constant cycle of development is the Christian way of life that God has called us to. Each pre-understanding relates to a study of scriptures that then brings wisdom to the next experience that will return the same—wisdom for wisdom, knowledge for knowledge and understanding for understanding.

Our pre-understandings have a vital part in the way we perceive information within the Bible. It is our responsibility to take on the eyes of God and read the word of God for its commendable truth.