Four principles of older hermeneutics: #1 The Holy Spirit is the Only Infallible Interpreter of Holy Scripture.


#1 The Holy Spirit is the Only Infallible Interpreter of Holy Scripture.


As an example of this principle, John Owen says, “The only unique, public, authentic, and infallible interpreter of Scripture is none other than the Author of Scripture Himself . . . that is, God the Holy Spirit.”[1] Nehemiah Coxe says, “. . . the best interpreter of the Old Testament is the Holy Spirit speaking to us in the new.”[2] This meant that they saw the Bible’s interpretation and use of itself as infallible and with interpretive principles embedded in it. When the Bible comments upon, or utilizes itself in any fashion (e.g., direct quotation, allusion, echo, or fulfillment in the OT or NT), it is God’s interpretation and, therefore, the divine understanding of how texts should be understood by men. This often means that later texts shed interpretive light on earlier texts. This occurs not only when the New Testament uses the Old Testament, but it occurs in the Old Testament itself. Or, we could put it this way: subsequent revelation often makes explicit what is implicit in antecedent revelation.[3]

[1] John Owen, Biblical Theology or The Nature, Origin, Development, and Study of Theological Truth in Six Books (Pittsburgh, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1994), 797.

[2] Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 36.

[3] See Vern S. Poythress, “Biblical Hermeneutics,” in Seeing Christ in all of Scripture: Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary, ed. Peter A. Lillback (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2016), 14, where he says: “The later communications build on the earlier. What is implicit in the earlier often becomes explicit in the later.”


#2 The Analogy of the Scriptures (Analogia Scripturae)