This session was taught at the Christ Church Manchester School of Theology on Saturday 20th January 2018. The CCM School of Theology was set up to serve local churches in Manchester and beyond.

Topic: Doctrine of Scripture 

In this session, we talk about the Doctrine of Scripture, how do we know that the words we find in our Bible are truly the word of God. What is it that makes these 66 books inspired, and what does this mean for how we apply their words to ours lives.

Speaker: Liam Thatcher

Liam Thatcher is an elder and teaching pastor at Christ Church London, and is a regular speaker and writer about theology topics, including on his blog – Leaven on Earth.



How should God’s story shape our story? In this second session, we will consider what we mean by ‘the authority of Scripture’ and look at some of the tools required to apply God’s word to our lives.

How does God’s story shape our story?


‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ (2 Tim 3:16-17)

‘Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.’ (Matt 7:24)

God’s Story: Act I: Creation, Act II: Fall, Act III: Israel, Act IV: Jesus 

‘The NT would form the first scene in the fifth act, giving hints as well of how the play is supposed to end. The church would live under the ‘authority’ of the extant story, being required to offer something between an improvisation and an actual performance of the final act.’ (N.T. Wright)


The Interpretive Journey


Step 1: Grasp the text in their world. What did it mean to the original audience?
Step 2: Measure the width of the river to cross. What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?
Step 3a: Cross the principalising bridge. What is the theological principle in this text?
Step 3b (for OT texts): Cross into the New Testament. Does the NT teaching modify or qualify this principle? If so, how?
Step 4: Grasp the text in our world. How should individual Christians today apply the theological principle?


God’s word to them Careful study to discover original intended meaning. Asking the right questions, to do with the context and the content.


God’s word to us
Broadly, hermeneutics has to do with the whole field of interpretation. More narrowly, it is to do with seeking the contemporary relevance of ancient texts.
Good hermeneutics needs to be controlled by good exegesis.
A text cannot mean what it never meant.
When we share comparable particulars with the first hearers, God’s word to us is the same as His word to them

The Interpretive Journey, summarised

Exegesis (God’s word to them) 

Step 1: Grasp the text in their world


– Historical Context: Who, what, why, where, when?
– Literary Context:What is the genre? What is the context of the passage in its section, book, author’s work, all of Scripture?

– What do I notice about the sentence, paragraph, discourse?
– What is the author saying?
– Why is he saying it in this way?

Use a mixture of internal evidence and external sources (commentaries, study Bibles etc)

Summarise the passage in a sentence (past tense) Write out the principle(s). (Present tense)  

Hermeneutics (God’s word to us)

Step 2: Measure the width of the river to cross

What are the differences between our worlds?

– Culture
– Language
– Time
– Situation
– Covenant / place in Redemptive History – How big is the gap?

Step 3: Cross the Principalising Bridge

What theological principles bridge the gap?

– What are the similarities between the worlds?
– Principles should be present in the passage, timeless, not culturally bound, consistent with the rest of Scripture

Step 4: Grasp the text in our world

How can I apply the principles in my world?
– How did the principles address the original situation? List key elements.
– Find parallel situations that contain all of those key elements.
– What would it look like to apply the principles in these parallel situations? Be specific, think about how as well as what.


Crossing the Bridge

Take these passages through the interpretive journey by asking these questions of them: What was God’s word to the original hearers? How wide is the river to cross? What principle bridges the gap? How can I apply the principle in my world?

The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37)

Washing Feet (John 13:1-17)

The Holy Kiss (1 Cor 13:11-14)

Hairstyles, jewellery and fine clothes (2 Peter 3:1-6)

    Pick one of the following exercises for your own personal study

    Do you find the idea of Scripture being acts 1-4 of a 5 act play helpful? How might if affect your approach to reading the Bible? (1000 words)


    Take one of the following passages through the interpretive journey by asking these questions of it: What was God’s word to the original hearers? How wide is the river to cross? What principle bridges the gap? How can I apply the principle in my world?

    The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23)

    Jesus’ teaching about worry (Matthew 6:25-34)

    Paul’s instructions about head coverings (1 Cor 11:1-16)

    Recommended Resources

    General Resources


    Choosing a good commentary can be tricky, but is a great place to look for reviews and recommendations. If you want to study a book in depth you may want to choose a selection of commentaries; some technical and some more devotional. But if you want to read in a devotional way, then a lighter, less technical commentary might be best. Here are some general recommendations:





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