Zorn’s Basic Hermeneutical Principles


Pastor Zorn, a former missionary in India, had a series of basic principles of interpretation that he followed. These principles directed his exegesis work.

l) The Bible must be interpreted according to its own claims that it is the inspired Word of God in all its parts. Therefore it is only the Word of God that established doctrine in the church.

2) Only the Bible is the true source for instruction for faith and life.

3) The Bible canon is a unit as a whole and in all of its parts and therefore does not contradict itself. Like Luther, Zorn believed that God does not lie or deceive.

4) Since the Bible is God’s Word in human language, it must be interpreted according to its human side. This does not mean that the historical method may be employed to question truths normally contrary to human experience, as miracles or prophecies.

5) The interpretation is never an end in itself, but the purpose is the glorification of God.

6) The true interpreter of the Bible is a Christian who possesses the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

7) Biblical hermeneutics presupposes that God’s Word is found in the original Biblical languages in the Hebrew and Aramaic for the Old Testament, and Greek for the New. Zorn believed that Luther’s translation in the German Bible of 1534 and later revised, contained in general the reliable original text.

8) In determining the words of Holy Writ, Zorn assumed that the author used the word in its common meaning (usus loquendi), until it is obvious that the Biblical writer is employing it in a different manner.

9) No interpretation is correct, that is not according to grammar and syntax of the language in which it was written.

10) The interpretation of every word and passage of Scripture must be in agreement with the context.

11) Every interpretation of Scripture must be historically correct, that is, the Bible must be understood as a historical book, and be interpreted according to its historical circumstances both of the Bible itself and the world in which it is written.

12) The Bible must be interpreted with the assumption that the author had only one intended sense in mind when he wrote the given word or passage. (Sensus literalis unus est).

13) The New Testament interpretation of an Old Testament passage quoted in the New is definitive for the original intended sense of the Old Testament word or passages.

14) Scripture interprets Scripture. Scripture radiates is own light.

15) All formulations of Christian doctrine must agree with the analogy of faith and must never contradict the analogy of faith.

16) All Biblical interpretation must have Christ as its center, teach Christ, and glorify Him as Lord and Savior.

17) Any interpretation which violates the doctrine of justification by faith is erroneous and must be rejected.

18) In the interpretation of figurative language the interpreter seeks the point of comparison and does not go beyond it.


19) In the interpretation of prophecy, the interpreter seeks its fulfillment in the New Testament and shows how the prophecy was fulfilled.

20) In the interpretation of types, the interpreter designates those portions of Scripture typological which Holy Writ itself indicates as typical.

21) To the doctrines of Scripture belong also the valid and the necessary deductions from Scripture; not all doctrines of the Bible are taught in expressed words.

22) The interpreter must distinguish between explanation, exegesis, and application.

Following are passages from which we draw these principles or examples of how they are clearly in Scripture. You may well be able to add more passages to the list.

l) II Tim.3:16, 2) Ps. 119:105, 3) Jn. 17:17, 4)Jn. 10:35, 5) Jn. 16:14, 6) I Cor. 2:14, 7) II Pet. l:21, 8) II Pet. l:20,9) Acts 2:11, 10) Acts 17:10-11, II Pet. 3:16, 11) II Tim. 2:15, Hos.ll:l/Mt. 2:14-15, 12) II Cor. l:18, 13) Col. 2:16-17, 14) I Cor. 2:13, 15) I Thess. 2:13, 16) Jn. 5:39, II Pet. 3:18, Eph. 2:20, 17) Rom. 3:28, Eph.2:8-10, 18) Jesus in explaining the parables, 19) Is. 7:14/Mt. 1:23, 20) Deut. 18:15, 21) abortion under the 5th Comm., 22) Ps. 119:105, Jn.5:39, Acts 13:27