Authorial Intent -- By: William E. Arp

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 04:1 (Spring 2000)
Article: Authorial Intent
Author: William E. Arp

Authorial Intent

William E. Arp

Professor Of New Testament And Greek
Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania


In the second letter to Timothy Paul exhorts him to be an approved, unashamed worker (2:15). Timothy will become this kind of worker by “rightly dividing the word of truth.” The word translated “rightly dividing”1 means literally “cut straight” or “cut right”.2 The sense of the word in this passage seems to be on the idea of correctness.3 Paul wants Timothy to correctly handle the word. He wants him to provide a responsible interpretation of the word of truth because of the presence of false teaching.4

Later in this same letter to Timothy, Paul charges Timothy to preach the word (4:1–2). Not only does Paul command him to correctly interpret the Word, but he also commands Timothy to preach the word continually. The sequence is important: interpret, and then preach. Correct interpretation is not enough; he must also communicate the truth of the Word. However, interpretation comes before proclamation.

We have that same responsibility today. We must preach and teach the Word of God to our contemporaries in our cultural context. However, we need to interpret correctly before we preach or teach so that what we communicate to our hearers is accurate. Consequently, we also must correctly handle or interpret the Word of God.

To interpret means “to explain the meaning of.” An interpretation, therefore, is the explanation of something. For us it is the explanation of the meaning of the Scriptures. It involves understanding what they mean so that we can convey their meaning to others. In other words, we need to discover the meaning of the Word, whether of the entire book or of a single passage. But what is the meaning of a book or passage of Scripture, and how do we find it? The purpose of this article is to suggest that the meaning of the book or passage of Scripture is the author’s intended meaning and that we discover that meaning by studying the text in which he expressed that meaning.


This article presupposes the ispiration of Scripture. The Bible itself indicates both the procedure for and product of inspiration. The human authors wrote as they were moved

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