Literal interpretation involves an approach based on the actual words in their ordinary meaning and not going beyond the facts. Literal interpretation of the Bible simply means to explain the original sense of the Bible according to the normal and customary usages of its language. It can only be accomplished through an interpretation of the written text, which includes consideration of the historical, grammatical, and contextual method of interpretation.
Grammatical method of interpretation means it is according to the rules of grammar. Literal interpretation considers the impact that grammar plays on a passage. Text should correctly be analyzed in terms of its relationship of words, phrases, and sentences to one another. Interpreting the Bible grammatically refers to the process of seeking to determine its meaning by ascertaining four things: the form of the words or morphology, the meaning of the words or lexicology, the relationships of words or syntax and the function of the word or part of speech.
Proper interpretation of the Bible also means that the historical contect must be taken into account. One must consider the historical setting and circumstances in which the books of the Bible were written. The proper concept of the historical in Bible interpretation is to view the Scriptures as written during given ages and cultures. Applications may then be drawn which are relevant to our times.
In addition, the last method of interpretation is the contextual interpretation. One of the most common mistakes made by those who are found to have misinterpreted a passage in the Bible is that of taking a verse out of its Divinely ordered context. Even though a sentence may be taken from the Bible, it is not the Word of God if it is placed into a context, which changes the meaning from that which God intended in its original context. The contect in which a give Scripture passage is written influences how that passage is to be understood. Context includes several things: paragraph and book in which the verses occur; the verse or verses immediately before and after a passage; the dispensation in which it was written; the message of the entire Bible; and, the historical-cultural environment of that time when it was written.
The divine and human elements and their relationship to one another must be respected in order to interpret the Scriptures correctly in their literal sense. Exegete can explain the intention of the human author -the literal sense- within the text if it uses historical-critical method. To reduce the interpretive process to this, however, ignores the multifaceted nature of the scriptures. Beyond this level of the Literal sense, exist the inexhaustible meanings that are possible due to the authorship of the Holy Spirit. Understanding and not just explaining is necessary to reach the level of the Spirit. If these two are separated, there is a possibility of producing a false dichotomy. The reciprocal relationship that exists between these two should be respected. In order to reach an understanding of the text of the Bible, the writer should place himself within the living tradition of the church. Immersing himself into the living faith, the exegete can discover the true meaning of the Scriptures.
Brown, Raymond E. 1994. An Introduction to the New Testament.