When discussing how to understand the Bible, you have to start at the beginning: how do we get at the meaning of the text? Postmodernism and reader-interpretation approaches argue that we have no access to the original or fixed meaning of the author. All we have is our construction or interpretation of the text. Lawrence disagrees. He argues that we can find the meaning of the text, at least most of the time, by using the grammatical-historical method:
Discerning the meaning of the text in this way immediately plunges us into an exploration and study of the grammar, syntax, and literary and historical context of the words we’re reading--thus the phrase: grammatical-historical method….
So the first step of exegesis is to read the text, the whole text, over and over again. Interpretation actually begins with the whole, not the part. Then, in the context of the whole, we work backwards through the parts, back to sentences, back all the way down to individual words….
Distinct genres tend to have distinct rules or patterns for communicating. We intuitively recognize this. On the whole, poetry doesn’t even look like a newspaper article. That’s because poetry and narrative are different genres, with their own unique set of internal rules. These rules and patterns have a real bearing on the meaning of the words and sentences the author writes….The entire Bible is true, and it all needs to be read literally, but reading the legal statutes in Exodus literally is going to look different than reading the poetry of Psalm 17 literally.