Knowing the Bible for Yourself
A new teaching series equipping believers to interpret and understand the Bible for themselves. Please click on the PDF links to read each article in full.
As one opens the Bible, one quickly comes to discover that what they hold in their hand is not a single book, but a volume of ancient literature (some 66 books). In fact, there are some 780, 000+ words all found sitting within a careful and purposeful grammatical structure with the oldest sections being more than 3 ½ thousand years in age and the most recent, 2000 years! There are many different ways in which God could have communicated his will to mankind; he could have appeared at a given location every fifty years to speak to man in person or sent an angel to speak on his behalf. Instead, God in His sovereign wisdom has chosen to communicate His message to mankind through the medium of written language.
In this first teaching part, we ask the question; “Why do we need to interpret the Bible?” As soon as one begins to read any literature, the need for interpretation comes immediately into play!! This not only applies to the Bible, but all pieces of literature, because the underlying question that inevitably will arise is; “What does that mean?” You cannot escape this question, and as soon as one asks this question, one by default has moved into the realm of interpretation. The aim of all true Bible study is to uncover the plain meaning of the text so as to arrive at the proper understanding of truth. Having understood what God’s Word was to those first receiving it, we are then in a position to correctly apply the Word of God to our lives.
It will never do to be hearers of the word only and not doers of it; James makes this very clear (Jms 1:22). Yet at the same time, to be a doer of the word without first hearing what is being asked is to walk in ignorance. How many, armed with good intentions and loaded with zeal have gone out of the starting blocks with pace, only to be later disqualified because they were in breach of the rules. You cannot compete in a race without obeying the rules and you cannot obey the rules unless you first know what those rules are. Thus, it is incumbent upon us as students of the Word of God, to rightly divide (Grk. to cut straight) the word of truth that we might not be ashamed (2 Tim. 2:15).
If the Bible was a single book, composed by a single contemporary author, that would be one thing. If we had any questions or doubts about the meaning of what is written, we could simply ask the author. What happens when you have a book written by upwards of forty different authors, across a number of continents with the earliest of these writing some 3500 years ago? In this second teaching part, we explore the role of dictionaries and commentaries in serving to better aid our study of the Bible, especially when bridging the gulf of history and culture.