Jul 27, 2012

Rightly Interpreting the Bible (Part 1)

Ron RhodesBy Dr. Ron Rhodes
Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries

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The word "method" comes from the Greek word methodos, which literally means "a way or path of transit." Methodology in Bible study is therefore concerned with "the proper path to be taken in order to arrive at Scriptural truth." This clearly implies that improper paths can be taken.

Of course, proper methodology is essential to many fields of endeavor. A heart surgeon does not perform open heart surgery without following proper, objective methodology. (Would you trust a heart surgeon to operate on you who told you that he intended to discard objective methodology, instead opting for a subjective approach—cutting you where he feels like cutting you?)

Improper methodology in interpreting Scripture is nothing new. Even in New Testament times, the apostle Peter warned that there are teachings in the inspired writings of Paul "which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [distort], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16, insert added). This verse tells us that mishandling the Word of God can be very dangerous. Indeed, mishandling the Word of God is a "path" to destruction.

Contrary to the practices of some false teachers in Corinth, the apostle Paul assured his readers that he faithfully handled the Word of God (2 Corinthians 4:2). Paul admonished young Timothy to follow his example:

"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).


A Foundational Truth: God Created Language for a Purpose

A plain reading of Genesis indicates that when God created Adam in His own rational image, He gave Adam the gift of intelligible speech, thus enabling him to communicate objectively with his creator (and with other human beings) via sharable linguistic symbols called words (Genesis 1:26). God sovereignly chose to use human language as a medium of revelational communication.

If the primary purpose of God's originating of language was to make it possible for Him to communicate with human beings, as well as to enable human beings to communicate with each another, then it must follow that He would generally use language and expect man to use it in its literal, normal, and plain sense.

This view of language is a prerequisite to understanding not only God's spoken word but His written Word (Scripture) as well. The Bible as a body of literature exists because human beings need to know certain spiritual truths to which they cannot attain by themselves. Thus these truths must come to them from without—that is, via objective, special revelation from God (Deuteronomy 29:29). And this revelation can only be understood if one interprets the words of Scripture according to God's original design for language—that is, according to the ordinary, plain, literal sense of each word.

(To be continued...)