Want to learn more about Biblical Interpretation? Use these Bible Studies for personal devotion, group Bible studies, or teaching a church class. Below are links to the lessons in this 13-part series.
Do you know how the Bible you use for this study came
into existence? Some think that the King James Version is the
original. In fact, there were several English translations before the
KJV. And, of course, English was not the language in which the Bible
was originally written. The Bible was not delivered intact by an
angel. Rather, it is the assembled writings of many authors, all
inspired by the Holy Spirit. No originals of the Bible (or even
fragments) have been found so far. The earliest fragment, which was
recently discovered, dates back to about 90 years after we believe
the book of Revelation was written by John. Although we have no
originals, the New Testament of the Bible is the best attested book
in the world! What do I mean by “attested?” We have more copies of
the New Testament than any other ancient writing. For ancient
literature we have on average about twenty copies. In contrast, we
have about 24,000 ancient copies of all or part of the Bible today.
This new series of lessons is not about how we received the Bible we
use today, but rather how should we interpret our Bible? Let’s plunge
into this new series on the Bible!
How we approach studying the Bible is critical to a
correct understanding of it. Take our last study on Daniel as an
example. In Daniel 2 we found him interpreting a vision revealing the
basic outline of the whole sweep of history – including the end of
the world! Many recent commentators assert that Daniel did not write
this during the time of the Babylonian empire, but rather during the
time of the Roman empire. While I’m no expert on their reasons, they
acknowledge that Daniel accurately describes history up to the time
of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and therefore they argue the book must
have been written then. This makes two assumptions. Daniel’s account
is a fabrication, and God would not (or could not) reveal the future.
This is based on a disbelief in the Bible and the power of God. Let’s
dive into our study of a different approach to the Bible!
I am so accustomed to thinking of the Old and New
Testaments as one Bible, that I have to remind myself that any
reference in the New Testament to “Scripture,” is a reference to the
Old Testament. How Jesus and His disciples understood the Old
Testament contains important lessons for us today in our
interpretation of the Bible. For example, in our last series on
Daniel we struggled with the reference to the “abomination that
causes desolation.” See Daniel 11:31 and Daniel 8:13. A number of
commentators argue that both of these refer to Antiochus Epiphanes.
That is not how Jesus understood Daniel. In Matthew 24:15 He says
that the “abomination that causes desolation” will be in the future.
That rules out Antiochus, who lived before Jesus was born on earth.
How many other texts did Jesus interpret? Let’s dive into our lesson
and consider some ways in which Jesus understood the Old Testament!
All of our studies are centered on the Bible. Every
question starts with reading a text. Not every church or every study
group has this kind of focus. I recall visiting a Sabbath School
class where everyone sat in a circle. They all had a Bible, that was
closed, and they all had their study guides opened. The class members
answered from their memory of what they thought had been written, and
often it was not a statement from the Bible. When I read a Bible text
and suggested it applied to the discussion, the teacher seemed pained
to have to open his Bible and find the text! Let’s jump into our
study today to learn more about the Bible as our authoritative source
of what we believe!
Have you thought about how you understand the Bible? I
doubt that anyone would naturally use only the Bible to understand
the Bible. My understanding of what the Bible teaches about God
increased when I became a parent. Nature teaches me about God. In
these lessons I often mention that I consulted a commentary to better
understand a text. The whole idea of having a teacher means that the
knowledge or perspective held by someone else is an aid to learning.
What then, does “Sola Scriptura,” the “Bible only,” mean? Let’s dive
into our study of the Bible and learn more!
My granddaughters are beginning readers. I watched a
video of one of them reading her Bible. When she faced a more
difficult word, she would sound out the letters, and then consider
whether that word made sense in that sentence. We should never get
over determining how the words of the Bible work together to make
sense. How is the best way to do this? Let’s see what the Bible
teaches us on this subject!
Assume that you have a child you have never met. You
have the opportunity to contact that child through a letter. What
would you tell that child? How would you go about deciding what is
most important to say? Would you use language that is easy to
understand? Would you worry that your child might not understand the
context of your writing? These are considerations that God faced when
He inspired the Bible. Perhaps proving that a letter alone is not
enough, He sent His Son to help us to better understand. Let’s plunge
into our study of the Bible to better understand God’s thinking in
giving us the Bible!
We have been looking at Genesis in the last few
lessons, but this week we will go deeper into the Creation and the
conclusions that flow from it. Interpreting Genesis as a historical
account, as opposed to an analogy, or worse a myth, is essential to a
proper interpretation of the Bible. Let’s dig into this topic through
our Bible study this week!
Are Genesis and Science at odds with each other? If you
say, “yes,” it should not be that way. As we have previously
discussed, Psalms 19:1 tells us that the heavens and the earth
declare God’s glory. Central to the glory of God is His Creation. So,
where does the problem arise? Does it arise in a misunderstanding of
the declaration in the heavens and earth? Does it arise in a
misunderstanding of the Bible? Does it arise because the forces of
evil want to make a conflict appear? Let’s explore our Bible to see
what we can learn!
In many situations we need context to properly
understand something. The Bible provides a historical context for our
world-view. We know that problems exist for two reasons: Satan, and
our decision to choose him over God. We know that God will, because
of His love and unselfishness, end sin, death, and sorrow. We know
that God works with His followers to bring great victories over evil.
We know that those who forget history are bound to repeat the errors
of the past. Let’s dig into our study of history in the Bible so we
will have a historical context for the problems we face today! A note
to readers. I’ve decided, after some consideration, to change from
the NIV to the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible.
Has anyone recently commented “I told you so?” What do
you think about that person? Sometimes I don’t like that (especially
where I was wrong), but I notice this. If a person is consistently
right, I pay more attention then to people who are consistently
wrong. We recently discussed God’s claim to our worship because He is
our Creator. God has more than one argument why we should believe in
Him. One of those powerful arguments is that He knows the future. He
can reliably say, “I told you so.” Let’s jump into our study of the
Bible and learn more!
How do we make the Bible easier to understand? A good
starting place is to use a Bible that you can understand! I’ve long
thought that the saints who argue for the most difficult to read
Bible, and try to force it on others, are doing the Devil’s work. He
does not want us to understand God’s Word. What else can we do to
better understand difficult passages of the Bible? Let’s plunge into
our study this week and learn more!
Most all employees get evaluated by their supervisors.
That happens to me, too. I am also evaluated by my students. My law
school teaching started late in life, after decades of litigating. As
a result, a consistent comment by my students is “He knows what he is
talking about.” When you explain your understanding of the Bible, do
people react, “That teacher knows what he is talking about?” “She
knows what she is talking about?” The people who listen to your view
of the Bible look at your life to determine your credibility. Do you
know what you are talking about? Let’s dive into our study of the
Bible to learn about living what we teach!