Understanding Your Bible
Hermeneutics is the word used to describe the art of correctly interpreting a piece of literature, within our context most especially the Bible and so our text, Understanding your Bible, is a Hermeneutic of the Bible.
I should say something about the Bible itself and the foundations upon which the following pages are built. Where one begins a journey often determines where it will end. I think you have a right to know your starting point, so that you may have some idea of where you will finish! Here then is my Statement of Faith about the Bible.
- The Christian church possesses a collection of books that are reckoned by all denominations to be normative for faith and practice –
- Among Christians, there are five different views of scripture which will be discussed later,
- A Description of the Bible:
About Understanding Your Bible
A Description of the Bible:
- God is transcendent so that it is impossible for fallen humans to think about him properly or to conceive by ourselves all that he is. Thus we urgently need that God should reveal himself to us in terms that we can comprehend. The Father has done this in the pages of scripture, and the Bible is the only wholly reliable revelation of himself that he has given us.
- The only trustworthy opinion about the Bible is what the Bible affirms about itself. If the Bible cannot be trusted to speak truly about itself, then no other statement it makes can be relied upon. The Bible declares itself to be the Word of God, which is a claim that the reader must either accept or reject. I accept it unequivocally.
- If the Bible is the Word of God, then no higher authority can be appealed to. Therefore sound doctrine can arise only out of submission to the divine inspiration, the authenticity, the authority, the trustworthiness of scripture. What the Bible says, God says. Christians surely ought to agree with Jesus’ testimony to the divine inspiration of the Bible (cp. Mt 5:17-19; 10:19-20; Mk 12:26, where he bases an argument upon the verbal form of a single word; 12:36; 14:27; Lu 16:17; Jn 10:35; 14:26; 16:13-15).
- God chose to speak through human channels without suppressing the individuality, writing style, and freedom of each writer; yet he did so in such a way that their writings, when properly understood within the context of the entire Bible, affirm only what is true. Thus the Bible has a divine-human character which, on the one hand, makes it appear like any other book, yet on the other makes it wholly the Word of God. As St Thomas Aquinas said: “All is from God; all is from man.”
- The Bible does not merely contain the Word of God, it is the Word of God, wrought by the Holy Spirit (2 Ti 3:16), who so moved upon the writers of scripture that they wrote nothing contrary to the purpose of God. Thus the ultimate origin of the Bible is not human but divine (1 Th 2:13; He 1:1; 1 Pe 1:11-12; 2 Pe 1:3-4, 16-21). We might call this the doctrine of the plenary inspiration of scripture, which holds that the Bible is inerrant in all that it actually affirms or teaches. That is, whatever the Holy Spirit intended to say in scripture has been spoken truly and reliably. The Bible is therefore the only fully God-given source for Christian doctrine, faith, principles, and practice.
- Final authority concerning Christian belief and duty rests only in the Bible itself, not in the various dogmas, concepts, and structures that the church has drawn out of the Bible. That is, while the Bible may be infallible in all that it truly affirms, that infallibility does not pass to any church nor to any person. All other books, writings, teachings, creeds, or philosophies must be measured against the Bible, and reckoned true only insofar as they agree, or at least do not disagree, with the things scripture truly affirms.
- The Bible we now have, with all its difficulties, is the Bible God intended us to have, and it is fully adequate to bring men and women into union with Christ through faith, and to enable them to discover and to fulfil the purpose of God for their lives.
Those propositions are all easy to state. Finding out what they mean in practice, and applying them to life, is not so easy. That is what the remainder of this book is about. I should perhaps add, however, that you will find little or no discussion here on the nature of biblical inspiration, nor on the formation of the canon. Those are matters for separate study. This book begins with the premise that the Bible as we now have it both contains and is the divinely inspired canon, and from there concentrates on how to read, understand, believe, and obey that Word so as to fulfil the highest purpose of God.
Understanding Your Bible is also available as an eBook from Understanding Your Bible Smashwords
All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work. (2Ti 3:16-17)