Biblical Interpretation

April, May, June 2020

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.

Lesson 1: The Uniqueness of the Bible (Deuteronomy 32, 2 Timothy 3, 2 Peter 1)
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!

Lesson 2: The Origin and Nature of the Bible (Deuteronomy 18, 2 Peter 1, Hebrews 11, John 17)
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!

Lesson 3: Jesus and the Apostles' View of the Bible (Matthew 4, 12 & 22)
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!

Lesson 4: The Bible - the Authoritative Source of Our Theology (Mark 7, Luke 16, Acts 15)
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!

Lesson 5: By Scripture Alone - Sola Scriptura (1 Corinthians 4, Titus 1, Matthew 19)
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!

Lesson 6: Why Is Interpretation Needed? (Luke 24, Hebrews 11, John 9)
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!

Lesson 7: Language, Text, and Context (2 Timothy 3, 1 Kings 3, Numbers 6, Genesis 1)
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!

Lesson 8: Creation: Genesis as Foundation - Part 1 (Genesis 1 & 2, John 1, Revelation 14)
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!

Lesson 9: Creation: Genesis as Foundation - Part 2 (Isaiah 40, Job 26, Genesis 5 & 11, Romans 1 & 5)
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!

Lesson 10: The Bible as History (1 Samuel 17, Hebrews 11)
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.

Lesson 11: The Bible as Prophecy (1 Corinthians 10, Daniel 2)
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!

Lesson 12: Dealing With Difficult Passages (1 Timothy 4, James 4, Acts 17)
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!

Lesson 13: Living by the Word of God (Philippians 2, Psalms 37)
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!

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