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Understanding the Bible
Bible we read accurate? Is the Bible trustworthy? Is the
Bible authoritative? Can we be confident in the Bible we
read? How to understand the Bible? Many people ask these
questions. The article below represents my views.
agree that modern English Bible translations which provide "original
equivalence" rendering of the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts are
accurate and reliable. Formal equivalence means the translators
achieved a literal translation from the original languages into modern
English. The most familiar of formal equivalence translations
are the King James Version of 1611 (KJV), New King James Version
(NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV), New American Standard Version
(NASV) and the New International Version (NIV) of 1982 only.
translations are not literal but use concept equivalence. These
works attempt to convey a concept (definition: concept is an abstract
or general idea) rather than the actual words of the original language
texts. Concept translations are not deemed accurate because they
reflect the cultural, religious or other prejudice of the
translators. An example of this bias can be seen in a
translation which removes all references to gender. Examples of
concept translations are the New Living Translation (NLT) and the New
Testament in Modern English. There are many such versions.
These paraphrase renderings should be considered a commentary rather
than a true translation. Using them for study is unwise because
biased concepts are a faulty foundation for sound doctrine.
following quote is from a website that promotes concept
translation. "The point is to find a contemporary translation
that you find ‘speaks’ to you and touches your heart and thought in a
way that awakens them to the spiritual meaning within." How
interesting that they would encourage a believer to select a
translation that fits what one perceives as appropriate to themselves.
This statement, "awakens .....the spiritual meaning within"
implies that God has hidden the meaning of his word. Both of
these concepts are alien to the scripture and detrimental to growing
in grace and knowledge. The word of God speaks to us through the
Holy Spirit. God has spoken what he actually means not hidden a
meaning inside a translation that elevates concepts as replacements
for the actual words of God. God said what he meant not what an
individual thinks he said. God's word does not change because a
person thinks it means something other than what God actually said.
"For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven." (Psalms
119:89, KJV) "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words
shall not pass away." (Luke 21:33, KJV) Concepts will
disappear but God's word is eternal. Concepts are determined by
culture, age, sex, world view and other issues of an unsettled and
subjective nature. Words have literal meanings.
Dictionaries are used to determine the definition of words not
concepts. When word definitions are disregarded or changed by
the reader then effective communication and understanding is not
possible. If you ignore or change God's word you will never
progress in understanding.
prefer literal translations while others prefer translations which
convey concepts. I find it safe to study the literal
translations to achieve a sound doctrinal position. Does a
preference for a particular type of translation determine whether
one's doctrine is well founded or unsound? To me the answer is
study stimulates us to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord
Jesus. Proper Bible study should lead us to doctrinal soundness
in this knowledge. Healing in our earthly body is not gained
through the use of patented prescription drugs which do not cure but
treat symptoms. Physical health is not gained through the use of
natural supplements such as vitamins and herbs. Good health
comes from proper nutrition (eating a good diet) and exercise which
allows our body to heal itself of most problems. Natural
supplements are not the source of health but can help rebuild our
immune system damaged by patented prescription drugs, poor nutrition
or environmental causes. Spiritual healing is gained through
faith when we are translated from darkness into Christ who is the
light. We must first hear of Christ before we can be
saved. Spiritual health is gained through learning more of
Christ from the Lord himself by studying his word first.
Spiritual health does not come from commentaries or man made systems
of theology which might
damage us spiritually because
these are not the breath of God. The
Holy Spirit guides us into all truth which is the word of God.
How can we know if a commentator is right unless we first know the
truth from God's word? Learn from the Bible first then read a
commentary. Spiritual health results when we believe God's word
as written, are guided by his Holy Spirit and pray.
the Bible involves using several basic uncomplicated principles.
The Bible is God's word to man therefore it should be treated with
utmost respect. It should be received as absolute truth and the
authority in all matters in this life and the life to come. "All
scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness:" (2 Timothy 3:16, KJV)
using a prefabricated theological system as a short cut. Buying
"off the rack" might save time when buying clothes but it is not
helpful in Bible study. Dispensational theology and reformed
theology are the two most used "off the rack" systems. Other
systems exist. Ready made theological systems resemble in
concept the corrupt system used by the Jews of Jesus' time.
Every prefab system has flaws. The pure word of God is the only dogma
without flaws. You don't need a man made system if you are in
Christ because you have the Holy Spirit living within you. Lay aside ready made predigested theology
and read the holy word of God while relying upon the Holy Spirit for
understanding. The Bible is the only foundation for doctrine.
"The true rule is this: God's Word shall establish articles of faith,
and no one else, not even an angel can do so." (Martin Luther,
Smalcald Articles II, 15.
lock (definition: to become rigid or immovable) yourself into a system
of theology to which you are already familiar or to which you might
already subscribe. Jesus said the Holy Spirit guides us into all
truth. Avoid becoming a prisoner of other men's opinions and
assumptions. Be willing to admit when your view is wrong and
those who taught you were wrong. Emulate the noble Jews of Berea
and receive God's word willingly and search the scriptures to see if
what you are taught is correct. "These were more noble than
those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all
readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those
things were so." (Acts 17:11, KJV)
Don't believe something just because Dr. or Rev. "whomever" says
it. Read the Bible, not a commentary, to verify what others
ignore or change word definitions or disregard the context of a
passage in order to make the meaning conform to a prefabricated system
of theology. Some use a prefab system as a "one size fits all"
for their Bible study. One size fits all does not apply to Bible
study. Study "outside the box" of one size fits all. Study
"inside" the scripture.
of who is speaking and who is listening as you read the Bible.
Look for the where and when. Notice the verbs that tell you what
is the set of facts and circumstances that occur before and after a
passage or verse. This is critical to understanding
the scripture therefore familiarize yourself with the context of a
particular verse or passage. "Cherry picking" verses without the
understanding gained from the context is the way of heretics and
following is an example of a "cherry picked" verse in which context
provides a clear understanding.
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count
slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any
should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter
3:9, KJV) God's longsuffering is directed to "usward" which is
an important word in this verse. The "usward" in the text is
directly connected to "any" and "all" in the same verse. So who
is "usward". The context identifies "usward". Look to the
opening of 2 Peter to understand "usward". "Simon Peter, a
servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained
like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and
our Saviour Jesus Christ:" (2 Peter 1:1, KJV) The context
shows that "usward" was Peter and "them
that have obtained like precious faith with us". Therefore God's
longsuffering applies to "usward" or Peter and those who have obtained
like precious faith. "Cherry picking" this verse without the
context and applying it to every living human past, present and future
is misusing this verse. God is longsuffering to those who have
faith in Christ. When the mystery of God is complete Christ will
return and gather "usward" to himself. See the following link.
believing your motive to be pure while using your opinion to distort
the meaning of scripture is not pure and can never be justified.
It is always sinful to change the meaning of God's word. Opinion is only an
editorial (definition: an
article based on opinions)
not a valid tool for Bible study. Every individual has an
opinion but God's word is not subject to the opinion of a created
being. The only foundation for sound doctrine is the word of God
scripture with scripture. The entire Bible is God's word to
man. Every book of the Bible complements the others. Each
is part of a single narrative and must be understood as a whole.
Hebrews cannot be understood apart from Genesis or Galatians,
etc. An example of comparing scripture with scripture can be
found at the following link. http://thegospelworks.org/abrahams_children.html.
what is plainly written; the obvious. Don't struggle to find a
hidden meaning. Take the meaning of the words literally.
False teachers use words from scripture but to them the words have
different meanings. God told Adam he would die if he ate of the
tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan told Adam and Eve they
would "not" die if they ate of the true of knowledge of good and
evil. Avoid those who change the meaning of God's word by adding
to or taking from it. To deny the plain word of God is fraught
with eternal danger.
from the scripture. (Revelation 22:18-19 KJV)
testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this
book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall
add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if
any man shall take away from the words of the book of this
prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life,
and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in
warning from scripture. (Matthew 7:21-23 KJV)
every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom
of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in
heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not
prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in
thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto
them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
intellect is a wonderful creation of God but it is corrupted with sin
and is not the means by which God effects understanding of himself and
thereby salvation. See this link. http://thegospelworks.org/spirit_or_wisdom.html
Never rely upon one's own nor
any other person's intellectual abilities to understand God's word
because God has chosen the Holy Spirit to provide understanding of
himself in his word. Never
brag on the preacher's brilliant mind but rather on the greatness of
God. It is the heart that believes not the intellect.
don't believe what you read then your study is futile. Believe
what you read in the Bible. Believing God's word was counted as
righteousness to Abraham. Pray while you read.
not least, avoid those who say a "different method" of interpretation
is necessary for a particular book or passage of the Bible. Some advocate the use of another method of
interpretation when the
scripture appears difficult to believe or does not seem to have a
rational explanation. Their intellect cannot accept what is not
rational and they react by saying God could not have meant what is
written, therefore a "different method" of interpretation is
necessary. They use their "different method" to invent something
completely new and different from what God actually said. Stop
listening and leave when you hear a person say a "different method" is
needed. The different methods of interpretation are discussed at
http://thegospelworks.org/jesusreturns.html#methods. Take particular note of the
allegorical method and the false teacher who brought it into Christian
promised Sarah would conceive and bear a child even even though that
was no longer humanly possible because of her age. Abraham was
told to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God which would mean
killing his heir whom God promised. How then would God keep his
promises to Abraham? God doesn't require us to understand his
will but to believe and obey his word. Using a different method
of interpretation is the practice of those who don't believe God's
word as written. Like Adam's original sin, it cannot be hidden
with a fig leaf apron created by the human intellect. Recall the
warning from scripture quoted before.
of symbolic language does not mean that the events recorded are
allegorical therefore not literal events and people. In the word
picture of symbolic language you will find real historical people,
real historical events and actual truths. Do not look for the “hidden”
or “deeper” meaning. Look for what is presented for the Spirit of God
speaks expressly or explicitly.
aid you as you study would be a good concordance and dictionary.
I prefer Strong's exhaustive concordance. Bible study on your
computer for Linux OS, Mac OS and MS windows is available from the
Sword Project which you can download free. I use Bibletime on
the Linux OS. Both are free to download. The free software
is as good as that which you can buy for several hundred
dollars. To download a completely free operating system with all
software included follow this link, https://kubuntu.org/getkubuntu/ See this
link for the Sword Project, https://crosswire.org/applications/
10:35, Jesus said the scripture “cannot be broken,”. The Bible,
the scriptures, are not open to change by man because man did not
fashion the words but God gave them to men to convey as he
spoke. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of
man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy
Ghost." (2 Peter 1:21, KJV) Only God has authority over
his word therefore no one has the authority to alter God's word.
Those who dare to falsify God's word will be judged by the Lord
himself. Be careful what you believe and teach.