Posted By Thomas Perez. December 16, 2010 at 7:03pm.
One of the great truths about the Bible is that it is a book that is both human and divine. God used human authors to reveal exactly what He wanted. So how do we understand a book that is both human and divine?
I. The Bible as a Human Book
A. The Bible was written in human languages for the purpose of communicating to human beings.
B. Like all communication the literature of the Bible includes three elements:
1. Authors Each Bible book is the result of a human being who set forth in writing what he wanted to communicate.
2. Texts The means of communication for the Bible writers were texts. They used the symbols and signs that were common in their days.
3. Readers Each written work of the Bible was intended to be communicated to an audience for understanding.
The divinely inspired human authors had messages to convey to their audiences so they used the means of texts to convey these messages. Our goal as readers is to find the authorial intent of the authors as found in their texts.
C. Each biblical writing—whether a word, sentence, paragraph or book—must be understood according to its historical-grammatical-literary contexts.
1. Historical context—one must pay attention to the historical, geographical, and cultural situations of the authors and readers of the Bible.
2. Grammatical context—one must pay attention to the languages and the grammar of the authors of the Bible.
3. Literary context—one must pay attention to the literary styles or genres that the Bible authors used.
D. The Bible should be understood literally
1. Read the Bible like you would other literature with the expectation that you can read and understand the intent of the author.
2. The Bible does not have hidden secret meanings that go beyond the intent of the author.
“Those who read the Bible did not need to read into, beyond, or between words for some ‘deeper’ or other-than-normal meaning . . .The words were immediately understandable. The readers knew immediately the concepts being conveyed by the sentences in the Bible. They understood them in the way they would normally understand other sentences written in their languages. They did not need the call on a wizard, sorcerer, or a person with unusual spiritual insight or mystic intuition to convey its meaning (Zuck, 62).
“To interpret ‘literally’ means to explain the original sense of the speaker or writer according to the normal, customary and proper usages of words and language.” –Paul Lee Tan
3. Understanding the Bible literally means that we recognize the presence of figures of speech in the Bible. When Jesus said things like “I am the door” or John the Baptist said, “Behold the lamb of God” we understand that they was using figurative language. Note, though, that the use of figurative language and allegories in the Bible is no reason to interpret the Bible in a non-literal way since these figures and allegories point to literal truths.
II. The Bible as a Divine Book The Bible indicates that God is the divine author of the Bible.
A. Scriptural evidence
1. 2 Timothy 3:16 The Bible is inspired by God. It is literally “God-breathed.”
2. 2 Peter 1:21
B. Unity Since God is the divine author of the Bible we must view the Bible as having unity. This means the Bible cannot contradict itself. Thus, no passage of Scripture, when interpreted correctly, will contradict another passage.
C. Progress of Revelation Since God is the divine author of all 66 books of the Bible we need to recognize revelation is revealed progressively or in stages. God did not reveal everything He wanted us to know in the first book of the Bible. He has progressively added to His revelation as the various books of the Bible were penned. It is important to note that new revelation from God adds to and supplements previous revelations. They never contradict earlier revelations. Progress of revelation also means that some commands of earlier times have been revoked in light of the coming of Jesus Christ.
1. Ex. The afterlife The Old Testament is shadowy when it comes to specific information about the afterlife. Concepts such as Heaven and Hell are discussed much more fully in the New Testament.
2. Ex. The Oneness of God. There are hints of the Oneness Manifestations of God in the Old Testament, but the doctrine of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit is much more evident in the teachings of the New Testament, yet there He is and always will be One God.
3. Ex. The Millennium Various Old and New Testament texts reveal truths about an earthly kingdom of the Messiah after His return to this earth, but it is not until the Book of Revelation that we learn that the time period for this kingdom is one-thousand years or that a rebellion of Satan will take place immediately at the end of this one-thousand year period.
4. Ex. Dietary restrictions Leviticus 11 details foods that were “unclean” and thus should not be eaten. But in Mark 7:19 Jesus “declared all foods clean.” Plus, in Acts 10:15 a voice declared to Peter, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”
D. Authoritative Since God is the divine author of the Bible it is authoritative. This means we must obey it.