How to properly approach the Bible

The Bible makes very definite claims for itself.

No Bible reader has a right to reject what the Bible says about itself.

If we are to ever understand the Bible, we must approach it sympathetically. Otherwise, the Bible, even if we read and study it, will be a closed book for us.

Here is a striking claim the Bible makes for itself:

1Co 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (King James Version)

1Co 2:13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (English Standard Version)

1Co 2:13 Every word we speak was taught to us by God’s Spirit, not by human wisdom. And this same Spirit helps us teach spiritual things to spiritual people. (Contemporary English Version)

1Co 2:13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. (New Living Translation, Second Edition, 2004)

This is a specific claim to verbal inspiration.

Divine inspiration of Scripture is asserted also at 2 Timothy 3:16,

2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

The divine inspiration of Scripture writers is asserted by Peter in his second letter,

2Pe 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
2Pe 1:21 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.

Failure to accept the Bible’s own testimony to itself has closed this Book to so-called “modern scholarship” (a misnomer if ever there was one!). Much modern scholarship is dishonest, for instead of explaining the Bible, it attempts to explain away the Bible, refusing to honestly come to grips with its claims and message.

In an effort to escape the Bible’s obvious message, dishonest scholarship has tried to deny its authenticity and authorship, ascribing, for example, the books of Moses to multiple late authorship; denying the unity of Isaiah; asserting that the gospels, particularly the Gospel of John, are of late origin, and do not reflect the so-called “historical Jesus,” but views and traditions of the early Church of the third or fourth century.

Fatal to such incorrect views of the Gospels is the fact that the Gospels are quoted many times in early Christian literature. Critics cannot logically explain how books can be quoted or translated before they were written, or how such stupenduous claims could be foisted upon a gullible public long after the possibility of disproof by eyewitnesses has passed.

The only way to get at the message of the Bible is to be completely open to its message.

To approach Scripture with humanistic and naturalistic (that is, anti-theistic) presuppositions is to try to twist Scripture to fit a worldview which it most emphatically will not support. The only valid approach to Scripture is to be honest to its claims and message and grant its right to set forth a theistic, supernaturalistic worldview.

To deny the possibility of miracle (as Hume and his modern counterparts) is to deny the possibility of history, for both are based upon the record of eye-witness testimony, and such denial is absurd.

There are more pathways to truth and knowledge than an arbitrarily narrowly defined so-called “scientific method.”

Like missing the right exit on a freeway, continued advance in the wrong direction is not progress. Genuine progress will require a return to where we went wrong, and a fresh start in the right direction. Much “scholarship” needs to recognize it has pursued a wrong path, and recognize that it needs to return to sound principles of former generations of reverent, truthful, believing scholarship.

It is neither truthful nor fair scholarship to approach a work of literature from a consistently unsympathetic and hostile worldview in the attempt to legitimately understand its message. Rather, in our attempt to understand a work of literature, we must let it speak for itself.

The task of scholarship is to place the reader as close as possible in sympathetic relationship to the viewpoint of the writer and recipients of the literary work, and not to attempt to explain it away in an effort to force it to agree with popular contemporary philosophical presuppositions or fads in “modern scholarship.”

Approach the Bible by believing, not denying, what it says.

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6 Responses to How to properly approach the Bible

  1. ken sagely says:

    jerry thank you for this study. i think the lord wants us to ask us for his help in understanding the bible as we follow the rules interpretation. psm 119/18 ‘open thou mine eyes, that i may behold wondrous things out of thy law’, eph 1/17-18 ‘v17 paul prays that the god of our lord jesus christ,the father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: vs18 the eyes of our understanding enlightened; thay ye man know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of his glory of his inheritance in the saints, col 1/9-10 for this cause also, since the day we heard it,do not cease to pray for you,and to desire that ye might filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spirtual understanding. b4 we study the bible we need to make sure we have no sin in our life and 1 jn 1/9 really helps us “if we confess our sins,he is faithful and and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. i claimed this morning! the word of god comes alive to us and will change our lives if we will let it!

  2. Jerry says:

    Dear Ken,

    You are right on target. When the Word of God written in the Bible comes alive to us, the Psalmist speaks of how it “quickens us” in Psalm 119, it will change our lives if we will let it!

    Too many are focused on other things, and are missing out on what Jesus said is the “one thing needful.” He spoke of Mary as having chosen the better part, for she sat and heard his word.

  3. A. Way says:

    Psalms 119:
    Psa 119:6 AKJV Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect to all your commandments.
    Psalms 119:10 AKJV With my whole heart have I sought you: O let me not wander from your commandments.
    Psalms 119:35 AKJV Make me to go in the path of your commandments; for therein do I delight.
    Psalms 119:44 AKJV So shall I keep your law continually for ever and ever.
    Read the whole chapter.

  4. Jerry says:

    Dear A. Way,

    You have focused on a wonderful Bible chapter indeed.

    I spent at least one full month (December 5, 2010 to January 5, 2011) recently studying this chapter full time every day while working on my project to expand the cross references available for Real Bible Study. I worked through the chapter 12 separate times, verse by verse. I had previously in August of 2010 worked through Psalm 119, but in the process of my studies, I discovered additional steps to accurately expand the cross references, so I went back and re-did the entire book of Psalms, focusing especially on Psalm 37, Psalm 89, and Psalm 119.

    It is important to recognize that in Psalm 119 there are ten synonyms used naming God’s written Word. The reference is not exclusively to the Ten Commandment Law, but to the whole of God’s written Word, that was so much the Psalmist’s daily delight to study, read, and meditate upon. That full-orbed study ought to be our delight too.

  5. A. Way says:

    Not exclusive, there for they are included.
    Psalms 119:44 AKJV So shall I keep your law continually for ever and ever.

    Perhaps the question that should be asked, is what is God’s GRACE?

  6. Jerry says:

    Dear A. Way,

    Though the Ten Commandments indeed are included since they form a part of God’s written word, they most certainly are not the major focus of Psalm 119. It is a serious mistake in Bible study to read a narrow issue into everything. Rather, we ought to read the Bible for what it says, not what we want it to say. In Psalm 119 we have the most marvelous and instructive chapter in the whole Bible entirely devoted to extolling the written Word of God and its many aspects that are designed to benefit us.

    Grace read as an English acronym may be helpfully remembered as “God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.”

    But in terms of Psalm 119, surely the Word of God Written is the means of Grace for us appointed by God, for the Psalmist repeatedly affirms that it is this Written Word that “quickens,” that is, that makes alive spiritually. That, not a forced focus on the Ten Commandments, is the real emphasis of Psalm 119.

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