Can We Know What The Bible Means?

The question of whether we can know what the Bible means or not is not a new one. The question has come up often when controversy arises. But the answer is simple, yes, we can know what the Bible means. How? We must follow sound principles of Biblical Interpretation.

First, let’s look at how not to interpret Scripture. We don’t go through Scripture acting as if it were written today to today’s audience. We don’t go through Scripture looking for buzzwords and then take things out of context to twist meanings.

So how do we know what Scripture means?

Here are some basic steps.

  1. Observe the passage in our own language. Who is the passage written to? Where was it written? Etc.
  2. Observe the passage in the original language. Are there any nuances of Greek or Hebrew words that might not be conveyed in the English text?
  3. Study the historical and cultural contexts of the day. The purpose of this is that we want to know what a particular passage would mean to the original audience.
  4. Determine the plain meaning of the passage in its original context.

This is not difficult in many cases in Scripture. Yes, there are some passages that are more difficult than others but this is the exception and not the rule. It is not arrogant to say that we can understand the original meaning of the text, nor is it impossible. If it were impossible, what would the point be?

People who say that we cannot know the original meaning with 100% certainty usually say so because the plain meaning and interpretation of Scripture does not mesh with something they want to happen in their life or in society. In other words, they don’t want to see the light.

Another thing to note, and this is important, is that any given passage only has one correct interpretation. Let me say that again, there is only one correct interpretation of Scripture. There can be any number of applications for a passage, but only one correct meaning.

Let me close with an example.

On September 2nd, 1776, General George Washington wrote a letter to the Continental Congress. That letter was written in a different time and culture to a different recipient. Yet, we can interpret that letter with 100% clarity. The army was demoralized and, in Washington’s opinion, underpaid. He recommended the possibility of land being added as an incentive for enlistments.

There is no question to the meaning of this letter from Washington. In the same way, we can look at the books of the Bible, many of which are letters themselves, and interpret the text with 100% clarity.

Book Review: Can We Trust The Gospels?

Can We Trust The Gospels? by Peter J. Williams, is the latest work in a whole line of works that seek to explain the reasons we have for confidence in the Gospel accounts of Jesus Christ. This is a subject that has any number of works written both for and against the validity of the Gospel books in the New Testament.

Williams’ book is masterfully written with a fresh new look at the topic. He incorporates new evidence from archaeology from the last 50 years that demonstrates even further that we can, in fact, trust the Gospel accounts as both historically accurate and spiritually fulfilling.

Williams starts out by exploring the testimony of Non-Christian sources and their take on the Gospel accounts. He finds that they match with precision. If the Gospel writers were putting forth lies about these events, why would the secular sources reference and agree with these same events?

Williams also tackles the question, which books are true Gospels? What is to be included? He puts historical measures for this process in place as well as church acceptance throughout history.

A large emphasis is also put on the knowledge of the Gospel writers themselves. The writers knew their geography. They knew the culture. They knew specific events and names. There are things that are in the Gospels that could not be known if you were not intimately acquainted with the culture and locations in which the Gospel accounts take place.

Another area of focus is whether or not we have the actual words of Christ within the Gospels. A persuasive case is made that we do indeed have the actual words of Christ based on the strong culture of oral tradition that was present in the first century. He also addresses perceived contradictions in the text which are mostly due to people ignoring the fact that words can have multiple meanings.

The final chapter of the book is titled, “Who Would Make All This Up?” This, of course, is a key question. The stories contained in the Gospel were not safe stories to portray in the time immediately following Christ’s death and resurrection. The fact that these people were willing to put their lives on the line gives further authenticity to their message.

Overall, Can We Trust the Gospels? is a delightful, easy and quick read. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the area of apologetics and also anyone who would like to deepen their faith in the validity of the Scriptures.

I received this book free from the Publisher, Crossway, in exchange for an honest and fair review.

If Not Scripture…Then What?


People question the Inerrancy of Scripture and say that Scripture is not our final authority because much of it is not relevant today. We hear things like “Come on, it is 2019!” First, that is an absurd argument. The year may be 2019 but the Bible is still relevant. The Bible is still in force. Sin has not changed. Salvation has not changed.

But if we are not to look at the Scripture as our final authority, I must ask, what should we look at? What has more authority than Scripture for the Christian? Is it science which often changes and/or contradicts itself? Is it culture which changes as quickly as the wind? Is it reason that can explain and justify anything? Is it politics? What should we look to?

Do you see the absurdity of this? The only thing that we should be anchored in as Christians is the Word of God. After all, He made all that exists so I believe He is the most authoritative source on any given subject.

You would not go up to the maker of a machine and say, “What you use this for is not what this is meant for.” That would be absurd. But that is exactly what we do when we tell God that the Bible is no longer applicable today because it is outdated.

No, the Bible is God’s truth. The truth. We don’t get to make our own truth. The Bible Stands. I am reminded of the lyrics of that great song by the same name and I will leave you with them.

The Bible stands like a rock undaunted
’Mid the raging storms of time;
Its pages burn with the truth eternal,
And they glow with a light sublime.

Refrain:
The Bible stands though the hills may tumble,
It will firmly stand when the earth shall crumble;
I will plant my feet on its firm foundation,
For the Bible stands.

The Bible stands like a mountain tow’ring
Far above the works of men;
Its truth by none ever was refuted,
And destroy it they never can.

The Bible stands and it will forever,
When the world has passed away;
By inspiration it has been given,
All its precepts I will obey.

The Bible stands every test we give it,
For its Author is divine;
By grace alone I expect to live it,
And to prove and to make it mine.

Haldor Lillenas “The Bible Stands” 1917 Public Domain

Does Inerrancy Matter?

This is a question that comes up over and over again. The simple answer is, yes, inerrancy matters. But why? This post will not go into the intricate details of inerrancy. This is not the proper format for such an undertaking. The purpose here is to look at some logic regarding the truth of Scripture and the issue of inerrancy.

The Bible is to be the guiding light for Christians. The Bible gives us the truth on every facet of life that you can imagine. Now, it doesn’t give us guidance on whether or not we should wear a purple shirt or a green shirt today, that is not what we mean when we say every facet of life. But what we mean is that every situation you encounter has principles in Scripture that will help you work out a right attitude and response to that situation. And this is where inerrancy comes into play.

First, we need to define inerrancy as it relates to Scripture. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy defines inerrancy as follows:

Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching…

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy 1980

Scripture is without any error in everything that it teaches. That means it is without fault in its historical statements, theological statements, scientific statements, and any other statement the Bible makes. This, of course, refers to the original manuscripts and not any specific translation of Scripture.

So what? Why does this matter? Let’s think about it this way, if you can take any part of the Bible, let’s say Genesis, and says that it contains error, then you call the rest of Scripture into question. Scripture builds on itself. Yes, it is a collection of 66 different works but those works (books) give one unifying message and they stand on each other.

If you can call into question the account in Genesis, you can call into question the accounts of Jesus Christ. At that point, you call into question the exclusivity of Salvation for Christians and Christians alone. After that, you can throw out any part of the Bible that does not agree with modern thought.

It is a dangerous slope. You either take all of Scripture or you throw it all out. Inerrancy is one of the most fundamental beliefs that impact the Gospel today.

Bible Review: ESV Story of Redemption Bible

9781433554629

The ESV Story of Redemption Bible is a new Study Bible from Crossway and it is the first of it’s kind that I can remember.

The story of redemption is one that is woven throughout Scripture both in the Old and New Testaments. It is with that mindset that the Story of Redemption Bible seeks to portray the biblical text.

When I first received this Bible I did not think I was going to like it. It does not have study notes at the bottom like a tradition Study Bible. Rather, the notes are inline with the text. I thought this would be distracting but I find the notes unobtrusive when actually reading and they provide great insight into the text that you are reading and how it aligns with the story of redemption. With approximately 900 notes it is by no means an exhaustive Study Bible but you would not expect it to be when its main focus is only one topic. That being the case, this would not make sense to be a primary Study Bible for someone, it is specialized.

I received the hardcover version and it is a beautiful cloth over board edition. The dust jacket features beautiful gold inlays as does the cover itself and the presentation pages. The artwork throughout the Bible is stunning offering diagrams and other helpful graphics. In the back of the Bible there is a large fold-out timeline to give you the overall arching themes and events of Scripture. All is very well done.

For me, it is a Bible I will likely be using on a regular basis. I like the fact that, for the most part, I am alone with the Biblical text and there are just a few notes here and there to help me understand something more clearly with regard to redemption. Because of that, this Bible may very well become my go to reader.

I give this Bible four out of five stars.

I was given this Bible for free in exchange for a fair and honest review by the publisher.

 

Book Review: Why Trust The Bible?

The historicity and accuracy of the Bible, particularly the New Testament, are topics of major importance. Throughout history, people have called into question the validity of the Bible. Those questions increased drastically in the 20th and now the 21st centuries. People simply are skeptical of the Bible and Christians need to be ready for a defense of the Scriptures.
Greg Gilbert has provided in this book a masterful pairing of the classical arguments and proofs for the authority of the Bible and modern day illustrations to help us understand each concept. He asks, and answers, the important questions of what about the fact that we do not have originals, only copies of copies? Did these events really happen? Can we really trust the authors? All of these questions, and more, are answered in Why Trust the Bible?
 

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