Fresh Manna continued…
Each promise is powerful only in its proper time and place; each promise is conditioned by its own environment, the people to whom it was first spoken; etc.
Each scripture must be compared with other scriptures. No text can be properly used in isolation from the testimony of the whole Bible. For example, in the wilderness temptation, notice how the devil quoted a scripture, which Jesus then countered with another scripture; thus showing that texts cannot be read in isolation, but only within the context of the entire Bible. Specifically, two principles must be remembered :
(1) The whole Bible is unified around Christ.
“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:27)
“And I fell at his feet to worship him, and he said unto me, do it not: I am thy fellow servant and of thy brethren that have testified of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19:10)
(2) The principle of progressive revelation must be recognized; many early ideas are supplanted or changed by later teaching: there is ethical and spiritual progression as biblical revelation unfolds.
-i.e. The admission of the gentiles to the covenant.
It is a sound principle of hermeneutics, therefore, that the gospel must interpret the Law; and the letters (epistles) must interpret the gospel; and so on. Two essential tools for relating together various passages are a word concordance and a topical concordance. These tools will be discussed further in the chapter on study tools.
There are three levels of meaning in any Biblical passage:
(1) the meaning intended by the original author
(2) the meaning his words gain from the larger context of scripture
(3) the meaning intended for the reader (you) by the Holy Spirit at the time you are reading.
The passage has not been properly understood until all three of these levels have been mastered.
A good place to begin a clearer understanding of scriptural meaning is by doing word studies using a good English dictionary, plus Hebrew and Greek word books. It is important, however, to remember that words have different meanings in different contexts: such as prose, poetry, colloquial speech, parable, proverbs, similes, songs, stories, etc.
Metaphors especially must be treated with care: i.e. such English expressions as you are a pig; he put his foot in it; walking on air; don’t lose your head over it; a bee in his bonnet; bats in the belfry; the other side of the black stump(an Australian metaphor); we’re already breaking our necks to finish it; and many more are examples of metaphors that do not mean what they say.
There are a number of ways that words can be studied. They can be studied:
1. Etymologically, that is, in their root meaning. Care must be taken here however, as a brief check through an English dictionary will show how a word may cease to have any connection with its root: note that:
– fool comes from the Latin follis = a bellows; hence a wind-bag
– lady comes form the Latin root meaning a sacrificial cake
– dollar comes from the German thaler, a coin worth about 3 marks
– focus comes from the Latin root meaning joyful
– amazed comes from the Norwegian word meaning bewildered
– gaudy comes form the Latin root meaning joyful
Thus, one must be very careful what meaning is given to a specific word, to insure that a proper translation is given.
Words may be used with a certain amount of flexibility such as the uses of “law” and “flesh” in the New Testament.
Many words have special meaning theologically. Examples are Agape and Hades.
That is, what did the passage mean to the original author and reader; what is its historical and cultural setting. For example, one might consider for a moment “The Song of Solomon”. Many will attempt to interpret this disturbing (for staunch literalists and fundamentalists) in a purely spiritual way, without recognizing its cultural context. Actually this is the only valid starting point for all interpretation, and must remain the checkpoint for all other levels of interpretation.
Please leave your questions and comments in the comment section.
Until next time …
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