The Nature of Scripture and Revelation

How should scripture be interpreted? Is it all infallible and absolutely true? Is it all literal, or is it all metaphorical? Or is it somewhere in between?

My personal feeling is that scripture is a little bit of all that, but I'm trying to iron it all out, so any input you have is very very welcome.

There's a radio station in the Bay Area (where I live) that has an adverstisement for their home Bible study course, and they say bluntly that scripture should interpret scripture.

I can hang with that. But then they go on to say that, accordingly, we don't need to consider the initial intentions, meanings, cultures, or circumstances surrounding the Bible. Something there sounds a little fishy to me. I don't see the Bible making that claim for itself--though in II Timothy, Paul says that all scripture is indeed profitable for many things. Why, if the Bible is infallible, would we need to make the ADDITIONAL claim ON BEHALF of the Bible that it is indeed infallible--would an infallible book not make that claim for itself?

So how should we, as followers of Jesus, approach scripture? Sometimes, I think I see Jesus revering the scriptures he had, the Law of Moses--like during his wilderness temptations. Other times, though, it seems like he dismisses the Mosaic Law--particularly those scriptures regarding the Sabbath, the purity scriptures, and the scripture on divorce. Lots of people I know like to say that because Jesus was God he could do whatever he wanted in regard to the Word--but if God never changes, why did He change his eternal Word?

And, if we must then conclude that the law is just a temporary expression of an eternal Word, and then apply it to the New Testament canon, we have something of a loose standard for interpreting scripture. So, uh, that's where I'm at--how SHOULD we approach interpreting the Bible?

michael_legna's picture

Scripture is and claims to be inerrant

JStaller said -
I'm actually pleasantly surprised that you, specifically, replied. Got a question for you:

The first words of your post are "Scripture is inerrant."

Can you explain this passage to me?

Matthew 27.9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;

I need your help explaining this verse because Jeremiah the prophet never said that. Zechariah did, though. Matthew references the wrong prophet. Can you tell me where the mistake was made? Was it a translator? A monk somewhere? Was it the original text itself that was infallible, and today's texts are corrupt?

Or, rather, do you contend that there is no error here--that Matthew was quoting perhaps a lost work of Jeremiah's? Maybe Jeremy the prophet is a different prophet than Jeremiah? Or maybe he IS Jeremiah and because he is the chiefest prophet, he represents ALL the prophets?

I contend there is no error there.

Zechariahs does indeed refer to the importance of those who went before him:

Zec 7:7 Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?

Matthew may be quoting an unknown writing of Jeremiah or he may be quoting Zechariahs who was quoting or paraphrasing Jeremiah as in the following verse which both contain an allusion to the idea:

Jer 32:6-9 6 And Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 7 Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it. 8 So Hanameel mine uncle's son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD. 9 And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle's son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.

Jer 18:1-8 1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. 3 Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. 7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; 8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

JStaller said -
Those are just a few of the arguments that have been made over the centuries. But the fact that those arguments exist show that scripture isn't inerrant or infallible--if scripture were, there would be no misquoting, there would be no need for fallible humans to "fix" God's Word by explaining what it actually means beyond what it actually says.

No it does not mean that scripture is not inerrant, it means that man does not clearly understand all of scripture. Inerrant does not mean easy to understand or even that it was written so that it is accessible to the most casual and uninterested observer. So don't be too quick to transfer our failings to the feet of the word of God.

JStaller said -
But Jesus never said scripture was infallible; neither does scripture ever say it is infallible.

No but the Holy Spirit did say it through Paul:

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

Inspired by God, or God breathed if you will, means that it is as inerrant as God is.

JStaller said -
Jesus never said, in fact, that God's Word was without error--time and time again he walked all over the existing laws of his day, even those laws which were concretely laws.

No Jesus fulfilled all the law through love. He showed that the letter of the law was unimportant, that it was the spirit/intent of the law which could be fulfilled by love that was important.

JStaller said -
You can argue about His authority over scripture because He IS scripture if you want, but John the Baptist did the same thing. So did David--who Jesus pointed to as justification for his actions (Did you never read about the shewbread?) Jesus never said he was in charge of scripture--he said he was the fulfiller, the finisher of scripture. He authority came not from scripture. His authority came from God.

Where does a Christians authority come from, then? Scripture? or God?

Our adherence to the law is weighed against our Christian liberty (2 Cor 3:17, Gal 5:1 and Gal 5:13). We are no longer under the letter of the law, but we are free to act out of love, because we know that is the intent of God, and God wants us to come to a knowledge of Him more than even all the burnt sacrifices the law requires (Hos 6:6, Mt 9:13 and Mt 12:7).

Our authority comes from the Church, the ground and pillar of truth (1 Tim 3:15), which gets it's authority from Jesus when it was given the power to bind on loose on earth as it is in heaven (Mt 16:19 and Mt 18:18), and to whom we should submit (Heb 13:17).