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?

JonathanD's picture


I think your signature sums it up pretty well. Although I like the following rendering:

"You search the scriptures, imagining you possess eternal life in their pages - and they do testify to me - but you refuse to come to me for life."

The Life interprets the Light, or the Spirit interprets the scripture. If you put yourself at the center of the scriptures, then you will have, by analogy, a geocentric bible. Internally consistent, yes, but so very complicated and monstrous. These are those who interpret scripture by scripture. But if you put Christ at the center of the scripture, the living and actual Christ Who lives in you, then you will have, again by analogy, a heliocentric bible. Also internally consistent, and so much simpler, so pure, and entirely out of your objective control. Whereas the former is an objective independence (fallen Adam, splintered, divisive), the latter is a subjective dependence (the one New Man, singular, whole).