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?

Never changes:

I think I can see my way to the conclusion of that statement "His Word never changes." But Paul calls the law dead, and calls living in the spirit of the law life. (Not verbatim, I know). It seems to me there that we have pretty solid example of not His Word but the application of His Word changing--once His Word demanded one thing, but now suggests another.

I think I have to disagree with only one statement you made, though I think it could be a pretty big point of contention between us. You wrote "Never did Jesus break the law or teach against it." I realize I'm pretty far removed from how a first centurty othodox Jew would interpret the Mosaic law, but it seems to me that Jesus did indeed at least TEACH contrary to some of the Mosaic law. It seems (and maybe I just don't understand this Mosaic injunction) that the law forbids certain things that Jesus allowed:

Deuteronomy 14.7-8 Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you. And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase.

Matthew 15.10-11 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Didn't Jesus sort of dismiss what the law taught about food? And it seems that his opponents recognized this dismissal, because they are so offended that Jesus immediately leaves for the distant coasts of Tyre and Sidon, where he holes up in a house and "would have no man no it."

And it also appears as though Jesus forbade certain things which the Mosaic law allowed--remarriage, for instance:

Deuteronomy 24.1-2 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.

Matthew 5.31-32 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

So figuring out which parts of God's word are "for the hardness of our hearts" and which are not... well, it seems to be a little subjective, a little culturally-relative. Kind of hard to apply any hard and fast rule.

"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." John 5.39-40