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

No accusers

JStaller said -
I could buy that, Jesus doing that detailing of the law down there in the dirt.

I don't think He was detailing the law when He was writing in the sand, I was always taught that the Church held that He was listing the sins of those who were her accusers.

JStaller said -
But the thing is, it wasn't the false setup or inconsistent legal procedures that turned off the accusers. It was the words of Jesus. "They which heard it" does not indicate (it seems) a reading of words in the sand. It seems that they are responding to Jesus statement, "He who is without sin."

But then if He was writing their sins in the sand these two things would be the same.

JStaller said -
It looks like the legal requirements for stoning were indeed met, because their were not just one or two satisfactory witnesses, but an entire multitude.

Who all left. We know this because Jesus says:

John 8:10-11 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

All the accusers left.

JStaller said -
But you could argue that Jesus, with his doodling in the dirt, was establishing their personal lack of credibility. But isn't that conjecture?

It could be conjecture or it could be the knowledge of the actual history. Knowledge of these types of things are some of the most precious benefits that Protestants lost when during the Reformation their reaction was to reject all things associated with the Catholic Church.

JStaller said -
To switch gears for a minute, I should acknowledge that I think of Jesus as an observant Jew, but probably not one we would call an orthodox Jew by any means. This opinion is malleable, not one I'm dead set on as of yet, and I think that if anyone could argue for the orthodox perspective, it would probably be someone like you, Talmid. For example, in my readings, I've never heard that explanation, that Jesus was establishing any kind of unfitness in the witnesses. It sounds like a pretty credible explanation.

Jesus had to be sinless to act as perfect sacrifice, most commentators throughout time have taken this to mean He fulfilled all the law tot he letter, otherwise if He only fulfilled it as we do, through love, why could not one of us have served as sacrifice (once we were taught how to fulfill the law). No Jesus had to fulfill the law in a way that no one else could ever do. He had to be able to fulfill even the letter of the law which is death to us.

JStaller said -
Where could I look to find out more regarding the rabbinical traditions, especially during that first century A.D.?

That is tough, because it was a period where the Pharisees had gotten corrupt and had added to the law through their commentary and so did not match the proper teaching of the scriptures and was a period quickly lost to the Jews who lost the Temple and changed over to Rabbinical Judaism early in the 2nd Century. Any source you find today might claim to know and to properly represent the teaching of the Pharisees but they could very easily be biased.