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?

Good recommendations :)

I've got the works of Josephus sitting on my shelf--I've just never found the time to plow through it. Guess I ought to :).

As a thorough Gentile, I guess I have a hard time believing that Jesus thought of the Law as his means of salvation. As the verse I sign off with indicates to me, it seems as though Jesus (or at least the Apostle John thought that Jesus) sort of superceded scripture.

To me, this explains why the Jewish believers wouldn't force their full Jewishness onto the Gentile believers, as we see happening in Acts. If Jesus fulfilled the law in every way (historically, I don't know if there is really any way to be sure. It's more a matter of faith or opinion, isn't it?), then wouldn't we sort of be expected to do the same?

But instead, through Jesus, we are told that we are released from the law. Which is why it was so difficult for the early Church to reconcile these two different groups, the Jews and the Gentiles--one group tried desperately to have both the Law and Jesus, and the other group said, "Hmmmm, no. Jesus only, thank you." And, in the Church, the latter group has been in the majority for awhile now, because in the end, the opponents of the Gentiles said, "Fine. You take Jesus. We'll keep the Law."

Thats the history of the very early church in a nutshell--though I'm sure about a billion scholars out there would like to fine-tune my summary quite a bit.

I suppose that someone coming from a strong Jewish background would feel it was very important that Jesus be compliant with the law (I don't really know, this is conjecture). But as a Gentile, thinking of Jesus as bound to the Mosaic law seems kind of, well, restricting. But I don't honestly suppose that Jesus keeping the law (or not) is really a make-it-or-break-it proposition for the Church, since we sort of let the Law fall by the wayside (for awhile, anyway) in favor of the spirit of the law.

I think that's why in John Jesus, speaking to the Jews, calls it "your Law" and not "the Law." John is aiming at the Gentiles, and the Gentiles see the Law as something belong to the Jews, not to themselves. And John is portraying Jesus as someone the Gentiles can more identify with. Maybe that's why the picture of Jesus as an orthordox, law-bound rabbi sort of grates against me; he isn't always portrayed that way in the Gospels.

But to be fair, he calls it "the Law" a number of times in the historical, synoptic Gospels. I tend to turn to those more for a better picture of how Jesus might have thought of himself, rather than John, who had a different motive in writing than providing just an historical account. So I guess I'll just keep accepting Jesus, whether or not he kept all of the Mosaic law all the time and in every way.

Do you think he ever offered a sacrifice in the temple?

"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