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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?

fr_wayne_mcnamara's picture


Hello again, from the Newbie,

All language is symbol. The Scriptures are written language so God provides us with a revelation full of symbol. Our task is to learn the language of symbol we find in Scripture. It is not a code to break but a language to learn.

All of creation is symbol. Everything created somehow represents (symbolizes) the Creator. Every piece and aspect tells me something about Him. Man is, of course, the central icon/symbol of God, being made in His image and after His likeness.

You need to learn the alphabet (phonics) - individual symbols and meanings. We do not look outside Scripture for their meanings, but we let God tell us how they mean as the story unfolds (beginning to end - the order of what comes first and what comes later matters a great deal).

You need to learn the words (putting sounds together) - how symbols appear in different places in Scripture.

You need to learn the grammar (syntax). The order and context will shape the meaning. This is words put together in packages.

For example:

Phonics - Altar table lamp
Syntax - Altar, table and lamp are a “phrase” meaning “holy place”
Grammar - These are parts of larger sentences about holy places e.g. Eden, oasis, tabernacle, temple, New Jerusalem. Altar, table, and lamp are different in each of these holy places.

Words and images gather meaning, richness, and variations as we progress from the beginning of the Bible to the end. They grow like any collection of things.

No symbol is isolated but part of a package for example:

Clouds, thunder, fire, glory, near-bringings (offerings by fire), devoting things to God, trials, judgment, purifying, sanctification.

Sun, moon, stars. Night, day, times and seasons. The stars and heavens in Scripture are especially connected to rulers, kings, nations, and time, especially liturgical time.

Dust/Rocks, stones, rocks, gold, silver, onyx, and gemstones, fortresses, judgment (stoning), security, rainbow, Christ, new Jerusalem.

Trees, Life and the Knowledge of God and evil, fruit (good and bad), fruit-bearing, tall and reaching to the heavens, branches, people, nations, healing leaves, river of life, resting place, shade, Kingdom of God, cross, hanging and judgment.

Shoot. I wax on, and on, and on,....yawn.

My sincere apologies.

Hope this helps.

In Christ,


The course of true love never did run smooth.

The course of true love never did run smooth.