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?

talmid's picture

Literal vs Symbolic

I started thinking about what you said concerning baptism. And I started thinking about what Elohim had to say. And now I wonder how far apart literal and symbolic actually are. From what I understand of scripture, what we call the "real" or physical world is really just a shadow of the spiritual world. That is where it all started. It is the spiritual that affects the physical rather than the other way around. We are not physical being that occasionally have a spiritual experience. The reality is that we are spiritual beings that are living through a physical experience.

So back to baptism. In Gen 35, it was used as a moral lesson, that they should put away their strange gods and wash themselves and their clothes. But it was not that the physical washing would cleanse them spiritually. But then I got to thinking about it. Elohim told Moses to command the children to sanctify themselves in Exodus 19. They were to abstain from physical relations, wash themselves and their clothes. But I get the feeling that they were to prepare their hearts too. They were to sanctify themselves to the Lord. And I wonder if this isn't more than an object lesson, but the physical manifestation of a spiritual act. That is when I started remembering all of the verses about faith. Those things heard, spoken and done in faith. And what was the promise? That those things spoken (and done) in faith would be granted to us. So I wonder, how far apart are symbolism and literalism really? Maybe less than we allow.

As far as mini-popes go, I don't wish to argue with Michael. But I am commanded by the Master not to call anyone Father, Teacher, etc. And like I've said before. It will not be your Pope, Priest, Pastor, Preacher, Parent, Principal or Pal that stands before the Throne of Judgment for you. So my bet is on Him, His Holy Spirit and His Word. He is able to make His servant stand. And the more I study scripture in context, the closer I get to understanding His commandments. If we love Him, we will keep His commandments right? Well we have to know what His commandments really mean if we are to keep them. That's my take on all of this anyway.