There are several scriptural passages which gives proof that so many false prophets will rise to deceive the people, and what else would they use except the bible, and for that reason you must know how to interpret the bible.
In this sermon therefore, I am going to reveal to you the best way to interpret the bible.
The best carnal method to interpret the Bible.
Human beings have devised what I’d like to call ‘carnal methods’ of trying to interpret and clarify scriptural texts.
And among all those methods; I always like to recommend the method of reading the biblical books in their entirety and or whole context.
But before we throw more light on how to interpret the bible; let us take a survey of certain facts about the bible that are true.
Facts about the bible.
- The bible is the compilation of books from various authors and writers. That is why some love to refer to it as the book of books.
- These books of the bible were compiled or composed by their various authors and writers; either historically, as in the case of the Pentateuch; originally written by Moses. Songs, as in the case of Psalms, sung by David and co. Epistles and letters, as in the case of the fourteen in the New Testament; written by Paul to the various churches and people. Example is Romans and Titus.
- The original manuscripts of the bible had no chapters ad verses. Studies reveal that it was in the early 13th – 16th century that the bible was, according to human wisdom, divided into their chapters and verses. This was supposedly done in order to ease the reader in making easy references; to any event he is looking for in any particular book of the bible.
Therefore, with the knowledge of the above facts; we can understand that when these authors and writers were making their compilations and compositions; they wrote everything down in their respective order of events.
And if their readers want to understand the points they were driving at; they must read through those events in full.
The main method used to interpret the bible: Reading the bible in it’s whole context.
Te only method that I recommend for people to interpret and understand the bible; as I mentioned earlier, is the reading of its various books in its entirety and or whole context.
That is to say, if you pick out any chapter or verse from the book of Romans; make sure you read through the whole 16 chapters or the whole verses of the main chapter you picked out.
In so doing you will understand the mind of the writer; and how he arrived at whatever point you want to study.
For instance, when one misquotes Romans 3:10 to tell you that no one on earth is righteous.
And you already know that the bible says in 1 John 3: 7; that we should not allow people to deceive us because anyone who practices righteousness is righteous just as Jesus is righteous.
All you need to do is to go back and read through the whole of Romans chapter 1 to 16.
Or the whole of the main Romans chapter 3; and when you get to verses 9 and read through to 20, where the context of the point we see above is found.
You will discover that the writer was making reference to those who do not worship God but practice evil.
Limitations to using this method to interpret the bible.
You will find the limitations to reading the bible in its entirety and or whole context in the following facts:
1. Passages continue or are concluded in another passage.
First and foremost, the bible has countless passages that stop halfway to continue in another or other passages. And so many a times these passages bridges the gap of books or authors.
For instance Romans 10:17 written by Paul states that “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God”. And it goes on to conclude in James 1:22 written by James, the Lord’s brother. “but be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”.
Thus, if the reader of the scripture does not discover the latter passage and link it up with the first; he will never understand that if he only stops at hearing the word but fails to put it into practice; he is just deceiving himself.
When I saw this portion in the book of Jeremiah, where Jeremiah asked God why the wicked and dishonest people; who pretends to be God followers seem to prosper.
(Righteous are you, O LORD, when I plead with you; yet let me talk with you about your judgments.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?
You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; they grow, yes, they bear fruit.
You are near in their mouth but far from their mind).
I was so eager to know the answer that God gave to Jeremiah.
So I got down to read Jeremiah in its entirety; but was disappointed when I found nowhere that God provided Jeremiah with the answer to the above question.
But few days later the Spirit led me to Micah 6:10-16; where I discovered that that those people who prospered and pretended like God followers are nothing but the wicked who cheat; use violence and lies, to get their wealth.
So we can see how God failed to provide the prophet Jeremiah an answer to his question; but rather did so to another prophet Micah.
2. The use of parables.
Secondly, the scriptures contain parables which the dictionary defines as: “a short narrative illustrating a lesson (usually religious/moral) by comparison or analogy”.
While Jesus Himself shows us that the reason He applies parables to His teachings is so that; those who seek to study the scriptures without accepting to become His disciples; might not be able to understand it as Jesus revealed in Luke 8:9-10.
In Mathew’s account, (Mathew 13:13-15), Jesus reveals to us that the prophecy about speaking in parables was long spoken of by God; through the mouth of His prophet, Isaiah.
Please note that the reason these people; (referring to both the traditional Jews who rejected Christ and the modern day unbelievers, who do not accept Him, could not see was and is because they refused to repent of their sins and become Christ followers or disciples.
(Jesus parabolically refers to this as “lest they should understand with their heart and turn”). In order to receive their salvation (which Jesus again parabolically refers to as “so that I should heal them.”).
Thus, parables require allegorical approaches to its interpretation, which of course is impossible to do carnally.
A perfect example is in Mathew 13:1-9, where Jesus relates the parable of the sower. And in verses 18-23 He allegorically interpreted it.
For us to know that Jesus Himself has also given the power to His followers to interpret parables.
Let us in our second example examine the parable of the Good Samaritan told by Jesus Himself as found in Luke 10:30-35:
Let us move on to examine an allegorical interpretation of this parable as given by Augustine of Hippo.
Allegorical interpretation of the parable of the sower by St Augustine.
Augustine said the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho refers to Adam.
Jerusalem is the heavenly city of peace from whose blessedness Adam fell.
Jericho means the moon and stands for human mortality, for the moon is born, waxes, wanes, and dies.
The thieves who attacked Adam are the devil and his angels. They stripped him of his immortality and beat him by persuading him to sin. They left him half dead.
The priest and Levite who passed the man are the priesthood and ministry of the Old Testament; which cannot bring salvation.
The term Samaritan is taken to mean Guardian; thus it refers to Jesus Himself. The binding of the wound is the restraint of sin. Oil is the comfort of good hope, and wine is the exhortation to work with fervent spirit. The beast on which the man was placed signifies the flesh in which Christ appeared among men. Being set on the beast means belief in the incarnation of Christ.
The inn to which the man is taken is the church; where persons are refreshed on their pilgrimage of return to the heavenly city.
The two pieces of money that the Samaritan gave to the innkeeper are the promise of this life and the life to come; or else the two main sacraments.
The innkeeper is the apostle Paul.
3. The use of symbolism.
Thirdly, the actions or stories surrounding Jesus in the bible were always symbolical, and therefore requires one to interpret them.
For instance, when you read the story of Zacchaeus as found in Luke 19:1-8, you will agree the interpretation below with me.
Allegorical interpretation of the story of Zacchaeus.
Jericho here means the earth, the abode of mankind while Zacchaeus is the mankind.
The crowd signifies the abundance in life i.e. riches and pleasures; and other worldly activities which goes against the will of God.
Zacchaeus short stature signifies the love for these earthly things or generally a sinful lifestyle; which obstructs the human being from being able to see Christ.
And not being able to see Christ means the restraint to salvation.
The sycamore tree signifies the wooden cross that Christ died to redeem mankind, and in running to climb it Zacchaeus showed the zest or the yearning for salvation.
Christ going to pass that way signifies the gospel message which is being preached everywhere to bring mankind to salvation.
Zacchaeus willingness to see Jesus means to believe the gospel message; and because of that willingness Jesus saw him and called on him to come down because He was going to stay in his house that day.
The interpretation of Jesus going to stay in Zachaeus house can be found in this bible passage: (Jesus answered and said to Him, “if anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him. John 14:23).
The people who murmured signify the self-righteous Christians who will down look and gossip about a well-known sinner whom they have seen converted.
Zacchaeus decision to give back what he got dishonestly signifies the born again Christian’s decision to give up his sinful lifestyle because he knows that (“for if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17).
That was why Jesus concluded in verses 9 and 10 of that story:
(And Jesus said to him, “today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.)
The cursing of the fig tree.
Another example to this illustration is the story about the cursing of the fig tree; which is found in Mark 11:12-14.
It is sad that so many people have alluded this storty to the humanity of Jesus evidenced in the hunger that moved Him to place a curse on a tree whose season of bearing fruit had not even come.
Let us outline that passage first before we go on to uncover its analogy.
Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.(Mark 11:12-14)
Interpretation of the cursing of the fig tree.
Jesus hunger symbolizes His desire for mankind’s salvation which will move him to do good works.
The fig tree is the mankind and its leaves the tendency of mankind to do those good works.
The fruits or figs is the results of those good works that mankind must do. The season here means the set time for man to do good works.
Now the message Jesus was trying to pass across to us here is that; mankind must not be like the fig tree that waits for a particular season before it bears fruit.
That is to say, he must not have a set time or place or people he does good to. For when He (Jesus) comes and finds any mankind not doing good works He would curse him to wither just like He did to the fig tree.
Jesus parable of the fig tree summarizes this point better for us.
He also spoke this parable: “a certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. “Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?” “but he answered and said o him, ‘sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. ‘and if it bears fruit, well, but if not, ‘after that, you can cut it down”.
4. Synoptic gospels.
Fourthly, if you study the first three gospels in the New Testament i.e. Mathew, Mark and Luke, you will discover that they tend to tell the same stories but with differences and similarities.
However this differences and similarities, as the Spirit reveals; are there because God wanted it to be so. So that people will not depend on one of the gospels and neglect the others.
And secondly, He uses it to test people who truly study the scriptures in the Spirit.
But in religious scholarship, we call this differences and similarities‘synoptic problems.’
And many hypotheses have been propounded in their trying to solve them.
And one of the scholar’s discoveries is that the writers of these gospels; even though they were at times borrowing their stories from the same sources.
(For instance the Q-Source – which refers to the common source used by Mathew and Luke but now lost.
They had to substitute or add certain things to suit the customs of the people they were writing to.
Therefore, for one to understand and interpret these three gospels in the bible, one must ensure that he compares any particular story he picks from one of them with the remaining two; to see how things were either substituted or added.
Comparing Mathew 11:12 and Luke 16:16.
For instance, we see in Mathew 11:12: (“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.)
If you literally apply the word violence and force to the above passage; you will see the means of taking God’s kingdom as an action intended to cause destruction, pain or suffering, or a widespread violence.
And also figuratively imagine God’s kingdom to be full of injustice and wrong.
But when you study Luke 16:16 to examine Luke’s account of the same story: (“The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.)
You will come to the understanding that this violent or force is not literal; but rather the urge for one to rise up and free willingly believe the gospel.
Since no one will be forced to either obey the teachings of Christ; or be punished for disobeying them, as was done in the days of the law and the prophets.
Comparing Mathew 6: 19-20 and Luke 12:33.
In our second example, some preacher might want to make merchandise of you by misinterpreting this passage from Mathew’s account; to tell you that the heaven you are told to lay up your treasures is the church.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.(Mathew 6:19-20)
But if you have the knowledge of Luke’s account; you will get to understand that the means of laying up your treasures in heaven is by giving to the poor and needy:
“Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.(Luke 12:33)
5. Hidden messages in literal contents.
The fifth point is that the hidden messages in the scriptures are buried in their literal contents which is often represented by objects and symbols.
And with this point you will understand that if God wants any inspired writer to set an example with any object or symbol; it will of course lead him to do so with what is in his own culture or any other culture he has a foreknowledge of.
What He expects the readers to do when they come in contact with such texts is to substitute the object or symbol used; with what corresponds to that of their own culture or the culture they know in order to accurately understand the text.
But this particular point poses a lot of problem to biblical scholarship; because they maintain that biblical stories or historical facts in the bible are true but not exact.
For example, they claim that Adam, which is the Hebrew word for man; generally refers to mankind and not a literal first human created by God as we see in the book of Genesis.
Thus biblical scholars are teaching themselves to ignore the literal side of biblical stories.
But rather look for the moral lessons we can derive from them.
For instance, in the book of Genesis, they teach us to believe that the world and human beings were created by God. But the events did not happen exactly as recorded.
Let me hereby pause to give you a more perfect example of what I’m trying to say; by outlining what scholars propose about the flood story found in Genesis.
The flood story (In Genesis and Babylonian history)
“The tradition of a great, world destroying flood has been handed down in at least 10 separate Babylonian sources.
The most complete and best known of this is in the Gilgamesh Epic; which is basically the same as that of Genesis, having these points of close contact:
- A divine decision to send a flood.
- A revelation of a coming flood is divinely made.
- One man and his family are the survivors of the flood. (Noah/Utnapishtion)
- A ship of refuge is constructed according to divine specifications (450x75x45) ft.
- Animals as well as men are taken aboard.
- The end of the flood was determined by the flight of birds.
- The ship of refuge comes to rest on the mountain. (MT Ararat/MT Nisir)
- A pleasing sacrifice concludes the story.
At the same time there are so many variations in details that no one today would argue for a direct dependency of Genesis on any of the Babylonian flood story.
Rather, it would seem that both the Genesis flood and the Babylonian flood stories; go back to some common Mesopotamian tradition.
Therefore, there was an ancient cataclysm that gave rise to these stories. What the dimensions of that cataclysm were and when it actually occurred is not easy to say.”
Were biblical writers inspired by God?
So therefore, we can deduce from the story above that what scholars are trying to pass across to us is that biblical writers were not inspired by God as the scripture tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
But rather they borrowed stories from or amended stories which already existed in other religion and or cultures.
But even if this story already existed in those places, can’t we be more wiser to understand that God might have also choose to reveal these things to those people before He did so to our biblical writers.
Because no one can swear to the loss of his life that it is only our biblical writers that God chose to inspire. That there weren’t other people from other religion and culture that had a good standing with God to the point of also being inspired by Him to uncover certain stories and sources about His creation and creatures?
It is rather unfortunate that our religious scholars go on to claim that though our biblical writers were inspired by God, they also had to look into other cultures as well and formulated ideas to make the biblical stories interesting.
For instance they say the author of Genesis used the serpent to vent his contempt in the misleading of our first parents to disobey God because; ‘serpent worship’ was common among the Canaanites and other Gentile peoples and as such was seen as a taboo among the Hebrews.
But if the culture of the Genesis author saw the serpent as an evil creature; can’t we respectively use any creature seen as evil in our own culture and substitute for the serpent in order to understand that story better.
Variations in biblical stories.
However, scholars are not wrong about the fact that most of the biblical stories are not exact since as we already know God has given us the power of imagination which we can use to foresee the reality ahead.
For instance, when the scripture tells us that the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness (Mathew 4:8).
A wise person will understand that the devil was causing all this to happen in Jesus imagination; same as he always make our so called ambitious young men and women to imagine living in skyscrapers and driving around in flashy cars, which will then push them into all manner of sin; rob, lie and cheat, deal and kill, in order to make those things they imagine come to reality.
Secondly, Jesus Himself used parables just as the ancient prophets also did. Example, it was a parable that Nathan used to make David realize his sin of killing Uriah to take his wife. (2 Samuel 12:1-14).
But isn’t it possible that God is able to make the stories told in parables become a reality in his own world?
Is God not capable of destroying the world with flood, fire or whatever catastrophe he chooses?
Haven’t we already seen cataclysms – earthquakes, volcanic eruptions etc.
Which goes to prove that God is able to do anything in His world?
Are we as Christians not waiting in hope for the final destruction of this present earth?
Which the scripture shows us will melt with fervent heat in order to usher in a whole new earth ( perfect and free from all agents of cataclysms, even our ancient old enemy “death”) which will come down from God?
If we are truly Christians who have the right answers to all the questions above; why then should we disbelieve or rather hold any other conviction about whatever the scripture tells us that it happened?
Therefore, what scholars should tell us is that, all biblical stories are true; but then we should not depend only on the literal messages but rather look for the spiritual and moral messages behind those stories.
For as food cannot reach the stomach if it doesn’t see the mouth of the human being; one cannot understand the spiritual message if he doesn’t understand the literal message of the scriptures.
And this takes us to the next part where we shall deal more with religious scholarship.
SCHOLARSHIP AND BIBLE INTERPRETATION.
1. The early days and medieval period.
Since the early days of both Judaism and Christianity, the urge to understand and interpret the bible, explain their contents, confirm its meaning and apply its teaching have been found among the followers of both religion.
And throughout history the methods to interpret the bible has varied extensively.
During the early and medieval period, the Christian scholars who interpreted the bible believed they were discerning God’s will as given and embodied in the texts, since they held on to the believe that as the scriptures were divinely given they also need divine revelation for interpretation.
One of them Augustine (354-430 CE) talked about the figurative meaning of biblical texts referring to it as the practice of finding a hidden or secondary meaning behind statements in scriptures.
That was why he took an allegorical approach of interpretation to the parable of the Good Samaritan as I outlined in the first part of this sermon.
What is allegorization?
Allegorization comes from a Greek word allegoria, which means the use of images or figures in describing matters entirely different from what the image or figure represents.
But it is sad that the modern scholars reject this method of bible interpretation on the grounds that, we can only use allegory by the specific writer of the text who knows his choice of words and images or figures chosen to represent whatever he was trying to explain.
On the other hand, allegory is not to be used by a reader or hearer, who has no contact with the writer in order to know what meaning he was trying to give to its text through the use of images or figures.
This can be true for ordinary texts and not scriptural texts which must always have a hidden meaning that can be interpreted allegorically or otherwise, by a reader, whom the Creator choses to inspire, since He was the one that originally inspired the writer.
We must also never forget that at times, the original writer himself might not even know the hidden message behind whatever God reveals to him, but God who inspired him might chose to inspire a reader of that text to uncover the truth in his writing.
For instance, when God told Moses in Numbers 21:9 to put on a pole an image of a serpent made of bronze so that anyone who looks up to it will be saved from the poisonous bite of the living serpent sent to destroy those who disobeyed.
Moses never knew that the bronze serpent was the figure of Jesus Christ; who will later be crucified on the cross to redeem mankind.
But Christ who knew was the one who came and allegorically explained what Moses did and wrote down but did not understand.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.(John 3:14-15)
Another Christian scholar Origen (ca. 185-254 CE) argued that all biblical text could have more than one meaning.
He wrote “just as man consists of both body, soul and spirit in the same way so does the scriptures”.
And even though everybody in the early church did not favor this idea i.e. of allegorical interpretation, in which readers look for multiple meanings in biblical texts, the standard practice throughout most of the Middle Ages was to look for four meanings in the text:
- The literal (straightforward or historical) meaning
- The allegorical (spiritualized or symbolic) meaning
- The tropological (moral or ethical) meaning and
- The anagogical (eschatological or heavenly) meaning.
We see this in a short Medieval Latin poem
The letter shows us what God and our fathers did;
The allegory shows us where our faith is hid;
The moral meaning gives us rules of daily life;
The anagogy shows us where we end our strife.
To me, this theory was the perfect way the scriptures would have been interpreted by nearly all who dared.
But since God does not want human beings to use their knowledge and wisdom to understand His acts.
Let’s move on to see what happened during the time of reformation and how it has worsened on we of this generation upon whom the end of the ages has come.
2. Late renaissance and reformation period.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the desire for multiple interpretations in a biblical text gradually diminished.
People like the first and great reformer the Late Martin Luther (1483-1546) declared:
‘The Holy Spirit is the plainest writer and speaker in heaven and earth, and therefore His words cannot have more than one, and that the very simplest, sense, which we call the literal, ordinary, natural, sense.”
Thus, the reformers placed their emphasis on the literal contents of the text which they called ad fontes i.e. “to the sources”.
3. Modern day period.
Today biblical interpretation is characterize by one general aim: to study and understand the biblical documents as one would any other set of documents from antiquity.
We give much attention to the biblical writers and their compositions.
Place so much emphasis on the relationship between content and context.
And examine the messages of biblical writings in light of ancient contexts which they were produced.
Because of this new emphasis, the bible is studied from many new perspectives and subjected to majority of methodological approaches.
We use the bible to reconstruct the history and religion of the Israelites, and the early church and also for comparison with literatures of other early cultures.
Non-Christian interpreters are drawn to the Bible because of its aesthetic and artistic values.
Today many young promising Christian boys and girls are gaining admissions into bible colleges and other institutions of higher learning.
Where they undergo the study of the Bible for its religious values and theological insights; which they learn in contexts that are strictly academic and threaten their very faith.
That is why after graduation, most of them come out thinking they know when in essence they do not.
The saddest part of the story is that; another Christian ministry built on such foundations of this modern period is about to invade our society.
THE BIBLE AND EXEGESIS
In religious scholarship, hermeneutics and exegesis is the art and science of trying to interpret the bible and clarify it’s texts.
But even though biblical exegetes tries to avoid this definition by claiming that their goal is to reach an informed understanding of scriptural texts.
Yet they adopt the same method of hermeneutics and exegesis.
In the bible and exegesis, one of the factors influencing its study maintains that the bible was originally addressed to ancient readers.
And that none of us was involved in the original communication events as either senders or receivers.
They uses Paul’s letter to set an example that; since they were written to early Christian communities and individuals. And when we are reading them we must have it at the back of our minds that we are reading other people’s mail.
And because of this factor they go on to conclude that; when we try to interpret the ancient bible writings, we must know that we are doing so from the third party perspective.
That is to say, someone who is over-hearing and trying to understand an earlier conversation.
But how I wish those who are influenced by this factor have the understanding that the attributes and forms of one culture are always and often manifested in diverse cultures.
And in that light it is wrong for one to rely on the literal texts of the scripture but rather to always make substitutions and fit in the words and ideas as they correspond with that of his own present culture.
Knowing that whatever was written in the bible, as the scripture shows, was intended to set an example for the generation of God’s people yet unborn:
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition upon whom the end of the ages have come.(1 Corinthians 10:11).
My arguments against bible and exegesis.
The faith of the centurion.
Now after seeing the faith of the centurion Jesus was very amazed and said in Mathew 8:11-12 that he has not seen such faith in te land of Israel.
He said this because he knew that the ancient centurion was a Gentile yet he believed in Jesus.
The reader of this passage who will try to apply hermeneutics and exegis while trying to interpret the bible will discover in the literal sense that; Jesus was making reference to the ancient Gentiles who will believe in Him and embrace Christianity – as many who will come from east and west to sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
While the ancient Jews who will refuse to do so are the sons of the kingdom; who will be cast out into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
But such a one will never understand how to apply this text into the modern settings if he doesn’t realize that:
- First, there were still many ancient Jews who wouldn’t give up their Jewish doctrines; and wholly embrace that of Christianity as Paul observed in (Titus 1:10-16)
- Secondly, accepting Christianity is putting the teachings of Christ into practice as Jesus made it clear in the preceding chapter (Mathew 7:21-23)
Thus if such reader has the above knowledge, he will understand that he needs to substitute the ancient Gentiles for the modern unbelievers who will later repent of their sins and practice the words of Christ.
While the ancient Jews will be a substitute for the modern believers who do not put the teachings of Christ into practice.
Other factors affecting the bible and exegesis.
Other factors influencing the bible and exegesis maintain that the bible was composed in ancient languages which developed over time.
That today’s readers are separated from the original authors and readers of the original text by enormous cultural, historical or chronological gap.
And that collective authorship and gradual growth of biblical traditions are clearly evident in the bible especially in the OT.
They also maintain that the oldest manuscripts of the Old and New Testament we possess are copies that were made long after the original copies were written.
But the same bible in (2 Kings 22:8) shows us how the Old Testament was once lost but later found in order to prove that whatever comes from God can neither change over time nor get lost.
It is worthy to note that while engaging in exegesis, the exegetes classifies the questions that arises in his mind under different kinds of what they term criticism.
What is criticism in exegesis?
The word criticism in exegesis refers to the study, evaluation, and interpretation of biblical texts.
Different types of criticism are: textual criticism, which seeks to discover the original words used by the biblical authors.
Types of criticism.
- Historical criticism, which tries to uncover the setting of the texts in time and place.
- Grammatical criticism, which seeks to discover the language as used by the author of a text.
- Literary criticism, which searches for composition and rhetorical style of the text.
- Form criticism, which seeks to understand the genre i.e. writing style and life setting of the text.
- Tradition criticism, which seeks to discover how various traditions in the bible understands its text.
- Redaction criticism, which deals with the editing and final draft of a text.
- Structuralists criticism, which seeks the universals of a text.
- Canonical criticism, which seeks to recover the sacred text of the synagogues in Judaism and churches in Christianity.
Permit me to throw more light on one of the above types of criticism. And that is the redaction criticism.
Because it deals with the biblical text as we physically have it today i.e. the final wordings we are presently using in the bible.
After studying and observing differences in similar stories as told by two authors; exegetes concludes that one of them might have chosen to either omit or add something to the story.
This might be true to other texts but not biblical texts.
Because every words that the Holy Spirit inspires several authors to use in relaying their stories must either mean the same thing or be related in some ways.
Who moved David to number Israel?
For instance, let us study the two passages below that seems to tell the same story but uses different words.
Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “go, number Israel and Judah.(2 Samuel 24:1)
Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.(1 Chronicles 21:1)
As we can all witness the first text refers to God moving David while the second refers to Satan; and as we were all born to know; Satan and God are two opposing forces.
And so the exegete is face with the question: who really moved David among these two entities?
But a child born of the Spirit will quickly discover that even though the first text made reference to God; it was pointing to the opposing force that He wills which corresponds to the entity Satan i.e. ‘the anger of the LORD’.
And with this knowledge, the spiritual child quickly understands that both texts are saying the same thing.
Because whenever the anger of the Lord rises against anybody who disobeys Him, the work of Satan, which is destruction and death, always accompanies such a soul.
To properly analyze the above passages; the spiritual child goes on to give examples of how God’s anger aroused on people in the bible and what consequences always accompanied it.
The anger of God aroused against Saul.
In 1 Samuel 15, we read about how God commanded Saul to go and make war with the Amalekites; and completely destroy every persons and things: men, women, children and babies, cattle, sheep, camels and donkeys.
And He was strictly warned not to bring anything back to the land.
But Saul disobeyed God by bringing king Agag of Amalekite alive to Israel, including the best sheep, cattle, calves, lamb, and anything else that was good.
And because of this disobedience God rejected Saul as a king and sent Samuel to anoint a young and inexperienced shepherd as a king.
Immediately Samuel anointed David as God commanded; the Spirit of God departed from Saul and was replaced by an evil spirit which always tormented him every now and then as recorded in 1 Samuel 16:13-14.
Now was that evil spirit from God not the working of satan?
King Ahab kills Naboth.
Another instance is in 1 Kings 21, where king Ahab killed Naboth and took over his vineyard. And God sent the prophet Elijah with a message of doom to him.
When it was time for God’s anger to arouse on Ahab and devour him, he prepared to go to war with king Jehoshaphat.
And upon consulting 400 prophets of God to inquire about what will become of the war, a lying spirit from the presence of God influenced the 400 prophets to prophecy lies to Ahab as Micaiah reveals in 1 kings 22:19-23.
And in verses 29-37 we see how the work of Satan was fulfilled in the life of Ahab when he died in the battle field as Micaiah prophesied.
As we already know, the children of Israel were fond of disobeying God every now and then.
So even though the surrounding verses of those two passages did not state what the Israelites did for God’s anger to rise against them.
We can go on to conclude that whenever God was angry with people He will give Satan the chance or authority to inflict whatever pains on those people.
We can then better understand that through these words He spoke through the prophet Isaiah:
“Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, to seize the spoil, to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.(Isaiah 10:5-6)
Now aside from God’s anger arising on mankind for the works of Satan to manifest, we can all witness in the book of Job 1:6-12, and 2:1-9 how Satan received permission from God to test Job.
And with Job’s example we can finally draw a line on the fact that once God orders or gives Satan the permission to work in any man’s life, either in His anger or as a test; it is no error if the writer of a biblical text mentions or cites the hand of both God and Satan in the act.
So in connecting 1 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1. We can, without any reasonable doubt; understand that it was God who gave Satan the permission to go and number the Israelites.
HOW TO INTERPRET THE BIBLE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE.
Being a scholar myself, I strongly disagree with what exegetes say about how to interpret the bible and can prove to you beyond reasonable doubts that hermeneutics and exegesis; by whatever definition they go by, goes against what the bible plainly teaches about how to interpret the bible.
Permit me to state few reasons:
Reasons why I disagree with hermeneutics and exegesis on how to interpret the bible.
1. Holy men of God were the mouthpiece of God.
First and foremost the scripture clearly states:
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.(1 Peter1:20-21)
And as we all know, a greater part of the bible contains prophetic writings which the scripture above shows us that no one can interpret it privately, since they never came by the will of man.
So we see that the exegetes are blind to the understanding that as the scripture enlightened us; those men who wrote these biblical texts were not in control of their minds while they did so but rather it was the Holy Spirit that inspired them to write anything.
If we claim they made mistakes, as humans, while they were writing; then it means that the Holy Spirit Who inspired them is also capable of making mistakes.
I can attest to this fact through the experience I have in writing sermons.
Once I sit down to do so I always feel like I have gone insane, I don’t always seem to understand where my mind is, and sometimes after writing the scar always lingers to the point that I will find myself misbehaving in the midst of people.
All this goes to show that I wasn’t in control of myself while I was writing. This is why I always understand how it was with those men that wrote the books of the bible.
Without which I cannot be able to interpret the bible.
God does not require human wisdom to understand his ways, and in so doing interpret the bible.
Again the scripture states:
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.(1 Corinthians 1:21)
This second passage shows us that; all the scientific theories that biblical exegetes adopt on how to interpret the bible did not and can never yield any positive results.
Since God does not require human wisdom in His understanding, but rather chooses to make it known through the preaching of the gospel message which the world see as foolishness.
You can study the above scripture in it’s whole context to better understand this.
In Daniel’s vision about the end time, after God had showed him everything.
A seal was placed so that those who will use human knowledge and wisdom in trying to interpret the scriptures will wonder to and fro without being able to understand it.
Because the more they do the more knowledge will increase, while those who go out to preach and convert others will be the ones who will hold the keys to the interpretation of the scriptures as we can see in Daniel 12:3-4
And with this last passage we can come to the conclusion that for one to understand the scriptures he must be ready to preach the gospel message.
And this gospel message is not the one the scripture shows us in 1 John 4:5 that “those false prophets speak about the matters of the world and the world listens to them since they belong to the world” i.e. preaching about miracles, riches, and the general love of earthly things which the scripture itself warns us not to fall in love with-1 John 2:15-17.
But rather it is the preaching of the gospel that leads people out of their sinful ways; for as the scripture shows us in Romans 1:16
And as an evangelist, operating not under human commission or authorities but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from death.
I want to let you know that it is during the preaching of the gospel that I always discover 95% of the truths you will always find in my sermons.
The same thing could happen to you if you will believe this gospel.
So therefore, with the truth the Holy Spirit has uncovered to us through the few points stated above.
We can finally draw a conclusion on this part of our sermon that, using any of the human knowledge, examined or not examined above, will not help anyone to properly interpret the bible.
THE PROPER WAY TO INTERPRET THE BIBLE
The holy bible is not just a book of books or recorded Christian myth as some suppose, or the book of law as it was in Judaism, (“This book of law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe it to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)).
But as it is written: (“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Thus, whatever happened in the past and was recorded in the bible is meant to set an example; and show the children of God the consequences (whether good or bad) of every human actions.
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition upon whom the end of the ages have come.(1 Corinthians 10:11).
And after studying these scriptures, one might not only derive moral lessons from them; but also wait for the fulfillments of whatever promises are attached to them.
“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.(Romans 15:4)
In Hebrews 1:1-3, the scripture shows us that in the past God spoke to our fore-fathers by the prophets; but in this last days he choose to speak to us by His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Collosians 2:2-3, the bible shows us that it is in Christ Jesus that all the knowledge of the mystery of God is hidden.
This mystery, as it goes on to confirm in 2 Corinthians 3:13-16, is compared to the veil which was used to cover Moses’s face; because of the brightness of God’s glory, soon after he received the tablets of commandments.
And when we ponder deep on this scripture 1 Corinthians 1:26: (For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called).
We can come to the understanding that one cannot understand or interpret the bible; either by teaching in the ways of men i.e. by being a religious scholar: studying in a university, seminary, Bible College or under a renown minister.
Or merely studying it day and night because the scriptures, which is existing in mysteries, belong to God.
Therefore all who wants to understand and interpret the bible must go to God and learn, even as our Lord Jesus revealed to us in the scriptures below:
And the Jews marveled, saying, “how does this Man know letters, having never studied? Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His Who sent Me.(John 7:15-16).
Then Jesus said to them, “when you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.(John 8:28)
If you say this happened because Jesus was the Son of God and not human; how about Job’s friend Elihu, King David and the apostle Paul who said?
But no one says, ‘where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth, and makes us wiser than the birds of heaven.(Job 35:10-11).
(Note: ‘beasts of the earth’ are humans while ‘birds of heaven’ are angels.)
I have not departed from Your judgment, for You Yourself have taught me.(Psalm 119:102).
But I make known to you brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.(Galatians 1:11).
And as we can vividly see from Paul’s account, you can only study and undersand, or say interpret the bible through divine revelation.
All this is never a coincidence because God had earlier made the promise to teach human beings from the mouth of His prophet Isaiah, in the Old Testament:
All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.(Isaiah 54:13)
Jesus Himself later confirmed the above prophecy:
“It is written in the prophets, ‘and they shall be taught by God. Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.(John 6:45)
So we come to a point where we ask:
Why does God choose to teach humans by Himself?
1. Because of those who are out to deceive.
And if we study our bible closely, we will understand that Jesus and His disciples had fore-warned us severally in the scriptures, about those who will mis-interpret the bible to deceive and destroy.
Let us pause to outline Peter’s own example:
And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation-as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the scriptures.(2 Peter 3:15-16)
And conclude with this warning by John:
These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in him.(1 John 2:27).
So we can now understand that God chooses to teach us by Himself. Because of those who are out to use the same bible to deceive.
And as we can see from the last passage, He does not come down physically to teach us. Rather, He does so through the anointing He gives to us.
It doesn’t take us much time to understand this anointing to be the Holy Spirit a believer receives on the day he repents and baptizes.
“Repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.(Acts 2:38)
After believing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
‘He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will Flow Rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him will receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.(John 7:38-39)
And later confirmed it for us in the mouth of our Lord Jesus:
‘But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.(John 14:26)
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot hear them now. However when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and he will tell you things to come.(John 16:12-13).
And this also is never a coincidence because the Old Testament had already prophesied about it.
Turn at My reproof; surely I will pour out My Spirit on you; I will make My words known to you.(Proverbs 1:23)
That is why the passage, that made reference to the scriptures being the veil that was used to cover Moses face; concluded that unless one turns to Christ Who is the Spirit, the veil remains un-lifted.
Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.(2 Corinthians 3:13-17)
Therefore for one to get this Holy Spirit, he must first of all believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
And afterwards repent and be baptized in His Name, because it is only Christ, in Whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge of God, Who has the power to help anybody understand the scriptures as he did to His disciples:
And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the scriptures.(Luke 24:45)
And we must always remember that failure to individually understand the scriptures will make one end up, not only being deceived; but also being confused about certain scriptures.
An example is how the Sadducees were about the resurrection of the dead and asked Jesus whose husband will get back a wife that was previously married to seven men:
Jesus answered and said to them, “are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the scriptures nor the power of God.(Mark 12:24)
What happens after you receive the Holy Spirit.
So when one finally receives the gift of the Holy Spirit; he will always be in tune with God’s mind where the hidden truths of the scripture dwells, and thereby know how to interpret the bible.
And such a person will neither accept nor speak what human wisdom teaches about the bible but rather on what the Holy Spirit reveals in 1 Corinthians 2:7-13.
And so, such a one will continue to study, practice and teach others the words of Jesus Christ. In order to know more of the truths that sets mankind free.
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.(John 8:31-32)
N/B: abiding in His word means:
- Practicing and
- Preaching the Word.
In summary, the only way to interpret and understand the scriptures lies in the two facts below:
- One must repent and be baptize in the Name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins; so he can receive the Holy Spirit Who reveals the truth hidden in the scriptures.
- After receiving the Holy Spirit, one must always study the scripture and puts the things he discovers into practice
- And finally, he must teach the word he is able to practice to others.
THE BASIC PRINCIPLE TO INTERPRET THE BIBLE.
Now since the scripture was given through revelation and inspiration; it thus requires both principles for its understanding. And that’s how one can simply know how to interpret the bible.
But then, there is one other principle which helps us to precisely understand the scriptures, and that example is experience.
For instance, every preacher everywhere are busy using the same bible to preach; either for or against the mode of dressing or general outfits the Christian woman must wear e.g. the outward adorning of arranging the hair and of wearing gold or putting on of fine apparels.
Of course both parties would have reasonable points and bible passages to outline as proofs; which often times end up putting the believer or reader of little faith in a dilemma.
But if such a one gets to have the experience of how the wearing or putting on of these things war with her spirit; or rather, how uncomfortable they make her feel.
She will then be in a better position to understand that truely, God does not approve of these things; even if she doesn’t have a strong reason to back up her choice i.e. of not wearing those things.
Yet another spiritual minded person who sees her looking natural: (as when God finished creating her and saw that she was good) will quickly understand and let the sister be.
Beloved, experience, as we always say, is the best teacher; and this saying is so true when applied to the understanding of the bible.
That is why when I preach to people and they try to oppose what God has revealed to me.
I do nothing than tell them to have a true repentance and wait upon God to put them through experiencing what they read about in the bible so they could be able to understand better.
Below is an example from my own personal experience on how to interpret the bible.
My own personal experience on how to interpret the bible.
Through the years, several men of faith have tried to give meaning to the thorn in the flesh; mentioned by the apostle Paul in the statement below:
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.(2 Corinthians 12:7)
But when I newly repented, I used to experience constant weakness which had me bed ridden for months.
And I was always praying God to strengthen me, until one day He referred me to the context of the above scripture where I got the understanding that physical weakness; due to the constant pain that Paul experienced as a result of the blindness he contacted from the light of his conversion, was what Paul referred to as the infirmities that gave him a thorn in the flesh as evidenced in his epistles:
I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.(1 Corinthians 2:3)
“For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.(2 Corinthians 10:10)
You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.(Galatians 4:13-14).
Now let me take you deeper into this reality, so you can know how to interpret the bible.
How God raises men for Himself.
When God wants to raise up for Himself great men; he first of all allows them to be born and grow up from terrible and hard backgrounds.
So that they might know how to relate with those still in such background when they finally take up their divine task of ordination.
For instance, Moses had to be born and raised as an Egyptian.
And because of that, he would have the experience of the Pharoah household and not find it difficult to contend with him when it was time to rescue his kindred out of Egypt.
Paul had to begin life as a Pharisee and later a persecutor; so that he would have a better understanding of the Jewish law and therein know how to preach against it.
Of course it would be easier for a repentant drunkard to preach and convert a still drunkard; than for another preacher who does not even know how intoxication feels like.
Even before God gave the law in the bible to Moses and made him interpret it the way He did; He already knew that there will be injustice and partiality due to the imperfect nature of man;
but then, He gave it so that when He finally takes over the judgment seat, they will not say: “had it been you gave the laws to us, we would have known how to witness and judge each other properly”
Thus, show me a man whom God has blessed with revelation, inspiration and experience.
And I will show you a man who perfectly understands and can interpret the bible.
In conclusion, let us never forget that it is only in knowing how to interpret the bible can a human being have a perfect understanding of the scriptures.
The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.(Psalms 119:130).
And once you get the understanding, you will be able to practice God’s words.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.(Psalms 119:34)
May the Father of all things, who gives wisdom and knowledge to those who seek them; open your understanding to know how to interpret His holy word, the Bible.
Through the name of His only begotten Son, even Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. Amen.