Interpretation 2: The Nature of Scripture

The second reason, according to Fee and Stuart, we must interpret the Bible is the two-fold nature of scripture.  They make the argument that we must look at scripture inthe same way we see Jesus as He walked on this earth–both human and divine.  It is God’s word, but spoken by humans in a particular time in history.

God chose to speak the Bible through human words in history, therefore is has historical particularity; each document is conditioned by language, time, and culture in which it was originally written (and in some cases by the oral history it had before it was written down).  Interpretation of the Bible is demanded by the “tension” between ETERNAL RELEVANCE and HISTORICAL PARTICULARITY.

Some teach that the Bible is merely a human book and is only about people in history. These people only see Bible study as historical.  To them, there is no spiritual significance or eternality to the scriptures.

Some only believe in the eternal relevance of the scriptures. These people see the Bible as a collection of propositions to be believed and commands to be obeyed. (Although there is a great deal of picking and choosing what is command and what is not.)

They see Deuteronomy 22:5 “A woman must not women’s clothing” NIV as a literal command for women not to wear pants or shorts. They seldom see anything else in the text like not planting two kinds of seeds in a vineyard (v.9) and making tassels for the corners of their cloaks (v. 12)

The fact that the Bible has a human side is an encouragement but it is our challenge and the reason we need to interpret.

Two things about that. 1)In speaking through real persons in a variety of circumstance, over 1500 years of time, God’s word was expressed and conditioned by the culture of those times and circumstances. (God’s word to us was first of all His word to them.)

It came through events and culture that they could understand.  When we read passages about women’s clothing or tassels on the cloaks, we must know the reasons He said that to them.

There are two levels of interpreting then, A) Hearing what they heard then and there. B) Hearing the same word in the here and now.

2)We must also understand that God chose to communicate in every form of written communication possible: narrative history, genealogies, chronicles, laws of all kinds, poetry of all kinds, proverbs, prophetic oracles, riddles, drams, biographical sketches, parables, letters, sermons, and apocalypses.

To interpret the “then and there” of biblical texts, one must not only know some general rules that apply to all the words of the Bible, but one needs to learn the special rules that apply to each of these literary forms (genre).

And the way God communicates His word to us in the “here and now” will often differ from one form to another.  We must ask lots of the “right” questions.  How does a Psalm, which is expressed toward God function as His word to us?  How do Psalms differ from laws?  How do laws which are meant to function in cultural situations that no longer exist have any application to today?  How do those laws differ from “moral laws” which are always valid in all circumstances?  These questions are forced upon us because of this dual nature of the Bible.

More later.


2 responses to “Interpretation 2: The Nature of Scripture

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