The following is an excerpt from my booklet “a few tips on how to read and study the Bible for yourself”. I thought in light of recent statements by politicians on the Bible This was appropriate to share.
Authors intent– What was the author of the text communicating? Have you ever commented on social media and been misunderstood? Did someone not understand the intent of what you wrote? It doesn’t feel right, does it? And yet that has not stopped people over the years from completely reinterpreting the scriptures in ways they were never intended to be read. Always read with this goal in mind. Resist the urge to find hidden meanings or make fuzzy what is being said plainly.
Literal vs. figurative– Some say “you can’t take the Bible literally.” What is meant by this statement varies depending on the person’s actual knowledge of the Bible. The Bible contains both Literal and figurative language. When Jesus mentions in John 15 that he is the vine and we are the branches that is figurative of our connection to him. When he expects his followers to obey him, that is to be interpreted quite literally. What is usually meant by this broad statement is that “you don’t have to take the Bible seriously.” This is due to a low view of scripture or a belief that it isn’t the actual Word of God but the word of mere men trying to understand God. But the Apostle Paul was very clear that it did Come from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Just because Jesus didn’t mention, it doesn’t mean its ok. This has become a recent argument by those who disagree with the writings of the Apostle Paul especially in regards to issues of sexuality and gender. There are three reasons why this is a very bad idea. First, it is an argument from absence. Just because Jesus isn’t recorded as addressing a particular issue doesn’t mean that he approved of the action. For example, He didn’t mention anything about spousal abuse, but we would never assume that Jesus said it’s okay to abuse your spouse. The second issue is one of scriptural authority. By lifting Jesus’ words above all other voices and not considering the Apostle Paul as authoritative, some hope to eliminate some of the teachings of the New Testament that make many in our modern culture uncomfortable. The problem with that is even the apostles themselves that walked with Jesus like Peter considered Paul’s writings as scripture. (2 Peter 3:15-16). Third, by not recognizing Paul’s writings on the authoritative level of Jesus’ teachings we also eliminate the teachings of Salvation by grace through faith. That we are no longer under the law but live by the Spirit, as well as many other lessons that form the foundation of the church itself. So, if someone wants to use one of Paul’s teachings to say we are saved by grace, not by our good works and then turn around disagree with what Paul said on another subject such as sexuality they have placed themselves on shaky ground.