This article is a fairly thorough introduction to the major issues involved in the study of the Bible as a written revelation involving human authors and a divine author. It will discuss several names for the Bible including, Scripture, the oracles of God, the law, and the law and the prophets. Then the article moves forward to evaluate several different points of view regarding the Bible. These include liberalism and neo-orthodoxy. Pay special attention to this section because it will help you when you hear various ideas and comments about the Bible in our culture. The rest of this lengthy, but very necessary and helpful article, is devoted to explaining several important doctrines regarding God’s written revelation. Think through what inspiration means and how it relates to a proper understanding of inerrancy. Though it may be the first time you’ve ever thought about it, contemplate the idea of canon and the issues that are involved in any serious discussion of the topic.
Finally, to claim that the Bible is our authority and then to be ignorant of sound methods of interpretation, renders our belief an empty notion at best. Therefore, let us give careful thought to the discussion of how to interpret the Bible. Finally, the Bible was not given to us so that we might become smarter sinners, but rather to draw us into constant fellowship with Christ and strengthen us for service to others. This last point must always be kept at the forefront of a growing Christian’s thinking.
1. What are some terms used to refer to the Bible? What do they communicate?
2. What are some positions regarding the nature of the Bible? Describe them including their strengths and weaknesses.
3. What is the Conservative Protestant view? What are its strengths and weaknesses? How does it preserve more faithfully Jesus’ own view of Scripture?
4. What two categories of evidence are usually brought forward in a discussion of the veracity of the Bible’s own claim to be the Word of God? What do you think is the strongest element in this argument? Why?
5. How would you define revelation? General revelation? Special revelation? Give examples of each.
6. What does inspiration mean as related to the Scriptures? Why was it necessary that we receive from God an inspired text?
7. What are the various views of inspiration and which one most closely approximates the nature of the Bible (i.e., the facts according to the text)? What are the problems with the other views?
8. What does the term inerrancy mean? How does it relate to inspiration and what are some qualifications that must be introduced due to the nature of Scripture itself?
9. Summarize Christ’s view of Scripture.
10. What does the term canon mean? What is the theological argument for the necessity of the canon?
11. Discuss four important considerations when thinking about Scripture as canon.
12. Discuss the canon of the Old Testament and the evidence supporting the three-fold division of the Hebrew Bible. What were some of the tests for canonicity of the Old Testament? What historical evidence is there to suggest that the threefold division constitutes the canon?
13. Discuss the canon of the New Testament, including factors leading to its recognition and the tests that were employed in evaluating the various books.
14. What do we mean by the reliability of the New Testament?
15. Regarding the interpretation of the Bible, what do we mean by illumination and the plain or normal method of interpretation? Discuss five principles for the normal method of interpreting the Bible.
16. Though we did not deal with it directly or in any depth, what factors do you think enable a person to understand the Bible better (e.g., the opposite of the qualities of those listed in 2 Peter 3:16)? I am not particularly referring here to spiritual qualities such as obedience and prayer. I refer rather to factors such as personality, background, education, family life, race, economic situation, etc.
After an interesting and powerful discussion of inspiration, the author considers various metaphors for the Bible. He lists eleven biblical images which describe what the Bible is or does. Incidentally, if you are teaching a Bible study class, here’s some excellent material for you. You could break it up into 2-4 lessons by the time you add illustrations, supporting material, etc. This is great material and definitely needed in the church today. People need to establish a positive relationship with the Bible in their daily lives and this material would certainly contribute to that. The eleven images which are discussed are: (1) sword; (2) critic/judge; (3) lamp/light; (4) mirror; (5) snow, water, rain; (6) food/bread; (7) gold/silver; (8) fire; (9) hammer; (10) seed; (11) honey. Each one of these images is discussed using the appropriate passages, principles from those passages and problems we face. Following this portion of the article, there is further discussion on the proper attitude we should have in approaching the Bible, as well as certain axiomatic beliefs which must be in place for one to truly interpret and benefit from Scripture.
1. Why does an author choose to use metaphor instead of just spelling out what he means? Read Isaiah 40:31. How much more powerful is Isaiah’s description than if he were to have simply said, “we will be strengthened if we hope in the Lord”?
2. What are some of the images/metaphors used of the Bible? What do they mean?
3. Do any of the images seem contradictory? Why? For example, critic/judge as contrasted with honey. (Note: Does the fact that they seem contradictory have anything to do with how a person has aligned themselves with respect to God’s word—whether positive or negative?)
4. What are some key attitudes to possess as you study God’s word?
5. What are some other sources of authority besides the Bible? What is their relationship to the Bible and truth? In other words, when there is a conflict between the Bible and tradition, which “gets the nod” as the final authority? Why? Does this mean that studying church history is not necessary? Why? (Note: the interpretations of the church throughout history are very important to us because they help us see how godly men and women have interpreted the Bible throughout history.
6. Explain the deductive and inductive methods of study. Can you think of strengths and weaknesses of each? Can anyone ever truly be completely inductive? Why? Why not?
7. Why is the inductive method better in the study of any literature?