Making Sense Of The Bible – An Introduction

Confused signs

Knowing the right Bible answers is not the same thing as knowing the God of the Bible.

Unfortunately this distinction is far too often overlooked and thus the text is approached rather haphazardly, as though it is of little consequence how one understands it so long as their answers fit the system they have aligned themselves with.  It is this very subjectivist approach to Biblical interpretation which lies at the heart of a growing disdain for real Biblical Truth.  Often the Post-modern paradigm which eschews reliance on one’s ability to ascertain any absolutes is credited with causing this dynamic, but if one digs into history one finds that the disdain for Biblical truth and the subjective approach to the text which is its precursor are as old as the text itself.

The academic words for these two interpretive approaches are Exegesis, which is the process of drawing out of a text what it actually says, and Eisegesis, which is the process of superimposing on the text what the interpreter wants it to say.  Exegesis employs what is called the Historical, Cultural, Grammatical & Rhetorical hermeneutic or method of interpretation which looks at these contexts to ascertain original meaning.  By contrast Eisegesis has no set hermeneutic and is subject only to the imagination of the interpreter.

Proper Biblical Exegesis gives one an objective set of boundaries which then frame one’s entire pursuit of the Truth of God’s revelation.  YHVH chose to reveal Himself in specific ways at specific times, thus the appropriate first question of study is not “what does this mean to me”, but rather, “what does this mean?”  Looking to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures in this way keeps one from constantly “finding” only their pet subjects in the text and allows them to instead apprehend the whole council of God (Acts 20:17-27).  It is when one comes to God’s Word in this way that James statement of the Word being like a mirror truly comes to life (James 1:23-27).  When allowed to say what it says, rather than what one wants it to say, the Word of God shows an individual what kind of a person they really are, it strips their motives bear removing all pretense of self righteousness (Hebrews 4:12-13), cleansing and renewing the mind (Romans 12:2).

Examples of the danger of poor exegesis range from the sad to tragic.  The Judeo-Christian Scriptures have been used to justify all kinds of human evil and cowardice.  From the slaughter of unbelievers to the Inquisition of fellow Believers, from the Enslaving of Africans to the Degradation of Women; Preachers have used the text in awful ways.  While less dramatic it is no less detestable the way some will misuse the text to garnered power, twisting the Law of Love in Christ Jesus into a scourge of manipulation, spreading guilt so as to obtain acquiescence to their will under the thinly veiled guise of ministry (2 Peter 2).

From my personal experience, I have found that my own ignorance regarding God’s Holy Word has caused much grief.  When I was younger in the Faith I fancied myself very knowledgeable, but I knew only the letter and not the spirit of the Law of Christ.  In my zeal I hurt many people who I was trying to help.  This ignorance stemmed directly from the subject at hand, I had not invested the time in God’s Word to actually know God’s Word.

If we truly believe in a God who wants to be known then His self-revelation should first and foremost be reasonable enough that the average man can apprehend its meaning.  When one must turn to irrational mental gymnastics to justify their understanding of the text, they have openly contradicted the admonition of Moses in Deuteronomy 29 & 30 that what YHVH wants us to know has been revealed and requires no special intervention to be understood. But we must let the scripture interpret scripture, we must look to the point of first reference and we must look for the unity in the Divine narrative, before we can expect the text to truly make sense.