Our study of the word of God is a particular mission that requires filing a flight plan and picking up a current flight map or maps that will show us exactly where our destination is along with all the codes for communicating with Control. We definitely need such knowledge easily available. Oh, but I forgot, that is old-school, most everything should be already stored in the aircraft’s navigation computer, right? (But remember your Call-sign.)
I am looking for the best system for learning the Holy Bible, so I picked one out to see what its editor might say to me in this regard. He said there is no such thing. Why, how could that be? In a matter of a few words, he managed to convince me that this was so. It goes something like this:
“Languages have different words, different syntaxes, different sentence structures, different semantics, different cultures, so that translation cannot be a simple, automated process. In addition to that, readers are all different in style and vocabulary. Even the concept of accuracy is reader dependent, and this is the point, because all readers are different, no one version of the Bible can possibly be best for all.” (Taken from Dr. David H. Stern, translator of the Complete Jewish Bible, Jewish New Testament Publishers, 1998, page xv)
There are two different ancient languages involved with its original manuscripts. No one speaks the languages today, so that the words — and use of certain words — are peculiar to both the subject and the culture. You don’t have to be a Jew to understand how the ancient Hebrew works, although being Jewish and having learned the present day language helps. And you don’t have to be Greek to understand the ancient Greek language and the purposes for it being used as it was in its day has changed.
There are 39 books in the Old Testament (Covenant), and 27 books in the New. A total of 66 books written by some forty different authors whom all claim to be inspired by God and given the words to speak or write. So we can appreciate that the purpose of God as our creator is quite evident, despite that it took nearly four thousand years to write. Moses, for example, was the author of the first five books that are covering 550 years of the history of the human race. Since he lived only 120 years, it was given to him as the deliverer of the Hebrew Children after he was 80 years old, to write down that history. (Reference our Reese Chronological Bible, Bethany House, Minneapolis, Minnisota, 1994)
But of course we are plainly told that Moses was given the grace to speak directly to God face to face. (Exodus 33:11) It all started when Moses and his brother Aaron went up to the top of Mt Sinai as described in Fire. It was written of Moses in Hebrews 11:27 “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.” It was an uncertain author who worte the Letter to the Hebrews, however the evidence of its origin and authenticity have been well established without knowing who wrote it. Most of Scripture is given its credence because of the source describing God giving a revelation of Himself. (Refer to The Authority of Scripture by Stephen B. Clark) And the greatest confirmation that I recognize in my personal life is that of the Holy Spirit, who will show us all things (John 14:16,17, 26; 16:13).
A good analogy here is that like a flight plan, a reading, studying, memorizing of anything scriptural requires considerable thought and purposeful planning. Shop for something easy for you to read. When I was in college studying religion as a “ministerial student”, I was required to lead a Sunday School class in a nursing home. The ideal Bible was a leather covered large print text, without any cross references. I rejoiced every time I opened that book standing in front of an audience. Even if they couldn’t hear very well, the humble spirit of what I was willing to do for them made the needed impact. We will always be blessed everytime we attempt to teach anyone, or everyone from the Holy Scriptures.
This is getting more to the point of our Study. Approaching the Holy Scriptures, as I have described in Attitude, how the scope and gravity of its content may shock the reader. So just reading to understand is a really big task. This article by the Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraaff is pretty concise and well able to put both our feet on the ground here (though we have passed ground school, and are now soloing).
“TO INTERPRET THE BIBLE LITERALLY, THINK LITERATURE IN KIND”
” In other words, to interpret the Bible as literature, it is crucial to consider the kind of literature we are interpreting. Just as a legal brief differs in form from a prophetic oracle, so too there is a difference in genre between Leviticus and Revelation. This is particularly important when considering writings that are difficult to categorize, such as Genesis, which is largely a historical narrative interlaced with symbolism and repetitive poetic structure.”
“FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE REQUIRES READERS TO USE THEIR IMAGINATION”
“Figurative language requires readers to use their imagination in order to comprehend what the author is driving at. Such imaginative leaps are the rule rather than the exception in that virtually every genre of literature contains metaphorical language. In point of fact, we might well say that figurative language is the principal means by which God communicates spiritual realities to his children.”
“GOD COMMUNICATES SPIRITUAL REALITIES THROUGH LIVING METAPHORS.”
‘A metaphor is an implied comparison that identifies a word or phrase with something that it does not literally represent. Far from minimizing biblical truth, metaphors serve as magnifying glasses that identify truth we might otherwise miss.”
“HYPERBOLE IS ANOTHER FIGURE OF SPEACH PROPHETICALLY PREVALENT.”
“While hyperbole is commonly used in our culture, it is ubiquitous in the Bible. This is particularly true of prophetic passages. The prophet Isaiah used hyperbolic language when he predicted judgment on Babylon: “See, the day of the Lord is coming-a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger-to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light” (Isaiah 13:9-10, emphasis added). To those unfamiliar with biblical language these words may well be taken to mean that the end of the world was at hand. In reality, Isaiah was prophesying that the Medes were about to put an end to the glories of the Babylonian empire.”
“We must therefore fervently pray that the Spirit, who inspired the Scriptures, illumines our minds to what is in the text.”