Read. Study. Know. Memorize.
These are the four words we need to think about today, now that I’ve blown your mind with the revolutionary concept that the Bible is the Inspired, Inerrant word of God.
Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about preservation as a Bible doctrine. But for now, let’s talk about what you’re supposed to do. This may seem out of sequence, but some of the things you’re going to learn today are crucial for spotting…
…well, you’ll see.
You should have a Bible reading plan in place. There are two questions to ask yourself:
- Should I read my hardcover Bible every day? or,
- Should I read my Bible in my preferred Bible software program?
The answer to that boils down to this: Spending time with God is one of the most important thing you must do as a Christian. It’s never emphasized in quite this way in Evangelical circles, only in Fundamentalist circles. In Evangelical circles, spending time reading devotionals is emphasized more. How many people know the name E. M. Bounds?
Or reading books about someone’s opinions of Christianity is often considered more important. If I said the name “Clive”, how many of you would know who I’m talking about? Does the name C. S. Lewis ring a bell?
Foes of Fundamentalism (we’ll deal with this soon- and yes, there are MANY) like to say “Reading the Bible is not encouraged in Fundamentalism.” What they’re saying is, before they backslid and became anti-Christian, they never liked reading the Bible, so they’re transferring the blame to Fundamentalism.
In reality, you’ll see you are strongly encouraged to read the Bible. The once through the year reading plan is the bare MINIMUM.
Never heard that in an Evangelical church, did you? Some of you have had conscientous Bible teachers who did empart the requirement to read your Bible, so you were blessed in that.
The question you have to ask yourself is, “how disciplined am I?” If you can avoid checking email, or going on the internet during your study time, then you can do it in your Bible sotfware. It’s why you have it. Or use an app on your phone.
If you cannot stay focused… then do your Bible reading in your hardcover Bible.
Here’s a bare minimum plan. Read the entire Bible, one year. 3 chapters a day.
Here’s a better reading plan, the one emphasized by David Cloud. Old testament, one year, New testament, twice a year.
Or if you’ve been a Christian a long time, twice through the Bible in a year.
If you’ve been a Christian more than 15 years, three times through the Bible in one year.
If you’re going to do a Bible study plan as well, then just stick with the David Cloud reading plan.
To study the Bible requires some elementary tools: A concordance, a Bible Dictionary or Encyclopedia, A commentary and a study Bible. This is bare minimum.
Commentaries I’ve written about a few times, but you should have one single-volume commentary that is Dispensational. The closest one I can recommend is the Bible Knowledge Commentary, by John Walvoord. It has major problems in that it ascribes to Textual Criticism (I’ll deal with that in a day or so) and it uses the NIV Bible. I’ll discuss the problems with that as well shortly.
Concordance – here’s the issue. If you do not know Koine Greek or Hebrew, GET OUT OF THE BACK PART OF YOUR STRONG’S. More people have gotten themselves embroiled in cults thanks to Strong’s than any other tool I know. “Do I have to know Hebrew and GReek to understand the Bible?” Not at all. Many people understand the Bible perfectly, reading it in a translation. I’ve got some caveats on that, but again, we’re getting to that,
If you decide to ignore my warning, you will find some useful information in the Hebrew and GReek dictionaries in Strong’s. If you’re using it AS IT’S INTENDED, as a dictionary, it will give you background information on the words. Vine’s helps as well.
If, on the other hand, you’re trying to do word studies in languages you’ve never learned, STOP. I repeat, STOP – until you’ve learned Hebrew and Greek. At least twice a year I end up in a debate with some cultist who is trying to do Strong’s Greek, and I shoot them down with the demand, “When did you study Greek in a classroom setting, and for how long?” Define the subject of a sentence. Define the Object of the sentence. Define which word in Greek is the most important word in the sentence. Tell me what Aorist tense is. Tell me what a nominative sense is. How do I know when a Greek word is a proper name?
If you do not know the answers to those questions, then stay out of the back of your Strong’s. Do your word studies in English. You can learn just as much, and often more, that way.
If you’re budget conscience (read: broke), remember, publishers want too much money for every Bible book and tool. Commentaries should not be hundreds of dollars. If a 27 volume Encyclopedia Britannica is $200, then a 6 volume commentary should be $35. A single volume commentary should be $9.99. Public domain books should be $2.95.
But they’re not. The library I’ve amassed between all of my software packages would probably be around $27,000 in hardcover books. So for most of you, Bible study should be done in software, so that you can afford the books.
Bible Analyzer is a must have program. Once you learn how to use it… you’ll be dumbfounded how it wil revolutionize your study. Get the 1828 Webster’s with it. It has a function allowing you to download directly within the program.
What Bible dictionary should you get? I’d get the Way of LIfe Encyclopedia. Very important. You’ll see why. If you do not understand a word, here’s something you need to do…
LOOK IT UP.
Commentaries are useful, to a point. THere’s two great errors with them – over reliance, and complete avoidance. Just remember that very often, you’ll read commentaries by people whose denominational practices are the complete opposite of what the Bible says, and their commentaries will feature extensive arguments in favor of those unBiblical practices. Knowing that someone’s denomination encourages baby sprinkling will make you aware you need to disregard that. THe Bible is our sole rule of faith and practice.
Harmonies and Bible surveys are highly recommended by David Cloud. Sometimes the need to see the themes of the book helps you to understand the context of the passage. Context is Key.
A text taken out of context is a pretext. REad the Bible in context, and interpret the verses in plain sense lest you make of it nonsense. So when you read about someone drawing 153 fish out of the water, it doesn’t mean some allegorical meaning about Peter’s name meaning 153 or something like that. It means there were 153 fish. When it says the water turned to blood, it means… the water turned to blood. If the Bible says the whale swallowed Jonah, it means that. If it had said Jonah swallowed the whale, it would have meant that too!
What’s the great meaning of John chapter 3? Get saved. We over complicate this a lot. Many of the public domain commentaries sometimes allegorize Prophetic passages. THe concept of Israel being reborn as a nation was impoossible for them to understand. Well, let’s say they chose to not understand it. They wanted to believe in an invisible universal church as Israel’s replacement. This is an error, so keep this in mind when reading Matthew Henry.
So Matthew Henry did not finish his commentaries. Others finished them for him. And the prophetic passages are complete nonsense in them.
Bible rules of interpretation:
- Read it in context
- interpret a passage in the same sense as its surrounding context
- it means what it says
- We interpret more clear passages first, and the less clear we define by the more clear.
- If you read 115 verses all on the same subject, and 95 of them clearly say X, and the other 20 seem to say something else… the answer is X. When closely examined, the other verses are really about something else, or will shed more light on the majority of verses.
- We do not derive doctrine from a hapax, a word or verse mentioned only once in the Bible.
- We do not derive doctrines from the “Wisdom” books of the Bible: Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Job.
- We do not derive doctrine from a parable by Jesus Christ. That one was a hard lesson for me to accept, but once I understood it… the Parables are written to conceal knowledge, not impart it. To interpret figurative language literally creates problems. Read the parable of the ten virgins and break it down for me… what is the oil? What are the lamps? Why would you put out your lamp? Why would leaving your lamp lit be foolish? Why does the groom return at night? How could the five foolish virgins buy more oil, if it’s salvation? This is called “Making a parable walk on all fours” – attempting to take parts of it that were meant merely to round out the story and make doctrine out of it. I know of one Christian who teaches Christians should never retire, based upon a parable.
- Understand that the Bible presents its information in the context of dispensations. One has always been saved by grace through faith and the Gospel has never been changed – but there were certain emphasis upon different things, such as the keeping of the law for many years. We do not do that now, as we are no longer under the law. THe dispensation of law ended with the dispensation of grace.
That’s enough for now! If you’ve never had to wade through my explanations of Bible hermeneutics before, it gets dizzying! (actually, i think that this time was the worst I ever explained it, but I’ve got a cold and not thinking all that clearly. I just really want to stop coughing, because my throat is hoarse, I’ve lost my voice, and my ribs really hurt).