Interpretation of the Book ( Criticism)
Understanding the book
This book was written with a main target in the author’s mind to be reached, and that is to draw the attention of the reader to the importance of the Bible as a base and source of the Christian faith, and also to give him some ideas, and presuppositions which will encourage and benefit him in readings and studying the Bible.
In the beginning of the book the author talked about the Bible and its effect over great people, and he stated his fundamental presupposition which his book was built on; it is that the Bible is the true word of God and not only a religious literature. In the second chapter of the book the author suggested some Bible versions for the reader to select from, a conservative, precise and suitable English translation of the Bible, while he warned the reader from other liberal and not precise Bible versions.
In the third chapter I felt as the author is encouraging the reader to know his Bible and its divisions, and books and how to deal with his own Bible, in other language to be familiar with it. The author in the next chapter which he called “Reading the Bible with Profit” tried to emphasize on the fact of intellectual understanding of what one reads, for the Bible was written to be understood not as mysterious words with no meaning, so the author tried in that chapter to help the reader by suggesting some great ideas and additional helps, which in my opinion would help greatly the reader not only to understand what he read, but to continue to read his Bible because I think one of the main problems that keeps many Christians away from their Bibles is that when they read they don’t understand a great deal of it, hence they get bored, confused and then would decide that it is better to hear a sermon or reading a spiritual book or listen to a Christian song than to continue reading the Bible.
The author moved to deal with a different issue in the fifth chapter; it is the canonicity of the Bible as the inspired Word of God. my own conviction about this chapter is that it is an important and persuading chapter; but I would rather prefer that the author had had placed it directly after the introduction or even in the place of the third chapter, because if the reader needs to be persuaded about the authority of the Bible; that would surly precede his need of information and encouragement concerning reading it.
In the sixth chapter the author wrote about the languages in which the Bible was written; giving a brief idea about the features of the Hebrew and Greek languages subsequently, and the differences between them. He drew the attention of the reader to the importance of the Greek words, grammar and clarifying the fact that the Greek language of the New Testament is very precise indeed; to a degree that a single word or a preposition would make a great difference in meaning if it is not clear.
In the seventh chapter the author successfully explained the basic principles and ways of interpreting the Bible, I think he had done a great job in that chapter; in my opinion it is the most important and effective chapter in the book, or the core chapter of the book, because it focused on answering the question: How to study and interpret the Bible? Or what are the basic principles of understanding and studying the Bible?
The author then wrote in the following three chapters of his book about the historical events, characters, the major covenants of the Bible and the primary names of God in the Bible; I admit that the author wrote well about these issues, but I think he would better summarized these thirty five pages into half of their size, or even he would have better wrote about one of these issues not the three of them, because they don’t deal with the main subject of his book which is studying the Bible, actually they caused me personally to do a great effort and to spend much time to summarize them in my research paper.
In the eleventh chapter the author tried to defend not only the Bible, but also the whole Christian faith, but he surly well concentrated on proving that the Bible is the true word of God which is inspired verbally, prepositionally from the mouth of the living God.
The author in his final chapter wrote about the main doctrines of the Bible, an attempt to make a doctrinal survey of the Bible, it challenged me to check his ideas, and the verses that he had stated to support his view and doctrine, and this led me to revise what I previously understood about this doctrine or that one; while reading through the chapter, and what challenged me best is the doctrine of the Church and also the doctrine of the future events as I revised what I previously believed and still thinking about some issues considering these two doctrines, for example:
– Considering the Church doctrine: The essentiality of the administration of spiritually gifted leaders in the Church.
– Considering the future events doctrine: The time table of the Rapture and the Millennium, and whether we Christians will be judged after the Rapture or in the final day of resurrection of the dead is a doctrine that need further studies.
The Positive Effects and agreements
The foremost important thing I liked in this book is its persistence in declaring the presupposition of the Bible being the inspired (breathed) Word of God in its words, verbs, and presuppositions and not only the ideas of God or a view about God; because the Bible really lost a great deal of its authority over the Church because of neglecting or denying this fact.
I really was impressed by the explanation the author gave considering this idea in chapter XI, P.90. Especially what he said about the Fall; and how the main attack that Satan attacked our first parents with in Eden and caused the Fall was mainly an assault upon the truth of the Word of God, I guess this is true, and I agree with an 80% percent with the author and his explanation as I believe that there is a declination in the protestant and evangelical Churches today because of mainly three reasons:
1. Neglecting or denying the central authority of the Bible as the Word of God.
2. Not giving the Holy Spirit His position in the Church, and only thinking of Him as a spiritual effect or feeling.
3. The lack of the spiritually gifted leaders; and I figured out this third point from the last chapter of the book and from my personal experience in ministry.
So I believe that the explanation of the author is true and inspiring, but I guess not enough because a lot of Churches are declining because of the other two reasons; or in other words if the true gifted leaders of a Church are to be regarded lightly then this Church will spiritually decline , and if the Holy Spirit is treated as just an effect or feeling in a Church then surly the members of that Church will soon be spiritually declined and will regard the Bible as just a nice twist-able book about a nice twist-able God. Hence I would rather say that the assault of Satan was and still is upon the authority of God in His Church, represented in The Holy Spirit, His Word, and His gifted leaders.
The second thing that affected me positively is the precious advises mentioned in chapter IV related to the question of: how to benefit from reading the Bible?
The main point here is the principle of the importance of understanding what I read regardless the amount or the speed or the achievement. Also the parallel relations between some books in the Old Testament and the New one, I didn’t figure out how it is important till I knew the verbal relationship between Isaiah and Romans and that helps a scholar like me to better understand what both books are intending and to relate the facts in both Testaments.
The third positive effect on me by this course is in the methodology and the persuading and clarifying way the author used in writing chapter VII, actually it is the chapter that affected me greatly and helped my personal spiritual readings and studying of the Bible, especially considering the defining and explanation of the literal interpretation, as before reading that course it was wrongly defined in my mind as’ a letter to letter’ or ‘a word to word’ interpretation which seemed to me something not spiritual at all, and the explanation of the great importance of the grammatical interpretation.
As I read through this chapter I understood the importance of my grid or presuppositions (see p.32); and how they greatly affect my interpretation of the Bible.
I realized while reading through that chapter the difference between interpretation and application of a certain passage in the Bible and how I sometimes mix them or concentrate on applications while neglecting correct interpretation.
I was impressed when the author mentioned the essential role of the Holy Spirit as interpreter of the Word, above right rules of interpretation (see p.48, 49) and I agree with the author greatly in that point; we must submit to the Spirit of God to guide us without neglecting the right rules of interpretation, and as the author said the Holy Spirit is not given to make Bible study needless, but to make it effective, this is also a great theological debate that needs farther studies.
I was enlightened by the wise principle of consulting the doctrinal opinions of other interpretations of the great theologians like Calvin and Hodge, without completely depending on them, as we in the East evangelical Churches are inclined to depend on others’ doctrines and as you said in your article that we should be careful because a step outside what the Scripture establish can cause a lot of confusion and this is obvious in our churches.
Forth thing I liked about this book is the “Names of God” and their significance in the Old and New Testaments; it affected me and caused me to search my Bible for that subject, I even preached a sermon about that subject in 14th of March.
Fifth issue is the one I mentioned before about the doctrine of the Church, and future events it really challenged me; as I used to flee away from the future events doctrines, because it seemed to me mysterious and hard to understand, but the author illustrated this doctrine in a simple and understandable way.
The last thing I would like to mention about this book is the great effort that the author did to collect all these information and facts about the Bible and all things related to the Bible, I really appreciate his effort.
The Negative Effects and disagreements
First there were some spellings mistakes in the book like for instance the word ‘In’ was typed ‘Inn’ in the sentence: “Inn 606B.C., Nebuchadnezzar….” (See p.55), also the name ‘Jacob’ in the sentence “…,because Jacob receives a double blessing from Jacob (Gen. 48:8-22), his two sons born in Egypt, Ephraim and Manasseh, substitute for his name in the territorial tribal list.” should be replaced by the correct name ‘Joseph’ (see p.62).
Although I agree with what the author mentioned in page 21 that the books of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha were never considered canonical, some of them are regarded having a divine authority among some groups of Coptic Orthodox Christians in some villages in upper Egypt they think it is the ‘Word of God’ but not included in the Bible; as I had noticed this with some Coptic Christians that I was ministering in upper Egypt few years ago; they considered for example ’ Psalm151’ as a canonical psalm with highly angelic power; one of them told me that the he thinks that the reason this psalm was not included in the canonical Bible is that Church leaders were afraid of its great effect and power over the people who will read or use this psalm in prayers!!!!.
I disagree with the author on his opinion about the sojourn of Israel in Egypt, because the author wrote that it happened because of the famine and Jacob’s favoritism directed towards Joseph(see p.52); while I think that when the Bible mentioned in (Gen.46:1) that Jacob went on his journey; this did not mean he was planning to immigrate to Egypt to live there with Joseph, but only when the Lord appeared to him and told him about His plan and companion (Gen.46:3-4), then Jacob took that decision for he wasn’t directed by his favoritism towards Joseph, but rather toward God.
I think the outline the author wrote in page 62 about Joseph prefiguring the saving ministry of Jesus Christ included an over-interpretation, especially in the seventh point concerning Joseph returning in (Gen.50:1-26); as a prefigure of Jesus return; I don’t think this was the intention of the Holy Spirit when He wrote Genesis 50.
I disagree with the explanation of the author of ‘The Adamic Covenant’ in pages 74, 75, because the author suggested that the Adamic covenant was based on the Fall; and explained it as the curses and promises that God said to the Satan, Eve, and Adam (Gen.3), while I more likely prefer that The Adamic Covenant was based on obedience and works as Hodge wrote and was declared before the Fall; it included a promise of life if Adam obeys the word of God and death if he disobeys, and I think it is a ridiculous idea to suggest that Satan was a partner in the Adamic covenant.
In page 99 the author claimed that people are encountering Jesus in everything in their daily life, the author took this as a reason or an argument for not being ignorant of Jesus, but how about China, India, and the Middle East for most people in these regions do not encounter Jesus or his principles or Christian feasts in their lives, therefore in my opinion this is not a strong reason or argument for knowing Jesus; except for the Western readers.
Conclusion of the Book (Outcome)
The Bible is the inspired Word of the living God; Whose Spirit moved men to write it (IIPet.1:20-21), this presupposition is true concerning all of the Bible; its words, verbs and even prepositions (IITim.3:16). Hence the Bible should not to be regarded by any faithful Christian as a good historical book or a book of literature, nor as the thoughts of God written by men.
Jesus Christ; Who is the most important person in the History of men, and considered by us (Christians) to be the Son of the living God, our savior, and the hock of our Christian faith has attributed a massive relevance and authority to the books of the Bible as the Word of God.
The Bible is in fact the most effective book in the history of men; it had reached nearly most of nations and even traveled to space, millions of people’s lives had been changed by the changing power of the Word of God, it had been translated to more than two hundred languages, therefore it would be a foolish thing if we ignore it.
If we accept these previous presuppositions then we should deal with the Bible as the most important book ever existed and we should regard its authority in our churches, and as Christians it would be a disaster to ignore our Bible or to treat it lightly, but we should read it, understand its message, and study it diligently. Actually we are responsible of doing this (Matt.22:29) and if we don’t; we are in great danger of what I would rather call ‘Satan’s greatest attack’; as he had attacked the authority of the Word of God in Eden and caused the Fall of our forefathers (Gen. 3) thousands of years ago; again today he is attacking the authority of the Bible in our Christian lives and in our churches and we should be aware of his evil plans (IPet.5:8; IICor.2:11).
Know our Bible
The Bible is divided into two major portions or Testaments; the Old Testament which consists of 39 books, and the New Testament which consists of 27 books and these 66 books are the canonical authoritative books of our Christian faith, it would be a shameful thing for any Christian not knowing the 66 books of his Bible and their places in it.
The books of the Old Testament were mainly written in Hebrew language, while the books of the New Testament were written in Greek language, so we should choose a precise and conservative English translation of the Bible, like The New International Version (NIV), The New American Standard Bible (NASB), to be as precise as possible to the meaning of the original texts.
There are useful study features that can help us in our understanding and studying the Bible, like for instance: cross references that help in covering a whole biblical subject, maps which helps us to figure out the different ancient places at which the historical events of the Bible took place, a good concordance which is useful for a serious study of the Bible.
It is useful to regard the precious advice of C. H. Spurgeon which focuses on the importance of understanding what we read in the Bible; regardless the amount or the speed or our daily achievement.
Also we can better understand the books of the Bible if we read some books from both the Old and New Testament consecutively, due to the close relations between some books in the Old Testament and the New one, for example the verbal relationship between Isaiah, and Romans and if they would be read consecutively that will lead us to a better understanding of what both books are intending and to relate the facts in both Testaments.
The following are some useful helps that can help us to get benefit from our reading and studying the Bible:
First it is important that we pray before reading and ask the help of the Holy Spirit, and to read the Bible with mental application.
It is advised that we practice the word that you read in our personal life, and to study and share the truths of the word in a Bible study group.
We must avoid surrendering to spiritual dullness, by considering the fact that in many times it is not a physical problem but rather a carnal indulgence; so we should decide to read the Bible no matter how we feel.
Reading the Bible with a loud voice it a very useful way to improve our retention.
Interpretation of the Bible
The foremost condition for interpreting the Bible is not to be a clever scholar, nor to understand Hebrew or Greek languages, but to be a spiritual born again Christian, for the Bible is the Word of God; therefore it was written by His Spirit and anyone that comes to it wouldn’t understand it unless that he is born from the Spirit.
When we come to interpretation we come to the great issue of the Bible; what does the Bible intend to say? And we got different answers from different scholars, but it should be clear that what we should seek is not the answers of the scholars or the views of men; no matter how wise they are, but what we should only seek here is the intention of the writer when God moved him to write, and it is one singular intention with many applications.
So we should seek and struggle to grasp that intention or understanding first (Literary Interpret); then from that interpretation we can come to the many applications that speaks to our contemporary situations and cases, it is important that we don’t seek applications from a passage in the Bible without first literary interpret it.
We should also acknowledge the effect of our presuppositions toward the Bible on our understanding and interpretation; therefore we shouldn’t come to the Bible with wrong presuppositions as for example: humanistic presupposition which adapt a mind that believes in the superiority of man, and will ignore the Fall, and the sinful nature of man that is declared in the Bible, but we should rather make the Bible the reference of our presuppositions.
Grammar (both English and Greek) is of essential importance in interpreting the Bible, and this especially true concerning the New Testament as the Greek language is very precise concerning the different tenses of its verbs, prepositions, conditional sentences that differs from English, compound words, Hence Bible scholars who want to interpret the Bible correctly should be good at English grammar -selecting an English precise version is a good help- they also should not be ignorant regarding the Greek grammar.
The Bible is not only a spiritual book but also a historical book written in different periods of times with different historical settings, and each historical setting of a certain book or passage interferes greatly our understanding of its book or its passage, so it will be useful that we regard the historical setting of any book or passage in the Bible while interpreting it, hence the historical setting is a part of God’s revelation.
Bible scholars should consider contexts while studying, the preceding context and its effect on the development of the argument in a certain paragraph, the following context and its effect on the subsequent development of the argument, also the overall context which is represented in the different Covenants and Dispensations should be regarded as they are of great interpreting importance.
We should understand that the Bible is the Book of God, and no matter how clever we are and how faithful and precise we are, we should regard the role of the Holy Spirit Who is in fact not only the writer but also the interpreter of the Word He had written, for Jesus had sent Him to us as our helper and reminder (see John 14:16-26), therefore we shall pray every time we come to interpret the Bible with humble hearts; confessing our weakness and asking the power and the guide of the Holy Spirit, Who will make all our abilities, helps, and knowledge effective and useful.
Basic Bible Doctrines
It is expected that our study of the Bible will lead us to a collection of doctrines; about God, Jesus, Salvation, the Church, and many important doctrines, in this final part of this study we should choose two Basic doctrines to discuss what they have to with us as today’s Christians
1- The doctrine of Salvation
As the doctrine of salvation is of vital importance not only for our Christian life but for the destiny of others to be saved, we should understand and study the three fundamental passages in the New Testament that announce clearly the doctrine of salvation and these are (John 3:14-16), (Rom.3:21-26), (Ephes.2:1-10).
We should use our study of these three passages as a base of a doctrinal message; that we can use to share the good news of salvation with others so that they might be saved from the wrath of God by the grace that is in our Lord Jesus Christ.
2- The doctrine of the Church
The Church is the body of Christ (Eph.1:22-23), the assembly of the redeemed believers through faith in Jesus Christ, hence it is not a building in which Christian go to, but it is the redeemed Christians themselves ; it was born by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:8), we can notice the intimate relation between the Holy Spirit and the Church; we must be sure that our Church always welcome the Holy Spirit which gave birth of it and make it alive for a Church without the Holy Spirit is a Christian club or a social gathering .
The Church is called to administrate the ordinances of Christ, and these are the baptism, and the Lords supper (Matt. 28:18-20; ICor.11:23-26) which both signify the identification of the Christian life, then our Churches should not ignore these two ordinances or it would miss a lot of its proper identification.
The Church is to be administrated under the supervision of spiritually gifted leaders (Eph. 4:11-13). Hence the lack and rejection of the different kinds of spiritually gifted leaders in our Churches will open the way to spiritually weak and un-gifted leaders who will probably lead our churches to declination, defeat, and the gates of Hell will attack us instead of we attacking them.
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