BIBLIOLOGY: HOW FIRM IS OUR FOUNDATION?

by Rev. Jefferson Vann

The Standard

As the first century was coming to an end, the Christian message was beginning to be challenged by various cults and false teachers. Responding to this reality, the apostle John wrote, “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”[1]    He implied that there is a test to determine whether someone is walking in truth or not: are they listening to (and heeding) the message of the apostles.

This was the attitude of the prophets of Old Testament times as well. Samuel, for example, said to Saul, “Tell the servant to pass on before us, and when he has passed on, stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God.”[2] When Moses spoke to Pharaoh, he did not speak on his own authority, but prefaced his words with “thus says the Lord.”[3] Other prophets followed the same pattern (Joshua 24:2; Judges 6:8; 2 Samuel 12:7; 1 Kings 11:31; 17:14; 2 Kings 19:20). They had the audacity to assume that their messages were God’s Word, and carried God’s authority – and they were right.

The writings of the prophets carried the same authority. This is evidenced by the recurrence of the phrase “the word of the LORD came” (Isaiah 38:4; Jeremiah 1:2, 4, 11; Ezekiel 1:3; 3:16; Hosea 1:1; Joel 1:1; Jonah 1:1; 3:1). It was clear that it was not the prophets themselves – through their own ingenuity or wisdom – who came up with these words. The words were a supernatural gift from God himself. It was truly revelation. It was not “inspiration” in the modern sense of the word – which implies some kind of boosting of an artistic genius that already exists. Instead, God was revealing himself and his thoughts and words to those who wrote the original manuscripts of the Bible.

God continues to reveal himself personally to those who seek him, but he no longer needs to communicate to us the same way that he has in the Bible. Those 66 books remain the standard by which we can judge whether we are listening to God’s voice or someone else’s. The Bible is the standard in two senses of the word. It serves as a basis of comparison for all the words and ideas that bombard us. It also serves as the rallying flag (or standard) where all those truly seeking and speaking God’s truth will congregate.

Willingness to accept the teachings of the Bible is evidence that one has had a real experience with God. It is a choice that everyone who encounters the Bible must make, and it has consequences. Since God’s Word is his standard, those who reject it, or belittle it, or only choose to heed it partly, will find themselves caught up in a spirit of error. They might be partly aware of the realities of which the Bible speaks, but will fail to understand their implications. For example, many unbelievers know about, and even celebrate Christmas and Easter. But the deeper implications of the events celebrated (like the incarnation and the resurrection) find no place in their world-view. Those deeply deceived might even understand some of these theological ideas, but will not feel the necessity of applying them to their own lives by a true conversion. By refusing to put their faith in Christ (as revealed in the Bible), they have aligned themselves with Satan by default.

 The Manuscripts

The Bible did not come to humanity as one complete document. The messages of Moses, the Prophets and the other Old Testament sages were revered by Jews in their separate forms for centuries. But the tendency was to combine them into groups even then. The earliest grouping was the five books of Moses, which the Jews call the Torah, or Law. By the time of Christ, all Jews accepted the Torah as God’s inspired word, while some Jews (like the Sadducees) did not view any other books in that category. For most Jews, however, it was hard to resist the appeal of the Writings (which contain some historical books and some poetic works) and the Prophets. The Hebrew Bible was already complete by that time, and consisted of all the documents that we now call the 39 books of the Old Testament. While there were many other books known by Jews at that time (in several languages) only these books were regarded as canonical, that is, inspired Scripture.

The Gospels had the same appeal for Christians as the Torah did for Jews, since they recorded the events associated with Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and were conveyed by either apostles themselves (like Matthew and John) or people who were closely associated with them (like Mark and Luke). Thus the Gospels became the standard for measuring God’s will as revealed by Jesus for new covenant believers just as the Torah had been the standard as revealed by Moses for old covenant believers.

The writings of the apostles continued in letters to the churches founded in the first century. These letters were called epistles, and reflected the new reality of the Christian church, and concentrated on defining and protecting it. The writings of John (including Revelation) completed this group of documents. Like the Old Testament books, these books began as individual manuscripts, and were later copiously copied and compiled into groups. Recognition of the inspired nature of these books was practically immediate, but it was not until a heresy developed that questioned the canonicity of the Old Testament (Marcionism), that the Church felt the need to officially set the Canon.

The Versions

 As the Church sought to convey the message of the whole Bible to the predominately Greek speaking world of the first century, they were helped by the Greek New Testament, and a version of the Old Testament that had been translated from its original Hebrew and Aramaic, into Greek. This Greek Old Testament, called the Septuagint, was the first in a long line of what we call versions of the Bible. The versions seek to bridge the cultural, linguistic and temporal distance between the original manuscripts and modern audiences.

No one version of the Bible will ever be perfect, because 1) the needs of modern audiences are always changing, 2) our understanding of the texts of the original manuscripts is constantly being tweaked, and 3) our understanding of the culture of biblical audiences and writers is being updated through historical, archaeological and philological research. It is OK to have a preference for a particular version (as long as one does not get too dogmatic about it), but it is better to use several versions, comparing the renderings on certain texts – for the sake of clarity, and to avoid the biases of individual scholarly teams.

Is Diversity a Liability?

 The existence of multiple versions and manuscripts may lead some to question whether God’s authority can be asserted. But the same kind of diversity exists in creation itself. While the skies declare the glory of God, they don’t always do it in the same way. They are sometimes cloudy skies, sometimes clear. They are sometimes rainy, sometimes dry. They are sometimes stormy, sometimes calm. The diversity in creation testifies to the brilliant creativity of our Creator, and leaves us not knowing what he’s going to come up with next.

Since God expects us to come to him by faith, he seems to have eliminated the certainty factor from the Bible in order to encourage people to put their faith in him, rather than to trust in their own understanding of his revelation. On the other hand, one might argue that the multiplicity of manuscripts and versions can help humans gain even more clarity, in the same way that several witnesses to a crime insure that the whole truth about it comes out at the trial.

Today’s Problem

Bultema asserts that “in the ancient church (canonicity) happened to be the greatest problem. While they all believed in the infallible inspiration of the Scriptures, they were not settled as to the question of which books should be included into or excluded from the sacred volume.”[4]  The modern church seems to have settled the issue of canonicity, but now struggles more and more with the fundamental question of authority, and the extent to which they can trust the Bible as God’s exclusive voice. Advent Christians have historically asserted absolute confidence in the Bible. The next few chapters will show that the confidence is not misplaced.

The Tool

The absolute confidence Advent Christians have historically held concerning the Bible has always been two-fold: a confidence in what the Bible is (the Word of God), and also in what the Bible does. Advent Christians realize that the Bible was never intended merely to inform them of God’s existence and standards, but it was designed to do more. It was designed as a tool to transform them into the people God wanted them to be. Many Advent Christians came out of other movements which stressed the role of the Holy Spirit in personal sanctification.

Human nature is not what it should be. The entrance of sin into the mix has corrupted our DNA and our minds and hearts as well. The human race in general – and every person in particular – is off kilter. We may not be as bad as we could be, but nobody is as good as we were supposed to be. We need help.

God has a wonderful plan for your life, but you do not qualify for it, and neither do I. Something is wrong inside – and that something has disqualified us all for the destiny God has in store. Christ’s death on the cross applied by faith removed the penalty of sin, which restores our relationship with God, but it did not immediately transform us into the kind of people who are fit for eternity. God has provided his Word to begin that process.

We need to apply the words and message of the Bible to our lives. This allows God’s Word to transform us into who we were intended to be. The apostle Paul explained the mechanics of this process when encouraging Timothy to stay true to the faith and not follow the deceptions of apostates.[5] He explained that the apostates who would come would soon be shown to be fools (vs. 9), but that Timothy would be vindicated because…

“…from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Paul called the difference that protected Timothy from apostasy wisdom. The source of that wisdom was the sacred writings, a term that Paul used to refer to the Hebrew Scriptures. Now that the New Testament has been written, the term all Scripture includes those writings as well.

Notice the elements of the process that Paul describes. Each element is crucial for transformation, and in each element the Holy Spirit actively uses the Word of God to affect change.

Element #1: The light of “wisdom that leads to salvation.”

This is the foundational element. No one can be sanctified if they have not come to the cross and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. One of the reasons for this prerequisite is that this event (conversion) is when the Holy Spirit comes inside the believer. He comes to us when we are saved, and he comes in order to sanctify. Skeptics often wonder why Christians make so much of the Bible when it does not appear to have much effect. But the transformation that Christians enjoy only comes after they have professed faith in Christ, not before.

The Bible does contain a great deal of wisdom, which anyone can profit from. For this reason, a great many unbelievers who have obeyed Scripture because it has been incorporated into the human laws of their state have profited from that obedience – gaining peace and perhaps even a measure of prosperity they otherwise would not have enjoyed. Much of the Old Testament Wisdom Literature (e.g. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job) offer that kind of wisdom.

But Paul says the Bible also offers a different kind of wisdom. It is “the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” It is the ability to see beyond the mundane problems of the day and to recognize an ultimate problem: sin, and its resulting estrangement from God. The wisdom of which Paul speaks addresses that ultimate, eternal issue. It is an answer to a problem that is more important than those the secular world can address.

One of my wife’s relatives is a very talented artist. He painted a scene in which a young family is sitting at the table in their home and are obviously in distress. The child has tipped over his glass of milk, and both parents are in tears. Yet, also in the painting is a window, and through the window observers of the painting can see what that young family does not. A giant funnel cloud from a tornado has formed, and is heading straight for the home. The family is so preoccupied with the spilled milk that they are oblivious to the real danger which is imminent.

That painting is a parable that describes the plight of so many people in this world. It is so easy to get carried away in search of answers to problems that appear to be important, but that pale in comparison to the issue of one’s eternal destiny. The only way to explain such ignorance is to admit that deception has occurred. The world has been deceived into believing that there is no eternal destiny. Therefore its population runs screaming from one spilled milk crisis to another.

Paul explains that Timothy is different because he has allowed the sacred Scriptures to give him a different kind of wisdom – rather than a worldly wisdom he has been given a next-worldly wisdom.

The apologist Cornelius Van Til compared the Scriptures to “the sun in the light of which all things are seen and without the light of which nothing is seen for what it is.”[6] It sheds light on that ultimate reality, enabling believers to understand why Jesus had to die on the cross as a sacrifice for the world’s sin. But that light is not just a spotlight, focusing myopically on the crucifixion itself. The light is like a sun, which illuminates the whole world. So, for the believer, accepting Christ is the essential starting point of a new life, now ordered by the new realities revealed in God’s Word.

Element #2: “Teaching:” The Light that Reveals True Doctrine.

After the Holy Spirit changes the heart through conversion, he gets to work immediately on informing the mind through teaching. He does not have to invent a new teaching for each new convert. Instead, he utilizes “whatever was written in former days,”7 (i.e. The Bible) because the old truths revealed there remain true, and they are just as powerful as they always have been.

The difference between texts of Scripture (which always carry God’s authority because they are God’s Word) and human doctrines (which are our human attempts at answering our own questions)[7] must be maintained. However, it is those texts of Scripture that lead us to those doctrines, and that is God’s intention. He wants us to understand the world we live in, and the way we are supposed to live in it. He wants us to be aware of where our problems will probably come from, and what resources are available for us to deal with those problems.

Within the body of Christ (the Church), The Holy Spirit provides certain ministries that exist to help the believer grow in maturity.9  One of the roles of these equipping ministries is to help the believer to tell the difference between a teaching that has been cleverly devised to distract him, and a teaching that was intended by God to mature him. Each of these equipping ministries had a teaching component.10Each of them drew heavily upon the Word of God as the basis for their authority and ministry.

Legitimate Bible teaching ministries encourage people to follow Christ – not themselves. They submit to the ministries of other Christians rather than dominate through the pulpit or lectern. They can also tell the difference between essential truths (where Christians tend to be unified) and distinctive doctrines (where Christians tend to manifest diversity). Their emphasis is on the essentials, while not neglecting the issues that form the distinctives.

Element #3: “Reproof:” The Light that Exposes False Doctrine.

The same light that reveals true doctrine also exposes false doctrine. This appears to be the idea behind the word reproof.[8]  Part of the maturing process is submitting to the Word of God, and allowing it to expose areas in ones understanding that have been tainted by deception or ignorance. Conversion to Christ involves a changing of one’s mind, but does not guarantee that false understandings and perceptions will be immediately eliminated.

The true disciple loves God with all her mind (Mark 12:30), and seeks to have her life transformed by the renewing of her mind (Romans 12:2).  She will “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). She will “not despise prophecies, but (will) test everything; (and) hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). She will allow the light of the Word of God to reprove her for false doctrines she has held in the past.

Element #4: “Correction:” The Light that Exposes Improper Behavior.

God teaches us how to live by giving us commands in the Bible. He has also provided the Bible as a kind of mirror, by which we can evaluate our behavior to see if it measures up to God’s intention. This is what James implies:

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.  If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:23-26).

The mirror simile is a reminder that believers need to change their deeds as well as their doctrines. The Bible provides a means for both.

An Old Testament story illustrates this mirror role of the Bible: the story of King Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34:1-21. While refurbishing the temple, one of the king’s officials found a copy of the “Book of the Law of the House of the LORD,” and brought it to Josiah. When Josiah realized that the priests and people had been disobeying God’s law, he tore his clothes as a sign of remorse. He realized that Israel had incurred God’s wrath for being disobedient. Josiah showed discernment in stark contrast to most of the Israelites of his day. A children’s book author has compared C. S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian to king Josiah because he “was considered a boy-king who rejected the wickedness of his ancestors and worked to restore his nation.”12He realized that ignorance of the Word of God had led to sin, and God was bound by his own nature to punish that sin.

Element #5:  “Training in Righteousness:” The Light that Produces Proper Behavior.

The psalmist alluded to this role of God’s Word in the longest psalm, 119:

“Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules” (Psalm 119:104-106). The Bible serves as a training manual, giving believers understanding that keeps them on the right path. The believer determines to keep God’s righteous rules. Just carrying around a copy of the Bible will do nothing.

In this New Testament passage (2 Tim. 3) Paul identifies the Bible as a means by which Christ trains believers in righteousness. In a previous letter he had encouraged Timothy to “train (himself) for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim.4:7-8). He defined godliness in his letter to Titus, as “to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12).

The Bible trains believers in righteousness in a number of ways: 1) by condemning improper behavior, 2) by defining and promoting proper behavior, 3) by illustrating each with biographical examples in both testaments, 4) by encouraging us to draw on the power available through the Holy Spirit for godly living, 5) by steering believers to congregate and have fellowship, which fosters spiritual growth toward Christ-likeness.

There is a sixth, more subtle effect on the believer as well. As she spends quality time every day in God’s Word, thinking God’s thoughts, reliving God’s reactions, she cannot help but pick up more of God’s character. The exposure itself changes her, somewhat like a missionary is changed by living in another culture. The proverb GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) works the other way as well. Sustained exposure to the words and principles of the Bible is bound to affect the words that the believer says, and her thoughts and actions.

The Bible, then, is a tool that the Holy Spirit can use to change us. Like any tool, its usefulness increases the more it is used, because the user becomes more adept at its operation. This generation has a multitude of Bibles and Bible versions available. Only time will tell if they have been utilized properly.

The Light

The psalmist calls God’s Word “a lamp to (his) feet and a light to (his) path” (Psalm 119:105), affirming that what God says helps him walk as God desires. Today’s culture tends to treat the Bible as a dark and confusing path, rather than a light. But God’s Word is intended to be understood in the contexts and times in which it was originally given, and with a minimum of effort, and we can understand and apply it to our modern contexts as well.

Traditionally, this doctrine is known as the clarity or perspicuity of Scripture. It affirms that “Scripture can be and is read with profit, with appreciation and with transformative results.”[9] Some might argue that since the Bible is God’s word, one requires divine help to read it. But the evangelical doctrine of clarity assumes that the divine help is built into the inspired text itself.

In fact, one reason that people often have problems understanding Scripture is that in addition to being God’s Word, it is also written with human words.[10] Hermeneutics, the science of biblical interpretation, exists to help human beings understand the meaning intended by the original human authors of Scripture. God did not bypass the minds of those human authors. His Word is written in their words. The more we understand them, the more we will understand him.

When biblical texts are treated in accordance with the rules of literature established for the genres they reflect, their meaning is obvious. Willful ignorance of the teachings of God’s Word cannot be excused by claiming that the Bible is too confusing.

The Genealogies

Many stumble over the lists they find in the Bible, and fail to see how such lists – e.g. the genealogies – can be theologically appropriate, or devotionally uplifting. But the existence of these numerous lists is the very thing that made these texts come alive to the original recipients, since they realized that what God did affected the lives of people like them, and – in many cases – their own families.

The Archaisms

Some object that the Scriptures are outdated, and thus obsolete. Every writing is a product of its own time, and the Scriptures are no exception. But the really good writings are so good that they are worth the time and effort it takes to overcome the time barrier. Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies, for example, are still performed today, and many versions of his works are available. People still study his writings, and some do it exclusively. Often a Shakespeare book will be published with professional annotations. The reason is that without those explanatory notes, many of the sayings, although written in English, would be incomprehensible. Time has so changed how things are communicated in English that such extra study is necessary if we are to understand what Shakespeare meant. But no one blames Shakespeare for that. It is not that he wrote without clarity. Time has made his clear words unclear. It only takes a little effort and study to appreciate the genius of Shakespeare. The same is true of God’s Word.

In fact, it takes less time and effort to understand the Bible than it does Shakespeare for several reasons:

  1. Scholars continue to research the background of Bible texts, revealing insights that help the average Christian understand what the original authors of Scripture intended to say. This is actually one of the purposes for commentaries and Bible textbooks.
  2. New translations of the Bible help to clarify texts, words and phrases that were difficult to understand in the past. This is why Christians should not get hung up defending just one translation of the Scriptures, as if God has only endorsed one. That is just not true. The King James Bible may have been the best translation available to explain God’s Word to English speakers in 1611, but a lot has changed in the last 400 years. Biblical scholarship has changed, and not all of it has been modernist. The English language has changed drastically. In fact, if you ever see one of those King James Bibles written exactly as they were written in 1611, you will notice how hard it is to read it. I recommend that every serious student of the Word of God possess two English language Bibles: one should be more word-for-word literal, and the other should seek dynamic equivalence. Just in the short time that I have been preaching and teaching the Bible, the actual versions that I recommend have changed several times. Currently, I recommend the ESV (English Standard Version) for its literal rendering of the original words, and the NLT (New Living Translation) as an example of dynamic equivalence.[11]
  3. Theologians continue to posit theories and doctrines that are aimed at showing the meaning of the Bible as a whole, or the particular emphasis of a biblical author. As more work is done in this area, the average Christian is more able to explain what Scripture means. As long as we continue to draw a distinction between those doctrinal systems and the Bible itself, this process can only magnify the clarity of Scripture.
  4. Unlike Shakespeare, the Bible is best understood when its message is applied. “Application focuses the truth of God’s Word to specific, life-related situations. It helps people understand what to do or to use what they have learned.”[12] Those who commit themselves to living the Bible find its message less complex. As believers find themselves walking in the footsteps of the biblical characters, they understand why God blessed them when he blessed them, and why he withheld blessing or brought judgment when they rebelled or sinned.
  5. The truly born-again Christian has the help of a resident Bible expert: The Holy Spirit, who inspired the Bible, and thus can explain its message best. The Holy Spirit accompanies the Word, and brings about understanding and conviction (1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Thess. 1:5; 1 John 2:27). He encourages listeners not to harden their hearts when they hear God’s voice (Hebrews 3:7-8). He also appears to particularly accompany the preaching of the word, so that it has special power (1 Peter 1:12).

The Genres

One of the characteristics of Scripture that leads many to label it as confusing is that it is a collection of many different types of writing, not just one. A genre is a type of writing. Poetry is one genre, and history is another. One would never approach a book of poetry expecting to get the kind of information she can get from a history book.  But the untrained reader often approaches an obscure text of Scripture expecting to be “blessed” the same way she was blessed when reading John 3. It doesn’t work that way.

The Tanach

The Hebrew compilers of Scripture recognized this fact, and grouped together books of similar genres. This simple grouping consisted of the Torah, the Neviim, and the Chtuvim. The whole Hebrew Bible is thus often called the Tanach, from the first letters of those three genres.

The Tanach

Torah Neviim Chtuvim
“Law” “Prophets” “Writings”
Instruction from Moses about who the Israelites are, and what God has planned for them. A look at the Israelites from God’s viewpoint. A look at the Israelites from their own viewpoint.
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Twelve Minor Prophets. Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 & 2 Chronicles.

The Torah

Both the Neviim and the Chtuvim were (in a sense) commentaries on the Torah,since the Torah served as the basis for the Israelite identity, as it carved out the pattern for the nation in relationship with its Lord. The Torah established the parameters of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic ceremonial regulations were important because they accentuated this covenant relationship and tied together the Israelites as a separate people, intended to be uniquely God’s.

The Neviim

The Neviim held the Israelites accountable for living up to the demands of that covenant. That was why the prophets often condemned their own people. God was speaking through them, calling them to task for their failure to be who he wanted them to be, encouraging them to live up to who they were. Reading the prophets requires keeping that in mind, and continually tracing the prophetic pronouncements back to the original covenant stipulations they reflect. While prophetic texts contain many predictive elements, they are best read not as merely history written beforehand, but as historical reflections on God’s plan as revealed in the Torah. This explains why the Hebrews considered some historical books (e.g. Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings) as prophets.

Chtuvim

The writings category is somewhat surprising as well. It contains poetry and wisdom literature, but also some historical books. The biggest surprise is that the Hebrews categorized the book of Daniel as a writing instead of a prophet. The best way to see this category is as sort-of the opposite of the prophets. While the prophets showcase God’s people from God’s viewpoint, the writings view life from the perspective of God’s people themselves. Perhaps Daniel is included in this category as an example of how godly wisdom works its way out in the life of a leader in exile. Of course, there are prophecies in Daniel, just as there are examples of poetry and wisdom in the Torah and Neviim.

The New Testament

The Gospels Revelation Acts & The Epistles
Instruction from Jesus about who Christians are, and what God has planned for them. A look at Christians from God’s viewpoint.

 

A look at Christians from their own viewpoint.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John Revelation Acts, The Pauline Epistles, The General Epistles

The New Testament contained books that followed a very similar pattern. The new covenant was explained by Jesus to his disciples. Revelation is a means of encouragement from God as Christians seek to live their lives in obedience to that covenant while encountering opposition from the Dragon (Satan), the Beast (political powers), and the False Prophet (religious deception). Acts and the Epistles swing back in the other direction as the new Church seeks to define and defend itself as the new covenant people of God.

New Translations and Versions

When it became necessary to translate the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the Hebrew Bible, and add the new inspired writings of the New Testament, new versions came about that did not follow the Jewish tripartite categories. Eventually a new standard classification system developed that divided the OT into law, history, poetry and prophecy, and the NT into Gospels, history (Acts), epistles, and prophecy (Revelation). No classification system is inspired, and this new one had its flaws, but it was an honest attempt at classifying texts according to their genre. The problem was that each biblical book may contain examples of several genres.

Genre Classification Today

The approach today is to treat smaller segments of text within the biblical books, and seek to understand their meaning based on the type of writing they reflect. Thus any text might be classified as apocalypse, epistle, genealogy, gospel, law, narrative, poetry, prophecy, proverb, psalm or wisdom and with each classification comes a different set of rules for interpreting the text.[13]

The Problem with Lights

Like every other electrical device, a flashlight has to be turned on to work. The Bible is a light to illumine dark paths, but it will do no one any good if it stays on the shelf. Just claiming that you have a flashlight is not going to be very helpful. You have to pull it out and turn it on. Millions have found encouragement and solace in the Bible, but each has had to put their trust in it. Those of us who have had the privilege to study the Bible for many years can testify that it never fails to light the path for those who dare to use it.

[1] 1 John 4:6.

[2]1 Samuel 9:27.

[3]

[4]    Harry Bultema, Miracle of Inspiration.  (Grand Rapids: Grace Publications, 1990), 9.

[5] 2 Timothy 3.

[6]Cornelius Van Til, The Protestant Doctrine of Scripture. (Ripon, CA: den  Dulk Christian Foundation, 1967),40.

[7]cf. Chapter 1, pp. 8-9.

[8]Although evlegmo,j is used in the Bible for rebuking sinful behavior (Psalm 39:11; Isaiah 37:3), in this context it appears to address false doctrine, since it is coupled with the word didaskali,a, and the Bible’s effects upon the believer’s behavior are adequately described later in the verse.  Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Faithful. (David C. Cook, 1981), 150-151 explains that the Scriptures “are profitable for doctrine (what is right), for reproof (what is not right), for correction (how to get right), and for instruction in righteousness (how to stay right).

[9]James Callahan, The Clarity of Scripture. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 9. See also Gregg Allison, The Protestant Doctrine of the Perspicuity of Scripture. (Deerfield, IL: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1995), 516-517. Allison provides and defends the following definition: “Perspicuity is a property of Scripture as a whole, and of each portion of Scripture whereby it is comprehensible to all believers who possess the normal acquired ability to understand oral communication and/or written discourse, regardless of their gender, age, education, language or cultural background. However, the level of people’s comprehension of perspicuous Scripture is appropriate to and usually varies proportionately with various factors, including, but not limited to, spiritual maturity. In addition, the doctrine of perspicuity is always affirmed in the context of a believing community, a context that assumes the assistance of others in attaining a more precise understanding of Scripture, and perspicuity requires a dependence on the Holy Spirit for Scripture to be grasped, and calls for a responsive obedience to what is understood. Moreover, perspicuity includes the comprehensibility of the way of salvation to unbelievers who are aided by the Holy Spirit, and it does not exclude some type of cognition of Scripture in general by unbelievers.”

[10]Moises Silva, “Who Needs Hermeneutics Anyway.” in Walter C. Kaiser and Moises Silva, An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 16.

[11]Serious Bible students can now have access to dozens of versions, and the more, the better. Bible software programs have made this possible for many, as well as Bible study websites on the Internet.

[12]D. Veerman, How to Apply the Bible, 2nd ed. (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1993), 15.

[13]See https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/k-lee7/www/iccf/docs/ blitgenres.htm

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