Saturday, November 3, 2012
Lesson 2.2 (Part 2) of Bible Interpretation
A counterpart to rule number 2
This lesson is borrowed from the booklet “Seven rules for Bible Interpretation”, written by REV. M. L. LOWE, D.D. with supplemental material by David W. Holden.
(MY WORDS IN RED)
Never take a text out of its context.
The Bible can be made to teach anything by picking verses that conform to a predetermined motive.
This is the “proof-text” method of Bible study. And, frankly, it is a method in which one is prone to indulge if he does not give proper thought to the hazards involved.
Here’s how it works: You have a point you wish to prove. So, taking a good concordance of the words of the Bible as they appear in our English translations, we first gather together all the verses which have the same word, and then eliminate all which do not conform to our way of thinking. By this method one can “prove” anything.
It is for this reason, that the Bible is often excluded from the courtroom. Jurists are very familiar with this type of logic, and they are aware of the pitfalls involved.
While we, for the most part (at least), would not resort to stoning as a method of capital punishment, there are certain isolated verses, which, taken by themselves, then assembled together, might lead to condoning the mob psychology for execution in this manner, even in this 20th century. We know that similar executions took place in colonial days—persons accused of witchcraft were summarily executed without a fair trial. The Bible neither “proves” nor “approves” of mob psychology! However, witchcraft is not to be tolerated and the Lord is clear about that. Exodus 22:18 and Deuteronomy 18:10 are a few telling verses.
But there is a far greater damage! That is of our wanting to prove some point so badly that we resort to this “proof-text” method, and build our teaching on it.
A PREPOSTEROUS ILLUSTRATION:
This method can reach ridiculous proportions. Did you know that the Bible teaches we should commit suicide? Here’s what it says:
Matthew 27:3 “…Then Judas…went and hanged himself.”
Luke 10:37 “Go, thou, and do likewise”
11 Corinthians 6:2 “…Behold, now is the time…”
John 13:27 “…That thou doest, do quickly”
Obviously this is NOT in harmony with any of the teaching of the Bible; similarly, beware of taking any subject and searching for verses merely to prove your point.
Now, let’s be practical. If your hands should fall on the literature of some cult, the first thing to look for is the use of certain verses or parts of verses to prove their point. Here is a very obvious illustration:
The Mormon “missionaries” come to your door. They seek an opening. Perhaps they carry a Scofield Refernce Bible under their arm (an old trick, probably they use newer translations today!) Sensing your interest in the Word, they propose that you hear them read the following passage:
Ezerkiel 37:15-17 “The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. ”
Now, these “missionaries” will tell you, these two sticks represent the Bible and the Book of Mormon. One, they claim, is not complete without the other. Since the advent of Joeseph Smith, these two are now one!
If such a case should happen to the reader, he need do but one thing. First, insist that he read the passage for himself out of his own Bible. But DON’T STOP THERE! Continue to read—at verse 22 the meaning becomes clear and obvious! Most certainly this passage is not speaking of joining Mormonism with Christianity! The context is a prophecy of the regathering of all the house of Israel! By the time you have read the remainder of the chapter aloud, your “guests” will have departed—they cannot abide the open scriptures!
But such misuse should also caution us to be very careful in our own use of the Scriptures. Could it be that we might take a thought and basing that thought upon an isolate verse, take that verse out of its context, and propound some new doctrine for ourselves or for the church? Here is an absurd illustration to show the lengths to which this can be carried:
We know the commandments to Israel concerning the prohibitions against eating pork. We also know that we are not under the Law, but under Grace. Question: Should a church sponsor a “ham supper” (O, just for fellowship; surely not to raise money!), but to “sanctify” the meat, shal we serve the ham sandwiches on Jewish Rye bread? Would that make it right? Oh, we’d never do such a stupid thing—like that! But, how often we do twist the Scriptures to justify some act!
In the matter of interpretation: The text, the context, all of Scripture, must be kept in balance!