Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lesson 6 of Bible Interpretation.

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.

Rule 6:  The Language of Scripture is to be taken Literally

          Dr. M.L. Lowe, made use of every practical teaching aid, and be encouraged his students to build a library of good books for reference.  He often spoke of the various translations of the Bible, then available, so it is not surprising that he opened the discussion of the sixth link like this:

          It is a great help to compare different translations to arrive at the knowledge of just what is being said.

            Today we have one new translation upon another, a question of which paraphrase says it best, new Bible study books, and new ways of studying THE BOOK.  We feel much akin to the one who said that the Bible does not need to be re-written, but re-read!  Obviously some of the later translations do meet a need.  Occasionally a paraphrase, or a re-working of the Hebrew and Greek into present day terminology may be helpful.

          We cannot side with the deacon who remonstrated with his pastor for using an up-to-date translation by making the classic retort:  If the King James Version of the Bible was good enough for the Apostle Paul, It’s good enough for me!

            In the 1930’s, there were only a few dependable translations and versions of the Bible—and practically no paraphrase of any note.  Please keep that fact in mind as we continue Dr. Lowe’s dictated notes:

            Examine Galations 4:24.  There are some who say, “The Bible is figurative, it says …”which things are an allegory”.”  But when compared with other translations, we read, “…which things contain an allegory.” 

When the Bible makes good sense, it is nonsense to give it any other sense!

          Today, with the multiplicity of translations, versions, paraphrases, and perversions, we would only suggest that with the availability of STRONG’S EXHAUSTIVE CONCORDANCE, YOUNG’S ANALYTICAL CONCORDANCE, VINE’S EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS—and other equally efficient, accurate and dependable helps—any earnest Bible student may arrive at the exact meaning of the original text even though he may have only a rudimentary knowledge of Greek or Hebrew!

In the previous edition, we made this comment:

          “But it is to be remembered that each translation has its own weak places, for all translations are made by men.  If you find an improvement over the Authorized Version in one place, do not be misled into thinking it is complete in every instance.  A comparison of various passages in a number of modern translations will produce a wide variety of ideas.  Translations are good for study comparison.”

*Distinguish between the Literal and the Symbolic languages of the Bible!

          There are over 200 figures of speech used in the Bible; all of these are readily identified by using a little common sense.  But when the Bible records that Jesus walked on the water, that He fed five thousand men, besides women and children, etc, this is straight fact and needs no explanation.

          Sometimes the language of Scripture is SYMBOLIC.  This is always either so stated or it is self-evident.

          Examine Acts 2:1-3.  Note the words “as of” and “like as”.  Careful attention will avoid trouble here.

          Examine Revelation 5:5-7.  Christ is not a literal lion; neither is He a lamb; He is not a root, neither does He have seven horns and seven eyes.  While it is not so stated, the student is left to seek the meaning by the guidance of The Holy Spirit and by comparison of Scripture with Scripture.

          Dr. Lowe summed up this point by flatly admonishing the class to remember…

The Bible somewhere has an answer for every question it raises.  Take all of the Bible you can by reason, and the rest by faith!

          As a further investigative research, consider this:  Many people object to the teaching of a literal Hell, one burning with literal fire!  This is understandable.  No one could possibly be happy with a true comprehension of what the Bible actually teaches about this vital subject.  But, is it literal fire?  Until the advent of nuclear science, we knew very little about fire, except in conventional standards of heat and destruction.  But today we know there are other types of fire, some of which burn without destruction, and some which destroy without burning!  In any event, if it is not literal fire in the conventional terms of wood, coal, or oil, the very words used in the Bible warn of something infinitely terrible!  We don’t have to know how a soul could burn eternally in the manner thus portrayed without being annihilated—but we do know that God has just punishment for the unrepentant!  It is not ours to question the righteous judgements o God!  If this attitude upsets the reader, or if an objection is still raised, remember this:  Whatever HELL may be, it is so awful that God the Father was forced to take drastic action to save men from that which is simply described as “Hell fire!  Sin is such an awful thing that it was necessary for God to send His only begotten Son to become one of us—and on our level—to save us from the awful grip of sin!  Calvary is the only comprehendible picture we have of what God knows HELL to be!   If it were less than literal fire, Christ would never have had to die for us!  But, thank God, He did die for us when we were ungodly—and He did it because there is a just, literal HELL, so terrible He would do the only thing that could be done to save us from it!

*Distinguish the Parable from Actual Cases…

          There are two reasons why parables are used extensively in the Scriptures:
(1)          To make truth known to those who want to know
(2)         To hide the truth from those who do not want to know.

A parable is always a story—NO NAMES ARE GIVEN IN A PARABLE—the context always indicates that it is a parable!


          Some teachers take the seven parables of the Mystery of the Kingdom in Matthew 13, and make grotesque applications which are far afield from the rest of the Word.  (They teach that the sinner, who is bankrupt, sells all that he has—he has nothing—to buy the field or the pearl, each of which is represented as salvation!  But salvation is not for sale—it is a gift!  Moreover, the sinner no means of barter, for he is “dead in trespasses and sins!”)

          If a name is given (see Luke 16--LAZARUS); or it is stated; “A certain man… it is NOT A PARABLE, but an actual case, unless the Scripture plainly states that the particular account is a parable!

          There are seven parables in the Synoptic Gospels which open with the statement,  A certain man…  These parables were based on events well known to His hearers, and used by the Lord Jesus to convey truth they would recognize.  But in all other instances, where it does NOT specify that the account is a parable, it is not, and should not be treated as such.  The primary occasion for argument, of course, is the true account of the rich man and Lazarus, in Luke 16, at which the natural sinful heart of man rebels—because it does not want to believe this truth concerning the state of the unredeemed dead!