Keys to Research
The Word of God interprets itself. To understand God's Word certain keys to research must be understood and applied when working the Word to avoid private interpretation and maintain the integrity of the original text. These studies are provided to outline some of the simple keys to understanding God's Word.
To understand God's Word certain keys to research must be understood and applied when working the Word to avoid private interpretation and maintain the integrity of the original text.
These studies are provided to outline some of the simple keys to understanding God's Word.
Keys to the Word's Interpretation
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In The Verse
In Harmony with Itself -
An unclear verse must be understood in light of the many clear ones. -
The Word of God is its own context. Because all of the Word of God is "God-Breathed" (authored by God) it is its own context for study. A verse or passage of scripture must be in harmony with the Word of God itself.
Scriptures that relate to the same subject in God's Word cannot contradict each other. If a verse seems to contradict other passages related to the same subject there must be an error either in our understanding of the verse or in translation because God cannot contradict Himself.
Whenever an apparent contradiction exists the difficult verse must be understood and interpreted in light of the many clear verses on the same subject. To elevate the one contradictory verse and negate the many clear verses is NOT HONEST. If the whole Word of God is clear on a subject and one or two verses seem to contradict the whole context of God's Word you must NEVER magnify the unclear verse and ignore the whole.
The unclear verse must be understood in light of the clear. In working an unclear verse you also must be careful to not "squeeze" the unclear verse into the clear verses:
The important point is that you maintain an understanding of the whole Word of God and not throw out the many clear verses in favor of your working of one difficult one.
Finally, do not be anxious. If it takes twenty years to
understand one verse then it takes twenty years. If you never find the answer to the
difficult verse then you never find the answer. But you must never squeeze God's Word
into saying something that it does not say. Rather you let the difficult verse stand and
accept the fact that you don't know it all - YET.
Similar VS Identical
In working God's Word you must be very careful to avoid identifying situations as identical when they are only similar. For example if in one Gospel Jesus Christ heals a blind man as he is entering a city and in another Gospel Jesus Christ heals a blind man as he leaves that same city the situations are similar but NOT identical.
If I go to work at 7:00 on Monday and park in a particular parking place and I go to work at 7:00 on Tuesday and park in the same parking place these two incidents are not identical they are similar. These situations are not identical as they took place 24 hours apart. The timing was different.
Time and place must both be the same if we are examining an identical situation.
Narrative Development - Scripture Builds Up
By studying several passages of Scripture on an identical incident or subject you may gain a greater understanding and depth of the subject as the information in each record may augment the information given in the other records. This build up of Scripture is called "narrative development."
In studying the narrative development of identical situations in various passages of Scripture, it becomes vitally important to observe The Word with a keen eye and perceptive mind to see the depth of it. It is important to recognize that each passage of Scripture relating to the identical incident may not give the same details but the Scriptures must complement and agree with each other or we do not have the true Word of God. If the situations are identical, that which is set forth in one Scripture cannot contradict that which is set forth in the other. However, Matthew may report certain details, Mark may add others, and Luke still others. The details from each individual record, put together, supply us with the whole picture.
An example of narrative development can be seen in working the records in the book of Acts that tell about the Apostle Paul's experience with meeting the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. There are three records of this identical situation. The first record is told as part of the narrative of the book of Acts and records Paul's experience in the third person. The second and third records are Paul's telling of the experience in trial situations later in the book of Acts. Each record provides details that when studied together supply us with a more complete picture of Paul's experience.
In chapter nine Jesus says: "Saul, Saul, . . ." Paul answers: "Who art thou . . ." and Jesus says: "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."
In chapter 26 Jesus says: "Saul, Saul . . ." AND "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" before Paul asks "Who art thou?." Chapter 22 does not include the "kick against the pricks" statement.
In order to understand the proper order you must examine the Greek texts. The end of verse 5 and the beginning of verse 6 in chapter 9 (noted in blue above) do not appear in most texts indicating they were added to the text. While the statement was made (as recorded in chapter 26) it was inserted in chapter 9 out of its proper order. To have the true Word of God this addition to the text must be deleted and the record understood by working all three records using the principle of narrative development.
Chapter 9 tells us that Paul fell to the ground and that Paul heard the voice of Jesus Christ. It also tells us that in Damascus Paul would be told more of what he was to do. Chapter 22 adds no new information at this point. Chapter 26 provides the added information that all of the men fell to the earth, that Paul heard the voice, and that Jesus spoke to Paul in Hebrew.
A greater understanding of these verses can be gained by understanding Biblical culture. A farmer would direct his oxen to plow a straight row in the field by using a long sharpened staff that the farmer would point at the heels of the oxen. The oxen would kick at the pricks directing them. God's Word was attempting to direct Paul. In persecuting the believers Paul was "kicking at the pricks" of God's Word.
In Acts 9:7, in the Greek text, the word for "hear" [akouo] is followed by the word "voice" [phones] in the genitive case; but in Acts 22:9, in the Greek text, the word for "hear" [akouo] is followed by the word "voice" [phonen] in the accusative case.
In the Greek language there is a linguistic and grammatical difference between the "hearing of a voice" - the sound or noise (with the genitive case); and the "hearing of a voice" - The actual content of the words or the matter spoken (with the accusative case).
Those who accompanied Paul heard, just as Paul himself did, the sound, the noise of a voice. But only Paul heard and understood the actual words. The third record in Acts 26:14 gives us the added information that Jesus Christ spoke to Paul in the Hebrew language. Paul was an educated man who spoke Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Perhaps the men travelling with Paul did not speak Hebrew and that is why they heard the sound of the voice but did not understand the words.
These three records also tell us that all the men saw the light but only Paul was blinded by its brightness and the others led him to Damascus.
By working God's Word using the principle of narrative development a greater understanding of the whole picture can be gained as we study God's Word In The Verse.
Volume 1 No. 4
© Copyright January 1998 Michael Cortright