Volume 1 No. 6 

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. 

Michael Cortright

Keys to the Word's Interpretation

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The Bible is an Eastern book. God gave His Word in words easy to understand. He chose words in common use among His people when His Word was originally given. He spoke to them in terms they could understand - not only in their language, but also according to their customs and manners - so they could fulfill His will. 

The customs and manners found in the Bible are those of the Eastern or Oriental world. They are quite different from those in the Western or Occidental world. Because the Bible is an Eastern book, it is essential to study and understand the customs and manners of the Eastern people who originally heard it.

 If the original revelation is to be understood today so God's will can be fulfilled, then we must study and understand not only the language of the original inspiration but also the customs and manners of the people to whom it was originally given. God used these customs and manners to illustrate, illuminate, and communicate His wonderful Word. 

Many of the customs and manners of the Bible have survived to this century in India. Because India has remained an isolated country for thousands of years, the customs and manners of the people have been well preserved. Many of these customs and manners have continued until this day from the times the original revelation was given. The works of Reverend Dr. K.C. Pillai provide a basis for understanding many of the Orientalisms used in God's Word.

 Dr. K.C. Pillai (1900-1970) was a Bishop-at-large of the Indian Orthodox Church, Antiochean Succession, Madras, India. He spent the last twenty years of his life in the United States of America on a special mission to acquaint Christians with the Orientalisms of the Bible. His teachings, books, and work with believers provide a unique contribution in clarifying difficult Scriptural passages via an understanding of the Eastern customs and manners in the Bible. Although the publishing information is outdated, the following are some sources of Bishop K. C. Pillai's teachings:

 Light Through an Eastern Window, Robert Speller & Sons; Publishers (1963), New York 36, New York

 Orientalisms of the Bible - Volume 1, Munkus Publishing Company, INC. (1969), P.O. Box 15, Fairborn, Ohio 45324

 Orientalisms of the Bible - Volume 2, Munkus Publishing Company, INC (1974) - American Christian Press, The Way International (1984), New Knoxville, Ohio 45871

 Old and New Testament Orientalisms - Teachings of Bishop K.C. Pillai - Compiled by Reverend Bo Reahard - October 1980.  

While the study of customs and manners in the Bible is exhaustive, an example with Bishop Pillai's explanation is here provided to illustrate this key to Biblical Research.

 Luke 11:11-13 
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

 "Bread in the East is not like what you are familiar with in the western world. Each piece is round and flat, about the size of a dinner plate. It is very thin and is cooked on both sides. . . When the bread is done it is placed on a stone which is about the same size as the bread. Ordinarily there would be several Chappatis as we call the bread, in one stack. Then another stone would be placed on top to protect the bread. The women use ghee, which is like butter, in cooking the bread. Over a period of time the stones soak up the ghee and actually take on the appearance of the bread. . . Obviously, any Eastern father would know the difference between the stone and the bread, and he would never give the stone when his son has asked for bread."

 "There are all kinds of fish in Eastern waters, and there are many serpents which look like fish. One who is unfamiliar with the fish and the serpents could easily mistake one for the other. But the Eastern fisherman knows the difference and will throw out of the net all serpents or anything else that is not fit for human consumption. The father would not think of giving his son a serpent instead of a fish."

 "The body of a scorpion looks like an egg. The white scorpion, especially, could be mistaken for an egg. And if one would cut open its body, the inside is white and yellow just like an egg. So, you see, it is conceivable that a child would not know the difference. But his father knows, and the son has absolute confidence that he would not give anything that would harm him."

 "The whole point is that Father knows best. . . There is also another lesson we can learn from this scripture: nothing that is harmful to us comes from God. He is more concerned about his children than earthly fathers are for theirs." 

All of the writers of the books of the Bible were Eastern men. However, in the New Testament we find the influence of Western culture due to the domination of Israel by the Roman Empire at the time of the writing. In the first century, the ministry of the Word moved among Gentiles in Western countries (Spain, Italy, and Greece). Therefore, there is also a need to study the influence of the Western manners and customs prevalent in the first century when working the content of the new Testament. 
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Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. II Peter 1:20

Keys to the Word's Interpretation
Volume 1 No. 6

URL http://www.cortright.org/key6.htm
© Copyright March 1998 Michael Cortright