Condensed Theology

A Primer in Systematic Theology

Bibliology: The Doctrine of Scripture
What does the Bible teach about itself?

Where We’ve Been & Where We’re Going
• • Six lessons on the Bible Addressing the following subjects:
• • • • • • • Revelation & Inspiration Authority Sufficiency Unity Necessity Power Truthfulness – Inerrancy – Infallibility Clarity – Illumination – Hermeneutics » Grammatico-historical exegesis » Redemptive-historical interpretation Canonicity

The Clarity of Scripture
Is the Bible’s meaning clear?

Defining Clarity

Defining the Bible’s Clarity
• When we say that the Bible is clear, we mean that its message can be understood by human beings through the ordinary means of understanding any written communication

The Bible Can Be Understood by Human Beings
• This part of our initial definition is an inference from the doctrine of revelation • Since the Bible is a revelation of God; i.e. an unveiling of truth, we reason that it must be able to be understood. • Put negatively, if the Bible cannot be understood, then it cannot properly be a revelation of God

The Bible Can Be Understood by Human Beings
• 1 Cor 2:12-13: Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

The Bible Can Be Understood through the Ordinary Means
• This part of our initial definition is an inference from the phenomena of Scripture; i.e. it is an inference from what the Bible is: God’s written revelation composed through men • 2 Pet 1:20-21: But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

The Humanity of Scripture: The Bible Composed by Men
• The ordinary means of understanding human documents must take into account the phenomena of Scripture itself • We must reckon with the fact that God revealed this word (the Bible) to us in earlier times and in many forms

The Phenomena of Scripture

The Phenomena of Scripture
The Bible Was Written by Men: It Is a Human Book

Historical Gaps Cultural Gaps Religious Gaps Linguistic Gaps Literary Gaps

Historical Gaps
• ANE • 2nd Temple Judaism (a.k.a. the Intertestamental Period) • Roman rule in the ancient world, esp. in Palestine • Development of the provinces of Asia Minor • The dates of the respective compositions • The reasons for which each was composed • The original audience(s) of a composition • Geography (e.g., cities no longer in existence) • Textual transmission, text criticism

Cultural Gaps
• • • • • • • Family relationships Political protocol Economic practices Military systems Agricultural methods Legal systems Philosophical systems

Religious Gaps
• The temple cult and the religions of the ANE • Judaism of Jesus’ Day • Emperor Cult • Mithraism • Proto-gnosticism • Mystery religions

Linguistic Gaps
• The Bible has been composed in Hebrew, Aramaic, and (Koine) Greek • The issues of translation: difficulty, interpretative function

Literary Gaps
• The Bible incorporates a variety of literary styles, some of which are no longer in use (e.g. apocalyptic) • In addition, of those still in use, their ancient function is different from their contemporary function (poetry, proverb, taunt, etc.)

The Phenomena of Scripture
• In order to understand the ancient texts of the Old and New Testaments, the historical, cultural, religious, linguistic, literary gaps must be bridged • Thus we need a method for bridging these gaps that we might understand the revelation of God given in earlier times • This branch of study is called hermeneutics

The Science and Art of Biblical Interpretation

• Luke 24:27: Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. • The word translated “explained” is diermh,neusen (dierm neusen), which means “to explain on a more extensive and formal level the meaning of something which is particularly obscure or difficult to comprehend.” It may be rendered, “to explain,” or “to interpret.”

• From here (Luke 24) biblical hermeneutics has developed as a discipline and may be defined simply as the science and art of biblical interpretation • The reason why it is considered science and art is that although there are certain rules which when strictly applied will yield similar results, there is also an art to interpretation that figures into one’s interpretive work

• Our method for interpretation is derived both from what the Bible says about itself and from the phenomena of Scripture • Since we believe that the Bible is the word of God written in human language, inerrant and inspired, we reason that our methodology must take into account the original languages, the literary forms, and the historical context of Scripture. • This is commonly called grammatico-historical exegesis, or literal interpretation. By literal is meant that the words of Scripture are to be read according to their normal grammatical and philological sense.

• And since we believe the Bible to be unified in its teaching as the word of God written, our methodology must also take into account what the Scripture says elsewhere on a given subject as we draw conclusions about what a given text may mean. • This is commonly called the principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture

• The unity of Scripture in the person of Christ also indicates that our methodology must take into account the Christocentric nature of the biblical witness • This is sometimes called Christocentric interpretation

• And finally, since we believe the Bible represent the progressive unfolding of God’s work of redemption, our methodology must also take into account how the writers of the New Testament and the apostles interpret the Old Testament • This is sometimes called the redemptivehistorical interpretation

Hermeneutics: Summary
• • • • Grammatico-historical interpretation Scripture interprets Scripture Christocentric interpretation The New Testament is the final word on our understanding of previous revelation

Hermeneutics & Clarity

Hermeneutics & Clarity
• These principles will help us not to conclude erroneously that clarity is a myth simply because the process of interpretation is complex; for though the interpretation of Scripture may be complex for us, it was not so for the original audiences • Though they had to employ the same methodology, they did so unconsciously as we do every day

Hermeneutics & Clarity
• In addition, our interpretative principles can also help us to address other common misconceptions about the clarity of Scripture

Misconceptions about Clarity

Obscure Passages of Scripture Make Clarity a Myth
• 1 John 5:16: If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. • 1 Cor 15:29: Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? • 2 Thess 2:6: And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed.

The Bible Testifies against Its Clarity
• Isa 6:9-10 And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.' "Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Lest they see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed." • 2 Pet 3:16: as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Clarity Is a Myth because Only Christians Can Understand It
• 1 Cor 2:13-14: which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. • 1 John 2:27: And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

Believers’ Disagreements Make Clarity a Myth
• Spiritual Gifts: Are they or are they not all operative today? • The Lord’s Table: Transubstantiation, consubstantiation, a simple memorial, or a spiritual meal with Christ? • Baptism: Infant or Believers only? • Eschatology: Premillennial, amillennial, postmillennial? Pre-, mid-, or posttribulational?


Toward a Definition of Clarity
• The Bible’s overall message is clear enough that the average reader employing the ordinary means may understand it. • Only those enlightened by the Spirit will believe what it says.


• Hermeneutics: The science and art of interpreting texts

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