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Know the Bible
November 10, 2017

Know the Bible

The Bible is unique. It's the collection of ancient documents most studied by experts in many fields. Its contents were written by more than forty people over a fifteen-hundred-year span at different places in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Despite the diversity in its composition, it presents a remarkable unity and consistency. It talks about God the Creator revealing Himself to humankind, and carrying out His redemption plan in human history.

The Bible was written in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. We are indebted to the scholars who translated it to bring us its truths. As we reap the benefits of their labor, however, we need to be mindful that we are a step away from the original text of the Bible.

The translated Bible is mostly a clear book to read. Large portions of it are straightforward, and the meanings are plain and mainly literal. But apart from language differences, the authors are far from us in culture and time. So the search for meaning requires studying the text at many levels.

The first three levels focus on the authors and their place and time of writing. On the basic linguistic level, we consider the grammatical forms and the meaning of words. The referent is the object, event, or process to which a word or expression is directed. Being clear about the referent is critical to our understanding. On the next level, we look at the historical context that gave rise to the text, including aspects such as cultural, geographical, and political. The third level focuses on the intended teaching of the passage. The intention determines whether the words are to be understood literally or figuratively. It also decides whether a referent is general or particular, partial or complete and whether a fulfillment is single or multiple.

Since we are far in time from the original writing, the history of interpretation of the text needs to be considered. This level gives us a scope of understanding that we need to provide good reasons to go beyond.

The search for meaning then shifts to levels closer to us. Since we are looking at an ancient text, we naturally ask first the questions about the historicity of its content. Next, we look at the literary aspects and may compare other similar accounts. Third, we consider how the message of the text fits into the big picture of the entire Bible and its general teachings. Finally, we have to see how the meaning is significant to us today.

Our understanding of a biblical text is incomplete unless we adequately cover most of these aspects: the referent of the words and phrases, the sense in which the word are used, the author's intention, the significance, and the implication. Obviously, we move from the more objective to the more subjective aspects. The significance of the meaning could be subjective and personal, but the interpretation of the text is not. The significance may vary widely with the person or may change in different circumstances, but the text should present the same essential meaning in its basic message.

Here are some helpful principles in identifying the referent or sense of a word or phrase. First, the Bible often interprets itself. One passage makes another clear. The meaning of a clear verse helps interpret that of an obscure one. Second, meanings become clear when we read in context. The texts preceding and following the passage provide the immediate context before we need to consider the historical, cultural, and linguistic ones. Third, we can look at the intended or understood meaning in the text, for example, from the recorded reactions of the original intended audience.

When all said is done, we must not forget that the Bible is more than a book. It's the Word of God.

Jesus taught the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20). A farmer sows his seed, which refers to the Word of God (verse 14). He then described four different responses from people who received it.

First, the seed fell along the path and the birds ate it up. Jesus said that it alludes to Satan taking away the Word that was sown in people who take it casually. Satan distracts them with other things, and the Word of God immediately got squeezed out of their short-term memory, as if they had not heard it at all.

Some seed fell on rocky places, where they germinate. But the plants cannot grow root with so little soil, and they wither under the sun. Such people like what they hear, but only their shallow sentiment is involved. The Word doesn't take root in their worldview to form new understanding, attitude, value, or priority. It doesn't take root in their will to change. And it doesn't take root in their soul to submit to God. Their reception of the Word cannot stand any test, not even that of time.

Other seed fell among thorns, and the plants are unfruitful. The hearts of these people are not pure. They serve too many masters in life. The Word of God is not given the priority and attention to develop a fruitful life.

Some seed fell on good soil, grew and produced a crop that supernaturally multiplies many times. When the Word of God is received by these people, it meets with a voracious desire and quickly sinks in. They keep it to heart, determine to submit to it in humble obedience. They integrate it into their worldview and accordingly adjust their attitude, value, and priorities. They pray, "Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart" (Psalm 119:34). And God gives them more than understanding. He multiplies the fruit of His Word thirty, sixty, and some even a hundred times.

Psalm 19:7-8 says that the Word of God refreshes the soul, makes the simple wise, gives joy to the heart, and gives light to the eyes.

Please DOWNLOAD the booklet containing the twelve most essential messages. You may freely distribute the entire unaltered PDF.

From Darkness to Light
170504, Ch.1, What is Heaven?
170512, Ch.5, Good and Evil
170519, Ch.5, Image of God
170526, Ch.6, All Have Sinned
170602, Ch.6, Isaiah Prophecies
170609, Ch.6, Lamb of God
170616, Ch.6, Decision Prayer

New Life in Christ
170623, Ch.7, Fruit of the Spirit
170630, Ch.7, Time with God
170707, Ch.7, Life Together
170714, Ch.7, Messiah's Return
170728, Ch.7, Audacious Faith
171006, Ch.7, Mark of the Christian
171027, Ch.7, Christian Identities

Growing in Christ
171110, Know the Bible
171210, Christ is Central
180302, Satan Exposed

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