How should we read the Bible?

This is my personal admonition against both conservative and liberal hermeneutics. We have to acknowledge first that the Bible is an ancient text, and how the Ancients saw the world was very different from how ‘we’ see it. Therefore we cannot expect to read the Bible (or any ancient text) and ‘expect’ it to align perfectly with our modern worldview, either scientifically or socially. That’s not to say the Bible cannot predict advanced science, or have socially progressive views on women’s rights, race, sexuality etc, but we cannot expect this to be in there when we open the page. I would suggest that rather than read the Bible with a conservative bias, or read it with a liberal bias (I can’t think of who I despise more, the former hold us back, the latter drag us down) we should ‘read it’, and see what it says, rather than shoehorning it into our own expectations.

What do you think? How should we read the Bible?

That’s hard to do though. I guess first of all we have to be willing to be honest about what some of our biases and filters may be. I don’t know that many who read the Bible with a conservative bias, for example, see themselves as doing that. I think it’s easier to see the way we read it as mostly correct, and the way other groups read it as an aberration, when it probably isn’t that simple.

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I think you are right, but there is another way to interpret the Bible. In all, I think the Bible must be interpreted in two ways:

  1. It must be understood as it was originally meant to be understood, in its ancient historical context, which is first and foremost the most important honest step to understanding the Bible

  2. The Bible can be interpreted as addressing the contemporary world ecclesiastical community. Many of us know that Paul kind of ‘butchered’ a lot of what the Old Testament said in his prophetic quotations and whatnot, in other words, gave it meaning that it did not originally contain. But this was not random, nor was it dishonest as demonstrated decades ago by Richard B. Hays in his landmark volume Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, which is now the foundation of how modern scholars understand how the NT authors used the OT. I can’t remember exactly the criteria Hays outlined, but Hays showed that all of Paul’s interpretations of the OT made it address the contemporary ecclesiastical church in a way that subserviently was for the benefit of Christ as Lord (which is why Hays explains we can’t willy nilly interpret the OT for our own selfish purposes, and this also puts a restraint on how we can interpret the OT so that you can’t pull out anything like fulfillment of prophecy of almost anything you see today like we know is pretty common to do).


I have some fundamental rules for reading the Bible to put the passage in context, these are below. I also feel it is important to get interpretations from both fundamental and scholarly viewpoints. An example of a scholarly viewpoint are online lectures, such as this Yale course - Introduction to the Old Testament. A great Christian Fundamental view point is the Through the Bible program, a 5 year study of the entire Bible (along with some homiletics.

What is “inspired” and what is not

Separation of the Bible into books, chapters and verses is arbitrary and I feel this is not inspired by the Holy Spirit. There are many passages that would fit better into different chapters, and even chapters that would fit better into different books (for example, the last chapter of Deuteronomy would fit better into Joshua as it describes Moses’ death, and Moses is the author of Deuteronomy). Translations are a wonderful tool for the vast majority of people to understand the Bible, but these vary in content. I believe that the text in the original language is inspired. Some original manuscripts are considered “better” than others, which leads to a great deal of debate.
During Jesus’ human life, he often spoke out against the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and the religious traditions that were put in place by man, but he never spoke out against the scriptures. In fact, Jesus often quoted from the Old Testament, especially Deuteronomy and often during trying times. I take this frequent quotation as an endorsement of the content of the scripture at that time.
Paul states that ”All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
I do not feel that the seven books added to the Roman Catholic Bible after the reformation (Council of Trent) are inspired, as these have been shown to be inconsistent with the other text, are excluded from the Jewish text and contain considerable anachronisms.

“Private Interpretation”
No part of the Bible can be interpreted independently from the rest of the Bible. Every verse must be put in the context of all the other verses. Lifting a verse out of the context of the surrounding verses or the Bible as a whole can lead to misinterpretation.
To understand each verse in the context of the entire Bible, you need to know who is speaking and who is being addressed. Some context is addressed specifically to the nation Israel, some is addressed to the Church, some is addressed to non-believers. It is important to understand who is being addressed to understand the meaning.


The Bible describes different rules for different eras. For example, in the Garden of Eden, there was only one rule (see Genesis 2:17). Even with just one rule, man could not keep it.
The nation Israel was under the Law, as God gave it to Moses with the specific moral code, sacrifices, dietary and other restrictions and commands.
Jesus came not to condemn the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). Since the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are under the dispensation of Grace. We are instructed to keep His commandments out of love for Him (John 14:14, 21 and 15:10).
There will be different rules during the 1,000-year reign of Jesus and in the kingdom of the New Jerusalem.
As you read the Bible, it is important to understand the context of and for whom the rules are intended.

Sorry for the long post

I’m primarily concerning YECs, and others who assume the Bible is 100% accurate as far as science is concerned.

well … I suppose it is … in the same way that the Bible is also 100% accurate on anything it teaches regarding maintenance and upkeep of the Toyota Tercel or about Olympic Curling.


Emphasis mine
Thanks for the quote Tom, as you saved me from posting it myself!

That quote only applies to the mission of the Bible, not everything in the Bible as it concerns anything else we try to pry out of it, or stick into it!

I think most of the conflict is in missing the point of Scripture! If the Scriptures is referring to something that has to do the the mission of Scripture, then “inerrancy” applies. Everything else is the narrative encapsulating the message and may contain all of the foibles or supposed errors of misinterpreting the method of delivery.

The whole YEC and conservative interpretations hang on the Marshal McLuhan premise that the “medium is the message”. That Inerrancy applies to everything in the Bible (literal interpretation).
Yes, it is true the massage and the medium is inextricably linked, but not exclusively so! When the medium clearly relies on an Ancient cosmology (for example) the message still applies while the medium is dated. That does not mean our understanding of the meaning of the message changes.

Yet we clearly see that General Revelation (the first revelation of Elohim God to mankind) is discoverable by us, yet is just as immutable and “inerrant” as is Special Revelation in the Bible. We can only discover what general revelation is, we can’t change it in any way! Only our interpretation of what we see changes.

And the Bible is a mixture of both Special (the message) and General (the container).
If the Bible is a mixture, then our interpretation of which part of scripture belongs to which category is where the conflict is.

I just started a new website on this very subject.
Here is a diagram I have posted to help explain the relationship

Ray :sunglasses:

People always leave off verse 15 which really makes your point clear.

Verse 15 KJV
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.


You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is [a]inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for [b]training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.<

Nice catch Bill!

You just created your own hermeneutic therefore your argument is self defeating.

The Nicene Creed is good enough for me.

You just created your own hermeneutic therefore your argument is self defeating.

The Nicene Creed is good enough for me.

Stop me if you have heard this joke before.

Which came first? The hermeneutic or the reading?

I would suggest The Hermeneutical Spiral by Grant Osborne if you would like the answer.

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