Home Special Revelation
Special Revelation
Why we must use the grammatical-historical method to interpret Scripture PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 07:03

"We know we are influenced by contemporary values and personal biases when we come to the Bible.  Some one who is fascinated by the City or the Poor or Racism or Missions or the End Times or the Environment will find all kinds of passages that are relevant to those interests in the Bible- or more accurately, will interpret all kinds of passages in the light of those interests brought to their reading of the Bible. Someone with other interests will tend not see these topics in the Book.  Someone who is depressed or struggling with tragedy or marriage or money problems or seeking forgiveness of sins and assurance of Eternal Life will come to the Bible and read it with these issues in mind.

Someone who is an Artist or a Scientist or an “Intellectual” or a CEO of a large business who has traveled extensively will certainly approach the Bible differently than those who have limited formal education or life experiences.  People of various age and ethnic groups from various parts of the world, speaking different languages, extremely poor or extremely wealthy, people with power and those without bring different expectations and assumptions to their Bible study.

If a reader believes all these variables and influences and biases make objectivity impossible, for the original writers and readers as well as himself, the effort to understand any book, not only the Bible, is completely undermined. The would-be reader is left with total skepticism.  For all the above reasons, the conservative Evangelical continues to use the time honored “historical –grammatical” method.

The historical-grammatical method is a good bulwark against  this negative outcome.  It enables the reader to recognize personal bias and resist subjectivity when we study the Bible- if we use it!  Here are the basic rules:


More on interpreting the Bible PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Thursday, 15 January 2009 16:36

I continue to find the subject of the “Word of God” fascinating.  What is it?  I have written often about this.  The Scripture selections in my morning reading today once again caused me ponder it.  I absolutely believe the canonical Scripture (the traditional 66 Books of the Bible to be the Word of God.  It is the Word of God written and the first and last authority for our Faith.  The questions I have are about interpretation- how we read and understand this written Word.  I visited the website of a purportedly evangelical para-church organization I heard about this week.  I wanted to read their doctrinal statement.  The website said they would not be so presumptuous as to write a Statement of Faith, rather they said they believe the entire Bible.  Whatever it teaches is what they believe.  Does this sound humble, as well as orthodox?  Well, maybe; but in fact this is either naïve or ignorant and it is almost meaningless.  What does the Bible teach?  Every Christian, every church and Denomination and Christian organizations of every stripe claim to follow what the Bible teaches.  And many of them strongly disagree with each other about what that is!  Anyone reading their website does not know what this para-church group believes- it probably means whatever its leaders believe.  But they are not saying what that might be on the website.  

To know what the Bible does teach, we must first settle on the rules of interpretation we will use when we read the Book.  I notice the group in question had a speaker recently who addressed the group about Creation, using Genesis 1-2.  What he said on the topic was determined by whatever interpretive rules he uses for those chapters.  Does he use the Framework Hypothesis about the “days” of creation or does he interpret them literally as six 24 hour days.  It makes a great difference.  How do we read this morning’s Old Testament passage? 

Isaiah 41:21-29

21 Set forth your case, says the LORD; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob. 22 Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, so that we may consider them, and that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come. 23 Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be afraid and terrified. 24 You, indeed, are nothing and your work is nothing at all; whoever chooses you is an abomination. 25 I stirred up one from the north, and he has come, from the rising of the sun he was summoned by name. He shall trample on rulers as on mortar, as the potter treads clay. 26 Who declared it from the beginning, so that we might know, and beforehand, so that we might say, "He is right"? There was no one who declared it, none who proclaimed, none who heard your words. 27 I first have declared it to Zion, and I give to Jerusalem a herald of good tidings. 28 But when I look there is no one; among these there is no counselor who, when I ask, gives an answer. 29 No, they are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their images are empty wind.

This text claims to be the very words spoken by God to Israel and written down by Isaiah the prophet.  The passage is obviously meant to be taken literally.  In fact, that is part of its message.  God proves He is the true God by His ability to predict and cause  specific future events. What He says through the Prophet is trustworthy.  He challenges idols to do the same.  Their inability to do exactly that proves they are not the true God.  This text, indeed, is the Word of the Lord.  But how about the Psalm this morning?

This text does not claim to be from God at all.  Rather. it is a testimony, an account written by the Psalmist about God.  And what He says is written in a very figurative manner and could not possible be taken literally.  It must be interpreted as  metaphorical, like poetry.  Could the text from Isaiah be interpreted this way? No  Could the first chapters of Genesis be interpreted that way?  Maybe.  How do we decide?  In either case, we accept both passages, however they are interpreted, to be the Word of God written.  This means that when we say that all Scripture is inspired by God and inerrant we must clarify how in each case.  My point here is that the Word of God comes in various literary forms and can not all be read in the same way. 

Psalm 18

6 I called upon the LORD in my distress and cried out to my God for help. 7 He heard my voice from his heavenly dwelling; my cry of anguish came to his ears.8 The earth reeled and rocked; the roots of the mountains shook; they reeled because of his anger. 9 Smoke rose from his nostrils and a consuming fire out of his mouth;  hot burning coals blazed forth from him. 10 He parted the heavens and came down  with a storm cloud under his feet. 11 He mounted on cherubim and flew;  he swooped on the wings of the wind. 12 He wrapped darkness about him; he made dark waters and thick clouds his pavilion. 13 From the brightness of his presence, through the clouds, burst hailstones and coals of fire. 14 The LORD thundered out of heaven; the Most High uttered his voice. 15 He loosed his arrows and scattered them; he hurled thunderbolts and routed them. 16 The beds of the seas were uncovered, and the foundations of the world laid bare, at your battle cry, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. 17 He reached down from on high and grasped me; he drew me out of great waters.18 He delivered me from my strong enemies


Principles for Interpreting the Bible PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Thursday, 02 October 2008 10:37
Why Evangelicals don’t agree about what the Bible says: the problem of Interpretation

Why do Evangelicals who are serious about their faith and living a Christian life come to very different understandings of the Gospel and Christian living?  All who agree on the authority of the Bible can come to very different interpretation of what it says because they use different rules to interpret it.  Hermeneutics is the study of the principles by which we interpret the Bible.

Nehemiah 8:7 [Ezra and other Elders] helped the people to understand the Law...8 They read from the book, ...clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

Ezra and the Elders were doing Hermeneutics.  What rules did they use?  “They gave the sense” of the words that had first been clearly read.

Acts 8:28 he [the Ethiopian] was reading the prophet Isaiah. 30 Philip... heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31 And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, "About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him... about Jesus.

Philip is doing Hermeneutics.  He asked the question, “Do you understand what you have read?”  Philip helps the reader start from the text and discover the writer’s intent.
Last Updated on Saturday, 21 May 2016 18:55
General and Special Revelation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Monday, 22 September 2008 15:11

I. General Revelation (non-verbal): God reveals himself, His mind and will, directly in and through His works-

In Creation- its origins and preservation. Nature is not God and not to be worshipped; rather Nature reveals qualities of God: power, beauty, design, the “laws” of science. All these witness to God

In Human Beings- they image God. They reveal characteristics of Him: Rationality, Creativity, Morality, Communality, Spirituality

In History- we can see evidence of God’s providence and sovereignty in the affairs of individuals, groups and nations

All of the above is General Revelation. All of it reveals the mind, will and character of God- therefore, all of it is rightfully called His Word. However, this revelation is incomplete!

II. Special Revelation (verbal): God reveals himself, His mind, will and character, directly through actual words. Written down and recorded, they became Holy Scripture, in six categories-

The Five Books of Moses (Torah)
The Decalogue (section of the Torah)
The Prophets
The Books of Wisdom, including the Psalms
The Apostolic Writings [The “New Testament”]
The Person of Jesus (known through the Apostolic Writings, primarily the sections called “Gospels”)

All of the above is Special Revelation. All of it reveals the mind, will and character of God- all of it is also rightly called His Word.

Last Updated on Monday, 29 September 2008 22:35