The Source: Understanding our Bible (pt.1)

Teaching 2: the ROAD of bible intake

The 21st Century has awakened an explosion of communication through print of books, newspaper and magazines to other forms in radio, computers, internet and blogs, cell phones and text messaging, iPods and mp3 players to the most intimate of communication, personal relationships and face to face conversation. This is none other than a reflection of God’s innate design for us as His image bearers to speak and be known. At creation in Genesis 1 we see that Scripture describes God as a speaking God (inferred approximately 14x).

 

PSALM 19

1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat. 7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. 13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

 

God speaks through the skies (19:1-6). This is called “general revelation”.

God speaks through the scriptures (19:7-11). This is called “special revelation”.

            Scripture is complete (v.7a)

            Scripture converts (v.7b)

            Scripture coaches (v.7c)

            Scripture cheers (v.8)

            Scripture cleans (v.8b-9)

            Scripture is cherished (v.10)

            Scripture confronts and convicts (v.11)

If you believe and affirm what has been said thus far, then you are ready to begin the spiritual discipline of Bible intake. It is a grace and wonder that God has spoken through the Scriptures. In fact, today, the Bible is God’s primary means of revelation for us to know Him greater. Through God’s Word we have a blueprint and boundary for understanding God.

Unfortunately, we believe this with our minds but our hearts have not fully applied such truths. One person quipped that the worst dust storm in history would happen if all church members opened their Bibles simultaneously! I believe one of the reasons we are negligent of engaging our Bibles is because we simply do not understand how to approach it. We read a few sentences (verses) and with little knowledge of its context or how to apply it we walk away confused, frustrated and finished. Therefore, this teaching is meant to help alleviate such fear and place you on the ROAD of Bible study.

INTRODUCTION TO SCRIPTURE[1]

–          biblos is Greek word for book; so Holy Bible refers to a holy or sacred book. It is sort of a library of 66 (39 OT, 27 NT) books making up one Book, showing a divine unity and continuity. It was originally written on papyrus and placed in scrolls, later in the 1200’s chapters and verses were added for address location and reference sake.

–          Scripture canonization (canon – rule, measuring standard; the “rule of faith”) was the process of the Church affirming and recognizing (not creating) certain books/letters over others. This was not a small, select few monks or religious types in a secret closed room picking and choosing for their own purposes. The canonization process occurred by the Church at large agreeing based on these principles: 1) Consistent: Was the book in agreement and consistent with orthodox doctrine and practice?  2) Connection: Was the writer an Apostle or have immediate contact and eyewitness testimony with one? 3) Catholicity: Was the book read and used widely by the churches everywhere? So the transmission stages was something like this: historical events – oral culture of tradition – written sources – texts distributed and collected – texts canonized – texts copied and translated for the Church (cf. Lk 1:1-4; Jn 20:30-31; 1Cor 15:3-8; 2Pet 1:16-21; 1Jn 1:1-4). Today the Bible is translated in various parts of over 2400 languages with almost 2300 languages remaining or having no Bible access.

–          Furthermore, the early church by end of 1st Century had all of today’s 27 NT books written just not collected. By as early as 70-130AD all the books were noted as inspired Scripture (cf. 1Tim 5:18 with Lk 10:7 and 2Peter 3:15-16) and before 300AD, with Eusebius beginning lists and categorization (Received, Disputed and Spurious) of the books as recognized with few disputed (such as Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude and Revelation). By 367AD Athanasius had provided a full canon, confirmed further 382 Council of Rome, 393 Council of Hippo and 397 Council of Carthage. In contrast to Dan Brown’s The Davinci Code, there were no “lost Gospels” as the writings were familiar but unused by the churches and simply deemed spurious at best and heretical at worse.

–          Bible written in 3 languages (Hebrew, Greek and some Aramaic). We have over 14,000 ancient copies (large thanks to the Dead Sea Scroll discovery), with fragments no later than circa 125AD, being Papyri 52. This proves Scripture texts to be profoundly reliable and trustworthy in that over 99% of the Bible is faithful to the original manuscripts, with the other percentages varying due to spelling errors, word order or word additions/omissions; and none affecting any doctrinal issues. In contrast to secular texts we have fewer than 10 copies of writings of Plato, Sophocles, Homer or Caesar Augustus, and those copies were made at least 1000 years after the original manuscript (and yet secular academia offers little if any doubt to its manuscript accuracy).

–          Bible written ultimately by God’s Holy Spirit while using over 40 human authors (including kings, shepherds and farmers, philosophers, poets and prophets, fishermen and tentmakers, a doctor and scholars and even criminals. Essentially ordinary people.)

–          Today there are numerous translations with differing goals: 1) Word for word translations such as KJV, NKJV, NAS, ESV. 2) Thought for thought translations such as NIV, NLT, CEV. 3) Paraphrase Translation such as TLB, AMP, or The Message. Multiple translations are helpful for study and reading but it is important to maintain closeness to the original and author’s intent, using a word for word translation. And remember that Bible translators or study commentary notes were not inspired as the Biblical authors.

–          Basic Christian Presuppositions:

  • The Bible is inspired: God has revealed Himself through Scripture (2Tim 3:16-17).
  • The Bible is inerrant: God’s Word is perfect, without error and trustworthy (Ps 19:7-11).
  • The Bible is intimate: God’s Word is a treasured love story written for our benefit (Ps 16:11; 1Cor 10:6).
 

[1] Much material adapted from multiple sources to name a few, Doctrine by Mark Driscoll & Gary Breshears, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, “How To Study the Bible” by David Platt found at http://www.brookhills.org/media/schurch/secret-church-how-to-study-the-bible/

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