you like unhinged, apocalyptic SF with a dash of fantasy; if you are one of the
hundreds of readers who enjoyed an earlier version of the first three chapters (still
posted here on Narrow Way Storytellers); or if you like epic stories with multi-POVs
and intricate plots (not to mention counter-plots) – you need to check this one
The Bible isn’t such a complex document that it requires years of
formal education before you can begin to comprehend it. I’ve always
believed the Bible was meant to be understood by any believer who can
read and has a serious interest in knowing what it says. I say this
because I believe the Bible is best approached by relying on the power
of the Holy Spirit rather than one’s own intellect. James 1:5 says that any of us who lacks wisdom need only ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault.
Conversely the man without the Spirit
can not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God regardless of
his mental prowess. (1 Cor. 2:14) This is why we hear
of people who tried to read the Bible as non-believers and found they
couldn’t figure it out, but as soon as they were born again it began to
make sense. They didn’t suddenly become more intelligent, they simply
gained the supernatural insight of the Holy Spirit who teaches us all
things. (John 14:26)
Over the 25 years or so I’ve been studying the Bible I’ve picked up a
handful of principles that have also given me a better understanding of
what it says. They help keep me honest so I know it’s the Holy Spirit
teaching me, and not just my sin infested intellect coming to its own
conclusion. From time to time I get asked about these principles, having
mentioned them in answers to various questions, so here they are.
The Golden Rule of Interpretation
“When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other
sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual,
literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in
the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths,
indicate clearly otherwise.” Dr. D.L. Cooper
This hasn’t become known as the Golden Rule of Interpretation for
nothing. If you ignore all the others and only follow this one rule you
will avoid almost all the mistakes people make in reading the Bible. And
the next one is like it, sort of an expanded version of the first.
Literal, Historical, Grammatical, Contextual
These could be called the most important words in Biblical
Hermeneutics, which is the science of properly interpreting the Bible.
Literal means that each word is given the same exact basic meaning it
would have in normal, ordinary, customary usage, whether employed in
writing, speaking or thinking. Unless it’s clearly indicated otherwise,
we’re to assume the Bible means exactly what it says. Examples of
passages that are not intended to be taken literally are parables,
dreams, and visions. These are all identified as such, alerting us to
the fact that they’re meant to be understood symbolically.
Historical means that each passage is put into its proper historical
setting and surrounded with the thoughts, attitudes, and feelings
prevalent at the time of its writing. In Biblical times the Jewish view
of the Messiah was one of a charismatic leader like King David. In other
words, a man, not God in human form. Knowing that helps us understand
how they failed to recognize Him, and why they accused Him of blasphemy
when He claimed to be God.
Grammatical means that words are given meanings consistent with their
common understanding in the original language at the time of writing.
Grammatical interpretation also includes following recognized rules of
grammar and in its more advanced form, applying the nuances of the
Hebrew and Greek languages to the understanding of a passage.
A good example showing the importance of following the rules of grammar can found in Daniel 9:27
where the subject of the first sentence in the verse is a personal
pronoun. “He will confirm a covenant with (the) many.” The rule of
grammar regarding personal pronouns is that they refer to the closest
preceding personal noun. In this case it’s “the ruler who will come” in
verse 26 indicating that the person who will confirm the covenant with
Israel is the anti-Christ, not the Lord as some commentators assert.
Contextual interpretation involves always taking the surrounding
context of a verse/passage into consideration when trying to determine
its meaning. The Holy Spirit has usually prompted the Bible’s writers to
place indicators in the text surrounding a passage to guide you in
interpreting it. In 1 Cor. 9:24-27 Paul compares our
life to that of an athlete, training and competing for crowns. The
mention of crowns tells us the passage is not about salvation, which is a
free gift, but rewards believers can win after being saved. (In this
case it’s the crown of victory, awarded to those who overcome the ways
of the flesh by getting rid of selfish desires, bad habits and
When you stop to think about it, reading the Bible this way actually
makes perfect sense. If you received a letter from a friend you wouldn’t
have to be reminded to apply these principles. You would naturally
assume that your friend was using words that meant the same thing to
both of you. You would understand them within the parameters of your
shared history, you would assume that the rules of grammar you had both
been taught applied, and you would interpret what was written within the
context of your relationship. You would expect your friend to alert you
if any of these assumptions were not going to apply, and explain the
reason for it.
The only difference with the Bible is that it was written over a long
period of time, during which the meanings of some words changed, and
society is generally different now than it was when the Bible was
written. This makes books on Bible history and a good concordance
valuable additions to your library.
This is a fancy term to remind us that symbolism in scripture tends
to be consistent. For example, through out the Bible leaven, or yeast,
is used symbolically to stand for sin. Therefore there’s no
justification for claiming that in the Parable of the Yeast (Matt. 13:33)
and there alone, it stands for the Gospel. Expositional Constancy only
applies to words that are used symbolically, so be careful. Peter’s
statement in 2 Peter 3:9 that with the Lord a day is
like 1000 years and 1000 years is like a day does not justify
substituting 1000 years for a day every time it comes up. Peter was
simply explaining that the Lord’s concept of time is way different from
The Bible, being the word of God, cannot contradict itself. The Lord
is just and righteous so He can’t say something in one place and
something different in another. He knows the end from the beginning so
He can’t change His mind or take back something He’s given. Everything
He says has to agree with everything else He says. For example, if the
Bible says it’s God who makes us stand firm in Christ, that He anointed
us, set His seal of ownership on us and put His Spirit in our hearts as a
guarantee of what’s to come (2 Cor. 1:21-22), then it can’t say that we can walk away from our salvation or have it taken away from us someplace else.
Principle Of First Mention
Often when an important concept is mentioned for the first time there
is elevated significance in the context of the passage in which it
appears. The first mention of the Church is in Matt.16:18
where Peter declared that Jesus is the Messiah, son of the living God.
Jesus said that this truth would be the foundation upon which He would
build His Church. Notice who’s going to be doing the building and whose
Church it is. Studying the passage where an important concept first
appears can be very helpful in interpreting subsequent passages on the
Use Clear Passages To Interpret Obscure Ones
Some passages of Scripture are more difficult to interpret correctly
than others. When confronting one of these, it’s best to locate the
clearest verses on the subject and use them to help interpret the
difficult one. A classic example is Hebrews 6:4-6
which, when taken alone, seems to say that we can fall away and lose our
salvation, and if that should happen we can never get it back. But the
clearest verses on salvation are Ephesians 1:13-14 and 2 Cor. 1:21-22,
and they plainly state the opposite. The Ephesians passage says we were
included in Christ when we first heard and believed the gospel. Having
believed we were sealed with the Holy Spirit, a deposit that guarantees
our inheritance. In 2 Corinthians Paul went even further saying that God
himself has accepted responsibility for making us stand firm in Christ
and has set His seal of ownership on us, like a rancher brands his
Applying the principles above we must conclude that the writer to
Hebrews had to be talking about something else. When we look at the
context of the letter, we find that it was written to Jewish believers
who were being lured back into the Levitical system, which used the
sacrifice of a lamb to atone for sins. For the Church, the Lord’s death
fulfilled what the sacrifice only symbolized, so going back to this was
tantamount to sacrificing Him all over again and subjecting him to
public disgrace, because by their actions they were saying that His
death was not sufficient to atone for their sins.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, going back to the sacrifice was no
longer acceptable to God because the Law was only a shadow of the good
things that are coming, not the realities themselves. For that reason it
could never make perfect those who draw near to worship no matter how
many times they repeated it. (Hebr. 10:1) But when the Lord offered His sacrifice once for all time, He made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Hebr. 10:12-14)
During the Church Age all we have to do after sinning is confess our
sins to receive forgiveness, be brought back to repentance, and be
purified from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) Now Hebrews 6:4-6 makes sense because it conforms to the internal consistency of God’s Word.
There are lots of other rules and principles man has developed for
application to God’s word, but in my opinion if we just apply the ones
I’ve listed above we’ll stand a good chance of avoiding the errors and
misinterpretations that seem to be so common these days.
The Bible is quite simply the most amazing book ever written. Some
parts of it were written at least 4000 years ago, and by 95AD its most
recent chapters were finished. But according to Paul it was written to
teach us, upon whom the end of the age has come. (Romans 15:4, 1 Cor. 10:11)
If we’ll just read it the way we would any other document, as if it
means what it says, the Holy Spirit will reveal wondrous truths from
within its pages. Truths that will give us an anchor against the storms
of deceit and controversy that have become so common in our time. Maybe
that’s why it was written primarily to us. Selah 11-14-09
I've seen this letter all over the place. Typical of still other arguments down through the centuries. Wanted to respond. Finally did, for what it's worth. Wrote this quickly--probably needs editing. Thought I'd share and ask for thoughts. Here's one of the versions going around. My pretend letter follows.
So.... homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22,
and cannot be condoned under any circumstances as preached by many,
including a certain Dr Laura from a well known US radio talk show. The following was an open letter to that doctor!
Dear Dr. Laura
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I
have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that
knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the
homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus
18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need
some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's
Laws and how to follow them.
1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may
possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from
neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to
Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in
Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair
price for her?
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a
woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:
19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most
women take offense.
4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a
sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The
problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them.
Should I smite them?
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working
on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am
I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating
shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than
homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees'
7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the
altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear
reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some
8. Most of my male friends get their hair
trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is
expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
9. I know
from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean,
but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
10. My uncle has
a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the
same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different
kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and
blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of
getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't
we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with
people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have
studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise
in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.
Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Your adoring fan,
James M. Kauffman,
Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,
Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia
P.S. (It would be a damn shame if we couldn't own a Canadian.)
Dear James M. Kauffman (whoever you are),
Dr. Laura (whoever she is) is unavailable at the moment, so
allow me to respond to some of these. (I got tired after a while and
had to take a break.) I'm sure she would advise you to double check
your Biblical references and place verses in context to be sure they
mean what you seem to think they mean, and are addressed to you in
the first place. (Are you a son, that is a descendant, of Israel
living in Old Testament times who is being addressed at the start of
most of these chapters out of which you have liberated verses?)
It is nice that you complement and acknowledge a radio talk
show as the source of your “learning”. But did you know that God
specifically honored the Bereans for putting his Word above what
anybody told them, even the Apostle Paul? Even when Paul was telling
them the central message of the Old and New Testaments and how it had
recently been fulfilled? (Acts 17:11) “Now the Berean Jews were of
more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received
the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every
day to see if what Paul said was true.”
You are correct that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states
homosexuality (not homosexuals, mind you) is an abomination to God.
He is speaking directly here to His people who he had rescued from
Egypt. And, unlike everything else you try to tie in with this verse,
it is applicable to all people, being supported throughout the rest
of Scripture. Just keep in mind that it is not our job as Christians
to beat everyone over the head with this. Our job, our 'Great
Commission' (Matthew 28:18-20) is to spread the Good News of Jesus'
death and resurrection in order to pay the price for our sin and give
us eternal life—the fact that God loves us so much (even though we
all sin against him) that He would become flesh and blood and die on
the cross in our place. Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His
own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, (which even as
Christians in this life we still are) Christ died for us.” If God
doesn't love homosexually active people, then we are all in a lot of
trouble. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
(Romans 2:23) “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
1. Leviticus 25:44
2. Exodus 21:7 does not “sanction” slavery but it does lay
down very specific protections and rights for people, especially
women, who were slaves in a time when this was a common practice.
Check out all the restrictions (ordinations) in the entire 21st
Chapter or Leviticus. God is certainly not ordering you or in any way
encouraging you to sell your daughter or anyone else into slavery.
Where do you get such ideas?
3. Lev.15: 19-24. (see 6)
Why do you insist on burning a bull on the altar as a
sacrifice? Are you a descendant of Israel living in Old Testament
times? And do you really believe the Lord wants you to smite your
neighbors for not liking the odor? Where do you read of this in the
Bible? (Admittedly, it is hard to understand neighbors not liking
the odor. I very much like the odor of my neighbors' cook outs.
Especially steaks.) BTW, did you know that according to I Samuel
15:22 – "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and
sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than
sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
5. Exodus 35:2
does clearly state to the congregation of the sons of Israel (Exodus
35:1—context, remember?) that any of them working on the Sabbath
should be put to death. But rest assured, you are not morally
obligated to kill anyone for this yourself. First of all, are you a
member of that Old Testament congregation? And keep in mind that the
Sabbath is not Sunday. Don't confuse the day New Testament believers
got together to celebrate the risen Lord with the Hebrew Sabbath. And
the new testament tells us – “... no one is to act as your judge
in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon
or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere
shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
6. Your friend's question raises an interesting point. Since
hating your brother is the same thing as committing murder from God's
point of view (I John 3:15), and lusting after someone is the same
thing as adultery from God's perspective (Matthew 5:27–28), I
suppose eating shellfish is as much an abomination to Him as
homosexuality. I guess there are no 'degrees' of sin to the Lord.
Although I would not concern yourself with the shellfish issue since,
again, these were dietary laws given to the children of Israel for
their protection and health in an age that had little understanding
of medicine, sterilization, refrigeration, or disease control.
Lev. 21:20 is addressed to His priest, the sons of Aaron.
Are you a priest in the Jerusalem temple that doesn't presently
exist? Don't worry about it.
8. Are you a member of the tribe of Israel (Leviticus 19:2)?
And though trimmed hair is expressly forbidden to them by Lev. 19:27,
where does it say they should die? You seem obsessed with slaying
people for sin.
Lev.19:19 says nothing about stoning people who planttwo different crops in the same field or wear garments made of
two different kinds of thread. Lev.24:10-16 and Lev. 20:14
are other matters entirely. But, again, if you are not a descendant
of Israel in Old Testament times you needn't concern yourself about
cursing or blaspheming God or sleeping with in-laws. People do it
all the time nowadays and rarely die as a result.
You are correct in saying that God's Word is eternal and
unchanging. The best advice I can give you is to dig into the Word of
God. Read the Bible the same way you read any other history,
biography, poetry, song, letter, etc. The basic rules of solid,
astute reading don't change suddenly when you open the Bible. The
critical reading process (observing, inferring, analyzing,
explicating, synthesizing, evaluating, and applying within textual
and historical context) must still be studiously applied.
RICHARD. Be eloquent in my behalf to her.
ELIZABETH. An honest tale speeds best being plainly told.
RICHARD. Then plainly to her tell my loving tale.
William Shakespeare, Richard III, (Act IV, scene iv)
A sad tale's best for winter.
I have one of sprites and goblins.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) A Winter's Tale (Act II, scene i)
Yet by your gracious patience,
I will a round unvarnished tale deliver.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) Othello (Act I, scene iii)
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) As You Like it, (Act II, scene ii)
But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part,
And each particular hair to stand an end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) Hamlet, Act I, scene v
Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me.
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) Hamlet, Act V, Scene ii
Here are a couple of old hymns I remember singing in church with my dad and mom. They had trained voices and used to belt hymns out. Fond memories. I always liked these two best. Figures! I never could carry a tune, but I always loved stories. These speak of the best story there is--and the one that happens to be TRUE! --GKW
we with ink the ocean fill And were the skies of parchment
made, Were every stalk on earth a quill And every man a scribe
To write the love of God above Would drain the
ocean dry, Nor could the scroll contain the whole Tho stretched
from sky to sky. O love of God, how rich and pure! How
measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure The saints
and angel’s song.
What you burn for-
It’s evident in your life.
We can see the marks As you cut with your knife.
What you burn for-
Passion is impossible to hide.
It spills into your conversations
bringing others along for the ride.
What you burn for-
Will it last?
spending your little time
In a universe so vast.
What you burn for-
People see the flames.
Those you love are forever impacted.
You know their names.
Will you humble yourself before the lord
Or continue playing games?
What you burn for-
I see the fire in your eyes
Choose the road that never burns out
Because there are no second tries.
If you understand the world
You know its endless lies.
Surrender to the king
And let your fire rise.
Help us believe.
Help us know.
Why You grieve on earth below.
How You suffered.
How You died.
Yet few come
while most have denied.
On the road to destruction,
and the gate is wide.
Did Your Son
add to many a path?
If no battle to be won
then why suffer wrath?
I know it’s easy
being one with the crowd.
Disagreements make me queasy.
To society I have bowed.
But if He suffered for a reason;
not a pointless painful act.
So that in due season
all will know the one true fact.
Every knee suddenly bowed
with no other voice to hear.
Please step away from the crowd.
Realize the time is near.