Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 9, 1964

Bible Answers

Gene Frost, 1900 Jenny Lind, Fort Smith, Arkansas

QUESTION: How can I understand the Bible?

ANSWER: In a word, the Bible is to be understood according to the same rules of exegesis that govern any other literary work. God communicated His will to man in the medium of human communication, that is, by words. Words are the conveyors of thought. When we know the definition and usage of words we understand the thought. God's will is revealed in words divinely chosen; this will is revealed so that when we read we may understand it. (I Cor. 2:7-13, Eph. 3:34) Because God's will is delivered in words divinely chosen is the reason why when we teach it we must conform to these words. (2 Tim. 1:13, I Pet. 4:11)

A discussion of literary exegesis is impossible in a brief column, but we can list a few items that are basically necessary to understand the Bible.

1. There must be a desire to understand. A will to know is necessary to the understanding of any subject. Some students fail in secular studies, not because the subject itself is so difficult but because the student will not apply himself to it; he lacks interest in the subject. Desire provokes study. And we are to "desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby." (I Pet. 2:2).

2. The word must be studied with an expectation to understand it. The Scriptures were given so that we may understand. (Eph. 3:3-5) Some do not understand because they approach it with a mental block convinced that it cannot be understood. The Bible was written for man to understand God's will.

3. The word must be rightly divided or handled aright. (2 Tim. 2:15). The Bible is written intelligibly, and is to be read as any other intelligible work. Too many approach the Bible as a mystic charm and allow it to fall open and in answer to a question or problem in the mind of the reader (not the writer) point the finger to a verse and suppose that this is God's answer, however they may twist what they read to fit the question in mind. Some prey upon this gullible approach by publishing portions of Scriptures on scraps of paper and placing them in "promise boxes." The questioner asks a question and withdraws the answer to the problem. (We hope that no one asks whether to commit suicide and then draw the answer, "Go and do likewise.") There is as much reason in this as there is in a Chinese fortune cookie. This is a misuse of intelligible writing. As with any other book or letter, one needs to know to whom it is written, from whom, what does it say, why is it written, etc , and then read it through from thought to thought in context.

4. Since God's will is expressed in words, we must know the definition of the words to understand the thoughts. Too many without due regard to the language are guilty of defining words as it suits them. (God employed the Koine' Greek, a language that is dead and static. Definitions must be according to this usage, as may be found in lexicons of the Greek language; yes, written in English.) To twist words from their lawful meaning in an attempt to have them say what one would like for them to say is to "wrest the scriptures" unto one's own destruction. (2 Pet. 3:16).

Above all, remember that God gave His will to be understood. It is simple enough that God holds every soul responsible for obeying it. (2 Thess. 1:8-9) We need to study to be approved. (2 Tim. 2:15).