Read the Bible for a Change – Understanding and Responding to God’s Word

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Key points

  • The author places the meaning in the text. The reader comes alongside the author, discerning his or her intention.

1: Reading as following

  • 37–40: The chief purpose of the Bible is to foster relationship with God and other people

2: Literary categories in the Bible

  • Unlike the book of Mormon, or the Qu’ran, the Bible is written by multiple authors
  • Unlike an authoral anthology, it is written with a unity of purpose, characters and plot
  • Structure of the Bible
    • Entire Bible: Revelation
    • Types
      • Narrative: making a point by telling a story
      • Poetry: modifying normal language to intensify impact
      • Discourse: a text presenting a logical sequence of ideas
    • Genres
      • Apocalyptic
      • Epistle
      • Gospel
      • Prophecy
      • Psalm
      • Story
      • Wisdom
    • Forms
      • Acrostic, Allegory, Blessing, Covenant, … (see appendix)
  • Each Genre can be written in any type.
    • There is prophetic narrative (Haggai), Story Poetry (Judg 5), Apocalyptic Discourse (Zech 8).

3: 4-Step Bible Study

1. Seeing: “What does it say?

  • Reading with humility + respect: not over-reading
  • Reading with careful attention: Not under-reading
  • Not “what can I get out” but “what did God put in?“
  • picking up all details but not assigning our own meanings to it

more detail

  • Almost no detail of the Bible story is redundant (“economy” of the Bible)
  • Questions: Who? What? When? Where? How? ➡️ See page 33

2. Understanding: What does it mean?

  • Understanding the author’s purpose + main ideas


  • Connecting all of the questions of the previous step
  • The correct meaning is what the author intends to communicate.
  • The author dictates what the text says, there isn’t “your” or “my” meaning
    • In court, intention matters to distinguish between manslaughter or murder
    • Copyright law protects the ownership of the author to their texts
    • There is a negative reaction when our words are misunderstood or misatributted
  • It is possible for finite humans to understand the meaning of Scripture
    • God is revealing truth. It can and does accomplish it’s goals. 16, 11, Ps 119
  • Our understanding can increase but will never be complete
    • The essential teachings are understandable for all readers (“perspicuity”)
    • Growth requires time, effort and leading by the Holy Spirit
    • Complete understanding won’t be achieved in this lifetime but in eternity
  • There is normally only one correct meaning to any passage in the Bible.
  • Interpretations are hypotheses to account for what the author said, and how and why.
    • We want to find an explanation “beyond reasonable doubt”
  • Every passage has one meaning but many applications.
  • Scripture needs to be understood in light of its literary type and genre
    • Narrative does more “show” than “tell”: polygamy is never forbidden but it’s negative outcomes are shown.
  • We need to evaluate our personal experience in light of Scripture, not the other way around.
  • Every passage has meaning and relevance for every believer.
  • Respect for the intention of the author should be our goal.

3. Sharing: “What truths is it teaching?”

  • Receive what the author has given
  • Not meaning sharing with others
  • Which truths is the author sharing?
  • The author establishes truth
  • ”When ‘truth’ is decided by each individual’s preferences, it creates differences and separation that threaten and ultimately destroy the possibility of unity and community. Acceptance and tolerance are faint and interior echoes of the higher virtue of unity.
  • Sharing means, that the communicated truths are not just for me, it’s for all humanity

6: Communing with Truth – Sharing

Author intends shared truth recognises reader

  • The intended audience of scripture is not only the original audience. 4: Paul says that previous Jewish Scripture was written for the benefit Gentile believers later
  • Apostle Paul’s letters, for example are a “case study”. Specific issues that communicate general insights
  • In 1 Cor 9, Paul gives a stunning example of this. The specific problem is whether Apostles should be paid. To assert his rights, Paul quotes Deuteronomy “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out on the grain”. He then explains that this principle doesn’t just apply to oxen and surely he says it about us too. The underlying Truth, communicated to the Israelites and applied by Paul, is those who benefit from the work of others should provide for those workers.
    • This has several applications then
    • should i care for my work animals? Yes, feed, water and care.
    • should i pay for public employees and soldiers from whom I receive protection, safety and well-being? Yes, pay your taxes.
  • The author prefers “Sharing” over “Principles”. The latter favours clear logical guidelines over emotional and imaginative resonance.
Guidelines of shared Truth
  1. Eternal. Not locked into a specific time.
  2. Universal. It applies to humankind.
  3. Accurate. Drawn from careful seeing and understanding.
  4. Poignant. Reflects the author’s main point.
  5. Reflecting. Mirror the author’s communication style. The shared Truth started as a warning ought to be a warning, praise should be outside and so on.
  6. Proportionate. Truths developed over longer portions of text are more relevant than short ones.


  • Is the Truth taught before and after Christ’s first coming? Then it is more likely to be appropriate for people of all times.

4. Responding: “So what?”

  • Focusing on “applying” the Bible, is a shortcoming in that it creates the expectation that the (sole) purpose of the Bible is to reform my actions
  • But there is an inward component as well
  • Being the ideal conversation partner: cooperating fully by joining in what is being said to delight the divine author

7: Taking It Personally – Responding

References Neil Postman’s insight that we are so used to receiving “news” without acting on it. “Now… This”. Information without response.

This book and Cross Vision

The Torah being a “glimpse of the full truth to come” seemingly contradicts “The correct meaning is what the author intended to communicate”. Cross Vision asserts that the author couldn’t clearly communicate God because of their conception of him as an ANE warrior deity.

In the words of RBC, meaning then is given by later spirit-breathed interpretation by NT authors/God revealed at the cross?

Is this another step in the flow-chart? Establishing that authors could be culturally conditioned and hence discredited seem to blur the line of the author’s claim to truth a bit though, doesn’t it?

I guess the key difference is RBC claims the author fully knows the meaning given by God he communicates. CV asserts that isn’t the case.

The New Testament Use of the Old Testament | Evidence Unseen talking about the book goes into further detail on this.

  • Full Human Intent School: One meaning, many applications (closest to this book)
  • Divine Intent—Human Words School: Surpasses meaning of the author but never contradicts it.
  • Jewish Hermeneutics School: Connecting NT interpretation to Jewish roots.
  • NT Priority School: Later interpretation trumps earlier. (closest to Cross Vision)