Does The Bible Really Mean What It Says?
Author: Paul A. Bartz and Robin D. Fish
Note: Creation Moments exists to provide Biblically sound materials to the Church in the area of Bible and science relationships. This Bible study may be reproduced for group use.
Does Genesis actually intend to report the factual origin of man, or is it merely a story to teach us a “spiritual truth” about God and man?
Either the Bible is Speaking quite factually, or the Bible has no meaningful information to offer on the question of origins at all. The Bible cannot lie (by reporting as fact that which is not fact) and still be communicating a truth. A dishonest truth is a lie, and no truth at all.
There are three methods for determining what the Scriptures are telling us. The first is the “official interpretation” method. This involves an authority or “expert” giving us the “official” and the “correct” understanding of the text. This method is notoriously inadequate. The “authorities” found Jesus to be a false prophet and a blasphemer when He fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah before their very eyes! The “official interpretation” method also led to the medieval abuses, including denying the common man access to the Scriptures, lest he wander away from the official doctrine.
The second method is the “free-for-all” method. Each man is the judge of the meaning of Scripture. Each man may interpret as seems good to him; may decide which Scripture is valid, and which is not, which is literal and which is allegory. This method overlooks man’s sinful nature. Man will twist Scripture to suit his own experience, or to excuse his own sins. Perfect freedom (to reject any part of God’s Word for any reason whatever) appeals to man, and rarely leads man to any true wisdom.
The third method is to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. This is the method we recommend. Open your Bible to 2 Peter 1:20-21. Look at verse 21 first. Where does the Scripture come from? Men wrote it, but where did the words come from? Logically, then, who should know best how to understand the Scripture?
Now consider verse 20. Doesn’t this Scripture speak directly to the same point? That which is true of prophecy is true of all of Scripture. Taken together, what is the reason given by these two verses that one would be wrong to consider himself alone the judge of the meaning of Scripture.
Turn to 2 Timothy 3:16. What is inspired? The English renders the passage “inspired by God,” but that is one word in the original Greek meaning literally, “God-breathed.” List the things for which Scripture is considered profitable. Teaching from Scripture is teaching from whom? If Scripture is profitable for correction and reproof, then it must be able to itself identify errors and show that they are truly errors. That is Scripture interpreting Scripture.
Look at Matthew 15:3-9. How is Jesus using the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture? Since He alone is the Word made flesh could He have relied on His own authority to make this point? Why doesn’t He?
Another example is found in Matthew 22:23-33. The Sadducees used the Scriptures to teach their point (and this was one of the “hot doctrinal controversies” at the time of Jesus). Of what does Jesus accuse the Sadducees? What did Jesus finally refer to in order to refute their arguments (v. 32)?
That Scripture interprets Scripture means that Scripture indicates how to understand what it is saying. A parable is called parable and is meant to be understood as we normally understand parables (for example Psalm 78:2, Matthew 13:8, Luke 5:36, and Luke 21:29).
Similarly, picture language (such as in Psalm 23) is very clearly picture language. It is not the form of the verse but the content of the imagery that identifies it as picture language. Psalm 23 does not teach that we are sheep, or that we are to sleep in pastures, but uses a commonly understood image to picture God’s care for us. Likewise prophecy is identified by both the label and by the content (law and Gospel proclaimed with or without foretelling some future event). Scripture identifies each form in enough examples that even without the label we can easily identify the same form elsewhere.
Now, let us look at the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2. Is there any indication that this account is a parable? Does the text ever say anything like “Once upon a time”? Are the heavens or the Earth compared with anything else in these verses so that we might understand that this is picture language? Is there any indication that this is just a picture for some “higher reality”?
If the creation is just an image, then the higher reality is every bit as imaginary! Even the occasional use of Genesis 1 as a prophecy of the life of the world (as in the day-age theories) demands that this account be quite literal. But is there any hint in the language that this is prophecy and not straightforward reporting of the facts?
Notice that in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul uses the same straightforward style of reporting the details of Christ’s resurrection! The announcement of the virgin birth (Luke 1:26-38), the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8), and the Ascension (Acts 1:6-11) are similarly reported language and style which
Just as some try to make the creation story allegorical or picture language, they often try to make these other accounts “pictures of some higher reality.” What does this “allegorizing” do to our faith? Our salvation?
In light of this study, does Scripture mean what it says about creation, or is it trying to reveal some non-evident “higher truth?” What does Scripture say?
Close the study with Psalm 119:89-96.
1988 Bible Science Newsletter.
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