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TWELVE RULES for Bible Study
Plain Truth Magazine
August 1964
Volume: Vol XXIX, No.8
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TWELVE RULES for Bible Study
David Jon Hill   
Church of God

Died: Nov 24, 2003
Member Since: 1951

Why is the Bible the most misunderstood book in all history? The most twisted, distorted, maligned, misrepresented and lied-about book there is? Because people refuse to believe it means exactly what it says! This second installment (first installment) explains twelve simple, basic rules to help you understand the plain truth of God's Word!

   Do YOU understand the Bible when you read it? Or, have you not even bothered to study your Bible because you felt it was out-of-date? Because the old English is difficult to understand? Or because you felt the Bible was supposed to be mysterious?

You Can Understand!

   The Bible is the instruction book of the One who created you. It is His instruction TO YOU, explaining clearly and plainly how you can have a happy, filled-with-interest, abundant and successful life! God's Word reveals the purpose for your being! It explains the REASON for human suffering. It explains WHEN and WHY and HOW GOD IS going to intervene to relieve that suffering! It therefore ought to be the one book everyone should understand! But why has it been so grievously misunderstood? Because almost no one, it seems, has been willing to apply the twelve rules of Bible study.
   In last month's PLAIN TRUTH, the first six of the twelve simple, basic rules of Bible study were explained thoroughly. If you are a new reader and missed this first article because you were not on The PLAIN TRUTH mailing list last month, just write and ask for the August issue of The PLAIN TRUTH it will be sent to you just as freely as you received this issue.

The First Six Rules

   To summarize, briefly, before going on to the seventh rule of Bible study, here are the first six rules: ONE Pray for guidance. Two Be willing to accept correction. THREE Prove all things. FOUR Realize the Bible never contradicts itself. FIVE Be sure to read the Bible exactly as it is written. SIX Check the context carefully that is, read all the scriptures around any particular verse in question.
   This brings us to rule number seven.

Get All the Scriptures

   No one scripture can OF ITSELF, taken OUT OF CONTEXT, be used to establish the Truth. "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any PRIVATE interpretation" (II Pet. 1:20).
   God has put His Bible together in a very unusual manner. He has written it so that men could study it intricately in its original languages, poring over its pages for their entire lifetime AND YET NEVER COME TO A KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH. Many people have memorized great sections of the Bible and yet not come to realize what those sections mean. You must take the whole Bible in its entire context, getting ALL OF THE SCRIPTURES in that Bible ON ANY ONE SUBJECT BEFORE you can come to the knowledge of that particular subject from God's point of view.
   "Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little...."
   That is how the converted mind is to study the Bible. Yet, when the unconverted study God's Word a little here and a little there they are STILL NOT ABLE TO UNDERSTAND the Message of God's Truth because they do not have His Holy Spirit guiding them. That Holy Spirit the very mind and understanding of God is the power that inspired those words in the first place, and WITHOUT THAT SPIRIT TO INSPIRE THE UNDERSTANDING, THE DOOR TO THE WORD OF GOD REMAINS SHUT! (The Holy Spirit is given ONLY to those who OBEY God Acts 5:32.) Continuing from Isaiah: "... But the word of the Lord WAS unto them {those who DISOBEY} precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken" (Isa. 28:9-10, 13).
   Oftentimes people think that the Bible is CONTRADICTING itself when actually all it is doing is SUPPLEMENTING itself. A good example of this is found in Matthew 27:37 as compared to Luke 23:38. Here Matthew and Luke APPEAR to contradict one another in their statements as to what was written on the sign affixed to the stake upon which Jesus Christ was crucified.
   Now while you're going through this article, just take time to GET YOUR BIBLE and USE this example to PROVE that getting ALL of the scriptures on any one subject WILL give you God's understanding on it. In order to find out WHAT was written on that sign, WHO wrote it, and HOW MANY languages it was written in, you will need to put at least four scriptures together, not just two. So turn first to Matthew 27:37, and WRITE DOWN what the Bible says was written on that sign. Then, GO RIGHT ON to Mark l5:26 and write beneath what you have written what MARK says was written on that sign. Then do the same with Luke 23:38 and also John 19:19. Put them all together and you will see what was written on that sign.
   If ONE of these scriptures were left out you would not know that it was PILATE who did the writing. If TWO of these scriptures were left out you would not know that the writing was originally done in THREE LANGUAGES. These four bits of information, each from a different author, supply us with a complete record of what was written there originally. No one scripture contradicts the other each only serves to complement and round out the information of the other.

Let the Bible Interpret the Bible

   So many people write in to The WORLD TOMORROW and comment how much they enjoy MR. ARMSTRONG'S INTERPRETATION of the Bible. Over and over again you will hear Mr. Armstrong explain to the radio audience that it is NOT HIS INTERPRETATION that is being heard over The WORLD TOMORROW, BUT ONLY PLAIN BIBLE TRUTH!
   In your edition of the King James Bible the book of Revelation will probably be entitled, "The Revelation of ST. JOHN THE DIVINE." This is an excellent example of MAN'S INTERPRETATION. Now in order for you to understand WHAT the book of Revelation IS WHOSE revelation it is, TO WHOM it was written and WHAT it is about all you have to do is read the first few verses of THE BOOK ITSELF! In fact the very first words of the very first verse DIRECTLY CONTRADICT MAN'S INTERPRETATION of the Bible with the plain Bible statement that this book is, THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST!" (Rev. 1:1.)
   Romans 3:4 is a good clear principle to live by in this EIGHTH rule of Bible study "... let GOD be true, but every man a liar."
   This book of Revelation has long been an enigma to the people of the world GOD SAYS it is a book of REVELATION. THE WORLD SAYS it is a book of HIDDEN MYSTERY. PEOPLE have come up with many weird interpretations for the book of Revelation yet the book of Revelation is VIVID in its own clear description and needs no interpretation! Continue in Revelation 1:
   As you read in verse 12 that John saw seven GOLDEN CANDLESTICKS, you don't have to WONDER what these seven golden candlesticks are all you have to do is READ ON until you come, in the CONTEXT, to verse 20 and that verse tells you plainly that the seven candlesticks ARE the seven churches. In verse 16 it states that John saw SEVEN STARS in the hand of the Son of man. There is no need to go into great, eloquent illustrations of what the seven stars are, because again verse 20 reveals the plain Bible truth no interpretation necessary that the seven stars ARE the angels of the seven churches. And so it goes through the rest of the Bible.
   All you have to do is be patient and search God's Word and you will come up with God's clear answers to the muddled questions of mankind.

Don't Put Vague Scriptures First

   Perhaps a better general statement of this NINTH RULE of Bible study would be: NEVER ESTABLISH A DOCTRINE BY A VAGUE OR DIFFICULT-TO-BE-UNDERSTOOD SCRIPTURE.
   Too many people ASSUME that the vision which Peter had regarding the unclean beasts lowered to him on a sheet affirms that God "cleansed" unclean meat. Because they TAKE OUT OF CONTEXT a verse, unclean of itself, that says, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common" (Acts 10:15). However, all they need to do is read on TWO MORE VERSES and verse 17 very plainly says that PETER HIMSELF DOUBTED what the vision meant when he saw it he didn't jump to any conclusions, but vague-scripture quoters are eager to! Further reading in the same chapter will explain what Peter finally came to understand about the vision read verse 28: "God hath showed me {by means of this vision} that I SHOULD NOT CALL ANY MAN COMMON OR UNCLEAN."
   Don't overlook TENTH rule.

Use Several Translations

   In Matthew 27:46 Jesus Christ, while hanging on the stake before He died, used the ARAMAIC translation of the first verse of Psalm 22. Even though the original Word of God was inspired in the Hebrew or the Greek, God has allowed it to be translated into nearly every language spoken by mankind. If we were going to be particular about which language we used or which translation, then we would all have to learn Hebrew and Greek and study the Bible in its original languages.
   The King James Version was written 353 years ago. In the time since, the English language has undergone many changes. Sometimes those texts which are vague and unclear in the King James can be cleared up very easily by just reading a MORE MODERN TRANSLATION, such as the Moffatt or the Revised Standard Version.
   There is one thing to note about the King James translation and that is regarding italics. This word ITALIC is written in italics. Words that look like this in your King James Version are NOT in the original languages but are SUPPLIED by the translators. So everywhere in the King James Version where you notice words in italics they are supplied to help you understand the meaning of the sentence. However, since the translators were carnally minded, they did not always supply the words correctly. So some of these words in italics are incorrect and do not help but rather hinder your understanding.
   On the other hand, NOT ALL OF THE WORDS WHICH ARE SUPPLIED by the translators are in italics. Take I John 5:7 for instance, where the reference to three who bear witness in heaven is a completely erroneous reference inserted by a monk-copyist in the Middle Ages. The fact is this particular verse appears only in the King James Version and is in NONE of the other translations of the Bible.
   Often these difficulties will be cleared up by merely reading another translation and comparing it to the King James. Any questions arising after a thorough reading through several translations of any one verse will be few, and can be handled by studying further in Bible helps.
   If there are WORDS that you have difficulty in understanding, remember not only to look them up in an English dictionary such as Webster's, but if possible in A BIBLE DICTIONARY OR IN STRONG'S CONCORDANCE so that you can see what the meaning of the word in the original is. Sometimes people will look up a word in a modern dictionary and find a definition that is not at all the SENSE of the word as used in the King James Version. Take for example the word "conversation" in I Peter 3. Conversation to us today means talking between two people. A modern dictionary will give this definition. However, in the time of King James this particular word meant THE ENTIRE CONDUCT of a person and that is the meaning in the BIBLE usage of this word. In order to understand it then, you need to understand the meaning of the ORIGINAL word, and not just the meaning in a modern dictionary.
   But this leads to our ELEVENTH rule.

Don't Establish Doctrine With "Bible Helps"

   "Clarke's Commentary" and the commentary by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown are good reference works as is Halley's "Pocket Bible Handbook". Sometimes in the back of Bibles there will be sections called "Bible Helps." Even the marginal references in your Bible, which SOMETIMES prove to be very helpful, are often misleading. These "helps" often turn out to be the insidious instruction of Satan himself and they may lead you astray.
   Therefore, all of these Bible helps should be used ONLY to establish historical or grammatical facts related to the Bible and MUST NOT be used TO ESTABLISH DOCTRINE OR TO INTERPRET THE MEANING OF THE BIBLE ITSELF. The chain reference in my Bible in the center of the two columns at Revelation 1:10 says, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day..." and by the Lord's day there is a little "z". In the column by the "z" there are two scriptural references one to Acts 20:7 and the other to I Corinthians 16:2 which both refer to the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK but have nothing to do with the Lord's day which is explained in the rest of the book of Revelation.
   Yet to find out what the BIBLE says about what day Jesus Christ is Lord of, read Mark 2:27-28! "And he said unto them, the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: therefore THE SON OF MAN IS LORD ALSO OF THE SABBATH."
   So, with Bible helps you must remember to use them only for technical facts and not for interpretative facts. And now, rule TWELVE:

Mark Your Bible!

   Perhaps you have thought the Bible should not be marked. But realize that what is HOLY about the Bible is not the paper, ink and leather out of which it is made, but the WORDS OF TRUTH the SPIRITUAL FACTS! Any PHYSICAL tool you can employ such as marking with a pen or colored pencils to help you remember and apply the spiritual truths in your life, is right with God! He expects you to USE His written Word to worship HIM not physical paper ant ink! Sometimes we hold back from marking the Bible and think that we'll do it later especially when we're listening to a point that we need to remember about a particular scripture but we never seem to get around to it. It's always so difficult to get out the pencil and ruler, and have our hands clean. So I have found over years of experience that the best way to mark the Bible is to JUST MARK IT!
   When you find out for instance that the word "conversation" in I Peter 3:1 ought to be "conduct," the thing you need to do is to IMMEDIATELY WRITE DOWN "conduct" in the margin and draw a little line and circle the word "conversation" in the verse. This way you will always remember.

Use These Rules

   Apply these twelve rules diligently, and your Bible study will be both interesting and rewarding.
   And if you are not already one of the nearly SEVENTY THOUSAND students of the "Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course" Click Link for it NOW! Don't put it off! This course is designed to help you study YOUR BIBLE. It employs all of these twelve rules of Bible study it can help YOU REALLY UNDERSTAND YOUR BIBLE as you never have before.
   This course is entirely free of any cost to you! You'll always be glad you did!

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Plain Truth MagazineAugust 1964Vol XXIX, No.8
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