An Introduction to Biblical Interpretation with Solutions to Bible Difficulties
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An Introduction to Biblical Interpretation with Solutions to Bible Difficulties

Chapter I:


   The Bible is God's divine revelation of the most necessary, basic knowledge of all life. It is the very FOUNDATION which mankind could not otherwise discover. It is the revelation of God's mind, will and character. And God is far greater than man in knowledge, wisdom and spiritual character. And yet God has given the Bible — His revealed and inspired Word — to men who are imperfect in knowledge, character and spiritual understanding.

   Therefore, when carnal, narrow-minded, spiritually ignorant, and puny men try to understand the revelation of an infinite, all_-powerful, all-knowing God, there is bound to be difficulty. It's like a young child trying to understand a lecture given by a college professor. He may understand the words of themselves, but he will not grasp all the meaning of the ideas expressed.

Expect to Find Difficulties and Have Questions

   A person may find it difficult to understand certain parts of the Bible. This is to be expected. The apostle Peter wrote that in Paul's epistles there were "some things HARD TO BE UNDERSTOOD, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (II Peter 3:16).

   The Bible student will encounter difficulties.

Torrey admits this:

   Who is there of us who has not found things in the Bible that have puzzled us, yes, that in our early Christian experience have led us to question the Bible was, after all, the Word of God. We find some things in the Bible which it seems impossible for us to reconcile with other things in the Bible. We find some things which seem incompatible with the thought that the whole Bible is of Divine origin and absolutely inerrant. It is not wise to attempt to conceal the fact that these difficulties exist. It is the part of wisdom, as well as of honesty, to frankly face them and consider them. (R.A. Torrey, Difficulties in the Bible, p. 9.)

   We don't need to become discouraged when we encounter difficulties. We need to realize that some parts of the Bible will be hard to understand at first. We will find things in the Bible that will puzzle us. We may even find some apparent contradictions that we cannot reconcile. But the Bible is not filled with errors. We need to squarely face these difficulties and "search the scriptures" (John 5:39) to find the answers.

   Many difficulties arise because of man's ignorance of the facts. But anyone who gives up his belief in the divine origin and inspiration of the Bible because of some facts he cannot reconcile, is a shallow thinker indeed. The one who denies that the Bible is of divine origin and authority has more numerous and weighty difficulties to explain than one who believes the Bible to be the inspired Word of God.

   The very fact that we may not be able to solve a difficulty does not prove it cannot be solved. If we can see no possible solution, we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that a solution is impossible to find. Should a beginner in algebra, after having tried for hours to solve a problem, declare there is no possible solution because he couldn't find one? Of course not! And neither should Bible students think there are unsolvable difficulties in the Bible, simply because they themselves are not able to solve them.

   In many cases, the difficulty doesn't really exist.

Angus pointed out:

   Perplexities and doubts may, in numberless cases, be removed by a better knowledge of the text of Scripture, by the correction of inaccurate translation, by an acquaintance with the manners and customs of the age and country in which a book was written, and by a wider application of historical facts. (Joseph Angus, The Bible Hand-book, p. 260.)
   Many alleged errors have been investigated by competent scholars and the result thus far confirms the accuracy of the Bible. Many difficulties have been cleared away and new proofs for the Bible's authenticity have been discovered.

   When some people come to a difficult scripture, they decide immediately what the doubtful text must mean. Having made up their minds quickly as to the meaning of this particular verse, they must then change their minds about other verses and misinterpret them in order to make them fit with the new one. Trying to put our own ideas INTO the Bible is the surest way of MISUNDERSTANDING it entirely.

   We must reserve our judgment about any difficulties in understanding the Bible we come across. Why reject truth or the Bible itself because we don't understand certain parts at the moment? Those who make a big issue of some minor points they don't understand, often overlook the really important purpose for which the Bible was written.

The Reason for Difficulties

   Why are there apparent contradictions and discrepancies in the Bible? Why has God permitted them to exist? And what good are they? These are questions that need answering.

Thomas Boys has well said:

   There is much in the Holy Scriptures which we find hard to understand: nay, much that we seem to understand so fully as to imagine that we have discovered in it some difficulty or inconsistency. Yet the truth is, that passages of this kind are often the very parts of the Bible in which the greatest instruction is to be found: and more than this, the instruction is to be obtained in the contemplation of the very difficulties by which at first we are startled. This is the intention of these apparent inconsistencies. The expressions are used in order that we may mark them, dwell upon them, and draw instruction out of them. Things are put to us in a strange way, because if they were put in a more ordinary way, we should not notice them. (Commentary, I Peter 3, quoted in Figures of Speech Used in the Bible by E.W. Bullinger, p. xi.)
   The apparent contradictions and discrepancies in the Bible stimulate the mind. They prompt men to search the Scriptures for the solution. They attract the inquiring mind. Whately says:
   The seeming contradictions in scripture are too numerous not to be the result of design; and were designed, not as mere difficulties to try our faith and patience, but as furnishing the most suitable mode of instruction that could have been devised, by mutually explaining and modifying or limiting or extending one another's meaning. (On Difficulties in Writings of St. Paul, Essay vii, Sec. 4 quoted by John W. Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, p. 31.)

   Difficulties stimulate interest in Bible study.
   Angus remarks:
   And if it be said that these difficulties are too numerous, or that the solution of them has been too slow, it may be answered that this gradual solution supplies to each age fresh evidence, and excites continued interest in Scripture, while the fact proves that the evidence of the Bible, like its doctrine, is for all time. (Joseph Angus, The Bible Hand-book, p. 271, emphasis mine.)

   Anstey adds to this by saying:

   The solution of difficulties, the clearing up of discrepancies, the reconciliation of apparent contradictions, and the attainment of a clear perception of the perfect harmony which penetrates into the last detail and permeates and pervades the entire structure of Holy Scripture, is a source of unfailing intellectual interest. (Martin Anstey, How to Master the Bible, P. 20.)
   Concerning the differences in the spelling, choice, and arrangement of words in the Greek text of the New Testament, Wordsworth says:
   These discrepancies being such as they are found to be, are of inestimable value. They show that there has been no collusion among our witnesses, and that our manuscript copies of the Gospels, about five hundred in number, and brought to us from all parts of the world, have not been mutilated or interpolated with any sinister design. These discrepancies are, in fact, evidences of the purity and integrity of the sacred text. They show that the scriptures which we now hold in our hands in the nineteenth century, are identical with those received by the church in the first century as written by the Holy Ghost. (Preface to Greek Four Gospels, p. xxii, quoted by John W. Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, p. 37.)
   Difficulties in the text are important from this point of view: They show that the scribes must have been faithful with the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts because the tendency would always be to "correct" the apparent discrepancies. This was not done.

Difficulties Are a Stumbling Block

   The apparent discrepancies and difficulties in the Bible are also there as a stumbling block to people whom God is not calling today (Mat. 13:10-15 and I Pet. 2:8). We need to remember that God is not revealing His truth to everyone in our day (see Mr. Armstrong's article, "Is This the Only Day of Salvation?"). Most people's eyes have been blinded and the way God has blinded people is by writing the Bible in such a way they couldn't understand it unless they diligently studied it with a humble and open mind and had the help of God's Spirit.

   The major cause of difficulties in understanding the Bible is carelessness in studying the Bible without a prayerful and humble mind. So to eliminate these difficulties, it is necessary to study the Bible in the right way and to have the right attitude about it.

Attitude is Key Factor

   Those who study the Bible merely to find errors, will never come to understand it properly. Such people do not fully comprehend and apply the PURPOSE of God's Word. This purpose is given in II Timothy 3:16, "ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for CORRECTION, for instruction in righteousness."

   We should study every single passage with this verse in mind. We need to ask ourselves: What reproof, correction and instruction is here for me? The Bible should be applied personally — to take the plain and simple meaning of the passage as if it were written directly to us and then act accordingly.

   If we recognize the authority of the Bible — as being the inspired Word of Almighty God the Creator — and study it with the purpose of showing us where we are WRONG and to find the right instruction that will help us grow to spiritual maturity, then the supposed contradictions and other Bible difficulties will be no problem.

   Even theologians of this world understand this point. Anstey says:
   The primary requisite of the Bible student is a sincere desire to know the will of God in order that he may do it. The Bible is a revelation of the will of God. Its primary appeal is to the will bf man. It was written to be obeyed. Hence the primary qualification demanded in the reader is not scholarship but surrender, not expert knowledge, but willingness to be led by the Spirit of God. (Martin Anstey, How to Master the Bible, p. 11, emphasis mine.)
   When a certain lawyer asked Christ what to do to inherit eternal life, Christ asked him: "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" (Luke 10:26). When a person reads the Bible, does he read it in order to confirm his prejudices or form his opinions? Does he read it in order to confute his opponents or to find out what and whom he ought to oppose? Does he read it through the eyeglasses of tradition — everything colored by what the early church fathers taught? Or does he read the Bible with confidence that there is more light and truth to be revealed by God's Word?

   We need help in understanding the Bible. When Philip heard the Ethiopian eunuch reading the book of Isaiah, he asked him: "Do you understand what you are reading?" The Ethiopian replied: "How can I unless some one guides me?" (Acts 8:30-31).

   The Bible student needs instruction and guidance. But the only man who is at all competent to explain the will and Word of God is the man whose will is fully surrendered to God. There are great Greek and Hebrew scholars who are blind as a bat to the real meaning of the Scriptures because they lack that clearness of spiritual vision that comes only from a surrendered will.

   Both the Bible student and teacher must have the right attitude of heart and mind. God says: "To this man will I look, even to him that is of a contrite spirit, and TREMBLETH at my word" (Isa. 66:2).

   If we tremble at God's Word and respect the authority and power behind that Word so much that we are afraid to reject or disobey it, then we have the right attitude and can fully benefit by our study of the Bible. Instead of trying to correct or improve the Bible we must let it correct, reprove and teach us.

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Publication Date: 1969
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