This article is a reprint from the March 2012 Evangelist.
Believers shouldn’t be surprised the Bible has difficulties within it. The Bible is a revelation of the mind, will, character, and being of a great, perfectly wise, and Holy God. God is the author of this revelation, but it was given to man.
Finite humans are imperfect—intellectually and in knowledge, character, and spiritual discernment. It is hard for the finite to fully comprehend the infinite. It is hard for ignorant man to contemplate utterances of perfect knowledge. Spiritual things must be spiritually understood and can only be understood by the help of the Holy Spirit.
INSPIRED BY GOD
Oftentimes, false doctrine can be easily distinguished from truth by properly understanding the context of Scriptures. The interpretation one espouses may be based more on subjective opinion rather than on the contextual evidence found in Scripture.
Difficulty in doctrine or a grave objection to doctrine does not in anyway prove the doctrine to be untrue.
Also, one has to account for all the fulfilled prophecies the unity of the books of the Bible its inexhaustible depths and the Bible’s unique power to change the hearts of its believers when comprehending how Scripture is applied to our lives by faith.
Scripture must be understood in the light of the common rules of grammar and the historical settings of the texts themselves. The Bible is inspired by God and He has written His Word through human authors, whose use of language expresses the common linguistic literary forms of their day.
Exegesis helps us gather from the Scriptures themselves the precise meaning that God, the author, intends to convey. In order to better equip you to understand God’s Word, we’ll address some basic rules of exegesis. We’ll look at interpreting words according to use interpreting sentences according to context interpreting books according to historical setting and interpreting Scriptures according to genre. The Bible is not unique in its forms, but in its content.
My inspiration for writing this series was derived from participating and listening to calls and emails read on Frances & Friends. I hope this partially clinical, yet practical explanation of “grammar school” will help you develop and learn more about God’s Word.
LEXICAL SEMANTICS (THE STUDY OF WORDS)
1. Etymology. The study of word histories. The study of the development of the word to its first known usage and compared to its use in a sentence. It is best to study how words are used in their immediate contexts, in other places in a book, in books by the same author, especially Paul’s writings, by other Bible authors, and to question if there are Old Testament concepts for New Testament words. Extra biblical sources to assist in this kind of study are Hebrew and Greek lexicons. In The Expositor’s Study Bible, Brother Swaggart oftentimes explains difficult words within his notes to help the reader better comprehend the context of a verse.
2. Polysemy. Different meanings from the same word. For example, in its written form, the English word wind can mean a rush of air, or it can mean to wind up a clock. Used one way, it is a noun and used anther way, it is a verb. Its meaning is determined by the context. Another example is the Hebrew word davar, which can mean “thing” or “matter.” In a different context, davar can mean “word” or “speech.” The key is context.
3. Syntax. The relationship of words in a sentence. This can add light on the meaning of words. The sentence structure, grammar, the verb forms, and voice all play important roles. The use of grammar and parsing of words may help to bring out the meaning of words.
4. Figure of speech. The use of words in a sentence to give directed meaning. Ideas that are forceful and hard to present can be conveyed naturally by using figures of speech. Here are some examples of how figures of speech are used throughout the Bible:
- Metaphor. Designed to make a direct comparison. In the book of Isaiah, for example, Egypt and Babylon are used as metaphors of bondage or an evil place. And in Luke 22:31, Jesus told Peter that Satan desired to have Peter, “that he may sift you as wheat.”
- Simile. An explicitly stated comparison using the words like or as. In a
simile, that which follows the word like or as is usually a commonly known
- Synecdoche. A part representing the whole, or a whole representing the part. For example, Brother Swaggart tickles the ivories when he plays the piano. In John 3:22 Jesus is said to be baptizing, yet in John 4:1, He is not described as baptizing; His disciples were doing it.
- Metonymy. Using the same name for one thing to describe another. For example, the body of Christ is also the church.
- Personification. A thing or a quality represented by a person. For example, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Mat. 6:34)
- Apostrophe. Words are expressed in an exclamatory tone to an actual
person. The presence o absence of the person is unimportant. For example,
David’s cry over his son Absalom in II Samuel 18:33: “O my son Absalom,
my son, my son Absalom!”
- Ellipsis. An idea not fully expressed, so the reader must supply the rest of
the words to get the idea.
- Euphemism. A word phrase is substituted because the direct form of the word is too harsh or offensive. The word sleep, for example, is sometimes
used for the word death.
- Meiosis. A negative statement is used to declare an affirmative truth. I Thessalonians 2:15 says of the Jews “they please not God.” That means they angered Him.
- Hyperbole. A conscious exaggeration for effect, a rhetorical overstatement. In Luke 14:26, Jesus said we must hate our father and mother in comparison to Him.
- Irony. To express something other than, or the exact opposite of, the
literal meaning for effect. There are three types of irony:
- Rhetorical. As in, “fools for Christ.”
- Sarcastic. Irony intended to hurt. David’s wife Michal intended
to hurt him when she criticized his dancing before the Lord (II
- Satirical. Irony intended to get a point across in a mocking way.
For example when Jesus called the Pharisees “blind guides.”
As we “study to show ourselves approved” (II Tim. 2:15), it is important that we endeavor to examine God’s Word for God’s intended meaning.
There are times when God will give us a “rhema” word for application to our immediate personal needs—a personal revelation and answer to prayer that will come from our Lord directly to us for a specific need in our life.
An example of this for me was nearly 20 years ago when I suffered a debilitating stroke, and I needed understanding of why this happened to me. I was in excellent health and had no family history of stroke. My doctors could not explain the cause of my stroke. But they were pleased that I already practiced exercise and good eating habits and felt those habits would be beneficial in preventing another stroke.
In the meantime, I was left in an abyss of confusion. I was called of God and now unable to walk? I had been anointed with oil and prayed for by believers for healing, yet I saw no improvement in my condition. I witnessed healings for others, including a miracle that God did for my wife.
For days, I sought the Lord earnestly but nothing, as far as healing, was taking place! One day I was reading the Word to simply find comfort and pow! a rhema word jumped off the page of the Bible and then it all made sense to me. Here I was, a former athlete and health nut, unable to tie my shoes, and God showed me why He took me through this amazing experience. Right before God miraculously healed me, I Corinthians 1:4 was my answer:
“Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
I had to experience His loving comfort before I could minister the same to others. What great wisdom our Lord has for us when we read His life-giving and healing Word.