I. Definition and Role of Literal Interpretation
Literal interpretation is the method of ascribing to words their normal meaning that they would have in their everyday normal usage. This is also known as a “normal reading” of the text. This method intends to understand the words as they are implemented in the Bible, just as they would be understood in any other setting. This is also known as the “grammatical-historical” method of interpreting Scripture. The “grammatical-historical” method derives the meaning of the text on the basis of the literal or normal meaning of the text in regard to the context. This method is based on the fact that God gave human language so He could communicate His revelation to man, and He gave it in a way that could be understood through a normal or literal understanding of the words. Authorial intent relates to what the Biblical author meant by what he wrote. The factors that are taken into account are, the audience being addressed, and the historical context in question. Authorial intent is also referred to as the “single meaning” of the text. The single meaning of the text refers to what the author meant when he wrote to that particular audience. By discovering the authorial intent, we find the single meaning of the text, which would also be the literal or “normal” interpretation of the Scripture. The role of literal interpretation in studying Scripture is to accurately conclude the meaning of the Word of God by; using normal grammatical interpretation of words, finding out what the author intended when he wrote, and that is the single meaning of the text. This helps us to more accurately ascertain the meaning of the text, without having to do a large amount of guesswork.
II. The Significance of Progress of Revelation
Progressive revelation is the process that God used to reveal His truth over many
years, through many people, and in many different ways throughout history (Heb. 1.1-2). By doing this God has revealed relatively small amounts of His truth over time, instead of revealing all of His truth at once. Progressive revelation takes into account the reality that God has worked in different ways, through different groups of people throughout history. By taking this into account, we are able to interpret all subsequent Scripture in light of preceding Scripture (namely the N.T. in light of the O.T.). When looking at the Old Testament we see that God worked in a different way with the nation of Israel, than He works with the worldwide New Testament Church. They are two distinct entities. Dispensational theologians employ a “normal” reading of the text that takes into account progressive revelation. There are different people groups addressed in the Old Testament and New Testament, and different functions also. Dispensationalists see God working in and through His covenant people Israel in the Old Testament. In the New Testament dispensationalists recognize God ratifying the New Covenant (which was prophesied in the O.T.) through Christ (1 Cor. 11.25), the temporary setting aside and partial hardening of the nation of Israel (Rom. 11.25-26). There is a distinction drawn between the nation of Israel, and the Church on the part of dispensationalists. Reformed theologians on the other hand tend to read the New Testament Scriptures back into the Old Testament. This results in an allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament, with some seeing the Church in the Old Testament, and the Old Testament promises to Israel being fulfilled spiritually in the Church. Dispensationalists take progressive revelation into account by employing a normal reading of the text, while Reformed Theologians dismiss progressive revelation by employing an allegorical (spiritualization) interpretation of the text. If we interpret Scripture in a normal or literal way then we will see that Israel is the people of God in the Old Testament. Then taking into account that God gave His revelation in pieces, we will see by the time that we reach the ratifying of the New Covenant in Christ, that God has fulfilled literally all of the prophecies so far. We also see that the Church is a different entity, apart from national Israel. But, evidence is also seen from New Testament, and Old Testament Scripture that the setting aside of Israel is only temporary, till the time of the Gentiles is through. This means that national Israel will someday be restored, but not as a part of the Church (Ezek. 14.10-11; Rom. 11).
III. Definition of the Discipline of Biblical Theology
Biblical Theology is the study of each book of the Bible with reference to its historical setting, and its point in God’s progressive revelation. Biblical theology determines what the author meant when he wrote to his audience. Cultural aspects, and the historical time period are taken into account to arrive at the meaning of the text. It is not concerned with the relation of the book to the rest of Scripture. Biblical Theology is very narrow in scope, focusing on the immediate historical contextual meaning of each individual book.
IV. Definition of Systematic Theology
Systematic Theology studies that whole canon of Scripture, and its results are based on logic, not the immediate historical context. It concludes doctrines on the basis of the whole witness of the Scriptures. So it categorizes general doctrines from the whole canon of Scripture. Systematic Theology seeks to found out what the Word of God is saying to us today, and not just what it meant to the original audience as Biblical Theology does. It draws out the timeless principles of Scripture.
V. The Relationship of the Disciplines of Biblical and Systematic Theology
The main task of Biblical Theology is to decipher what the text meant to its original audience, in its original historical setting. This is done to make sure that the text is interpreted, and taught correctly. The main task of Systematic Theology is to not only understand what the author meant originally, but to incorporate that particular teaching with what the rest of Scripture has to say about that particular issue or topic. This is done to discover what timeless truth is being taught through the Word of God to people in the present time period. Biblical Theology is concerned with a culturally “bound” (possibly dispensationally “bound”), “fixed” time period. Systematic Theology is concerned with finding out what the Bible “says” to people across culture, and time (and dispensation). Exegesis is the study of individual portions of Scripture, to arrive at what the writer was saying in a particular passage, and how his original audience understood what he wrote. Biblical Theology is primarily concerned with exegesis, because that is as far as the process of Biblical Theology goes. Systematic Theology starts with Biblical Theology and then goes onto application to the present audience. There are more marked principles for application presented in Systematic Theology.
VI. The Difference between a Dispensational Approach to the Bible and a Non-dispensational Approach to the Bible
The defining characteristics of a Non-dispensational approach to the Word of God are a non-literal (allegorical) interpretation of the Scriptures, and a lack of distinction between the nation of Israel and the New Testament Church. Reformed Theologians see the nation of Israel as cast away forever, with the Church taking its place. Instead of taking progressive revelation into account, they read the New Testament back into the Old Testament. They see God as being solely concerned with the salvation of the souls of mankind. This also causes them to ignore the differences between the Old Testament and New Testament economy. The defining characteristics of a dispensational approach to the Bible are a literal hermeneutic, God being concerned with more than just the salvation of human souls, and a distinction between God’s plan for the nation of Israel and the New Testament Church (they are not the same). Dispensationalism interprets the New Testament in light of the Old Testament, and accounting for progressive revelation. Reformers interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament, and they disregard progressive revelation.
VII. Evidentialism versus Presuppositionalism in Apologetics
Evidentialism implements a one step approach to prove the existence of God.
This approach uses historical arguments to demonstrate that God exists, and that Christianity is true by using such things as miracles. Some evidentialists use compiled arguments that include natural revelation, historical evidence, etc… The purpose of this line of argumentation is to present evidence so that the Holy Spirit might use it to convince the hearer of the truth. This is more of an intellectually, reason based argumentation. The presuppositional approach to apologetics automatically presumes the existence of God, by concluding that all unbelievers are just suppressing their acknowledgment of God and His truth. So instead of trying to prove the existence of God, they take it for granted. Presuppositionalists use negative argumentation to expose the flawed logic of unbelievers, so that they will acknowledge the truth. Classical apologetics differs from strict evidentialism in that there are two steps implemented, with the first being an appeal from natural theology for the existence of God, and the second being an appeal from history and Scripture for Christianity. Strict evidentialists do not try to prove theism by natural theology, they just appeal to historical evidence, and Scripture for God’s existence and Christianity. It is possible and sometimes necessary to use evidential and presuppositional strategies to share Christ with an unbeliever. The line of argumentation depends on where the unbeliever is in his/her belief system. We can prove the existence of God by using positive evidential arguments, and also by using negative presuppositional arguments to expose the faulty objections of the unbeliever. I favor the evidential approach, because most times I speak to unbelievers who believe God exists but they have a skewed idea of who He is. So I present to them from Scripture the truth, and if they reject that, then I try to expose their flawed thinking by using the presuppositional approach.
I. RevelationA. General Definition of Revelation
Revelation is the manifestation of God to mankind in a way that man is able to know God and be able to fellowship with Him. This is the way God makes Himself known to man. God has revealed Himself to man in two ways. The first way is through general/natural revelation (Ps. 19.1-6; Rom. 1.20). The Second way is through special revelation (Ps. 19.7- 14; Rom. 3.2; Heb. 1.1-2).
B. Natural Revelation
General revelation is the natural way that God chose to show His existence to all people throughout all time throughout the world. God has revealed Himself in His creation (Rom. 1.20). He has also shown Himself in the events of history (Isa. 37.26, 36-37; Jer. 31.32). Another way He has revealed Himself is in the human personality. Mankind has a conscience, along with religious and moral awareness (Rom. 2). God has provided Himself a witness in creation by the amazing orderliness that everything occurs (Eccl. 1.6-7). Everyday man sees the amazing creation before him, and cannot deny that there must be a divine creator behind all of it (Ps. 19.1-6; Isa. 40.26; Rom. 1.20). From science we know that there is too much order involved in the positioning and characteristics of planet earth, for it to have been coincidental. Two lines of argumentation for God’s existence based on natural revelation are called a priori which is based on rational thought related to the idea that God has to exist, and a posteriori which is based on evidence from creation that God exists. Man can know that God is glorious and creative (Ps. 19.1). Man sees God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature from creation (Rom. 1.20). Natural revelation by itself is not enough to bring anyone to salvation though. We see that natural revelation only brings condemnation, it does not bring justification (Rom. 1.20-25). The only thing that can bring man to salvation is the Gospel (Acts 4.12; Rom. 10.17).
C. Special Revelation
Special Revelation is the way the God made Himself known to specific people at specific times in specific places. The only way that special revelation is available today is in the sixty-six canonical books of the Bible. God has chosen to reveal Himself in many different ways during history. One of these ways He revealed Himself is in Theophany, which is the visible manifestation of God (Gen. 17.1; 32.30; Exod. 33.18-23). Another of these ways was through Christophany, which is the visible manifestation of the preincarnate Christ (Gen. 13; 2 Sam. 24.16; Zech. 1.12). God also made Himself known through dreams and visions (Gen. 28.13), and through the Holy Spirit (Mark 12.36; Acts 1.16). Also God made Himself known through historical events such as; miraculous signs (Ps. 78), and through His providential acts in regard to His people (Joshua 24). He spoke to mankind through His Son (John 1.1, 14, 18; Heb. 1.2). God has also spoken through prophets (2 Pet. 1.20-21), apostles (Eph. 3.5), angels (Rev. 1.1), and through casting lots (Prov. 16.33). Now God’s special revelation is seen today in His Word (2 Tim. 3.16). The Holy Spirit guided the human authors in the recording of Scripture (2 Pet. 1.21), the Son of God is the culmination of God’s revelation (John 1.1, 14; Heb. 1.1-3), and the Father sent the Son (John 6.38; 8.18, 42). The sixty-six canonical books of Scripture are the only special revelation that is available today (2 Cor. 12.12; Heb. 2.4; Jude 3).
II. InspirationA. General Definition of Inspiration
The word inspiration means literally, “God breathed.” The Scriptures are literally the Word of God. We know that the Holy Spirit “carried along” men of God to speak the words that God wanted them to, which explains the process of how Scripture was produced (2 Pet. 1.21). Also we learn that Scripture is actually God’s Word recorded, because He “breathed it out” (2 Tim. 3.16). We see from Scriptural evidence that the personality of each individual author is apparent in the finished product (Luke 1.1-4). But, there are also examples of God dictating things to the human authors (Rev. 19.9). From the evidence of Scripture, we see that the Holy Spirit influenced the human authors, and guided them, but that human authors also worked in cooperation with the Holy Spirit in the completion of the completed canon (2 Sam. 23.2; 1 Cor. 14.37). The writings are inspired (2 Pet. 1.21), and not everything the Biblical authors wrote is canonical (1 Cor. 5.9-10).
B. Verbal Inspiration
Verbal inspiration means that even though the Biblical authors were active in the writing of the Bible, they wrote the very words that God wanted them to write (Gal. 3.16; cf. Gen. 12.7). This doctrine is important because man is sinful, and if God did not guide them in their writing, they might make errors. So it is not just the concept but; the very words themselves that are “God breathed.”
C. Plenary Inspiration
Plenary inspiration means that the entire Bible is fully and equally, the inspired Word of God (Matt. 4.4; 2 Tim. 3.16). The very words of Scripture, and the Scriptures as a whole are, “God breathed.” By holding to the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture we guard against “partial inspiration”, and “concept inspiration.”
D. Innerancy of the Bible
The concept of Biblical inerrancy states that all of the Bible is true, and contains no errors. As a result of the Bible being inspired (“God breathed”, 2 Tim. 3.16; 2 Pet. 1.20-21), we know that the Bible is without error because God cannot lie (Titus 1.2; Heb. 6.18). Since Scripture is God’s very Word, and He cannot lie, they must be completely true.
E. Historicity of the Bible
The Bible has shown itself to be true in regard to every single historical account to this point in history. This is a major evidence for the inerrancy of Scripture. If the Bible was ever shown to be inaccurate historically, then it would not be inerrant. We should understand the historical claims of Scripture the same way we understand all other Scripture, to be the inerrant Word of God. Archeology has shown that such people as the Hittites did exist, and every “new” find has done nothing but to confirm the Word of God. When science or some other movement contradicts the Scriptures, we should not abandon the Word of God. The Scriptures are truth, not the latest movement. Jesus viewed and spoke of the historical accounts of the Old Testament in a literal way (Matt. 12.40; Matt. 22.45; Mark 2.26).
F. Integrity and Trustworthiness of the Bible
The Bible has shown itself to be completely truthful, and non-contradictory over thousands of years, thus showing its reputation to be absolute truth. The Bible has never been shown to be false, and all that it says has been literally fulfilled to this point, therefore attesting to its trustworthiness as the Word of God. When apparent inconsistencies and contradictions in Scripture arise, an attitude of prayer and patience is the best mode of action. Investigation into the historical background should be made, check out what the rest of Scripture says, and most times the answer will become clear. Jesus taught the Old Testament Scriptures as completely reliable truth (Matt. 4.1-11; John 10.30-38; John 17.17).
G. Authority of the Bible
The definition of biblical authority is that the Scriptures will be fulfilled literally and completely just as they attest (Matt. 5.17-18). Jesus taught that the Word of God is completely true, and cannot be broken (John 10.30-38). God also said that what ever He purposes to do will be accomplished (Isa. 55.11). The Lord Jesus taught the Scriptures as authoritative, as should we. Christians as a result of the Bible being authoritative should not only teach them (1 Pet. 4.11), but live by them (Gal. 6.16; 2 Pet. 1.5-8).
III. Preservation of the BibleA. Canonicity i. Definition of Canon
The word canon means measuring rod, or ruler. It eventually came to refer to the content of Biblical Christian faith. The Christian’s canon is the sixty-six canonical books of the Bible.
ii. Definition of Canonicity
Canonicity is the undeniable authenticity authority of the Scripture provided by divine inspiration. Canonicity is the precursor to canonization, which is the acceptance of the writings as authentic and authoritative. The book became canonical when God inspired it. The Church recognized the inspired books, however they did not give them their divinely inspired character.
iii. Primary Principles in the Development of the OT Canon
The four principles that governed the development of the Old Testament canon were: Does it speak with divine authority? Is it prophetic? Is it authentic? Did God’s people receive it? Moses was the individual chosen by God to be a measuring stick for prophets (Deut. 34.10-12), and also the first one to record the written revelation of God. The Pentateuch became the standard by which all subsequent revelation was measured (Deut. 13.1-5; 18.20-22). The relationship of Jesus to the Old Testament canon is one of confirmation. He mentions the canon as the Jews acknowledged it in His teachings (Matt. 23.35; Luke 11.51).
iv. Primary Principles of Development in the NT Canon
The four principles that governed the development of the New Testament canon were: Does it have apostolic authority? Is it prophetic? Is it authentic? Did the Church receive it? Jesus is the prophet that was spoken of by Moses (Acts 3.22-23; cf. Deut. 18.15-19). Jesus said His words would never pass away (Matt. 24.35). He also gave the apostles and NT prophets revelation, which became the NT canon (Eph. 3.5; John 14.26). The canon is closed because the Bible attests that it is so (2 Cor. 12.12; Heb. 2.4; Jude 3).
B. Textual Transmission of the Text and Translations
The original Old Testament and New Testament were transmitted through the process of copying the “autographs”, which were the original documents, and the translation of those copies into numerous other languages. The issue of textual variants is a serious issue, but it does not cause the translations that we have today to be considered erroneous. The variants do not affect any major doctrines, and most can be addressed through other clear Scripture. So, the translation of the Scriptures that I possess is the whole inspired Word of God, as a result of being the translation of copies that were kept meticulously over the centuries. I prefer the critical New Testament text, because it takes into account the older more accurate manuscripts that have been preserved. I believe that it is more desirable to choose the translation in a passage based on the older best manuscripts available. A formal approach to the translation of Scripture attempts to translate the original languages as literally as possible into the language of the reader (NASB). A functional approach to the translation of Scripture attempts to translate the original languages in a way that enables smoother reading for the reader. The formal approach is focused mainly on literal accuracy, and the functional approach is focused mainly on smooth translation, not literal translation. I prefer the NASB, because it speaks in contemporary language, and is focused on literal translation of the original languages.
C. Present Access to the Word of God
We do not have the privilege of possessing the original autographs, but we do have copies of the original autographs. The original manuscripts were meticulously copied over the centuries to preserve the revealed Word of God. God raised up men to preserve His Word through copies, and translators to accurately translate His Word into various languages for all peoples to read. The English Bible that we hold in our hands is the inspired Word of God. It is a translation arrived at by the study of numerous copies of the original “God breathed” Scriptures.