How Should I Interpret the Bible? The Traditional View (The Covenant & the Cross #1)

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We always like to start out with the Word of God, and today’s Bible verse is 2 Timothy 2:15 which reads: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from D.L. Moody. He said, “The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.”

Today and for the next few broadcasts, as we begin our journey through the Bible, we are going to cover a few topics by way of overview that will help us throughout future episodes.

Our topic for today is titled: “How Should I Interpret the Bible? The Traditional View” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing: A Historical Survey of the Old and New Testaments” by Michael A. Harbin.

There are a number of ways to study the Bible. We could work our way through it book by book. We could take a thematic approach by following key themes, such as prophecy or salvation or love, through both the Old Testament and the New Testament. We could look at major sections, such as the Pentateuch or the prophetic literature or the Gospels. Each of these approaches is profitable.

For this and successive broadcasts, we will take a historical approach. That is, we will follow the sequence of historical events portrayed in the Bible, looking at the various biblical books within that context. In the process, we will try to understand each book as it may have been understood by its original audience. We use this method for several reasons. The Bible was certainly written within a historical context as God dealt with individuals and groups. Some books are records of events written shortly after the events occurred; Joshua and Philemon, for example, seem to fit into this category. Other books, such as First and Second Chronicles, cover longer periods of time, even drawing on a number of sources. Still others are not historical at all, such as Psalms and Proverbs; however, even though these works are collections of material written at various stages, we can find convenient slots in our survey to pause and note how that material fits in the historical sequence.

There are two approaches to understanding the Bible that divide the entire field. Because these approaches differ drastically, we need to describe them briefly before beginning our study. The major distinction between the two is how they view the origin and nature of the biblical text.

Right now, let’s discuss the Traditional View

The first school of thought in biblical interpretation may be labeled the traditional view, often known as the conservative view. This has been the dominant position held throughout the history of the church, at least up to the last century or so. This school accepts the biblical documents at face value. Since the biblical documents claim to record history, this view begins by accepting that claim as a working hypothesis. It assumes that the documents are indeed historical, even while carefully assessing that claim. It then tries to correlate how the various historical materials (biblical and extra-biblical) fit together, recognizing that there are gaps in our understanding. In the process, the biblical documents are weighed and evaluated, keeping in mind that they have been critically appraised continually since their composition. Aware that there are problems in the text we presently have, this view asserts that when we look at various periods of history, we must include all the evidence before we come to a conclusion. If there are conflicts in evidence (and our biggest problem is lack of evidence, not conflicting evidence), we must weigh it and gauge the alternatives as in any other area of history. Moreover, if there are records of divine intervention in human history, these are viewed soberly as plausible, true accounts.