How the Bible Interprets Itself
In The Verse –Parts 1 and 2
[This is An Advanced Teaching]
You’ve heard me use II Peter 1: 20 quite often in my teachings. In this teaching, I have gone into more background to point out the accuracy of the Word so that we are ready to study this verse.
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. -- II Peter 1: 20
This is the first thing a believer must know if he is going to understand the greatness of God's revelation in His Word. No prophecy, not one verse of Scripture, is of any private interpretation.
If I say, "This is what I think it means," I am giving my private interpretation. If you say, "This is what I think it means," or if any denomination writes, "This is what our denomination says it means," we have private interpretation which is guesswork. Give two men the same Scripture verse and, by privately interpreting it, they will come to two completely divergent conclusions. All our splits in Christianity come because we do not study the Word from its inherent accuracy. It matters nothing what we think, what our opinions are. The crucial element is what the Word says. You and I have to do our thinking according to the accuracy of the Word.
II Peter 1: 20 is the only place that idios is translated "private." At the other places in the Bible it is translated either "one's own" or "his own." The word "interpretation" is the Greek word epilusis which occurs at no other place in the Bible. The Greek verb form of epilusis is epiluo meaning "to let loose upon," as a hunting dog is let loose upon game. Idios plus epilusis equals "of no personal letting loose." One does not just let his mind run vagrantly as when turning a dog loose upon the game; one does not let his mind wander and give all kinds of interpretations to the Scripture. "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any personal letting loose.”
After eliminating private interpretation, two alternatives remain in interpreting God's Word: (l) either there is no interpretation possible or (2) the Word must interpret itself. If there is no interpretation possible, then we might as well forget the whole project of understanding the Word. But this is not the case. There is another answer - the Word interprets itself.
The Word interprets itself in one of three ways: (1) it interprets itself in the verse where it is written; or (2) it interprets itself in its context; or (3) the interpretation can be found by its previous usage in the Word. In this teaching, we are going to study how the Word interprets itself IN THE VERSE right where it is written.
It was a great revelation to us who do Biblical research to discover that the vast majority of the Word of God does interpret itself right where it is written. I would estimate that from Genesis to Revelation 85 to 90 per cent of the Word of God interprets itself in the verse.
If the interpretation is so obvious, why have we not understood it? First of all, we have not read it; and secondly, we have not remembered what we read. We get sloppy and read "thoroughly" instead of "throughly."
Let us look at some examples where Scripture interprets itself in the verse.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. - Genesis 1: 1
Where does this verse interpret itself? One needs no commentary to understand this verse.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. -- John 3: 16
Where does this verse interpret itself? Right where it is written. Verse after verse is just like that.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. -- Matthew 11: 28
Let your conversation [manner of life] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. -- Hebrews 13: 5
I have turned to my research materials for some help with new topics. I do modify some of these teachings and usually add to them. That’s what I have done in this case. I have quoted the complete verse of Hebrews 13: 5. I did this because I always found this verse to be most interesting and enlightening. God wants our manner of life to be without covetousness. We are not to covet, want or desire things beyond our need even though God will give us some of the desires of our heart. God stresses that we are to be content with the things that we have. And yet on television and so many other forms of media such as the Internet, the adversary, your personal adversary, puts more and more material things before your eyes. He knows that if you bury yourself with desires of the flesh that he will be able to control your life and your mind. Buy this machine so you can keep your grass just perfect like as if anyone cares. Buy this truck so you could be powerful. You all know what I’m talking about and make sure you get that medicine because you got restless leg syndrome. Have you ever heard of such a ridiculous thing? Maybe some of you should try to do what I do. I swam a mile yesterday – I walk my dog 3 to 6 miles – I work on a solo flex machine – I do a Royal Canadian Air Force exercise program. I don’t have time for restless leg syndrome. A famous actor that is still alive at 92 years old recently wrote a book and you know what the title of that book is “Keep Movin”. So God’s Word says just the opposite of what the enemy is trying so hard to push upon your life. Which God are you going to listen to? Make up your mind. It is the simplest thing such as to be content with the things that you have.
That actor who wrote that book was Dick Van Dyke. God bless that man and he also had a serious bout with alcoholism. I bet you he just didn’t sit around to beat that problem. I bet his legs weren’t restless, but I will bet you one thing, he kept moving. He gets up in the morning and dances with his wife.
There are three different ways in which the Word of God interprets itself right in the verse where it is written. We are now going to look into the first method.
A person doesn't need commentaries, seldom even a dictionary, to understand these verses.
One note which we must heed is that the words must be understood according to the definitions at the time the translation was made. The meanings of words change. We would have a problem three weeks from now if a new translation were published today because of changed definitions and usage of words.
To illustrate a change in expression, check Isaiah 1: 13.
Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. -- Isaiah 1: 13
"I cannot away with" Biblically means "I cannot tolerate them." The Lord could not tolerate all the ritual of the incense, the new moon and the Sabbaths that everybody was going through in the holy days. This is a good verse for you to understand that God cannot stand religion. True Christianity and religion are the exact opposites. God cannot tolerate religion and religious ceremonies.
And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. -- Mark 7: 9
"Full well" means "with full knowledge" in King James usage. "With full knowledge you reject the commandment of God."
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. -- James 5: 1
When the Bible tells somebody to "go to" it means "come now." A current translation would read, "Come on now, you rich men, weep for your miseries.
Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. -- Luke 17: 9
"I trow not" means "I imagine not" according to King James usage.
But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. -- Luke 21: 9
The words "by and by" in the King James mean "immediately." "But the end is not immediately."
When you and I think of "by and by," we think of "eventually" or "in due time," or of the old song "In the Sweet By and By." That is an example of how drastically expressions can change.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. -- I Thessalonians 4: 15
The word "prevent" in its seventeenth century usage meant "precede." Today when we prevent someone, we hinder him. In the times of King James if you prevented someone, you went before him.
For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: -- Matthew 25: 35
To "take someone in" means "to give hospitality."
For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts. – II Timothy 3: 6
Today when we talk about silly people, we think of people who show little sense. When the King James uses the word "silly," it means "harmless."
These examples illustrate that we must understand that Scripture interprets itself in the verse where it is written, but that sometimes the word or words must be understood according to their usage when the translation was made.
There is another point. Verses that are self-interpreting must be in harmony with all other Biblical references on the same topic. In Matthew 27 is a verse that sticks out in the Word of God like a sore thumb. Every Easter when the "seven last words" are sermon topics, this one verse is mangled. We’ve gone over this verse many times in past teachings, but repetition is one of the keys to learning. And by the way, this verse has caused no end of difficulty in the churches of the world today. This is because they do not read what is written and they do not study to rightly divide God’s Word.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? -- Matthew 27: 46
This verse of Scripture should have arrested our attention from the beginning. Why did the translators leave in the foreign words? This should have caused us to make an inquiry as to the translators' deviation from the usual.
We understand this verse word by word except for the foreign words. Yet this verse contradicts other verses in the Word of God. It would appear that God forsook Jesus because Jesus became sin and God could not stand sin; consequently, God left Jesus to die by himself.
Let us go to the Word and see exactly what the Word says. Look at John 16: 32.
Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered [Jesus is talking to his apostles.], every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. – John 16: 32
Jesus was talking about the time of his crucifixion and of his death; He said, "the Father is with me." Yet in Matthew 27: 46 it says, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
I and my Father are one. – John 10: 30
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. – II Corinthians 5: 19
How can one be separated or forsaken if all of these verses are to be true?
For in him [in Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. – Colossians 2: 9
How are we going to separate the fullness of the Godhead which dwelt in Christ's presence on earth? How could Jesus say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
There are many examples in The Word which are blatantly contradicted by Matthew 27: 46. Matthew cannot do this if it is the Word of God.
What Christ said at the time he was taken captive is recorded in Matthew.
Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? -- Matthew 26: 53
One has to be on "talking terms" with God to get that kind of assistance. The Father would have given Jesus 72,000 angels. Jesus could have walked right out from among this group of men if He had wanted to. Why? Because "I and my Father are one," "the Father is with me," "I always do the Father's will." Jesus must have been doing God's Will when He was dying upon the cross. Yet Matthew 27: 46 says, "Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This verse contradicts the rest of the Word.
What is the problem? First of all, the foreign words inserted in that verse are Aramaic words. Jesus spoke Aramaic. (Aramaic is called Hebrew in the King James Version. It might more accurately have been called Syro-Chaldee.) These Aramaic words are left in this particular Scripture because the translators really did not know what to do with them. They let the verse set and added the English interpretation. There are a few other examples in the New Testament to this day where the translators have allowed the Aramaic words to remain in the text.
The word eli means "my God," but there is no Aramaic word like the word lama. There is a word lmna. Lmna is always a cry of victory, a declaration of "for this purpose," or "for this reason." The root of sabachthani is shbk. Shbk means "to reserve," "to leave," "to spare" or "to keep."
It was about the ninth hour, three o'clock in the afternoon, when Jesus spoke from the cross.
"My God, my God, for this purpose was I reserved, for this purpose was I spared." The last words that he uttered were "It is finished." What was finished? Your redemption and mine. Jesus Christ had given his own life. He who knew no sin had become sin so that you and I might become the righteousness of God in Him. Your redemption and mine was then finished. The next chronological verse of Scripture is John 19: 30.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, it is finished: and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost. -- John 19: 30
They did not take His life. It was not the nails driven through his hands that held him to the cross, nor the rope tied around his midriff nor the nails driven through his feet. Why did he keep hanging on that cross? Because Jesus Christ loved us. He could have walked off that cross. He could have had twelve legions of angels at his command. But he kept hanging on the cross because he so loved us that he gave his own life for us. When he was dying upon the cross he did not cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me," but "My God, my God, for this purpose was I reserved, for this purpose was I spared."
Translations from the Far East read of Matthew 27: 46, " ... My God, my God, for this purpose was I spared." The Occidental or the Western translations wrongly read, " ... My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Suppose you had an only son and right now your son was dying, would you be sitting reading this book on the accuracy of God's Word or would you be with your son? And yet your son has not always done your will. Your son has done things contrary to what you would like for him to do. Still you would want to be with him. Do you think that God Almighty is not as good as you are? Jesus Christ was God's only-begotten Son and always did the Father's Will. When he was dying upon the cross, where do you think the Father was? With him.
God stayed with His Son. This was not only their triumphal hour, but ours also for it was at this point that Jesus Christ, the second Adam, fulfilled all the legal requirements for our redemption and salvation. This was Christ's purpose. Now we have an accurate translation of Matthew 27: 46, one of the most difficult verses of Scripture in the King James. Now this verse fits with the other passages in the Word of God.
To reiterate points: (1) Scripture usually interprets itself in the verse in which it is written; (2) the vocabulary must be understood in the terms of the day in which the translation was made; (3) all Scripture must be in harmony with itself; that is, Scriptures relating to a given subject cannot contradict each other.
Please turn to IN THE VERSE – Part 3 which explains NARRATIVE DEVELOPMENT AND THIS WILL CONCLUDE THIS SUBJECT OF How the Bible Interprets Itself
IN THE VERSE