This is the third part in the Beyond Today Bible study series: The Time Is Now! The Bible is God’s sure word of prophecy, instruction and truth. There are critical keys you can use to deepen your understanding of how to apply the timeless principles of the Bible to your daily life. Revival begins with daily application of God’s teaching.
[Gary Petty] Well, good evening everyone and welcome to “Laboring in the Word.” It’s the latest installment of our “Time Is Now” series of Bible studies we have been doing. We’re going to talk about Bible study tonight. So we’ll begin, if you all please will stand to ask God’s blessing on the Bible study.
Great Father and King, we come before You very humble, humble, Father, because of Your greatness and the greatness of Jesus Christ, who sits at Your right hand, and Father because we are here to tremble before Your Word. And help us to understand. Open our hearts and our minds that we will, tonight, be able to get into Your Word and be able to come out of it with a much deeper appreciation and a much deeper discipline in how we approach the study of Your Word. So we thank You, we praise You, and we ask for Your guidance on everything that’s said and done here tonight. We ask all these in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Okay, I have a little test for you. It’s only 10 questions. You can write it down, no one will ever know what your answers are, okay. Easy questions about the Bible.
One, who lived first, Abraham or Moses? Who lived first chronologically? Who lived first, Abraham or Moses?
Who wrote the Book of Acts?
What are the general epistles? And you don’t have to list all of them, just say what they are. What’s a definition of the general epistles?
Who was Nimrod? Was that his first or last name? No, no, just who is Nimrod?
Where was Daniel, when he wrote the Book of Daniel? Too fast here? You got it?
Who baptized Jesus?
Where does it say in the Bible, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” The book is fine.
Who did God order to marry a prostitute?
Where is it written, “All men are created equal”?
And the last one, name the four Gospels. Okay?
Not too bad of a test. Who lived, by the way, I’ve given this test numerous times, and in church crowds, sometimes 50% of the people miss 50% of the questions. Who lived first, Abraham or Moses?
[Petty] Abraham, okay. Who wrote the Book of Acts?
[Petty] Luke. What are the general epistles?
[Audience] …that’s not written by Paul.
[Petty] Basically, yeah. All the letters not written by Paul. Who was Nimrod?
[Audience] …son of Cush.
[Petty] Oh, son of Cush, that’s good. Yeah, the dude in Genesis who built the tower, okay, that even that was good enough. Where was Daniel when he wrote the book of Daniel. Where?
[Petty] Babylon. Who baptized Jesus?
[Audience] John the Baptist.
[Petty] Okay, good. Where does the Bible say, “Cleanliness is next to godliness?”
[Petty] Nowhere. It doesn’t say that. It’s amazing how many people think that’s in the Bible. Who did God order to marry a prostitute?
[Petty] No. Hosea. Where is it written, “All men are created equal?” U.S. Declaration of Independence. [laughter] That was the question, where is it says, no. Name the four Gospels?
[Audience] Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.
[Gary Petty] Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.
Now, some of you know, you may have not done well on all these questions. And I can, you can make a hard test, easy test. But really, the question is how much do we really know about the Bible? I’ve been studying the Bible…I started studying the Bible as a child. As a teenager, I used to skip class and go to the library, so I can study the origins of Easter and Christmas. And all I can tell you is, all the time, I am amazed at what I don’t know or what I’ve forgotten. Now, I knew it one time but I’ve forgotten.
How do we study the Bible? What is the best method for studying the Bible? Are there rules we should make up, and who makes up the rules? If you read a book on theology, they will divide Bible study – study of the Scriptures – into two different categories. Oh boy, big Greek words, wait till you hear the meaning of this. People are always disappointed when they found out the actual meanings.
So here’s some Greek words you can find some opportunity in life to use in a conversation, okay? I always forget how to spell them. Anyone know how to pronounce that? Exegesis . See, you know this. So you know some Greek. What’s that one? Eisegesis . Now, some of you are saying, what, what in the world does that mean? Now, it’d be better if you know that’s a G.
Okay, literally, exegesis means to draw out. Eisegesis means to draw in. They say, what does this have to do with the study of the Bible? When we break down Bible study, clearly these are the two approaches. One approach is to look at the scripture and say, I wish to draw out the meaning that the author, which in this case, we believe it’s inspired by God. We have to draw out what the meaning is. Eisegesis is actually what most people do and what we do sometimes. We draw in. We put into the Bible what we want it to say. Or we put into the Bible our own personality. We put into the Bible our own culture.
And if you try to read the Bible with only an understanding of 21st century U.S. culture, you will not understand large portions of the Bible. But it will make sense to you. People have used the Bible for all kinds of things. People have used the Bible as a means to cause wars, to set up communes, to practice almost anything you could think of – cruel slavery, genocide – and they used the Bible to do it. So I can read into the Bible, draw into it or draw out. When we look at what we want to do, when we read the Bible, study the Bible, we want to draw out the meaning of the scripture. What is it that God is actually telling us?
We will talk about eisegesis. I can come up with some controversial passage of the Bible, and we can sit around and talk about it, and I bet you out of this group, we can come up with 10 different explanations. Well, how do you know which one is right? How do we know which one’s right? Now we say, well, we all have God’s spirit and we can’t even decide.
I was on a sub-committee for the Council at one time many years ago. What we were going through doctoral questions and there were seven of us in that committee. And three of us came up with one explanation of a passage and three came up with another explanation.
Now, it was only two verses. It wasn’t like some big earth shattering doctrinal change but how you explain that? And we came to the same conclusions. But the question was what are we going to put in our booklet? And the man in charge of the committee said, “I’m not going to make this decision.” Sent it on to the Council, the Council sent back and said, “Guys, you’ve got to come up with something.”
And then we felt better when we read a commentary on this passage who said this man, after really researching this passage, had found 350 different explanations of a singular passage of the Bible. We were so glad we’d only come up with two. And he came to the same conclusion. And we never totally settled it. We just agreed that, “Hey, we’re coming to the same conclusion. This is the best we can do.”
So we have to draw out what is there. So we say, okay, if we’re going to do exegesis, we have to have some kind of discipline. In other words, you can’t exegete a passage and say “what I’m going to do today for my Bible study is okay, God, help me to find what You want me to know.” “But when it please God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace.” God separated me from my mother’s womb and He has called me according to his grace. Oh, what does that mean? You see, now would do? I read into that I’ve been called by God, I must be an apostle.
Now, we are going to read into it what we feel. And we do it all the time. I do it all the time, you do it all the time. I’ve said things in sermons I later look back a year later, I thought, how stupid could I be? I read into it. Something made perfect sense to me. But is that the message that is supposed to be drawn out. So if we have to have discipline that means there has to be some kind of guidelines. Well, who makes up the guidelines? Because I can make up a set of guidelines, and we’ll make the Bible say whatever I wanted to say, right? Just follow these guidelines.
What we’re going to look at are six principles that are obvious. Okay. If I want to draw something out, then there are six things we can look at and say, okay, these must be guidelines. These must because they lead us to drawing out what’s there. And it will tend to limit us from too much subjective putting into it what we think or feel. The first one is in Isaiah 66. This is the basis of all exegesis, if we’re really going to look at what is it that God is saying.
Isaiah 66:1 Isaiah 66:1Thus said the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build to me? and where is the place of my rest?
American King James Version×“Thus says the Lord, heaven is My throne and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you would build Me? Where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made and all things exist” and God is declaring here, I made everything, everything there is: concepts, mathematics, physical things, physical laws, spiritual things, angels. He’s made it all.
“Says the Lord, but on this one, will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit and who trembles at My word.” This is the beginning of all our attempts at exegesis. And drawing out what God wants us to know and that is we approach this book as unique.
That is the first point. The Bible is unique among all books as God’s written revelation to humanity. Now if I don’t believe that, I don’t need to exegete anything anyways, right? …believe that I must draw out the original intention that means I must try to draw out with God’s help. With God’s help, His intention as the one who inspired the Book. So that means, this has to be approached with a certain amount of reverence and awe, and we must approach this very carefully. Very carefully.
We must pray about it. [inaudible] …conclusions. Now, there’s a time when you come to a conclusion, you say, now I know that’s the conclusion. I’m saying you question that then but in the process of coming to a conclusion, what is it that God is saying to me? Again, I draw this out. So I’m not putting into it. I’m not drawing into it what I wanted to say. What I wanted to say. First point.
Now, second point. 2 Timothy. 2 Timothy 3. Now anytime, you hear a sermon or a Bible study about Bible study, you always end up going through…or usually end up going through 2 Timothy 3 in great detail. I’m not going through it in detail. You can practice exegesis on that later.
I want to look at this because of one thing that’s said here that is many times missed. 2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
American King James Version×. Oh, I’m in 1 Timothy. What I was about to read you makes no sense at all in the context we were talking about. Verse 16. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Now, we can talk for an hour just on those two verses. We can go through what it means to be profitable for doctrine. We can look at what he was saying in the context. We can look up Greek words. We can look up what it means to be for reproof and for correction. We can look at different translations of the Bible.
But I want to look on just one little phrase here. The phrase where he says all Scripture is given by inspiration. That is important point of exegesis. All Scripture. Now when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, much or at least part of the New Testament hadn’t even been written yet. When he says all Scripture, he not only means what would end up as part of the New Testament, he means the Old Testament.
So what does that mean? If we take this as all Scripture is given by God for these purposes. All of it. That means we have to study, ready anybody? All of it. A Bible with the New Testament and the book of Psalms is not all of it. And that means that if we’re going to study all of it, we have to look for continuity in the Scripture. So that’s our second point. Our second point is, the Bible is to be read and interpreted by searching for continuity. In fact, when you look at the word “scripture”… Look up the word “scripture” in the New Testament. Most of the places where it talks about scripture, the only reference point is what we call the Old Testament.
Now you’ll see where Peter calls some of Paul’s writing scripture, so they were creating the New Testament over time. But many times, when it’s used, there’s times when it’s used when the New Testament wasn’t even written yet. Maybe a book or two. So all Scripture is to be studied for these reasons.
Now the problem is when we look at Scripture, we see that there are differences. God told Abraham to create an altar and kill an animal on it. Yet, you and I don’t create an altar and kill an animal on it. So what’s the difference?
What most people seem to do is they go through the Bible and look for the discontinuity. They look at all the ways it’s not connected. What we do, if this is going to be a principle of exegesis – it comes right out of the Bible – then what we must do is look at the Scripture say, where are the things that create continuity from Genesis to Exodus? And there are threads that run all the way through the Bible.
The problem in the world that you and I live in is that in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, there was a great backlash against Judaism in what the development of Christianity. The Jews had tried to overthrow the Roman Empire around 130 A.D. and there was just this backlash. And so what happened was anything Jewish had to be removed from Christianity. And they tried to remove entire segments of the Old Testament. But the Old Testament even during that time period was still seen as important. It was still studied. As time went on, there were time periods where the Old Testament wasn’t studied that much in Christianity.
Now today actually, the study of the Old Testament has come back to a certain degree among some of the more conservative protestant groups. There was a time, it wasn’t studied hardly at all. Some of you will remember that when you saw people go to church, they carried a New Testament with the book of Psalms. There wasn’t anything else in the Bible. So if we are going to look at the continuity, we have to understand that there is discontinuity.
So how do we define continuity? I mean, am I to go in and slay all the Canaanites? I don’t know who the Canaanites are. Besides, God doesn’t want me to go slay all the Canaanites, and yet there was a time He told somebody to do that. So that’s not a continuous, that’s not a continuous command. It’s not a continuous concept. Now there’s a lesson in it about the sovereignty of God, but that’s something else. So when you look at continuity, let’s look at a couple of points of continuity.
The first one is continuity requires that we can’t base our interpretation on just a few cherry-picked verses. We have to see what the entire Bible says about a subject. You think about it, that only makes sense. You see once again, who makes up the rules. All right then. If our purpose is to study all Scripture which is our second point, then I must find, I can’t take a scripture out of Deuteronomy and use that as my only explanation. But I can’t take a scripture out of Galatians and use that as my only explanation. I have to look at what the entire Bible says on a subject.
So if I’m going to have continuity, I must study what the entire Bible says. Which means I can’t pick a few verses. I can’t pick a verse and use that. I’ve had conversations with people who have a verse and they’ll say, look at this verse. I’ll say, yeah but look at this verse and this verse. No, look at this verse. Okay. Let’s look at in context. No, look at this verse. But wait a minute. If I have 50 verses that say one thing and one verse that seems to say something else, that’s discontinuity, if I pick this one verse. I must look for continuity.
We interpret things through the continuity of many, many passages, many passages. And in all honesty, we all can do this. I can cherry-pick the Bible, the New Testament and say, look we are required to obey the law of God. But I can cherry-pick the New Testament, and make it say that we don’t have to keep the law of God.
I can pick out 10 verses right now by the apostle Paul that makes it look like you don’t have to keep the…just pull out. Write them down. Put them on a PowerPoint say, look Paul says this, this, this, this, this. And it looks like we don’t have to keep the law. I can do the same thing. I can cherry-pick 10 verses of the New Testament that say you have to keep the law. You can’t cherry-pick.
What we have to do is look at what does the Bible say in its continuity. What are all the Scriptures together say? If we are going to have continuity, we have to look for certain biblical themes. The themes that run through the whole Bible are dozens of them. I mean, you think of faith. Faith is in the beginning, faith is in the end. The Messiah is in the beginning, the Messiah is in the end. The covenants of God as He interacts with human beings is from the beginning and is at the end. Salvation is in the beginning, it’s in the end. Repentance. The resurrections. So if I really want to know what those things say, I have to look at the entire Scripture. I can’t cherry-pick it.
Continuity also requires…now this is very interesting when it comes to the laws. You and I know there is a discontinuity between the old and new covenants. That there’s a continuity between the old and new covenants but there’s a discontinuity. If it was total discontinuity, you and I would have to go kill lambs. Right?
But you also have to realize the laws that were given have some application, or they were given as a punishment or because of the hardening of people’s hearts. There are certain laws that you will find were given because of the hardness of their hearts. You say, well, where did you get that from? Jesus said it.
The Old Testament scripture about divorce was a legal issue. You have to give a legal paper saying she is divorced. There’s a lot of reasons for that. But you see at the beginning, God didn’t want that. He never wanted anybody to write up a legal document to say, you’re divorced. But because of the hardness of their heart, they were going to divorce, He created a law to guide what was going on. You’ll see laws were given in the Old Testament, they’re actually punishments.
People will say, well should I wear tassels at the bottom of my clothes? I’ll say yes, if you can’t remember the law. [laughter] Because it’s what it says. Because you can’t remember the law, you should wear tassels on your clothes. If you can remember the law, you don’t have to wear them. But if you can’t, you better.
But look for, in the laws that even aren’t continuous, there’s a principle. Now I’m going to give you an example, as I’ve actually had to deal with one. It says in Leviticus 14 that if you have mold in your house, or mildew in your house, you have to go to the Levite and the Levite is to come look at it. If it’s a certain kind of mildew, you have to scrub it down and off the walls. If it’s a different kind of mildew or different kind of mold, it says they are to destroy the house.
Now, you have to go to a Levite. The Levitical priesthood when I look at the discontinuity of the scripture, Christ has replaced the Levitical priesthood right now. So there is no Levitical priesthood to go to. So I can’t keep the law. But I had on occasion a man came to me and said, “what am I supposed to do though? It says go and I have my house is full of mold.”
I say “Well the principle still applies but there is no Levitical priesthood. I would suggest Chlorox. But I would also suggest you go get an expert on mold.” So he did.
The expert on mold came into his house and said, “You are sick,” because he had health problems, “because of this mold. The only way you can survive is move out and bulldoze it.” So that’s what he did. Which is exactly what Leviticus 14 says to do, but I cannot, you and I can’t apply that in the way that is given because well, we live under different a covenant. But when we look at continuity, we even find the things that we’re not have to do specifically will have a principle that applies one way or another.
So we’re looking for the continuity, understanding. Some things don’t apply through all times. But circumcision of the flesh is now circumcision of the heart. Is there circumcision today? Is there a command to circumcise today? Yes. It’s just not in the flesh. We look at the principle, the continuity. So continuity is really, really important. But that has to do with all Scripture is given for inspiration.
The third point is let the Bible interpret its own symbols when possible. Let the Bible interpret its own symbols when possible. The dragon is Satan. How do I know that? It says it. The image of Daniel 2 represents four successive kingdoms that is destroyed by a fifth kingdom that is the Messianic kingdom. How do I know that? Daniel 2 says it. Let the Bible interpret its symbols when possible. You might make up a few but, there’s a few that we might not know, but most of them are quite obvious.
Now, you think about it. Okay, we’ve gone through half of our rules. I haven’t had to make up anything. It’s just, if you’re going to draw out, if you’re going to draw out, you first have to say this is the Word of God that I’m dealing with. I have to be real careful. I have to pray. I have to make sure I’m not trying to force into the Bible, “Okay, well, that makes sense.”
Secondly, if all Scripture is given by inspiration, then all Scripture is to be studied. And we’re to find where it fits, where it works together, where it shows what God is doing.
And three, just don’t make up symbols. Look for the Bible to interpret it if possible. Now I don’t know what some symbols of the Bible mean. I could guess. We’ll talk about that in a minute, too. There’s a time we guess. We don’t like to pretend we’re guessing, but there are times we’re guessing. We have to be honest about it.
One thing about exegesis, it makes you be honest. It actually makes you be honest. It makes you look at the Scripture, draw out of it and then honestly say at some point, I can only give you my opinion. There’s a great maturity that happens when you don’t have to answer everything as if you are God. Because you’re drawing out what He’s saying and you’re learning.
We will never…you’ll live a lifetime and die and never draw out everything that’s in here. It’s designed that way. You can read into it all you want, but to draw out of it? In a lifetime, you’ll never learn it.
Now, the next three points will seem a little bit more arbitrary but they’re not if you think about it. Okay? So the next three points.
The fourth one is, before deciding what a passage means, try to discover what it meant to the original audience. Before deciding what a passage means – we’re passing a judgment on a passage, interpreting a passage – try to figure out what did it mean to the original audience. You say, where did you get that from? Anybody here a historian? I can read all kinds of books about a person in history.
Yeah, it’s like, Thomas Jefferson. I mentioned in a program one time that Thomas Jefferson was a deist and did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. And I got a letter from someone saying “Boy, you’re just a liberal trying to change American history.”
Now, he’s read a book, he had a book, he quoted everything in it. It wasn’t true and…but you know what, I had a disc at home, the Bible edited by Thomas Jefferson. And the writings of Thomas Jefferson. All six volumes. He did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. And the only reason I know that is, because I can find all kinds of books about his life that give one opinion or the other, I have to go to the original source in the world that he lived in. That’s the only way I can find out what actually is true.
In other words, if you’re going to find out what a passage meant to the original people, we got to go look at the world they lived in. And that’s why sometimes you have to know a little Hebrew word or a Greek. We don’t have to know a lot of Greek and Hebrew to really know the Bible. But sometimes, it helps. Sometimes, a little piece of knowledge about the time period…give an example. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. And Peter says, you can’t wash my feet. We think, “Boy, what a hard-headed, what a rebellious man.”
No, it’s the opposite when you realize that at that day and time, foot washing because people wear sandals was a custom. And when you went into somebody’s home, either the servant, or if the servant didn’t do it, the wife did it. But the master of the house did not wash people’s feet. And Peter had already said this is the Messiah. “I’m going to let the Anointed One of God wash my feet, an unworthy man. I can’t allow this, you can’t do this. You are the Messiah. You are the head of the household.” He’s not being rebellious. It’s the opposite.
And you know that because the rest of the passage where Jesus says, well if you don’t let Me wash your feet, you have nothing to do with Me. What did he say? Then hose me down, right? Wash me head and foot. Because I don’t want to be not part of You. It was inconceivable.
You are a person of position. You can’t wash my feet. If anybody else saw this, they’d be appalled. Of course, Jesus appalled a lot of people because of the things He did. And all through the Scripture, the more you know about the time period, the people, what they did. You study Persia, the history of Persia, and then the book of Esther is even more amazing. That is one great woman, that is one amazing person.
But you have to understand the history of Persia to understand it. It is full. Now you can not understand the history of Persia, know anything about the history of Persia, and God will talk to you from the book of Esther.
I’m saying, if we want to exegete everything, we’re going to pull out of it. What is God giving me? Then if we can understand it in the original form. And here let me give you another example. I mean in the original culture it’s in. People really get down on the apostle Paul because in the book of Philemon, a runaway slave has run away to him. And he converts but his master is also a Christian, and Paul sends him back.
Now, Paul is dealing with an institution of slavery unlike anything we can even begin to understand. In the Roman world, in Rome itself, even the middle class people had slaves. There were so many of them. They were cheap.
And a slave’s life could have no meaning at all. There were slaves that worked in mines, in the desert. There slaves that worked on basically what we call chain gangs that died and no one cared. As a slave, your value was put on you by the people you work for. No, the people who owned you. And they can do with you whatever they wanted to do with you. And if you had a good master, it was good. If you had a bad master, it was bad. And one thing that was throughout the Roman Empire was the absolute sexual depravity that was carried out on slaves.
You’d think, well, Paul, what a perfect opportunity to stand up against slavery. So he, you know people say, well Paul could not have written Philemon. No man of God could send the man back. Let’s turn to Philemon. Okay, now understanding the institutionalized slavery they were dealing with. And what he does here is, is just brilliant. Philemon, and we’ll look at verse 13.
Let’s see, I have to know a little bit about Roman slavery. I have to know a little bit about how hard it is to gain your own independence. You have to know what he is dealing with in terms of the culture. Verse 13. So he says in verse 12 that he’s sending him back. He’s sending back Onesimus who was a slave.
He says, “I am sending you back to Philemon. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. But without your consent I wanted to do nothing,” (now, you see, he actually acknowledged you own this this is your property) “that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. For mayhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever.” He may have run away from you because God wants you to receive him forever, “no longer as a slave, but more than a slave – a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. And if you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.”
Then verse 18, he says if he’s done anything wrong. You know, because if he had done anything wrong, by law he can beat him. He said, when I show up, I’ll pay the penalty. This is amazing. Paul has just destroyed within the Christian church slavery. As the Roman world knew it. He said, I am sending him back, he belongs to you. But you must now receive him as a brother in the Lord. Well, how do I treat him like a slave? I can’t beat a brother in the Lord. He’s actually begun to just tear out the foundation of slavery in the church.
So it’s easy to criticize him, “you shouldn’t have sent him back.” This is a personal letter that got sent around. You know how we know it gets sent around? It’s in the Bible. Philemon didn’t tear it up and throw it away. It became so common that it shows up in the oldest of manuscripts. Many of the oldest manuscripts. It shows up. If we understand the culture, Philemon makes a lot of sense. And Paul’s actions make a lot of sense. He didn’t cause some kind of slave uprising. He did destroy it within the church.
Number five. So that’s any historian will tell you that. To understand a person, you have to look at him in the context of his times. Not what the history books say. Unless, they’re using original sources. Number five is study the verse in the context of the passage. And it only makes sense, if I’m not going to do eisegesis, if I am not going to read in, I got to see what this verse is. I could draw out what it is in the greater context.
Sometimes, that’s an entire book. That means, when you read the Bible, you have to know what the literature is. Philemon was a personal letter. It’s like we get a little glimpse into the personal lives of some people. And Paul wrote a personal letter to someone he knew about a slave that had run away.
The book of Psalms is a book of song lyrics. You would not read a personal letter the same as you would read a book of poems, would you? You don’t read it the same. You study them differently. 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles are books of history. Now go read Leviticus. It’s a book of laws, or Deuteronomy, now some story in there but most of it it’s a book of laws.
Well, if I’m going to pick up a book of laws or a book of history or a book of song lyrics or a personal letter, I’m going to study them slightly different, aren’t I? Yeah. I’m not going to go to the book of Hebrews to study how to manage my money. I will go to Proverbs to study how to manage my money. Because Proverbs are just that, instructions on how to be wise. So it should be studied…ah, these are the principles that make me wise.
So then we have to know what it is in the passage. One of the most misquoted verses in the Bible? “Do not judge lest you be judged.” Right? Matthew 7. What’s the next few verses say? Now before you judge your brother, make sure you get the mote out of your own eye, then go judge him. And then it says, and whatever you do, don’t throw your pearls of wisdom, of truth to pigs. Well, that’s a real judgmental statement. That means I got to figure out who the pigs are. Right? My point is you got to, how you judge is how you will be judged. That’s the point. Well, then I better learn how God judges.
And there’s one thing about God’s judgment I’m really happy about. Every place when He talks about His judgment, He’s always saying “but I’m merciful. I forgive. Just turn to Me.” Okay. I’m going to judge by God’s standards but I always want to offer mercy and forgiveness to everyone I’m judging. But it doesn’t mean. So well, I know, this guy is…my next door neighbor is a child molester but I don’t want to judge him. So I’m going to let him come play with my kids. No, no, no. You judge. I should not do that. Now, you go burn his house down, you’ve done evil. You have to judge yourself, too.
So judge not unless you be judged is well, it means I can do anything I want. And how many times, “don’t you judge me. Jesus said, don’t judge.” Now the next four verses have a little different context. You read it in context and we should be very careful about judging. But the point is, we are judged. It’s about being careful about judging, not never judge. So always look for everything in the context of the book itself.
And then our last point. So that makes sense, okay, well that would make sense. If I’m trying to draw out something, I got to find out everything around it to put it into its context. You wouldn’t read any other book without doing that. You wouldn’t read any other book by pulling out a couple of verses, I mean a couple of paragraphs and say, well, that’s what the book means. But that’s what people do with the Bible.
And our sixth point is look for a literal meaning before considering an allegorical meaning. An allegory is a story which people, things and happenings have another meaning. Now the Bible is full of allegories. But even Jesus’ parables are allegories. Right? The parable of the sower: the Kingdom of God is like a sower throwing seed. Okay. Later they said, what’s that mean?
Well let me tell you who the sower is, what the seed is, right, and He explained what it means. But there was a movement and in 300s A.D. and 400s A.D. to explain the entire Bible through allegory, actually started before that. So with the epistle of Barnabas in the early 2nd century but it really became a common interpretation of the Bible.
So instead of looking for the literal meaning first, or what you found the literal meaning, it was like, okay, that’s the simple meaning but let’s find the secret hidden meaning. Look how many books you can buy out there on the hidden meanings of the Bible. The secret meanings of the Bible. The secret codes of the Bible. Right?
Now God says, “it’s there, I just told you.” Let me give you a perfect example. The parable of the sower, I mean the parable of the good Samaritan. You know the parable of the good Samaritan right? Let’s go to there. There it is, Luke 10. Have I lost you so far? Are these six points that difficult? All of you are ready to explain what exegesis is? See, this isn’t that hard. But we don’t do it. It takes discipline to do this. It takes discipline.
Luke 10:24 Luke 10:24For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them.
American King James Version×says, let’s skip down to verse 28. “He said to him, you’ve answered rightly.” Oh no, let’s go to verse 27, because we got to see what the context is. “So he answered and said,” the man came to Him and he said, what’s the most important law and Jesus said… He give him the answer: “And what is written in the law?” (and Jesus answered the question) “what is your reading of it?”
So he comes what’s the most important law? And He says, what do you think? And the man says? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” They gave two laws. Okay, those are the two most important laws. And Jesus said, “You have answered rightly. Do this and you will live.” The man stops and says, okay, I need to exegete out of that because there’s lots of people I don’t like who are my neighbors, so surely I can find a way out.
So he says, the man wanting to justify himself, said, “Well, he’s my neighbor,” and he gives the parable. The man comes down, he’s from Jerusalem. The man comes down from Jerusalem and he gets beat up, and a priest passes him, and a Levite passes him, nobody takes care of him. This Samaritan, who is the bad guy.
I mean, Samaritans were partly worshipers of God of and part pagans. So I mean, they are the bad people of society, the Jewish society, because they’re part worshipers of God and part pagans. So the bad guy comes along and he takes care of him, puts him on an animal, takes him to an inn, pays his way, and takes care of him. Now we say, okay, we can understand that, it’s an answer to, “Who is your neighbor?”
So verse 37 because Jesus asks the man, “Who was this man’s neighbor?” Then he said, “He who showed mercy on him,” and Jesus said “Well go do likewise. Just show mercy on everybody you see, then you’re a good neighbor.” Now that is the obvious explanation. Right? The obvious explanation. Now, we can sit and discuss how to do that. Okay, how do I take care of my neighbor? How do I…so it is an allegory, but what happens then, the attempt to allegorize the entire Scripture is everything has a deeper meaning.
So Augustine who lived in the 300s and 400s A.D. who tried to allegorize the Bible probably as much as anybody has ever lived, he said, “Okay, that’s the obvious meaning. But we’ve got going to look for the code, the secret code, the secret meaning.”
So here is what he came up with. “The wounded man is Adam. Jerusalem is the heavenly city from which he was fallen. The thieves are the devil who strips Adam of his immortality and leads him to sin. The priest and the Levite are the Old Testament law and ministry, which was unable to help him. The good Samaritan who binds his wound is Christ who forgives all sin. The oil and wine are hope and a stimulus to work. The animal is the incarnation, the inn the church, and the innkeeper the apostle Paul.”
I was sort of with him until the innkeeper is the apostle Paul. I really don’t know where that came from. I can see where he came up with most of that. There’s a problem with it though. Anyone know what the problem is? It’s eisegesis. He is reading into…how in the world do you find that? How do you prove it? It’s good, I mean, it’d make a great conversation. Wow, he’s supposed to be Adam. That’s really interesting. But is that what Jesus meant? If we’re going to exegete what Jesus said, Jesus wanted you to take care of your neighbor.
There’s the great danger of eisegesis. It can be real fun because we’re finding the secret meanings, the stuff that nobody else knows. Jerusalem means heaven. And he can start pulling scriptures out. Because with eisegesis, now, you try to prove it with scriptures to try to prove this. And you can sort of make an argument. But it would be really weak. It would not hold well. I mean, it would not hold weight under the six little guidelines we’ve talked about. They’re nothing more than common sense drawn out of the Bible. We’ve been drawing things out of the Bible.
So, don’t get caught up in the allegorical method. Now, there are allegories, and we have to try to figure out what they mean. But don’t get so caught up that what you literally try to do is do away with the literal meaning of the scripture. In fact, if you took these six rules and you put them together, you would basically come up with, in the last five minutes here, you would come up with, when you look at Scripture, sort of a priority.
Now, this is my opinion. Okay? So far, what I’ve told you is just basic exegesis. So I’m going to give you my opinion now. So I always like to tell you when it’s my opinion. So this take it or leave it… you know, there’ll be no test on this.
If I look at the Bible then, anytime I look at a passage, the first thing I do is I try to figure out the literal meaning. Okay? That’s the first thing. What does it literally mean? What did it mean to those people? What is that I can draw out that God is telling me that has direct application in life?
One thing about exegesis is you’re not looking for secret knowledge, you’re looking for, “How does this apply?” That’s a huge difference. And to put it bluntly, those of us in the Sabbath-keeping community have to be very careful. God has given us some remarkable understanding, and if we’re not careful, we gauge spirituality by how much knowledge you have without application. “Wow, that person knows a lot.” God expects us to do with what we have.
The second is you have to look for implied meaning. What’s the implication? Now, this is real important in life. Remember, I talked about Leviticus 14? The literal meaning is, if you lived in ancient Israel and you had mold, you had to go to the Levite, he came and looked at it. If it was a certain kind of mold, they washed the mold, they washed your walls down. It was another kind, he burned your house down. Okay, that’s the literal meaning.
But there’s an implication. The implication is, wait a minute, this stuff is bad for you. So should we not get rid of that kind of mold if it’s in our house? Now, you see the implication? It’s not directly stated. Now each step you take here, you’re a little farther away from the literal meaning. But now, I can have implication, and this is implied.
The third step we take is interpretation. I must interpret this into some meaning that means something to me today. Okay, interpretation allows me now to take the literal meaning, its implications, to say, “What do I do? What do I do?” And sometimes, we don’t agree with everything here. But I tell you, if you agree about these two, this usually won’t be that big of a thing. It won’t be that big of an issue.
The fourth, for lack of a better word, I’ll just call it speculation. So I can speculate that the description of these flying – what is it? – flying locusts with the head of a man in Revelation. I think…is that what it is, flying locusts with the head of a man? I can speculate, as people have done for about 40 years, that it’s a helicopter. Now, the reason they didn’t do that a hundred years ago, there was no such thing as helicopters.
But I may be reading into that passage 21st century technology. It may be, but I don’t know. You see what I’m saying? I have to be honest now. If I’m going to follow these basic rules of exegesis, look at the literal…okay that’s an allegory. The implications are it’s not good. Okay? Interpretation – it may be this, it may be this. In the end, I’m speculating. In the end, I’m speculating. And it’s okay as long as you say, “I’m here now. I think, it’s a helicopter. You know, an Apache helicopter. Maybe. I don’t know.”
It’s as good as speculation as anything else, but it’s not literal. The passage itself is not literal. You can’t make it literal. But we do know it’s not good. And that’s the important thing, we know it’s not good. So once again, this takes a little bit of discipline. But it’s not complicated. And there’s nothing that I’ve given you that’s not…okay, if I believe in continuity, I have to do this. If I believe all Scripture is given by inspiration, I have to do this. If I believe the Bible is written to an original group of people…
And don’t you? Don’t you think 1 Corinthians went to the Corinthians? So if I’m really going to understand Corinthians, the first thing I have to say is, “Who are the Corinthians and why did Paul write to them? And what does he mean when he says, ‘Don’t go to the prostitutes.’ Why would these people be going to prostitutes?”
And then you realize, you do a little study, and there was a huge temple there to the goddess of love with at least hundreds and hundreds of temple prostitutes. And all of a sudden, it’s like, “Oh, no wonder they were going there. That’s how they’ve been trained all their lives.” It wasn’t like their wives were looking at them saying, “You nasty man.” They’d been going to prostitutes since they were kids. It’s part of the culture. And he has to stop them from doing it.
Puts a little different spin on it, that he’d just go down to…these guys are church members, they’re going down to the red light district and…no! This is a cultural issue so huge, to bring them out is massive. To bring them out of it is massive. So if I’m going to study all this, and like I said, if I’m going to look at this and I’m going to study context, I’ve got to know what kind of literature it is. I’ve got to know. Like I said, Deuteronomy is…if you want to cry, read Psalms. If you want to get into legal issues, read Deuteronomy. They’re two different kinds of books. But there is a continuity, by the way. There’s a continuity you will find in Deuteronomy and in Psalms on numerous subjects. We look for that continuity. So there you have it. You are all experts in exegesis.
Okay, last two minutes. If I haven’t confused all of you too much…any questions? I don’t know whether that’s good or bad. It’s either good because, “Oh, okay, that too hard, I get that.” Or it’s like, “What in the world is he talking about?”
But you all have two Greek words, I challenge all of you, sometime in the rest of the week, find a way to use one of those in a sentence. [laughter] That would be fun. Oh, the other day, I was sitting in a home and I was doing some eisegesis. Is that some new exercise?
Okay, thanks for coming out. And we’re, what? Two weeks from now, right. Two weeks. And what’s the subject? Or do we even know? Mr. Meyers, I think, has it in two weeks, right? So Mr. Meyers will be doing it in two weeks. Okay, thank you for coming out, and we’ll see you next time I’m here.