Not Like Any Other Book
5 assumptions for reading the Bible like a Christian
As we think about the Bible, we need to think about it like Christians. Plenty of folks might read the Bible without any right conviction about what it is. They may read it as if it’s like any other book they’ve read.
But the Bible is not like any other book, so it must not be interpreted just like any other book. There are Christian convictions—or assumptions—about Scripture which uphold not only the task of biblical theology but also the importance of studying Scripture at all.
Here are five assumptions about Scripture we should have if we’re going to read it as Christians.
First, the Bible is inspired by God. This fact immediately sets apart all Scripture from all literature outside Scripture. The Holy Spirit has inspired the writings of Genesis through Revelation.
More than forty human authors were involved in the composition of Scripture, but human authorship is only part of the origin question. The very testimony about the Bible from the Bible is that it is the Word of God. A proper doctrine of Scripture will give unrivaled prominence to the divine inspiration of the Text.
Second, the Bible does not teach error. This second truth derives from the first. If a holy, righteous, and omnipotent God has inspired the biblical writings, then we can trust what they teach about God and about the many subjects they address. The Bible will not contradict itself. While some teachings may be complementary to other teachings, the Bible will not teach what is true in one place and then contradict it elsewhere.
In a world permeated with deceptions and delusions, the Scripture is reliable. It is inerrant, and its inerrancy is inseparably connected to its inspiration. The Holy Spirit’s work through the biblical authors has ensured the accuracy of what they’ve written. When Scripture speaks, God speaks. And God is not a being who can err.
Third, the Bible is authoritative. This truth derives from the first two. Since Scripture is both divinely inspired and without error in what it teaches, Scripture possesses an authority that trumps all competing authorities. Christians must come to the Text as those under authority. There are truths to behold, exhortations to follow, prohibitions to heed.
Everyone walks according to some authority. Our beliefs, our convictions, come from something or someone—even if it’s just our imagination and subjective whims. Scripture is the supreme court of authorities. As divine authority, Scripture brings correction to error, light to ignorance, and guidance to confusion. In studying the sacred Text, we should come ready to receive and submit to what we find therein.
Fourth, later biblical authors rightly interpret earlier biblical authors. Have you seen edited volumes where one contributor will disagree with another contributor? This sort of thing can happen in merely human books. Contributors haggle through arguments, push back on a given thesis, and reach different conclusions about things. The Bible is not like an edited volume with different contributors.
The writings of the biblical authors are inspired by the Spirit of the living God. This ensures that a later writer will rightly understand and interpret an earlier writer. The Old and New Testaments were composed over many centuries, so the miracle of Scripture’s coherency and unity is ultimately due to the divine authorship of the biblical canon. Across the long progression of divine revelation, later biblical authors rightly develop, interpret, and apply earlier biblical writings. Not only do later Old Testament authors clarify earlier Old Testament texts, the New Testament authors bring greater clarity to the Old Testament itself.
Fifth, the messianic metanarrative is why the Bible exists. Attentive readers will notice the messianic hope that permeates the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament promises a deliverer who would come, and the New Testament announces the deliverer’s arrival and tells us his name. These Two Testaments trace the promise and fulfillment of messianic hope.
This messianic metanarrative is the big context to understand the many micro stories and teachings in Scripture. By God’s design, the biblical canon has a christological shape. Once we recognize that Scripture has a messianic metanarrative, we will see that the covenants and history of Israel, as well as the many themes and storyline threads, are all serving the greater purpose of the Messiah’s advent.
These five assumptions are crucial for a Christian posture toward the Word of God. We wouldn’t describe other pieces of literature in the way these assumptions describe Scripture. Truly, the Bible is a Book unlike any other book.
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