You Can Trust The Bible
Foundations Underlying this “Inductive Method of Exegesis”
Time restraints and the purpose of a course in exegesis and hermeneutics make it necessary to begin with several assumptions about the Bible. Although there is extensive evidence supporting these assumptions, there is simply not time to go back and seek to prove them all.
The Bible is the Word of God. We are concerned about what the Bible means, because we firmly believe that the Bible conveys God’s eternal message to twenty-first-century man. As a rule, Restorationists and Protestants believe that every word in every part of the Bible was written under the supervision of the Holy Spirit. Paul said that the New Testament was composed of words which the Holy Spirit taught, not in words which man’s wisdom taught (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 1 Cor. 2:8-13).
Also, the New Testament canon is apostolic and was first recognized as divine and authoritative by first-century Christians under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Peter, Paul, and Jude cited statements in the New Testament and referred to them as the authoritative word of God (1 Tim. 5:18 and Luke 10:7; 2 Pet. 3:15, 16; Jude 18 and 2 Pet. 3:3).
The canon and its text were finally preserved under the protection and providence of God. Isaiah, Jesus, and Peter promised that the word of God would not pass away, but would be transmitted from one generation to the next and endure forever (Isa. 40:6; Matt. 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:22-25). Textual critics tell us that the text of the New Testament is so certain that not one basic doctrine is affected or is based on an uncertain text.
Although not as expressive as we often wish they were, standard translations of the Bible are trustworthy because they were done by large committees of highly recognized scholars from varied denominational backgrounds. Being from varied denominational backgrounds, these scholars served as checks-and-balances for each other and weeded out theological biases and errors.
However, I hasten to point out that not every system of theology or translation is truly the word of God. Only translations and theological conclusions which are based on accurate interpretations of the original text are the true word of God. Accurate interpretation and application of the original text can only be achieved when a sound method of study that integrates essential principles of interpretation is followed.
Biblical truth is absolute, objective, and attainable. Serious Bible study is usually motivated by the conviction that biblical truth is absolute, objective, and attainable. The Bible lays claim to being absolute and objective. When Jesus said, “. . . ye shall know the truth,” He necessarily implied that there is truth and it can be known (John 8:32). Thus, Jesus asserted that truth is absolute and attainable. If it is absolute, it is distinct from error, not mixed with error, or not true by degrees. If it is attainable, it can at least be known to some degree.
Jesus prayed, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus believed that the word of God is true, and every thought that contradicts it is false. He prayed, “Thy word is truth (John 17:17). Although Scripture and truth most surely relate to man and his situation, its truthfulness (or falseness) is independent from man. That is, what man thinks, feels, says, or does neither adds to nor diminish from the truthfulness of the Bible.
The Bible’s truthfulness derives from God and his very nature. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts'” (Isa. 55:8, 9). Jeremiah declared, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). Truth is from God, not from man. What man believes, feels, says, and does are all judged as true or false by a comparison to the word of God (Acts 17:11; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9, 10). If the truth that leads to our salvation (i.e., freedom from guilt, fellowship with God, and a new life that pleases God) resided in man and were to be discovered by man’s feelings, reasoning, and experiences, there would be no need for the Bible.
Subjective and, in many cases, deductive Bible study methods lead students to seek to speak to the Bible and dictate what it has to say. Objective and inductive Bible study methods lead them to let the Bible speak to them. Students too often come to the Bible with conclusions already drawn seeking to justify their views of what is right and what is wrong. Everyone should come to the Bible as the objects to be affected by it. We should come seeking God’s will, rather than seeking to justify our own beliefs and actions.
Man can know the truth. Surely, God is capable of revealing His truth so that man can understand it. The Bible explicitly states that man can know the truth and understand it (John 8:32; Heb. 10:26; Eph. 5:17; 2 Pet. 2:20; 1 John 5:20). Likewise, the Bible necessarily implies that we can distinguish between truth and error. Paul says, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). True, man is finite and cannot know perfectly the infinite God nor his infinite mind, but it is obvious that he can know enough to be responsible. He can know because God has revealed Himself and His will for man.
© 2004, Dr. Wm. T. (Bill) Lambert
Professor Emeritus – NT Literature and Interpretation
College of Bible and Religion