Bible Topics In The Christian Library
Part 3

INTRODUCTION: The waters at a beach can either be inviting, or terrifying, depending on the person. To the person who has never learned to swim they terrify because they are not prepared to swim. There is death out in the deep. But to the trained swimmer, it invites them to venture forth to the cool, clear water. It all depends on the preparation.

This is much like Bible study. Those who have never studied from God's word often feel inadequate to the task, not know where to start. But those who spend some time in preparation feel much more confident in their study.



A. A working knowledge of metaphors and similes helps.
1. A simile is a word or phrase by which anything is likened in one of it's aspects to another. A simile uses the words like, as, or so.
a. Psalms 52:8 - "But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever."

b. Matthew 23:27 - "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness."

2. A metaphor is an implied comparison. It does not used like or as. The metaphor is usually more pointed than the simile.
a. Matthew 26:26-28 "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

b. Luke 13:31-32 "The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. 32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected."

B. A need to understand Parables.
1. Parable - "to throw; hence a placing beside or together, a comparing, a comparison."

2. Some parables.

a. The Parable of the Sower - Matthew 13:3-23

b. The Parable of the Ewe Lamb - 2 Samuel 12:1-6.

c. The Parable of the Vineyard - Luke 20:9-19

3. The purpose of speaking parables.
a. To reveal truth, making the people to understand the unknown by comparing to something that they know.

b. To conceal truth, from the minds of those who had no right to it.

1. Matthew 13:10-13 "And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand."
c. To preserve the truth for future generations.

d. To cause men to agree with truth before they realize it was referring to them.

1. 2 Samuel 12:5-7 "And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. 7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man."
4. A couple of things to remember in interpreting parables.
a. Seek out the main purpose of the speaking of the parable. What is the context.

b. While there is always some symbolism in parables, care should be exercised not to read too much into the parts of the parable.

c. Seek out the main lesson in the parable. Avoid "flights of fancy" in interpreting them.

D. An understanding of the difference between Figurative and Literal language is valuable.
1. A look at the context will usually tells us the difference.

2. A word of sentence is figurative when the literal meaning involves an impossibility.

a. Psalms 18:2 - "The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." (Obviously God is not a literal rock, etc. but is strong to defend like these things.)
3. When the Scriptures are made to demand an action which is wrong, or forbid good, it must be taken figuratively.
a. Matthew 18:8-9 talks about the mutilation of the body. Is it literal? No. It is intended to teach the importance of putting Heaven first.
4. When the Scriptures clearly identify a passage as figurative we should accept it.
a. John 2:18-22 says that Jesus could raise up the temple in three days if it was destroyed. John explains that Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body, not the physical temple.
5. Let the writer explain the figure.
a. In Ezekiel 37 we read of the valley of dry bones. Many wild theories have been spun concerning this passage. But Ezekiel explains it as referring to the house of Israel coming back from Babylonian captivity. (verse 11)
E. Several other important figures of speech.
1. Hyperbole - A deliberate exaggeration of a meaning intended to emphasize a truth.
a. Used a great deal in the Old Testament. An eastern custom.

b. Genesis 13:16 - "And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered."

c. Also Judges 7:12; 1 Kings 4:29.

2. Proverb - A short pithy (concise) saying which teaches a valuable lesson. Thought of as a wise saying. These teach general truth.

3. Personification - The endowing of inanimate objects or animals with human characteristics.

a. Isaiah 13:7-8 "Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt: 8 And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames." (at the downfall of the king of Babylon)
4. Anthropomorphism - Assigning human characteristics to describe God and His actions.
a. Such phrases as the eyes of God, His arms, His ears, etc. are used to help the reader understand the work of God, not to suggest that He has arms, ears, etc. like men.
A. There are some study aids which are worth their weight in gold.
1. A good concordance. This is a book which show every word that appears in the Bible and where they appear. The good ones also have useful greek study aids which are geared to the average study which has no knowledge. The three most common, in order of their value are: Strongs, Youngs, and Crudens.

2. Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias are important. Most of the ones available are conservative and very useful in learning about places, people and things found in the Bible. There are several good ones on the market.

3. Bible Atlases are important when studying the Bible. Most will show various maps of Israel at different time periods, Paul's missionary journeys, the Roman Empire, and other useful maps. Baker Bible Atlas is probably the best.

B. Some other useful Bible study tools.
1. Commentaries - These are writings which take books of the Bible apart by verse or section and expound on the meaning. There are multitudes of them available. Some are very conservative. Some are extremely liberal. They range from under $100.00 for the whole Bible to nearly a $1,000.00 for a set. These are very helpful if one keeps in mind that they are the opinions of men and must therefore be understood in light of clear passages. Some of the better ones: E. M. Zerr, James Burton Coffman (both Gospel preachers), Albert Barnes and Adam Clarke (both conservative but not members of the churches of Christ).

2. Lectureship books - These are written by brethren and have a wealth of valuable information about the Bible. Some are whole volumes of individual books of the Bible.

A. We should pick a translation that seeks to be as close to the original language without any particular bias as possible.
1. We should remember that the Bible is "God breathed" and thus must be as faithfully translated according to the original wording as possible.
a. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
2. It is impossible to pick men to translate that have no preconceived opinions about doctrine. However, it is possible for scholars to lay them aside and translate simply according to the text.
B. Some guidelines in picking a primary translation for regular study.
1. Pick one that is a translation, not a paraphrase. For example, many got on the Living Bible "bandwagon" for a while. But it is a paraphrase, not a word for word translation. It was the product of one man, Kenneth Taylor, who brought in many of his personal doctrinal biases into the text. It has some good renderings and may have value as a secondary source, like a commentary, but should never be used as final authority.

2. Pick one that is a product of a number of known, scholarly, translators, not a few. The more translators working, the less the chance of letting personal bias enter.

3. Pick one that has stood the test of time. One does not have to be centuries old, but it should have been around long enough to receive a wide review and examination.

4. Pick one that has a reverent tone. Modern translations are not wrong in themselves, but many are "modern" to the point of vulgarity and coarseness.

5. Look for one that is not pushing any particular agenda or doctrine.

a. The New RSV takes out the personal pronouns when referring to God. This reveals a personal bias toward the feminist movement and clearly mistranslates the word. The Bible uses male pronouns when describing God.
C. Some personal recommendations.
1. I stress personal. These are not meant to be inspired, but based on personal experience. They are not meant to be binding on anyone but are meant as advice.

2. Concerning personal preferences about versions, there are several that are good and ones that I could recommend without any reservations. The King James Version is tried and true, solid, and has stood the test of time. The American Standard Version of 1901 is probably the most accurate of the various translations, but is difficult to get and not in wide circulation. The New King JamesVersion keeps the beauty of language of the Old King James and put much of the archaic language of it in a more modern form. If starting over I would probably begin with this one. (After much study and consideration, I have chose to use the NKJV. )

3. Concerning some of the others. They will vary. They range from the New American Standard, which is valuable in the Old Testament, to the Good News for Modern Man, which is chock full of doctrinal error. The other range in between. The New International Version could be acceptable if not for the fact that there are several clear passages, such as Psalm 51:5 which clearly states that David was born a sinner in the NIV. The Revised Standard Version mistranslates virgin as "young woman" thus contradicting Matthew 1:23.

4. It is good, however, to have access to a broad spectrum of versions for comparison purposes in study. An excellent tool is a book which has several version parallel.

5. One another important suggestion. Many will buy the best when it comes to cars, homes, appliances, etc., and scrimp on a Bible. But a good study Bible which has various study notes, concordance, Bible dictionary, Bible atlas, and marginal notes. These are not inspired, but a conservative study Bible can help immensely. Two good ones are the Thompson Chain Reference Bible and the Dickson Bible. There are other good ones. In my opinion, the NKJV Thompson Chain Reference Bible is the finest Bible of the market. A little extra money spent here will bring handsome rewards.

CONCLUSION: This brief series on How to study the Bible has not been intended to be exhaustive. It is intended to encourage further study and a renewed desire to learn what God has given to us in His word. Let's open up our Bibles more and learn our responsibilities to our God.

Copyright 1999 by Grady Scott may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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