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>Interpretative techniques

2009 April 21 1 comment

> How we see the Bible affect how we interpret the Bible. I have several underlying themes that affect how I interpret the Bible.

Unity

I seek to find an interpretation that does justice to all the passages that touch on a topic. A related concept is that fuller revelation can expand on previous revelation but does not contradict it. The Bible is without error in any claim.

Context

The grammatical-historical hermeneutic says that the meaning is dictated by the underlying grammar and historical context. By historical context it is meaning what the writer intended based on his cultural setting. Concepts that we may hold based on the meanings of words may be irrelevant. This does not mean the ancients were ignorant, rather that they may have thought differently. One must guard against multiplying historical “settings” to justify an opinion, yet one must not ignore the fact. And there may be clues to this in the surrounding text.

Genre

Attention must be paid to literary genre, the type of text being read. For example a proverb is meant to be a general principle, poetry uses hyperbole and figurative language, apocalypse uses symbolism.

Divine authorship

Because God is the ultimate author, there may be truths that God intended yet the authors were not aware of. The Bible is infallible and legitimate conclusions come from its pages are true.

Perspicuity

The Bible is meant to be understood. The general meaning of the Bible is clear to any reader.

Hiddenness

I think this actually applies to God as well as the Bible and merits a post of its own. Briefly, the Bible is intentionally difficult in places. At least one reason for this is to hide meaning from the mocker and reveal meaning to the devout. There are concepts, difficulties, or apparent contradictions that allow a defiant man to scoff and dismiss, but on deeper investigation reveal unity and profound truth.

Prophecy may be a feature of this. Some prophecies seem to be difficult to understand before the fact but obvious afterwards.

Conclusion

Most of these relate to the usual use of language. Meaning is based on what the speaking is thinking. If he translates the thoughts to words well, and the hearer understands the words then he grasps what the speaker is thinking.

In conversation the context of a statement is important, think listening to one side of a telephone conversation; the genre is important, think telling a joke; perspicuity is important, we generally want others to understand what we are saying; and even hiddenness is used, consider talking in the presence of children using euphemisms or pig-Latin. Of the above items only divine authorship and unity do not are not grounded in the principles of language communication. Rather these are theological propositions.

Even if people agree on methodology, there is the scope for them to weight the issues differently, thus disagree on meaning. If others differ on their methodology it may be difficult to find any agreement. For example if one takes an essentially allegorical approach to all Scripture, or a private interpretation to verses.

That being said, I think the Bible has power thru virtue of it being God’s word. For the pious reader, ongoing reading and desire to know God is likely to lead to growing in true knowledge, even if one’s hermeneutic is substandard.

>Does the Bible reflect modern science?

2009 February 11 10 comments

>I was hoping to discuss some ideas about ancient cosmology at some stage. In the meantime Greg has raised the more fundamental issue of presuppositions and modern evangelicals. My initial response is below though some items may need clarification.

Greg: …you seem to be concerned with the idea that the Bible has to reflect our current understanding of the world in order for it’s inerrency and infallibility to be upheld.

Well actually my view of Scripture means that I reject a lot of current popular theory. While I accept the world is spherical, I reject Darwinism which is by far the most popular understanding in modern science concerning the origin and development of the biosphere.

Your bias is constrained to a specific view of inerrency. He may prefer another, but each one tips either of you in a particular direction and to a particular interpretation that satisfies the requirements of that inerrency.

I presume “he” in this sentence refers to Gier. I am aware of different views. See here for inerrancy and infallibility. I also have a pastor who is neither a inerrantist nor a creationist whom I sit under quite happily. While I think that some passages appear difficult with an inerrant approach, I think that their resolution leads to deeper understanding of the way of God. This has occurred enough for me that initially contradictory passages do not send me reeling each time I come across one. I tend to look deeper into the context and some inferences turn out to not exist. We can read more into a passage than is often there.

More importantly, I think Scripture points to an inerrantist approach. See my comments on Jesus’ interaction with the Sadducees.

An aside, be careful how you use the term inerrancy, it has a meaning. If you propose another meaning preferably use a different word. Even the word “infallibility” seems to imply inerrancy however it has a theological definition that specifies inerrant doctrine which potentially allows for error of fact.

This concerns me because I see an initiative to interpret passages in a certain way that conforms it to modern science,

The idea that anyone before Bacon really understood science quite the way we do is questionable. I think you are better to talk about the worldviews of then and now. Even Gier uses the term pre-scientific which is better though can still be misleading. I am more concerned about having a biblical worldview than a Western one. While the current Western worldview gets much wrong, it is important to realise that the Western worldview developed from Christianity—likely with some added Greek philosophy (to its detriment I think). Because of this the Western worldview is very Christian unlike many other cultures including pre-Christian Europe and Briton.

You will need to give examples of specific passages.

when an interpretation that draws from the science of their day explains it much better.

Except is the interpretation drawing from their day? Much of what I see is a later construct of what the ancients supposedly thought based on a hyperliteralist interpretation of ancient literature.

I see this a lot in the church, and once again, if I am wrong about you, I apologize.

You may be correct about me, though I give my views considered thought.

A modern person who wishes to explain scripture in light of modern science has the burden of proof upon them first.

Why? If Scripture is consistent with modern science why insist on a different interpretation just to make it inconsistent?

They need to show how an ancient person could have known what we know,

This assumes an anti-supernatural bias. If God created the universe he is more knowledgeable about its intricacies than every scientist combined. God can reveal material that happens to be factually correct, even if simplified. I am not stating that this has to be the case, rather pointing out the bias which insists on human authorship sans divine authorship. Scripture suggests both human and divine. Peter adds that prophets did not always understand everything about their message (1 Peter 1). I am not suggesting that the message of the prophets was differential mathematics and quantum physics, just the importance of divine authorship.

what benefit it provided the ancients,

It may not offer a benefit, it may just be an accurate report.

why God would only make it truly relevant to moderns in the West,

Examples such as?

and why the church missed these interpretations all this time and had to wait until the 20th century before science could shed light on things.

The church didn’t. My previous post on the flat earth mentioned that theologians in general did not teach a flat earth. Several appealed to Scripture to “prove” geocentricism. The fact they could only do so by appealing to poetical passages should have been a concern. Both hyperliteralism (including the Jews) and over-allegorising have been practised in interpretation, but that does not deny that Scripture can be understood. Moderns possibly do this less than some previous generations. Though there is a trend to turn historical narrative into symbolic language.

This comment also seems to contradict your earlier comment,

Going forward we as Christians must always be willing to follow where God’s Word leads us and not be afraid to discard tradition if a new understanding can fit the picture better. Many doctrines, or the expression and depth of understanding concerning them, have developed, been lost and found again numerous times throughout our history. There is always the possibility old understandings will crumble in the face of new discoveries.

While I agree with discarding tradition, I am cautious about new interpretations. They may exist but one would want very good evidence.

On a slightly tangential but important note—and this does not apply to the shape of the earth—part of my concern is how little people understand the types of science. Operational and historical science are quite different and a reasonable argument can be made that the latter is not strictly science. Historical science is a claim about history. It is a claim that can be refuted by eyewitness testimony.

For example scientific examination of Jericho cannot “prove” Joshua did not raze it. Both are claims in the same realm: historical truth. One is just playing a contemporary witness off against a non-contemporary interpreter. Either the first is a liar or the latter is mistaken in his interpretation of his findings.

Presuppositions are important. I think there is good reason to hold to inerrancy based on how Jesus and the apostles viewed Scripture. I think the Bible is historical and that it is correct when it makes historical claims. I think it important to understand what the author intended and the cultural situation into which he spoke. I disagree (in general) with hyperliteralism, but I think the bigger problem in this age is the priority of secular theory and hence unwarranted claims of symbolism, the explosion of interpretations, the invention of hermeneutic principles, the cherry picking of Scripture, the holding of contradictory ideas and anything else that lets us hold on to our favourite ideas; be that psychological, biological, sociologic
al, political or any other theory which we cherish.

>A defense of inerrancy

2008 September 21 15 comments

>I heard mention of inerrancy and infallibility of the Scriptures in a sermon recently. The speaker was defending infallibility though he is not an inerrantist. It would seem that these terms seem synonymous so perhaps some definitions are in order.

Infallibility
Incapable of error in expounding doctrine on faith or morals.
Inability to err in teaching revealed truth.
Inerrancy
True in any claim of fact.
Without error, and free from all contradiction.

“Fallibility” in theology is describing reliability, “errancy” is describing error. Inerrancy encompasses infallibility, that is if the Bible is error free then it is also reliable. Inerrantists are infallibilists. However one can claim that the Bible is reliable and useful for faith yet claim it contains errors of fact. Infallibilists may or may not be inerrantists. I claim the latter position is difficult to defend logically and scripturally, but that is not the intent of this post.

During the sermon the position of inerrancy was dismissed in, what I consider, somewhat of a strawman manner. Inerrantists were portrayed as being somewhat simplistic and unthinking. The kind who say, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” While people of that persuasion undoubtedly exist, this is not the zenith of an inerrancy apologetic and one should should consider the best claims of his opponents, not the poorest.

I am an inerrantist because I think that is the position Scripture points to. The Bible does not appear to discriminate between facts of faith and facts of history. Conversely the Bible claims to be grounded in history. We can believe God about things we cannot know because he is reliable in the things we do know. The early Christians backed up the truth of Christianity by appeal to a fact of history: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now we can know much about the spiritual implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection based on revelation by God, but this revelation is confirmed in our minds by the very fact that Jesus did indeed die and then rise from the dead! Many people make claims about spiritual truths but many are also unreliable. They cannot back up their claims with events that prove them trustworthy. If they are unreliable in earthly things why should we believe them about spiritual things.

But rather than an extensive defence of inerrancy at this stage, I want to describe what it is inerrantists claim.

Inerrantists believe the Bible to be true in every factual statement it affirms. Inerrantists can agree with the quote, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” though preferably with qualification.

The last two clauses are relatively straightforward:

  • I believe, or I affirm that what Scripture claims is true;
  • The debate is settled on the side of Scriptural claims because God never errs.

The problem lies in the first clause. While true on the face of it, the debate is around what exactly did God say? The speaker is equating the Bible with God’s words: written in the Bible = God said it. But Bible may not say what the speaker is claiming the Bible says. So while the inerrantist believes the Bible is true in everything it affirms, the careful inerrantist wants to know what exactly the Bible does affirm; nothing more, nothing less.

While people may disagree on specific meanings of texts, there are several relevant issues in understanding Scripture. I will address the literalism claim in more depth.

Inerrantists don’t hold to a literal reading of every text. While they believe much of the Bible is to be taken literally (while errantists may not do so), probably the best descriptor of their hermeneutic is a “straightforward reading” of the text. So if the text is historical narrative then the claim of inerrantists is that what is written is a faithful history. The events really did happen in the way described. But this does not mean that every verse is to be read as literal. No one reads like this. Even the hyperliteralist sees metaphor in some passages. I am not aware that anyone claims the parables really happened. The literalist would rather defend that Jesus really spoke the parables.

So Scripture is to be interpreted according to genre.

Here are several beliefs that inerrantists can and do hold.

  • Poetry uses symbolism and hyperbole.
  • Proverbs are general truths and there may be specific examples of people who fail to follow the general rule.
  • Fables and allegory illustrate an underlying reality.
  • Analogies carry over an aspect common to 2 situations. They may carry over several aspects but they may carry over only 1 aspect and one should be careful about over reading them.
  • People use approximations when giving information.
  • Not all information about an event may be given.
  • Early revelation is not overturned by later revelation though it may be clarified and/ or expanded upon.
  • Only the original text is necessarily inerrant.
  • Copists made errors. Extant manuscripts may contain error.
  • Translation can introduce error. The original language is inerrant, other languages are inerrant in as much as they faithfully reproduce the original.
  • The text may contain more than one meaning.
  • A strict chronology may not be followed.
  • The Bible may be (deliberately) vague in places.
  • Prophecy is often difficult to understand, especially before the fact.

Here are some examples that an infallibilist may falsely challenge an inerrantist.

  • The earth does not stand on pillars. (Job 9:6)
  • Godly parents have rebellious children. (Proverbs 22:6)
  • Some Bibles include the comma Johanneum. (1 John 5:7-8)

So where would an inerrantist and infallibilist possibly disagree?

  • The numbers of returning exiles listed in Ezra and Nehemiah do not line up.
  • Was the number of demoniacs 1 or 2?
  • Jonah was not really swallowed by a sea creature.
  • The chronology of the Israelite/ Judean kings is incorrect.
  • Noah did not really live to 950.
  • Paul did not write the pastoral epistles.

An infalliblist may claim that there is error in the Bible as evidenced by this list, but because they are not claims of faith we can still learn from the principles in the stories. The inerrantist would argue that the straightforward reading of the Bible claims are indeed true or that the apparent contradictions are resolvable. He would further argue that the lessons taught are dependant on the reality of the situation: God acting in real history.

>What did Jesus know? Part 2

2008 April 19 3 comments

>In my previous post I posited 4 categories which we can reasonably split the concept of knowledge into (there are others such as mathematical/ logical but this is unnecessary for our purposes here):

  • History
  • Future events
  • General facts
  • Personal thoughts

Of these, men usually only have access to 2 categories: history, if it has been documented; and general facts, if they have been discovered.

Men in general do not know the other 2 categories. Future events can only be known by God and those whom he chooses to reveal them to. Personal thoughts are only known to the man who has them and those to whom he reveals his thoughts; as well as God and those whom God chooses to reveal them.

Therefore discussion about whether Jesus knows facts concerning Joe Future is irrelevant to whether he knows historical events and whether he believes them. Now I happen to think that Jesus did not know every future event during his sojourn on earth. He knew a lot because the Father revealed it to him. Further, he could easily have known about Michael, Chris and James in the same way he knew about the way Peter was to die—revelation. But being human limited his ability to know everything in the universe at that time. And even if he did not give thought to every person he redeemed as he died on the cross, he certainly did in heaven before the incarnation and does so now.

Jesus’ opinion about Genesis is not so much a question of knowledge in general but the knowledge of historical events and general facts (though predominantly history). Did Jesus concede to the worldview of the day and the documents of the past? If he was taught false belief the Father was able to correct him, whether the Father did so a further question. We need to deal with history versus myth and fact versus pseudofacts.

Dealing with factual knowledge first: I am not certain that many of the beliefs of the ancients were incorrect. What needs to be remembered is incomplete knowledge is not false knowledge. Further, an alternative classification scheme is neither incomplete nor false, it is just different. Examples of these:

  • Thinking we need to breathe air to survive is incomplete knowledge, thinking that oxygen is the component of air required for respiration is more complete knowledge.
  • Categorising animals based on locomotion or habitat is correct knowledge even though moderns prefer to use a more complete body plan for classification. (This is type of knowledge is always true because it involves making definitions).
  • Thinking maggots spontaneously generate from the essence of rotten food is incorrect knowledge.

Not knowing something and deferring an opinion till more information is available is not incorrect knowledge.

It is my suspicion that much of the ancients’ factual knowledge was correct, even if, at times, it was incomplete. One could find several ancient ideas that were incorrect, however I suspect they would predominantly be amongst the speculations of the philosophers of the age. The reason for this is that most factual knowledge is merely observation, and the ancients were perfectly able to do as such. Errors are more likely to creep in where the gaps in knowledge were unobservable and speculation was made. Of course men are free to refrain from speculation and acknowledge ignorance. I do not see evidence in Scripture that Jesus held to false views of the world.

When considering history it matters if the history recorded is indeed accurate; and if not, is it inappropriately accepted, or dismissed for suspicion of error. That Jesus held to the truth of Scripture is easily provable. Whenever Jesus references Scriptures that record historical events he clearly believes they accurately describe reality.

Evidence that Jesus thought the biblical narrative reflected reality is seen in 2 ways in which Jesus interacted with it.

Firstly, Jesus’ claims are based on the truth of the historical record. That Jesus’ contemporaries will be judged harshly is based on the fact that Jonah was a real prophet and the Ninevites really repented. Examples could be extended to other historical personages such as Abel, Abraham and Zechariah. The form of Jesus’ argument is based on the activities of these people really happening.

Secondly, Jesus affirms the truth of Scripture. Claims like,

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,… (Joh 5)

presuppose that Scripture is a reliable witness. More striking is how Jesus states that Scripture itself can prove men are in error:

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? (Mar 12)

When we suggest that Jesus falsely believed the historical nature of the Bible because of cultural considerations we both invalidate the premises on which Jesus corrects error, and deny his claim that Scripture is the arbiter of truth. If we destroy the premises our options become:

  • Jesus’ comments were based on the incorrect views of the day therefore we can disregard them, or
  • we believe Jesus conclusions even though they were based on faulty logic

That the Father revealed the heart of Nathanael to Jesus yet did not inform him that parts of the Bible were untrue, or that passages that Jesus assumed were literal for his argument were in fact metaphorical, seems to stretch credibility.

Categories: history, inerrancy, knowledge, truth

>What did Jesus know? Part 1

2008 April 17 Leave a comment

>Chris Tilling blogged on his journey from creationist to evolutionist. He was challenged about the fact that Jesus believed claimed the creation narratives were historical. So the question arises how does one reconcile this with an evolutionary perspective if one also is a Christian. A solution proposed is that Jesus could be wrong. Tilling’s entry is worth reading in its entirety to garner his perspective though I will only quote part of it.

Jesus’ worldview was in so many ways that of other 1st century Palestinian Jews. Had you asked him if the earth was flat, he would have almost certainly said ‘yes’ (cf. here on James’ blog). Had you asked him if there was a literal Adam or Eve and serpent, I think he would have been puzzled by the ‘literal’ tag, but I suspect that if you had pressed him he would have said that he believes in a literal Adam and Eve (though I cannot prove these statements. I am making historical judgments, and I see no reason why he would not have believe these things – modern science did not develop for centuries. Though as noted, the whole metaphorical / scientific categorisation would have probably puzzled him). This is why, had you time travelled and asked 1st century Jesus to tell us about Michael or Chris or James, he would not have turned around and said ‘Oh yes, Michael/Chris/James will be born in almost 2,000 years from now’, and then proceeded to tell the details of your life to Peter and the disciples. He wouldn’t have had a clue about you or me as he was fully human.

My concern with these types of responses is that they fail to grasp the various aspects of what they are discussing. Here we have several types of knowledge presented and a discussion of 1 type used as an example of another without consideration of the validity. Further there is lack of processing of the solution to all the corollaries. There are also false statements that need to be corrected.

There are 3 types of knowledge discussed in this example.

There is historical knowledge. This is information about the past that was recorded so it was accessible to people. The people who were aware of it knew these claims existed. They could believe them or disbelieve them but they are aware of the claims. That Jesus points to Adam and Eve to illustrate marriage means that he was aware of the Edenic narrative and it is clear that he agreed with it.

There is generalised knowledge about facts. The structure of the universe. The sphericity of the earth. The anatomy of a platypus. The flight path of the albatross. These facts exist but our knowledge of them increases as we investigate the world. If these facts have been discovered an individual can potentially know them, if they have not been discovered then men do not know them. One could ask Jesus how avian lungs work and short of revelation from the Father he likely would say he did not know. It is possible that being asked whether the world was flat or spherical he would respond that he did not know, if it was the case that Jesus did not know. I am not so certain however people at the time did not know.

Then there is knowledge about the future. One could consider this similar to the first category: history that is yet to be revealed. Other than educated guesses, there is no way for any mortal to have this knowledge. Jesus as man did not know these facts other than revelation from the Father. As part of becoming man there were aspects of the divinity that were not available to him in the same way. That Jesus did not know some things is evident by his statement that he did not know the exact date of his return:

But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mar 13)

Interestingly Jesus was actually aware of many things in this category. Being close to the Father he was informed of much in the future such as the Olivet discourse and contemporary events that he would not have yet heard about such as Lazarus’ death.

This divine knowledge extended to knowledge of the hearts of men. This was current rather than future knowledge, but only accessible to those thinking the thoughts. Jesus did not need the testimony of man because he knew what was in a man:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (Joh 2)

Categories: history, inerrancy, knowledge, truth

>Can we have a too high a view of Scripture?

2007 August 24 4 comments

>The obvious answer to the above question is yes. All things are to lead us to Jesus, and loving anything, including good things, above God is idolatry. The Bible is to led us to Jesus, however it is possible to defend it, or hold many of it’s claims to be true, yet not love Jesus. In fact Jesus castigated people for supposing to care for Scripture but were unable to recognize him at his coming.

But while Scripture is subservient to Christ, it is also representative of him; therefore we really cannot have too high a view of Scripture.

I propose that we should seek to have the same view of Scripture as Jesus; that view is one of inerrancy but it is also also one that views that which Scripture says God says. If we approach Scripture this way that will lead us to change beliefs that do not correspond to the Bible to beliefs that do.

By necessity I will be viewing Jesus’ and the writers’ of the New Testament views on the Old Testament (at that time being the Jewish Scriptures), but there is indications in the New Testament that we should view the New Testament in the same way (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Jesus commonly rebuked the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law for their unbelief. One may think they claimed a high view of Scripture. Are Jesus’ rebukes a commentary about holding Scripture in too high a regard? No. Jesus rebuked their actions that deny their supposed belief in Scripture. He also rebuked them for holding their traditions above Scripture. If anything, Jesus’ opinion was they had too low a view of Scripture, not too high.

Jesus’ views on the Bible are well illustrated with his teaching on the resurrection.

The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. (Matthew 22:23-33)

This passage shows us in several ways how high Jesus’ view of Scripture was. The Sadducees tell a story to invoke a conundrum using this to defend their concept that there is no resurrection. Jesus teaches them, graciously explaining the nature of the resurrection and thus solving a perceived problem.

He rebukes them for not knowing Scripture or the power of God. He expected them to have had an even greater knowledge of the Scriptures.

Comparing the story in Mark and Luke we see Jesus response:

And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Mark 12:26)

But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. (Luke 20:37)

Mark states: “… have you not read in the book of Moses,…” (Scripture states) and “God spoke to him”. Luke’s version says: “… Moses showed,…” (effectively, the Scripture says). In Matthew the rebuke is: “have you not read what was spoken to you by God.”

While the passage is about God speaking, these New Testament parallels equate what Scripture says with God speaking.

The third lesson from the passage about Jesus’ high regard for Scripture is his exegesis of Exodus 3:6 which states:

And he [God] said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Fuller context of this passage reads:

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:2-6)

In calling Moses to his service God identifies himself as the God of Moses ancestors. God says he is the God of Abraham not he was. The time tense of this verse may seem a minor point, yet it was enough in Jesus’ view to defend bodily resurrection. If Jesus thinks that every word of Scripture is trustworthy can we hold a lesser view?

Scripture in general is to be understood; Paul admonishes Timothy that:

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NET)

Of course not all Scripture is easy to understand. Peter says that some things are hard to understand. But that we can learn from the minor aspects of Scripture is not licence for obscure interpretation.

We should be conforming our ideas to Scripture. We should not seek to use Scripture to prove our pet theories, but holding it in such high regard that should its teachings ever contradict our own beliefs, it is for us to change. This is all the more important the closer we get to the return of our Lord, for as Paul warns:

But evil people and charlatans will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. (2 Timothy 3:13 NET)

and

For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV)