Friday, 24 October 2008

Interpreting and Applying Scripture

Here are my notes from last nights Bible study at MPBC. Click here to see the additional handout.

Before we start we need to understand Jesus’ Warning to the Pharisees:

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. John 5:39-40

Implications of this warning
a) It’s possible to know a lot about the Bible and not have the real meaning
b) It’s possible to know a lot about the Bible and have the original meaning and then refuse this meaning
c) Searching the scriptures is not a definite sign that we are glorifying God
d) All scripture points to Jesus
e) Life is found in Jesus through Bible study. Bible study is never an end in itself

How can we interpret to the glory of God?

What’s the difference between sinful interpretation and God-glorifying interpretation?
John 17:3- Eternal life is about knowing God; meaning eternal life is about enjoying God.
If we are not interpreting the scriptures to strengthen our worship of God we are interpreting the scriptures sinfully.

Pray for help to interpret scripture correctly

Interpreting and Applying Genesis chapters 1 and 2
To understand the Bible we first accept that scripture has one coherent meaning
On this basis we can start our interpretation.

The goal of interpretation is application. This is bringing relevant meaning from scripture to the people living in 21st century Brighton. To do this we first need to see what the original meaning of a text was at the time it was written.

1) Exegetical Statement – ‘What did Genesis mean then?’
i) How can we find this meaning?
We need to establish the author’s purpose of writing a text.

ii) Why did Moses write Genesis?
The book of Genesis had a relevant message to the audience that was hearing it.

iii) What were the concerns of Moses readers?
The readers were the 2 generations of Israelites travelling from Egypt to Canaan:

The concerns of the 1st generation:
‘Did we do the right thing by leaving Egypt and marching through the miserable wilderness?’

The concerns of the 2nd generation:
Numbers14: ‘Entering Canaan and conquering the giants will be a hard thing’

Moses wrote Genesis to address both of the issues. He didn’t write Genesis just to a record history!

iv) The Meaning of Genesis to the Israelites:
‘Leaving Egypt and possessing Canaan is God’s design for Israel.’
The Israelites were to read the stories of Genesis to see that it’s right to go onto the Promised Land.

v) The meaning of Genesis 1 and 2 to the Israelites

How did Genesis 1 and 2 teach the Israelites to leave Egypt and pursue Canaan?
Consider the parallels:
Perfect created order (Gen 1:26-2:25) with life in Canaan
The pre-created world (Gen 1:1-25) with life in Egypt

Genesis 1:2 claims that ‘The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.’ The same poetic use of words (formless and hovering) are found in Deuteronomy 32:10-11. The parallel is therefore that the pre-created world is a symbol of Egypt and the created good order is Canaan.

Egyptians say only Pharaoh is the image of God
Babylonians say only the emperors are in the image of God
Genesis says that all people are in the image of God!

Adam and Eve are supposed to subdue and fill the earth, same for Israel in Canaan.

God’s rests after created the world. Israel can rest from their travelling once they enter Canaan. As God created the universe in a finite time so Israel’s travels in the wilderness were going to come to an end one day.

The Israelites are encouraged by the start of Genesis to pursue Canaan as it was a good place for them to be. It is not formless and void. It is a fruitful and prosperous place.

2) The Theological Statements of Genesis 1 and 2
When looking for theological statements we are looking for truths from a particular passage that will apply to all people at all times.
We have to remember that when we find truth statements from the text we are not giving the whole truth. There is one absolute truth. We are only describing part of that truth.

i) The Atlantic Ocean
It’s like the Atlantic Ocean. We can ask: ‘How many Atlantic oceans are there?’ There’s one objective, coherent ocean. But how many ways are there to describe this ocean? Multiple. You can describe the ocean in terms of location, types of water, colour, etc. We can describe the ocean in multiple ways.

ii) Partial Theological statements of Genesis 1 and 2:
God created everything in 6 days
God rested on the 7th day
There’s only one God
Man is given a higher position of authority than animals
God created the world in perfection
God created man from nothing
God and Man had a relationship

There are different ways of summarising the same absolute reality.
Many disagreements happen over emphasis not heresy.

3) Homelitical Statement
i) Contextualisation
We need to bring the Bible to Brighton. In order to do this we need information about the Bible and about Brighton. Studying scripture is not enough. We need to understand the different cultures that exist in Brighton and how they operate. When missionaries move to another country they study the culture in order to be relevant to the people. We live in a multi-cultural society. Brighton is full of people living in and under different cultural values. We need to know these cultures in order to apply the gospel in the most effective way.

Contextualisation is the method of showing the people in this city that the Bible is a necessary and relevant book for their lives.

ii) To contextualise anything we need to know the text and context. The text is scripture and the context is the culture.

ii) Exercise: Application
How would you apply the truths of Genesis 1 and 2 to these groups of people?
Arminian Christian
Avid cinemagoer
Indifferent person
Doubting Christian
Lukewarm Christian
Single Mum
High-paid city worker

How would you apply Genesis 1 and 2 to these Christian concepts?
Human worth and value


Anthony said...

Looks amazing, Simon - wish I had been there! Did you get through all that material?? Wow!

Simon said...

Thanks Anthony!

Yeah we got through the material. The content is mostly from Reformed Theological Seminary. Dr Richard Pratt is a great lecturer!