Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

Shakespeare put these words in Mercutio’s mouth after he was stabbed in a swordfight: “No, ’tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church-door; but ’tis enough, ’twill serve: ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” (Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 1.) Though Mercutio could still talk, like Adam and Eve, he knew that his wound was fatal. Though Romeo did not grasp the significance of this statement at first, Mercutio knew that he would be in the grave tomorrow.

High School English students have no problem understanding what Mercutio meant. That is, if the High School English student can grasp Shakespeare at all. Yet I am told several times a day “You are not interpreting the Bible correctly.”

The Bible is a book of literature. It does not need to be interpreted. At least, it should not be interpreted in the sense that it does not mean what it says. They come back with, “So you believe the earth is flat when it says ‘the four corners of the earth’?” The four corners of the earth is a literary device. As Mercutio used the double meaning of the word grave (serious and death) in Romeo and Juliet, so the Bible is filled with figures of speech.

Just like Shakespeare or any other literature, the Bible is written to be understood. Since our culture is far removed from Hebrew, Greek, Roman and even Egyptian, Babylonian and Persian cultures, some things are difficult for us to understand. Why did a wedding last seven days? Why did Boaz’s close relative take off his shoe as a sign of rejecting the marriage pledge? Why would a new wife give her husband a thousand pieces of silver?

The answers to these, and any other questions we might have about the Bible, are to be found in the Bible itself, not in fanciful personal opinions some glorify by calling “interpretations.” For instance, when the vision of Jesus Christ in Revelation 1 is mentions a sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus Christ, we already know that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God and that God brought all things into existence by the Word.

“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicate clearly otherwise.” The Golden Rule of Scripture Interpretation by David L. Cooper.

Why do the same people who insist on “interpreting” the Bible to mean something else besides what it says have no problem understanding other literature?

5 thoughts on “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

  1. http://www.criticalreading.com/interpretation.htm. How important is interpretation from a secular point of view-even they on this link get it. And wondering with this article how much more it might matter to God? By this post I wonder who is God::, Shakespeare? it kind of sounds like you have put his literature up there with the Creator of the universe? But since I just read it and did not interpret your intention of writing this, maybe I am wrong? As you stated 2 timothy 2:15? Do not worry about obedience.

    1. Not sure I completely understand what you are saying here, but comparing understanding Scripture to understanding Shakespeare does not put him on the same level as God. It simply means that people understand figures of speech, images and other devices in literature but pretend they don’t understand them in the Bible.

    1. Onisha, the Bible makes reference to “the circle of the Earth,” and its suspension in the heavens. It’s pretty clear that they did understand it was round. The four corners was a popular image in many works of ancient literature and is just a figure of speech. Ancient Greeks came pretty close to measuring the circumference of the Earth, for example, but they also wrote about the four corners of the Earth. Possibly it just helps people visualize things by compass directions.

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