(Session 1.1 — Hereafter “S.1.1” and “S.1.2” and so forth, as the course progresses, til it culminates in an ending of each Session and ultimately the course itself).
“How To Know What the Bible Means By What It Says”
Pre-Session Reading Assignments:
* “How To Know What The Bible Means By What It Says,” Earl D. Radmacher, Th.D
* “Relativizing the Absolutes,” (The Communicator – President’s Corner, Fall 1972), By Earl D. Radmacher, ThD
* “Absolutizing The Relatives,” (The Communicator – President’s Corner, Winter, 1972), Earl D. Radmacher
* “Citing Scripture: Butchery or Surgery,” Bernard Ramm, Protestant Theologian
*”Ann’s View On Divorce Saddens Pastor” (Another example of relativizing the absolutes, By Ann Landers, Columnist, Dec. 27, 1972)
* “Paul’s Long Hair Comments: Bible Meaning Depends on Interpretation,” (Another example of absolutizing the relatives, By Louis Cassels, UPI Religion Writer, 1972)
Each of these pre-sessional reading assignments are absolutely necessary to comprehensive appreciation of the topic. So, do not simply “skim over” these, but give them thorough attention. Now, let us begin:
“How To Know What The Bible Means By What It Says,” By Earl D. Radmacher, ThD
After Paul had given some significant teaching to Timotheus, his younger charge in the faith, Paul then gave him the KEY to UNDERSTANDING: “Study (diligently, Greek “spoudazo,” Strong’s #4704) to Shea thyself approved unto Yahweh, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” — II Tim. 2:15
If the reader/student is going to understand what they are learning, then the rules of communication must be “diligently” followed. These are the same rules that are followed in everyday conversation when understanding takes place. In other words, there is no special or secret set of rules — or even a decoder ring — for understanding Yahweh’s Word. At least not on the ‘surface’ comprehensional (i.e., ‘scientia,’ / Latin for knowledge on an understanding way of things from simply a scientific view, as opposed to ‘sapientia,’ Latin for wisdom and knowing things from a Spiritual viewpoint.
The Greek word “spoudazo,” (Strong’s 4704) is indeed DEEP! It signifies “to hasten to do a thing”; or “to give diligence to.” One could make an argument that this Greek term has behind it the idea of “laboring at one’s task to the point of perspiration and exhaustion!”
‘Spoudazo’ pushes us to “exert ourselves,” “endeavor,” “earnestness,” etc. It is used in Eph. 4:3 of keeping the unity of the spirit; in II Pet. 1:15 of enabling believers to call Scripture truth to rememberence; and in II Pet. 1:10, of “making our calling and election sure.”
Thus, there are times when the ‘natural plain sense of the Scripture is the focus, and other times when there’s a need for ‘spoudazo!’
The Basic Principle — Central to everything else in this process is the recognition that “meaning is singular, not plural.” For example, the popular response often heard “there are many different interpretations of that” is FALSE! There may be 10 SUGGESTED interpretations, but at least 9 of them are wrong. There can be ONLY ONE CORRECT interpretation and that is the one Yahweh intended the writer to convey, and to do so with the vocabulary the writer used.
But this does not limit application, because, although the interpretation is in the plain, ordinary sense of the term and singular, application may be multiple. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to illumine our hearts in order to see a variety of applications in life. Still, in order to. e valid, the applications must be true to the author’s intended interpretation as expressed in the text.
A Four-Step Process — If there is only one valid interpretation of a biblical passage, how then is it to be understood? Paul’s challenge to Timotheus to “…rightly divide the word of truth…” (II Tim. 2:15) may be fulfilled by using the following Four-Step Process: 1) Word Focus; and 2) Word Relations; and 3) Context and lastly 4) Culture.
Now let’s put the process to work on an often misapplied part of Scripture —- Matthew 18:20, where Yashua Messiah is talking to His disciples and states: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Let us begin:
1. Step One — Word Focus: A key word is “gathered.” A complete/exhaustive concordance lists various forms of “gather (-ed)” in the New Testament (approx. 75 times). These occurrences translate some 10 different Greek words, but over half of these translate just one Greek verb (used in the above selected passage), made up of two parts, meaning “together with,” and “to lead” or “bring together”. This discovery of the ‘etymological’ significance of this particular Greek term is an excellent starting point for our purposes here. We can also go on to look at the verb comparatively, by studying its synonyms, and contrastively by studying its antonyms. Most importantly, however, is to note the usage of the word historically in Scripture.
The use of “gathered” in this verse can be puzzling to a reader because the group number is so small: just “two or three”. Yet it is a very important gathering because, as Yashua Messiah put it, He is “in the midst of them,” when the condition is fulfilled that the gathering be in His name. Such a significant gathering with our Lord drives us to look very carefully at this verse and its surrounding context. And so now we move to the 2nd Step in the process of finding the meaning, namely, “Word Relations.”
(Cont. in S.1.2)