How to Interpret the Bible...According to the Bible
Chapter 11 in About God
this chapter by Michael Collum.
How does the Bible tell us to read it?
1) John 16:13
But when He, the Spirit of
truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on
his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what
is yet to come.
the Spirit of God is supposed to lead us into all truth, we
should seek His guidance first.
2) 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, John 15:12-13
If I speak in the tongues
of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong
or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom
all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move
mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess
to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I
This is my commandment,
that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has
no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Truth without Love is not Truth at all. Jesus is Love. Jesus is the Truth .
God is Love, God is not of love but is love. Love just is. And Jesus
as he walked in this world...is truth. As He said, "I am the
way, the truth and the life, none come to the Father except through
me." Jesus is Love, and Jesus is the Truth. And truth must be
spoken and lived in love, or it is not truth at all.
3) James 2:8-13
If you really fulfill the
royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor
as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you
are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become
accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit
adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit
adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So
speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of
liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no
mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
The point here is when reading the scripture, applying the scripture to
others as you would apply it to yourself comes first. And with this
is not showing any favoritism. You must ask yourself, “If this is
my interpretation, how would this affect those around me if they were
to actually follow it, or hear it and have to decide whether it was a
good thing to do or not?” According to James, who was speaking to
Jews who knew the scriptures from birth and became Christians, they
are to be merciful before slamming down the figurative gavel. If you
show judgment without mercy, the author of this letter seems to
indicate that the lake of fire is waiting for you or something -- the
parable of the unmerciful servant comes to mind -- but who wants to
be judged "without" mercy? Just judge as you would like to
be judged also. Love others as God has loved you first. Remember
this premise when reading the scriptures.
4) Galatians 3:1-3
O foolish Galatians, who
hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose
eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
This only would I learn of you: Received ye the Spirit by the works
of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having
begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth, our application is actually
very important in learning from Him . If you get into a culture that
tells you that you need to follow the law to get the blessing, Paul
has identified this as witchcraft ("who has bewitched you")
and "being made complete in the flesh" which is anything
but Godly. Anything you discover will come from a wrong premise
because God has not taught you this. So take Heed, begin in the
Spirit of God, and become mature in the Spirit of God also.
5) John 15:25-27, Psalm 35:19
But this cometh to pass,
that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They
hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I
will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which
proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also
shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
Don’t let those who are
my enemies wrongfully rejoice over me; neither let those who hated me
without a cause wink their eyes.
This passage shows that the psalms are also to be regarded as "law";
as Jesus called the Psalms "law", when He quoted them:
“They hated me without a cause” is, itself, from Psalm 35:19.
6) John 15:26
“When the Counselor has
come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth,
who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me. You will
also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.
indicates that when the Spirit of God interprets the text, He
testifies of Jesus Christ, as it is written in the Revelation, "the
testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.”
7) Luke 24:43-45, John 6:64-65, Psalm 119:102
and he took it and ate it
in their presence. He said to them, "This is what I told you
while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is
written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
of the purposes of the scripture is that what was written about Jesus
was in the law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms, so since we are
to be like Him in this world. then we too will find what is written
of us in these books.
“But there are some of
you who don’t believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who
they were who didn’t believe, and who it was who would betray him.
He said, “For this cause have I said to you that no one can come to
me, unless it is given to him by my Father.”
learn here that God opens our minds so we can understand. Man's
methods are not helpful. God's wisdom and our wisdom comes from a
different premise. If you are relying on another person's
interpretation to teach you how to read the bible, get ready to
change your perspective a lot and be frustrated. If you're relying on
God to teach you, get ready to change your perspective a lot and
actually live the messages He teaches you.
I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.
8) Psalm 119:99-100
I have more understanding
than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I
understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
when you live in His most excellent way, and meditate on the way day
and night, you too will be experiencing things that people before you
haven't. You will have more understanding, because your experience of
God exceeds their knowledge of the scripture.
9) Colossians 2:13-23
And you, who were dead in
your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive
together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by
canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal
demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the
rulers and authorities 1 and put them to open shame, by triumphing
over them in him.
Therefore let no one pass
judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a
festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things
to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify
you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in
detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous
mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body,
nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows
with a growth that is from God.
If with Christ you died to
the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive
in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do
not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as
they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These
have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion
and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in
stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
10) Colossians 2:16-19
Therefore do not let
anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a
religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These
are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however,
is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility
and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person
goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual
mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the
Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its
ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
passage is warning you to not listen to people who claim to have "had
a vision" and the punchline is that you need to follow the the
dietary laws, feasts, or even have a "biblical" sabbath.
Don't listen to them. They are wrong, Paul said; but, if you have a
problem with that you can die first, then argue with Paul at the
resurrection if you like.
11) Colossians 2:20-23, Matthew 19:18
Since you died with Christ
to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still
belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do
not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with
use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such
regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their
self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment
of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual
He saith unto them, Moses
because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your
wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
that God softens your heart so you no longer wish to do things your
way, but His, and cut people some slack like He cut you a whole lot
of slack, when He paid your debt for you on the cross.
12) James 3:13-16
Who is a wise man and
endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good
conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have
bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not
against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is
earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there
is confusion and every evil work.
someone is pushing an agenda, and is acting out of of bitterness, or
envy of someone else's interpretation proliferating that just happens
to be different from theirs...their interpretation is automatically
wrong...even if it is Scriptural. Paul didn't take help from a demon
possessed person promoting the gospel, so we are not to let wolves in
sheep's clothing rile up the flock with their agendas.
13) Luke 16:16, Hebrews 8:7-13, Hebrews 9:12-17
The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and
every man presseth into it.
For if that first covenant
had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the
second. But God found fault with the people and said: "The
time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be
like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by
the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain
faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the
Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their
minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they
will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man
his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their
wickedness and will remember their sins no more." By calling
this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete;
and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
He did not enter by means
of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place
once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on
those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are
outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who
through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may
serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a
new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised
eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them
free from the sins committed under the first covenant. In the case
of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it,
because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never
takes effect while the one who made it is living. The old covenant
is over . We do not rely on written words in the same capacity as the
old covenant . We rely on what God has written in our hearts .
14) Matthew 19:7-12, Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 12:28-34, Mark 12:28-34, Matthew 23:23
They say unto him, Why did
Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her
away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your
hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it
was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife,
except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth
adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit
adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so
with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All
men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For
there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb:
and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there
be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of
heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
At that time Jesus went on
the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred,
and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat. But when the
Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that
which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto
them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and
they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and
did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither
for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye
not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the
temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you,
That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had
known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye
would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord
even of the sabbath day.
all scripture is to be read as though it has equal value. The
beginning order seems to surpass the law. My best guess why, is
because the law requires the creation to speak its message. Also
David, though after the law, surpassed the law in Jesus' eyes,
because mercy is more important than sacrifice. And because God is
love, God always trumps everything. Jesus was asked a question:
One of the teachers of the
law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them
a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is
the most important?" “The most important one,” answered
Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is
one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your
soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second
is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment
greater than these."
"Well said, teacher,"
the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and
there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all
your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your
neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and
When Jesus saw that he had
answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the
kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more
quite often the answer is "well, what do you mean greatest? all
scripture is equally authoritative to each other scripture" yet
Jesus didn't teach like that . He also spoke of "weightier
Woe unto you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin,
and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy,
and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other
heed to this "hierarchy" . Jesus taught about it and Paul
also used the same method of putting the weightier matters first and
all else second . Colossians chapter 2 is a good passage to look at
regarding this also.
did not interpret passages contextually. This is your exercise: Go
through the gospels, read what Jesus said, then cross reference with
the connected prophetic passage or verse from the psalms or law, and
tally how many times Jesus quoted in context and how many He didn't.
If you're not interested, that's fine, but doing this study will
actually reduce your frustration with prooftexting that makes no
sense to you. Jesus prooftexted a lot! But go look it up. This is
your assignment if you feel up to it.
15) Mark 4:13, Matthew 23:23-26
I recall being told in the past to not "milk" parables for
every shade of possible meaning. But the bible says something
different. You can "milk" parables. The parables are
interconnected in meaning and Jesus in giving explanation
demonstrates this in the gospel of Mark .
And he said unto them,
Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
Go back and read the parables, and keep in mind what each thing is
defined, in the part after the parable where Jesus explains what each
part of the parable represents. And keeping all these things in mind,
add them together with what is said in other parables: see what comes
up . The kingdom belongs to children as Jesus said; so be creative,
as your creator has created. The point of the parables is to explain
what the kingdom of God is like so you (the kingdom) will generally
understand what the kingdom is like...and in your life, recognize
what God is doing in you as you become it .
So yeah, milk to your hearts content. I hear from Paul that young
believers need lots of milk anyway, and in love I would suggest to
remember the above observations when coming to life altering
conclusions. It wasn't too long ago...and I remember some of the
conclusions I would come to . Remember in picking apart the little
parts for shades of meaning...do not miss the point.
Woe to you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and
have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy
and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting
the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a
Woe to you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the
plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You
blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that
the outside also may be clean.
"Woe to you, teachers
of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your
spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more
important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You
should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You
take heed. No matter what you may discover from picking apart each
part of the scripture and the parables in scripture, the premise of
love must still govern what comes out of it, because God is Love, and
God's love toward us is what the bible is all about.
16) Romans 14:23
But the man who has doubts
is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and
everything that does not come from faith is sin.
An interpretation that comes from a premise of doubt, mistrust, or
unbelief is already missing the mark because it begins from a wrong
premise that Paul identified as "Sin".
17) 1 John 4:7-8, 1 John 4:18
Beloved, let us love one
another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God
and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because
God is love.
There is no fear in love.
But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with
punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
There is therefore, no fear in God, but a mature view of God drives out
fear. Fear of corruption, fear of being taken advantage of, fear of
things going too far -- because mature (the Greek word translated
“perfect” means “mature”, check it for yourself) love trusts
that God has things under control. Interpretations based on fear of
punishment or fear of bad consequences are not yet "perfected"
or full to maturity.
It may be said that I don't mind if you do all sorts of evil to me...but
I just cannot stand it when you do that to other people! Well, the
same thing applies for biblical interpretation. There may come a
time, when you need to recognize that "freedom" is not the
issue, but protecting another, whether this be going after the one
and leaving the ninety-nine, or putting your foot down when you know
people are being selfish, or in ignorance not taking into account the
rest of the family of faith.
18) Jeremiah 33:3
Call to me and I will
answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not
In God, to our limited eyes, there appear many paradoxes, and though a
lot of them over time can seem to be woven together into a coherent
tapestry of ideas according to your way of thinking, you must
remember, God created many peoples with many varying ways of
thinking. If both things in an "either, or" debate have a
root in scripture, then from experience I have noticed there is
something both sides are both missing and pointing to at the same
time. Keep in mind that logical opposites can be true in parallel --
remember that God created the world in six days and rested on the
seventh, and each day had a particular purpose or purposes, and all
of them worked together in harmony, and was very pleasing in His eyes
in harmony at the end of His work. Leave room for the idea that you
will not be able to "get" what God is doing in every
situation and let Him do what He does best . I would encourage you
when you recognize one of these things, to pray according to Jeremiah
33:3, and then wait.
said "I am the Truth", so since truth is a body with many
parts: Rejoice in all truth, and test everything and lay aside all
that is not good. And may the God who saved us continue to complete
that good work that He began in us and give us eyes of a God who
May God's love bless you
and ever surround you.
-Michael Collum, A seeker
to the end
© 2010 Michael Collum
Next Page: Chapter 12. The Words of God: How to Choose What to Care About?