When used of the Bible, what is :
Autographs, Clear, Communication, Gospel,
human authors, Lucid, Message, Narrative,
Perspicuous, Report, 'Scripture interprets Scripture', Synoptic,
Understandable, verbal icon, window, word.
Spiritual Resources > Words About the Bible > The Bible as Gospel Message
The words below are offered to stir some thinking about the Bible, especially about its role in your life and that of believers in Christ as a whole. Take up this challenge: think prayerfully about the use of each of these words.
If you find out what you really think of the Bible, it can lay the groundwork for how you learn Jesus through it. Or you might find you have some lessons to learn about where you're starting from. The Spirit is inviting you into the Scriptures. Take the challenge! Spread the Word!
Word [ Old English word, < assumed Germanic wurdam ] In a religious context, 'word' is what God says and does. God spoke, and the universe, light, earth, and life were created. God spoke loudest, clearest, and most transcendently by coming among us in Christ Jesus, being executed and being arisen from death. Word up! People who use the term are usually talking about the Bible, which is the central witness to Christ. They often speak of the Bible as "God's word". It's God's Word for you, but it is more a we-Word than an I-Word. More Christians today are shaping some form of a three-fold description of what is meant by 'Word', in order to try to do justice to how the Bible itself uses the term. Some mainline-renewal Protestants speak of God's word as written (the Bible), spoken (preached, taught, borne in witness), and tangible (Christ as God-with-us, and in sacrament). ELCA Lutherans, in their church constitution, speak of the Word of God as being Jesus, the Gospel message, and the Scriptures. But why are so many people not listening to any word God says in the Word?
Other words in this same field of meaning include :
Gospel, the [ < OE gōdspel (beneficial report) < Greek evaggelion (good news, good report)] It's a term in the same word-field as 'word' and 'report', and is related to the word "angel". The core message of the Bible. In Christian thought, the main reference is to John 3:16: for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. But that's not the whole good news. The good news is God-with-us, Jesus Himself - His life, teachings, death, and most pointedly, His return to be among the living. He is the One who causes our reconciliation with God, who makes us just before God. His own resurrection shows the power behind the purpose; the promise is that we too shall arise to live in God's new world. The New Testament gospels tell the gospel story, not in lockstep but in unity. There are many other things in the Bible, great and wonderful, but they all exist to further this reconciliation, by God's grace through faith. To understand why Jesus was so important, understand the history of Israel, as found in the Old Testament; we call Jesus "the Christ", which means the Messiah who fulfilled the purpose of that story.
There are many things that are not the gospel which are important to the faith. For instance, "Love the Lord your God..., and love your neighbor as yourself". Notice that this is about what you are to do. The gospel itself is about what God did, and is still doing.
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human authors: Christians believe the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit worked through human authors, poets, prophets, editors, collectors, and such. Because the Spirit inspires, the Scriptures will tell you all the truth you need to follow God. Because the authors are humans, there are culturally-conditioned ways of expressing things, signs of the writers' own character and vision, and different styles and use of words. The Bible's humanness is part of its usefulness and appeal over thousands of years. Whether it's Jeremiah's sense of terror all around, or Nehemiah's first-hand report of the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls, or the Psalmists' anger and fear, or Paul describing his relationship with the other apostles, the personal, human part of the writing of the Bible helps draw you in. You recognize it, from your own human experience. Human authors write the words, in part because it is meant to inspire humans to trust and to take action. When the Scriptures show God at work, it's usually through humans. God even chose to become a human for us, as Jesus. The Spirit inspires each of us and reveals to us what Christ was here for. Then others see Christ in action through us. God uses people along the way from beginning to end, and the Spirit is at every step.
The Bible's human authors are part of what makes it so different from the scriptures of other religions. For instance, nearly all Muslims treat the Qur'an as being written by God in heaven in Arabic and then given over to Mohammed who transcribed it, instead of being written through inspired people. To Mormons, the Book of Mormon was 'discovered' by Joseph Smith, but at least in their case someone was reportedly inspired to translate it.
More and more, some people are branding what the Bible says as "man-made rules", which they can then simply ignore -- or worse, they can see it as something from which they need to free themselves. Well, yes, it was written by human beings, but that doesn't make it evil or stupid. The Gospel writers were not out to put anyone in chains, or make anyone obey an organization (especially, not an organization that didn't exist in anything even vaguely like its current form until three or four generations later) or a set of rules. Nor are they lying to you about God. They were simply sharing with everyone about what had set them (and us) free.
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narrative : [Lat. narrāre (to tell a story), originally from some form of assumed Indo-European *gnō- (to know)]. In a 'narrative method' of looking at the Bible, the context, roots, and importance of what's found in the Bible is found in its story line. All parts of the story find their meaning within the course of this narrative. The method isn't without its problems. For one: the story is much greater than the sum of its parts, but you can't really know the story without grasping its parts, especially when the story develops from real life. Each passage must have its full due, even when it seems to go against the flow, even if it does go against the flow (it may show us a paradox). Even so, 'narrative' approaches focus on what's most important in the Bible, the story line. For a Christian, the 'story line' of God's work among human beings is the good news of Jesus Christ and through Him, the reconciliation of all that exists with its Maker. The rest of it may be good to know, helpful, and even God's blessing for you, but it is this story line that's the 'why' for the Bible and each passage in it.
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Autographs : The original written parchments/slabs/papyri used by the Biblical authors when first authoring the Biblical books. This is supposedly the 'most purely
inspired' -- and thus most
'infallible' -- form of the Biblical books. These are long since all gone, and were probably all gone within several generations of being written. (Notice how rarely the early church's writers spoke of their existence.) Thus, reference to them in defending the
authority of a text is an act of fiction. What we have now is all we are likely to ever have: a set of written works whose oldest existing copies are generations of copying from being original. It is these Nth generation copies, with all their occasional scribal errors, expansions, and such that are translated into the written materials through which the Spirit speaks today. If we found 'autographs', that would be wonderful, but we haven't and probably won't. The Spirit works through our copies, and thus our copyists' errors.
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perspicuous. [ < Latin per- (through) + specere (to look, view); related to Eng. "perspective".] Clearly and directly communicated or presented; lucid, readily understood.
To say the Bible is 'perspicuous' means that it doesn't take any specialized training to grasp what the Bible's telling you. This is not a license to be ignorant. You still need to take the time and effort to think it through. There's no required method for that. (True, there are some mysteries, but these confound even the wisest.) The unschooled and the retarded often show a solid grasp of the main thrusts of the Bible. That's because the Holy Spirit wants us to know such things. The Spirit is the one who reveals it to us. The Spirit can work through an awareness, a happening, a life experience, a method of study, or anything else to make clear to us what is being revealed through the Bible. Idiots and geniuses alike can be fools and jerks about Scriptural matters, but they and everyone in between have what it takes to grasp the core message. That is what's meant by 'perspicuous' - not that you will understand but that you are fully capable of understanding. The clarity of the Bible is not something that applies to each passage standing by itself -- some of those are quite unclear. Clarity is not a matter of the words, the writers, or the language, but of the purposes of Scripture and the Spirit who speaks through it.
At this point, it should be clear that the word 'perspicuous' is itself not perspicuous to most people, since they've never heard of the term. Thus, you should use another word for it (or the noun 'perspicuity'), for clarity's sake. Other words in this same field of meaning include :
Check out this on Bible study.
the "Scripture interprets Scripture" approaches : Through this approach, what the Spirit is trying to tell us through Scripture is unlocked by, tested by, qualified by, and balanced by, the whole of Scripture. No part of the Bible is slighted or ignored -- but no part of the Bible stands on its own, apart from the meaning of the whole and apart from other specific parts which deal with related matters. Since the Bible is the way the Spirit reaches us, the rest of the Bible is the most reliable resource for finding what the Spirit is saying in any one section of the Bible. This often forces us to accept some amount of vagueness and paradox, since both are found all over Scripture and cannot be wished away. Narrative methods are a modern reflection of this approach.
Some (especially fundamentalists) hold that only Scripture interprets Scripture; however, that's not how the people in Scripture used earlier Scripture, and that doesn't help us learn how to live by it today.
The Bible itself shows the many ways the covenant people used for trying to get at what God wanted from them. Some of these are familiar to us: the prophets, written histories, etc.. Some of them are not so good: casting lots, putting out fleece, calling on mediums, establishing a corps of 'royal' prophets. God had already told them that most of these methods were never to be used for this all-important task. Superstition is not the way. Yet, they tried it anyway. And strangely enough, God spoke very clearly through each of them. Why? Because God wanted them to get the message while at least someone was listening (God, of course, is fully able to use anything to do it). Also, it was sometimes so they could face Divine displeasure at their treason in using such methods. Some of us today use methods that are kindred to those bad methods (such as in most end-times interpretations, and bible codes). Using Scripture as the foundation for interpreting Scripture takes us away from that. Yet it's not helpful to say, "well, I'll just interpret like the New Testament folks do." At times they (most notably Matthew) used Hebrew Scripture out of context to make the already-solid case for Jesus' fulfillment of earlier Scripture. The earliest Christians knew what Jesus was face-to-face, either with Jesus Himself or the ones He directly taught. They couldn't look at Scripture the same way ever again. These human authors, in a sense, worked backward from the Jesus they knew, a method which at times changes the context of what was originally written. It's like it's got one of those warnings from TV infomercials: "don't try this at home". But as with the more ancient Jews in the histories, God used them anyway to communicate, even when they didn't do it right.
Synoptic : Greek, "of one eye". The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called this because they are similar works to each other, for the most part covering the same events and using most of the same sources. The Gospel of John, however, is very different in the order of events, which events are described, and the point of view taken about the life and ministry of Jesus. Therefore John is a Gospel, but not Synoptic. In modern times, Bible scholars have re-discovered the fact that each Synoptic Gospel has its own very special slant. Though they're not anywhere near as different as John's Gospel is, the Synoptics are each different works with their own vision to share.
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Window and Verbal Icon: These are terms spun from Eastern Orthodox ideas. The Orthodox treat certain pictures, paintings, and other visual art of holy people and events of the Bible, especially of Jesus and Mary, as windows from which to see Jesus and the Kingdom of God. The Bible is, in this view, the earthly eikon of God's love and God's intent for the created world. More precisely, through it we can discover who God-with-us, Jesus, really is. Just as we can envision spiritual matters by meditating on a visual icon, so also the Spirit uses the Bible as the window through which the Spirit reveals Christ to us. The Bible ranks above visual icons, because it is the source of what is depicted in them.
Another word in this same field of meaning is 'window', a place to look through to see outside or beyond, while being inside a wall of shelter. The word was originally poetic -- a "wind-eye". In a lighter vein, a related word is 'peephole'.
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|ver.: 09 September 2012
The Bible as Message. Copyright © 1996-2012 by Robert Longman.