I once heard a story (though I’m unsure where I heard it) about the discovery of a watchtower. Sense I cannot find this story, I offer to you my own version of it[1]:

There was once a father who sold everything he had upon the discovery of a watchtower, in order to buy said tower. The father soon-after buying the watchtower passed away, leaving his tower to his three sons. Upon inheriting the tower, the three sons proceeded to try to understand why their father sold all that he had for the tower.

The first son looked throughout the tower, trying to discover hidden passageways or any treasures inside the tower, and he left with no understanding.
The second son went to the length of taking the tower apart brick-by-brick to attempt to find out the value of the tower, but he also left with no understanding.
The third son went up to the top of the tower and looked out; this child then sold all he had to buy his brothers’ shares in the tower, for he understood its value.

This story shows how, at times, we look into the details and objects of a story, but we miss the point. If we look out at the big picture, we can have understanding. I believe the same is true of the Bible.

The technical terms I’m speaking of are “exegesis” and “eisegesis“.

  • Exegesis is when we take a section of scripture, determine the author’s original meaning / intent in writing said scriptures, and then apply the scripture to our lives.
  • Eisegesis is when we take our lives and use events in our lives to find meaning in the scripture.

Correct interpretation of the scriptures occurs only when we apply the Bible to our lives; we interpret incorrectly when we apply our lives to the Bible[2].

Dr Gabel writes about this in his book, “The Bible as Literature”:

“Every piece of writing in the Bible expresses a subject, not (necessarily) an object. … (Objects) exist externally to ourselves and independently of us… the object would be whatever portion of this external existence the author captured and put on paper. … (The subject) exists in the author’s consciousness; it is a conception of what the author wishes to express[3].”

I believe the subjects of the Bible are 100% true, as that is the part God inspired and put on the minds of the authors. I do not think it necessary to believe that the objects are always true or meant literally. Most of us don’t take the Bible literally anyway, or else Hebrews 4:12 might would have us expecting our Bibles to look like this when we opened them:


Most of us find this expectation silly…. I hope. But, we like to pick and choose. We pick and choose:

  • which things in the Bible that we take literally,
  • when we focus on object for meaning,
  • and when we try to imitate biblical characters instead of the biblical subjects in the scriptures.

All of this is wrong and comes from bad hermeneutics (the study of how to interpret the Bible)[4].

Quick disclaimer: Subjects can be literal events, such as the death and resurrection of Christ for our salvation. That was the intent which the author was attempting to express, thus making it the subject. Dr Gabel even claims that the physical temple built by Solomon was often the subject in scripture passages[5].

To wrap this all up, let’s look at an example: Genesis, chapters  1 – 3.  Genesis 1 – 3 must first be broken into two different stories. Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 is a story of God speaking creation into existence. There are two subjects here: 1: God is all-powerful and just stinkin’ cool! and 2: Keep the Sabbath holy, as God also rested.

Genesis 2:4 – 3:24 is a story where God made man and made all the earth for man – look closely the first commandment is to take care of the earth, the second command is to multiply. The subject of this second telling of the story is all about gender-roles and taking care of our planet (GO GREEN).

God first made man, then made woman to be man’s helper, and He gave the two dominion over the earth; but, the creation then tempted the woman and she obeyed, then the woman had the man eat and he obeyed. See how the story flips to make the point? That’s what this story is about, not the object of how God created everything[6][7][8]!

(On “The Phil Vischer Pod Cast”, episode 167 (released 9/1/2015), they also make a similar claim to what scripture is affirming in Genesis 1-3. There is also an event coming up soon supporting similar ideology about Genesis called “Genesis Recast” which it may be worth while to look at the subjects they’ll be speaking on at genesisrecast.com)

Another couple of disclaimers:

  1. The fact that there is a creator who created everything may be another subject here, but how He created it was certainly a mere object for the story.
  2. There is much debate whether these gender-roles still apply after the fall or under Christ. I believe that they do still apply and that they aren’t higher or lesser positions, simply different positions that are meant to reflect how Christ and God relate one to the other as One entity with different roles.

The point to all this is:

The only way to correctly interpret the Bible is to find the subject of the passages and apply those subjects to our lives!!!!

[1] I originally thought this was a riddle by Tolkien, but I found nothing so hopefully my story does justice to the subject that the original author had in mind.

[2] Duvall, J. Scott, and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God’s Word: A Hand-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001. Print.

[3] Gabel, John B., and Charles B. Wheeler. The Bible as Literature: An Introduction. 5th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1986. Pages 2 & 3. Print.

[4] Much of my enlightenment concerning the literalness of the Bible came from a hermeneutics class taught by Dr Michael Bryant at Charleston Southern University.

[5] Gabel, John B., and Charles B. Wheeler. The Bible as Literature: An Introduction. 5th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1986. Pages 2 & 3. Print.

[6] The real meanings behind the Creation story was in part revealed to me through Dr Peter Beck, also at Charleston Southern University. This interpretation can also be backed up by The New Expositor’s Commentary, as well as The Oxford Bible Commentary.

[7] Barton, John. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. Pages 42 – 44. Print.

[8] Longman III, Tremper, and David E. Garland. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2006. Print.


7 thoughts on “Subjects V. Objects

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