We have been doing this “How To Read Your Bible” series for a LOOOOOOOOONG time! I’m talking since we started this blog site, last August!!!!
Finally, it comes to an end. I am sort of sad about it, because I love studying hermeneutics and this has been a good and useful excuse to do so; I’m sure for many of you this is a pleasant moment when you get to stop hearing me tell you how to read – you’re no idiot, I know. This being said, I may have left the most important part for last: how to know which resources are useful for explaining the scriptures.
This issue was left for last in this series for a reason; unless we know what to look for, then no resource we find can truly be useful. To some degree, we evaluate our resources based on what we need. We do not need resources that explain objects of a scripture rather than the subjects, or one that does not account for the type of literature a section of scripture is, or a resource that overlooks context.
Knowing what we are and are not looking for is not enough to evaluate a resource, however; we have many other issues to deal with when looking for reliable and useful resources, as well.
The first roadblock that must be addressed is how we evaluate a useful resource – just because whoever wrote up the resource has PhDs and other letters after their names does not mean that their resource is reliable. I could have several PhDs and make the blanket statement that gravity does not exist, but this would not make the statement true.
So, how do we trust any information that we are handed?
I believe CS Lewis’ explanation for where human reasoning comes from may give us some insight into what research or resource can be counted as valid information for digging up truth:
It follows that no account of the universe can be true unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be real insight. A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it possible to believe that our thinking was not valid, would be utterly out of court.
This statement was made as part of a larger argument that Lewis was making in support of Supernaturalism. The argument is basically that human reasoning either came from our ancestors and their ancestors and so on, with no foundation whatsoever; or, human reasoning came from something outside of human ancestry – something supernatural.
Any argument made that human reasoning originated in nothing would be invalidated on the basis that human reasoning was used to make that argument which just invalidated human reasoning, itself – paradoxical I know, but that was Lewis’ point!
You may remember that Jalynn Hoeff’s post a couple weeks ago defined virtue as,
The power or operative influence inherent in a supernatural or divine being (Oxford).
It should follow, then, that we can consider reasoning a virtue! In fact, when St Paul lists the gifts of the Spirit, he lists knowledge and wisdom first amongst the list.
For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8).
Why is this important in how we evaluate resources?
Because, we should be able to follow basic reasoning skills and logic to evaluate our resources, when studying the Bible.
I believe this also ties into prayer and meditation. The first chapter of the book of Psalms declares that the man whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law meditates day and night (Psalm 1:2),” is greatly blessed.
I believe that the same power by which we receive the virtue of reasoning is the same power with us in our prayer and meditation on the Word. Thus through reasoning, prayer, and meditation I believe we can best evaluate the authenticity of any resource used in our studies and reading of the Bible.
I once stumbled onto a Bible commentary that cited a source, which I checked into, and that source used the Bible commentary I was just using as its source. Unfortunately, this happens a lot. We must check into the sources being used in our resources and trace the origins of any new information to see if due diligence has gone into the research done or not.
(In the case where one source uses another, which in turn uses the original source – this is considered circular logic and the information seen should then be discounted.)
I know that no one wants a lesson in tracing their resources, but it is definitely important. Any information gathered should be able to be traced to an original source that has done real research, or follows real reasoning, or at least has followed the scientific method in proving what is being claimed (this even applies to non-scientific information; in my belief, Biblical research should follow the scientific method).
(When checking to see if a resource has gone through the right process with the scientific method, all we are looking for is research that has observed the Biblical passage in all of its contexts and has examined each phrase in other scripts, as well. If the research has examined each word and phrase in other ancient texts with translations and it follows that translating the words and phrases the way we have works in multiple different situations, then the translation made is repeatable and has thus followed the scientific method. The same method used in translation must also be used to authenticate any ancient scripts used in our resources.)
So, we must meditate in the Word, pray for discernment on what it means, use our God-given virtue of reasoning, and double-check all resources for the origin of the information they present.
I, personally, have resources that I prefer. For my Bible, I prefer the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible for its accuracy in translation to the English language. I also enjoy using texts in their original languages with Hebrew and Greek lexicons, to aid in my studies.
Then, for commentaries to help me gather intel on context, meaning, and etc on the scriptures – I like using the Oxford Bible Commentary, the Expositor’s Bible Commentary series, and Dr Constable’s Notes on the Bible (FREE resource).
Hopefully, seeing what I use in my own studies will help as a reference for everyone reading this post to start finding their own resources in their Biblical research and reading.
If we can agree that reasoning is a virtue, then we must agree that it is part of what it means to be a godly man or woman. In order to best understand the text of the Bible, we must then find good resources that use valid reasoning and honest research. These resources, I believe, are necessary in our quest to find real truth in the Bible.
My challenge for everyone reading this is to find your favorite section of scriptures in the Bible and use everything from this series (AND GOOD RESOURCES) to study those scriptures. You can do your own exegesis and present what you find to us through our email, the comment section below, or our Facebook page!
Present your study to your friends also, maybe start your own Bible study? (– we provide resources for those interested). In doing this, you will find truth and in doing that you will have become closer to God!
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of Truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene (2 Timothy 2:14 – 17).
And, remember, do not believe everything that you read on the internet. Check my sources if you like. Btws, here’s proof that everyone has a water buffalo:
Reading / Resouce List:
- The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, the Oxford Bible Commentary, and Dr Constable’s Notes on the Bible are all favorites, as mentioned earlier.
- I highly recomend C.S. Lewis’ book, Miracles, where he makes his argument for the supernatural and its influence in our world.