In these words of the Lord Jesus we see the transformation operated in a scribe that becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven: the scribe, a student and master of the law in Israel, was only involved with old things of the past, but the disciple follows his Master and his treasure of knowledge now contains new things, besides the old ones, and he learns them for his own use and to teach to others.
The Holy Scriptures are like this, because the Bible is composed of old things, the Old Testament, and of new things, the New Testament. It is a library with sixty six books, written originally in a handful of languages through millennia, by authors of several occupations, from kings to fishermen, of which a small minority knew each other personally.
However, the reading of these books indicates clearly to us that all of them have in common a supreme Author, and for that reason they make up a complete and harmonious Work, only one Theme, a Message coming from the Creator himself, and humanity's history, since its beginning to the distant future, being focused just on the most important facts for our instruction. Unlike practically all literary works, little or nothing is known about some of their human authors, because none introduces himself by way of prologue and their names only appear in the text when it is part of the narrative.
The Bible is an inexhaustible treasure that surprises us for the wealth that it contains, ready to be discovered and utilized. Its divine content is powerful to save and to transform souls, “for the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Let us open our treasure conscious of the immense value that it has, and allow its message to direct us along the divine paths.
The Word of God is powerful to convince man of his faulty situation before the Creator, which is called sin in the Bible, and to make him understand the great Price that He paid so that it could be forgiven, if he is sorry and has enough humility to accept that Price and to submit to the will of God. Everything is there in detail, and this we call the Gospel (good news) of Christ.
Many methods have been proposed to facilitate the reading of this library of God, varying in their degree of simplicity and depth according to the intellectual and spiritual level of those to whom they are addressed. Fundamentally, this treasure is opened with a key of general use that comprises interpretation rules, called hermeneutics. The correct interpretation of the Scriptures is almost as important as the doctrine of its divine verbal inspiration, because it is erroneous interpretation that originates most of the heresies and other evils that we see about us.
Let us see these interpretation rules:
Kind of literature: before reading a text, always verify what kind of literature it belongs to: our treasure has several, such as historical reports, poetic compositions, parables, teaching letters and prophecies. If it is a historical report, the text describes facts that really happened; if poetry, the language is figurative, with the use of metaphors; parables are narratives of common facts or allegories that contain a precept; the letters contain messages, teachings and explanations on themes and biblical texts; prophecies are messages coming from God through chosen men, and include information on future events, whose authenticity is proven by their accomplishment, sometimes centuries later.
Physical context: to understand a text it is essential to study its physical context: the nature of the people involved, its topic, and its relationship with the immediate verses, etc.
Historical context: to discover what was happening when the text was written, or to what it is referring. This is the only possible way to understand many of the prophecies of the Old Testament, and also to verify their fulfilment, or to follow the sentiments revealed in the Psalms, etc. Most of the time the historical context can be found in the Bible itself, but a good encyclopaedia can also give explanatory information, such as who would be the people and habits common at the time, religions, etc.
Meaning of the words: after having identified the type of literature, and the contexts of the passage being considered, it is important to study the grammatical sense and the meaning of the words. We should always seek the literal meaning, without assuming to start with that there is some mysterious, occult sense. If the literal sense makes sense, let us not seek some other sense. The Lord Jesus said: “Have you not read...?” (Matthew 19:4, Luke 6:3) evidently confirming in this way that the Scriptures are clear, literal. A little of that clarity sometimes gets lost because of translation done into a language that doesn't have a perfect equivalent to the expression in the original languages, or of a word which has several different senses, depending on its context. So as not to interpret incorrectly, whenever there is doubt it should be verified how a word in the passage is used in other passages by the same author, and in other parts of the Bible. Some Bibles facilitate the search by indicating the concordance, there are books of concordance published, as the one by Strong, and even free computer programs such as e-Sword. The Bible also uses figures of speech, and it is essential to recognize the figures of speech to understand correctly some passages of the Bible. When the Bible uses a simile, metaphor or hyperbole, it should be interpreted in agreement with the normal use of that language type. In other words, it is not intended that everything in the Bible is understood literally, but the figures of speech are clearly identified within the context. For instance, the first chapter of Genesis is a historical report, therefore an interpretation that it is a figure of speech is not justified. The context is crucial.
Harmony: the Bible having been inspired by the God of truth, it does not contradict itself. The Scriptures are all in harmony between themselves. We therefore ought to compare text with text to be certain that our interpretation is correct. If there is discord, the mistake was ours and we need to examine the text more carefully.
Relevance: God having given us the Bible for the transformation of our life, and not simply for our intellectual satisfaction, the text will always have some relevance to us. This is not part of the interpretation process, but it is by trusting and obeying the Word of God that we understand it better (Matthew 13:14-17).
Warning: this last rule is an admonition: beware of the false and deceiving teachers. The Lord Jesus warned us against religious leaders who use tradition of men to invalidate the Word of God (Mark 7:5-13). The apostle Paul warned the believers in the church of Corinth against those that use the Scriptures for their own ends, often for their personal profit (2 Corinthians 2:17). The apostle Peter warned us against people that twist some things hard to understand for their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). It is necessary to be careful against people that discover something new and surprising in the Bible, as well as those that embellish the biblical report and then treat their increments as if they had the approval of God. For these reasons believers ought to handle the Word of the Truth aright (2 Timothy 2:15).
The will of God is that we learn and apply His Word to our lives. Instead of trying to adjust the Bible to our thoughts. By following these wise rules we will be able to understand better what God is really saying and what that means for us.
In this way, we can open our treasure ourselves to reverently get from there everything that we need to guide our life wisely, deepening more and more into the marvels that through it God is going to reveal to us, and to accompany the teachings and the example given by our Saviour and Teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us therefore harmonize our lives with His Word, and obediently proceed on the road that leads us to eternity in peace and communion with our sublime Creator.
"In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'HEARING YOU WILL HEAR AND SHALL NOT UNDERSTAND, AND SEEING YOU WILL SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE'. For this people have grown dull. their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that i should heal them.'
But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear.
For assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."
"Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?"
"Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: this people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. and in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'
"For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men.
Moses said, 'HONOUR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER'; and, 'HE WHO CURSES FATHER OR MOTHER, LET HIM BE PUT TO DEATH.'
But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"—' (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."
"and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures."
"We are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ."
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."