the laws of interpretation
THE LAW OF THE COMPARING
SCRIPTURE WITH SCRIPTURE
If all related passages are studied in the light of the context of each
and the facts thus gleaned are placed in the proper relationship with the
others that are gathered from different passages, and if a thorough
induction is made, then we have a complete and clear picture of the
subject under consideration - we have all the truth that God has revealed
on a given subject.
ONE OF the
characteristics of the present era is that it is imbued with what is called
the scientific spirit. The word science comes from the Latin word which
means "to know." Science, then, according to definition, is that which is
known. In order to know anything properly, a person must have all the facts
that pertain to the subject in hand. He must not only gather the facts, but
must correlate his data, and place it in proper relation in its environment.
If a person, therefore, is endeavoring to study any passage or text in a
scientific manner, he must gather all the facts that bear upon the subject
of the special passage, must relate them to kindred thoughts, and give them
their proper place in the scheme of things. I might illustrate this process
by the use of the jigsaw puzzle. The component parts are laid out for one to
use in reconstructing or building all the pieces into a complete unit. When
each single part is placed in its proper position with relation to others
without being forced, a picture or map is thus constructed - figuratively
speaking, a mosaic is formed, which presents some pattern or scene.
Again, the principle which we have under consideration may be compared to
the work of a lawyer on a given case. He seeks all the information and the
data that has any bearing upon the situation. The facts and material
evidence, if there be any, are presented in the proper relation to other
things. In the case of a trial by jury, these facts are presented by the
witnesses and are summed up by the legal advisers on both sides. Then it is
for the jury to decide the case upon the merits of the evidence.
In a similar way, when anyone is studying any particular subject in the
Scriptures, he must examine carefully the testimony of each of the biblical
writers on the subject to be investigated. The testimony of each passage
must be related properly to the theme in hand in order that a clear picture
may be presented by all of those giving their testimony.
Some Fundamental Principles Involved
In order to gather all facts on a given subject - if a
person wishes to get a complete and a clear picture of a subject - he should
have a good concordance; but should know how to use it. Of course, the
references in a good reference Bible are often of great advantage to the
student. At the same time, many of these references are incorrect, since
they have been placed there by men, fallible creatures who do make mistakes.
A person must study each scripture to which a reference is made in order to
determine whether or not the particular passage referred to has any bearing
upon the theme under investigation. The facts of each context alone can
decide this matter.
A very grave error is frequently made by considering a verse as being
related to a given one because of the same words in both passages. For
instance in Genesis 1:2 we see the words, waste and
void, which describe the condition of the earth after it had been
wrecked. In Jeremiah 4:23 we also see these same words. Many have concluded,
therefore, that Jeremiah was looking backward to the same original
catastrophe that overtook the primitive earth. Whenever such an
interpretation as this is made, error instantly is injected into the
subject. When the context of the passage of Jeremiah 4:23 is studied, it
becomes immediately evident that this passage is referring to the great
Tribulation, when wreckage and devastation will be the order of the day on
account of the terrific judgments which the Lord will send upon the earth.
Again, we see mention made of the new heavens and
the new earth in Isaiah 65:17. By looking at and studying
carefully II Peter 3:1-13, we find reference to the
new heavens and the new earth. By our studying each of these
passages and getting the facts in each context, we see that both Isaiah and
Peter were talking about the new heavens and the
new earth of the Millennial Era. But in Revelation, chapters 21
and 22, we also read of new heavens and a new earth.
When a person studies the chronological development of the prophecies of the
Book of Revelation, he sees that the new heavens
and earth of these chapters are those which will be created after
the Millennium has ended. To identify therefore the
new heavens of Isaiah 65:17 and II Peter 3:13 with the
new heaven of Revelation, chapters 21
and 22, is a false identification. Whenever these are thus considered the
same confusion is immediately introduced into the Scriptures.
Whenever a person studies the Scriptures by comparing one passage with
another, he assumes that all truth harmonizes. Since the Bible is the
inerrantly inspired Word of God, all of its statements must harmonize.
Should there appear to be, on the surface, a contradiction, let us conclude
that the discrepancy is only apparent and not real. Any such variance is to
be accounted for upon the basis of our lack of knowledge or comprehension to
understand the real situation which appears as inharmonious. Truth and
facts, whether in the physical, material universe, or in revelation, are in
perfect accord. The God who created the universe likewise made the
revelation that is contained in the Scriptures. He being the God of reality,
stamps truth on His material universe and states it in His Word.
It is of paramount importance that, whenever we attempt to compare scripture
with scripture, we must be certain that the passages under consideration are
indeed talking of the same things, persons, or events. Sometimes, upon the
surface, there appears to be a connection between two passages. But when all
the facts of the context of each passage are studied carefully, it
frequently becomes evident that those passages that are supposed to be
related are not. On the other hand, often there are passages that have
bearing upon other quotations, which at a glance we do not immediately
recognize. But let it be understood that the facts of the context of all
passages must be thoroughly studied before any identification may be made.
We must understand that the fullness, completeness, and the clarity of a
picture that is made by comparing scripture with scripture, depend upon the
thorough and complete investigation that is made. If only a few passages
that have bearing upon a subject are studied and considered, of course the
picture or conclusion to which one is brought is only partial, limited, and
incomplete. On the other hand if all related passages are studied in the
light of the context of each and the facts thus gleaned are placed in the
proper relationship with the others that are gathered from different
passages, and if a thorough induction is made, then we have a complete and
clear picture of the subject under consideration - we have all the truth
that God has revealed on a given subject.
An Example Of Comparing Scripture With Scripture
In the beginning God created the
heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). The first statement of the
Scriptures in the original Hebrew contains seven words. This declaration has
mighty and far-reaching ramifications. In fact, volumes are wrapped up in
this sublime utterance. By a clear, full understanding of this passage, most
of the philosophies and cults may be refuted.
"In the Beginning"
In the beginning . . . .
This phrase immediately suggests that found in John 1:1:
In the beginning was the Word . . . .
The Word, the Living Word, existed in the beginning, that portion of
eternity that antedated the creation of the material universe. Likewise
reference is made to this same Living Word who is thought of as Wisdom, in
|22. Jehovah possessed me in the beginning
of his way, before his works of old. 23. I was set up from everlasting
from the beginning,
before the earth was. . . .
30. Then I was by him, as a master workman; and I was daily his
delight, rejoicing always before him, 31. rejoicing in his habitable
and my delight was with the sons of men.
In such a passage as Isaiah 44:6 we have a reference to God
and His being back in the beginning, in the eternity of the past, as well as
existing throughout all the future ages of eternity.
There are many more passages that deal with this phrase and the idea set
forth, but these are sufficient for us to understand how to proceed in
comparing scripture with scripture to get all the information on any one
God, Jehovah, the Lord
In Genesis 1:1 we are told that God created the material
universe. God here is the original name for the Almighty and carries the
idea of Strong Ones, since the word is in the plural number. When, in the
thinking of men who refused to retain God in their knowledge, the forces of
nature were deified and were considered as actual gods, the Lord revealed
His memorial name to His people. In the days of Seth, for instance,
men began to call upon the name of Jehovah
(Genesis 4:26). This name carried the idea of the Uncaused Cause of all
things, the one who stands back behind all things, and who has brought all
things into existence, - the one in whom all live, move, and
have their continual being.
Since the word rendered "God" is in the plural, and since "three" is the
smallest plural - there being the singular and also the dual numbers - we
can see how the plural for the word God is an echo of the Trinity, tri-unity
- Three in One and One in Three.
Moses declared the unity and at the same time the plurality of the Divine
Being in Deuteronomy 6:4, which literally rendered is:
Hear 0 Israel! Jehovah, our Gods, is Jehovah a unity. Here the
word Jehovah refers to the Holy Trinity. In certain other texts it is
evident from these facts that this memorial name of God refers to the
Father; in still others the Son is referred to by this same name. And in
still others the Holy Spirit is called Jehovah.
By looking at a few passages and by noting the facts just mentioned, we see
that, in our study of passages containing the word God, Jehovah, or Lord, we
have an inexhaustible fund of biblical knowledge. We could continue with
this second word of Genesis 1:1 and fill several volumes. But these
suggestions show us how we should study this phase of our subject.
An examination of the fifty-odd occurrences of the word,
create, in the Hebrew Bible shows that the fundamental concept lying behind
this word is that of bringing something into existence which had no form nor
substance before the act of creating was performed. This fundamental meaning
lies inherently in the word although it may have secondary applications.
Though the word, create, does not occur in Psalm 90, verse 2, the idea is
there, expressed in different terms. Moses looked back to the time when the
heavens and the earth were brought into existence. Then he lifted his eyes
and took a far-off view in the direction of the past and spoke of the ages
which antedated time, and which constituted eternity in the past. From the
context it is clear that creation is referred to in this passage.
Again, the creation of the universe is referred to in Job 38:7. When the
Lord created the earth, it was not in the condition described in Genesis
1:2. On the contrary, it was not a waste, nor desolation. From John 1:1-4 we
see that the Word, the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, was the one who
actually was the Creator of the material universe. This phase, likewise, of
our subject could be continued indefinitely. Such a study as this would
enrich our lives very materially, but this much discussion is sufficient for
us to see the importance of looking at this word.
In Psalm 115:16 reference is made to "the heavens" in
contrast to the earth. The former belongs to God, the latter He has given to
men. In Psalm 11:4 we are informed that God's throne has never been
overturned, and that His Holy Temple is in heaven. This Temple of God in the
heavens is not of the material order. It is unseen; hence it is of the
eternal order (II Corinthians 4:18).
Again, we see in Revelation 11:19 the Temple of God in heaven, which of
course refers to that tabernacle of God not made with hands, eternal in the
heavens. The study of the visible, material heavens, as they are presented
in the Scriptures, together with the invisible heavens, likewise constitute
the most fascinating and instructive and informative subjects. These
references however will suffice.
The earth is a part of the material universe which God
created in the beginning. Volumes of information are given to us with
reference to it throughout the Scriptures.
In Psalm 24:1,2 we are told that the earth and all that is therein belongs
to Jehovah. It belongs to Him because He is the Creator of it - as we learn
in the Scriptures. It is His, Jehovah the Son's, because He purchased it by
the redemption which He wrought for us on Calvary. It will be His by
conquest when He returns in glory and power to take the reins of the
government of the universe in His hands and to establish the reign of
righteousness upon the earth. Volumes likewise could be written upon the
subject of the earth. The completeness of our picture with reference to any
of these material elements found in this verse depends entirely upon the
extent and thoroughness of our investigation.
The material heavens and earth that was created in the beginning, as we
learn in Genesis 1:1, will pass away eventually, but one jot or tittle shall
in nowise pass away from the law until every word which God has spoken has
been fulfilled with reference to them. Jesus likewise told us that heaven
and earth should pass away, but His word should not pass away (Matthew
24:35). He did not tell us when they will pass away, but merely stated that
such would be the case. In Revelation 20:11 we have this statement:
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat
upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was
found no place for them. At the conclusion of the short period
following the Millennium, the great white throne judgment will be
established. At that time the material heavens and the earth that were
created in the beginning will pass out of existence. God created them out of
nothing, and into a state of nothings they shall return. At that juncture
time, which began with the creation of the material universe, ceases. Then
This eternity of the future begins with God's creating the new heavens and
the new earth. What is meant by the new heavens and the new earth? The
eternal order of which we read in Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. There we
see the eternal heavens, and the eternal earth, and the eternal Jerusalem
coming down out of the eternal heavens and resting upon the eternal earth.
This will be the place of the abode of the righteous, throughout the
ceaseless ages of the eternity of the future.
Great things lie ahead of us - that is, for all who know and who love the
Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.
Links to prior studies by Dr. Cooper that appeared in The Shofar may found in our
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