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The Perspicuity of Scripture

Is the Bible’s meaning clear?


Defining Perspicuity
{ The perspicuity of { Perspicuity is thus
Scripture refers to a subset of
the Bible’s clarity; Scripture as
that it is a clear revelation.
revelation of God.
Relevant Passages of the OT
{ Jer 25:13: 'And I will bring upon that land all My
words which I have pronounced against it, all that is
written in this book, which Jeremiah has prophesied
against all the nations.

{ Dan 7:28: "At this point the revelation ended. As for


me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me
and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to
myself."

{ Isa 8:1: Then the LORD said to me, "Take for


yourself a large tablet and write on it in ordinary
letters: Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.
OT Passages continued
{ Ezek 43:11: "And if they are ashamed of all that they
have done, make known to them the design of the house,
its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its
statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so
that they may observe its whole design and all its
statutes, and do them.

{ Ezek 3:4-7: Then He said to me, "Son of man, go to the


house of Israel and speak with My words to them. For
you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech
or difficult language, but to the house of Israel, nor to
many peoples of unintelligible speech or difficult language,
whose words you cannot understand. But I have sent you
to them who should listen to you; yet the house of Israel
will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not
willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is
stubborn and obstinate.”
Relevant Passages of the NT
{ Eph 3:4-5: And by referring to this, when you
read you can understand my insight into the
mystery of Christ, which in other generations was
not made known to the sons of men, as it has
now been revealed to His holy apostles and
prophets in the Spirit.

{ 1 Thess 2:13: And for this reason we also


constantly thank God that when you received
from us the word of God's message, you accepted
it not as the word of men, but for what it really is,
the word of God, which also performs its work in
you who believe.
NT Passages continued
{ 1 Cor 2:13 which things we also speak, not in
words taught by human wisdom, but in those
taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts
with spiritual words.

{ Heb 1:1-2: God, after He spoke long ago to the


fathers in the prophets in many portions and in
many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in
His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things,
through whom also He made the world.

{ 2 Tim 3:16: All Scripture is inspired by God and


profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction,
for training in righteousness, etc.
The Significant Inference
{ If God’s intention { Thus we may infer
in giving his word that the Scripture
is to make himself as the revelation
known, then it of God is clear.
must of necessity
be sufficiently
knowable.
Problematic Perspicuity

If the Bible is so clear, why are there


so many obscurities?
Objections to Perspicuity
{ Many verses and entire passages
are unclear
{ Certain passages actually indicate
the obscurity of the Bible
{ The Bible is only clear to Christians
{ Believers disagree
{ Language is largely equivocal
{ The nature of the Bible militates
against such a conclusion
Many Verses Are Obscure
{ 1 John 5:16: If anyone sees his brother
committing a sin not leading to death, he shall
ask and God will for him give life to those who
commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin
leading to death; I do not say that he should
make request for this.

{ 1 Cor 15:29: Otherwise, what will those do who


are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not
raised at all, why then are they baptized for
them?

{ 2 Thess 2:6: And you know what restrains him


now, so that in his time he may be revealed.
Entire Passages Are Obscure
{ Mark 14:51-52: And a certain young man was
following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet
over his naked body; and they seized him. But he
left the linen sheet behind, and escaped naked.

{ Exod 4:24-26 Now it came about at the lodging


place on the way that the LORD met him and
sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a
flint and cut off her son's foreskin and threw it at
Moses' feet, and she said, "You are indeed a
bridegroom of blood to me." So He let him alone.
At that time she said, "You are a bridegroom of
blood"-- because of the circumcision.
Passages That Teach Obscurity
{ Isa 6:9-10 And He said, "Go, and tell this people:
'Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on
looking, but do not understand.' "Render the
hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim, Lest they see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears, Understand with their
hearts, And return and be healed."

{ 2 Pet 3:16: as also in all his letters, speaking in


them of these things, in which are some things
hard to understand, which the untaught and
unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the
Scriptures, to their own destruction.
The Bible Is Only Clear to Christians
{ 1 Cor 2:13-14: which things we also speak, not in
words taught by human wisdom, but in those
taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts
with spiritual words. But a natural man does not
accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are
foolishness to him, and he cannot understand
them, because they are spiritually appraised.

{ 1 John 2:27: And as for you, the anointing which


you received from Him abides in you, and you
have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His
anointing teaches you about all things, and is true
and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you
abide in Him.
Believers Disagree
{ Spiritual Gifts: Are they or are they not all
operative today?

{ The Lord’s Table: Transubstantiation,


consubstantiation, a simple memorial, or a
spiritual meal with Christ?

{ Baptism: Infant or Believers only?

{ Eschatology: Premillennial, amillennial,


postmillennial? Pre-, mid-, or post-
tribulational?
Language Is Largely Equivocal
{ “Punch!” –an instruction to a boxer
{ “Punch!” –a request for a tool
{ “Punch!” –“Come here, Punch, you
rascal.”
{ “Punch!” –“But how could it have
been Punch?”
{ “Punch!” –“Get outside, Punch.”
{ “Punch!” –“Great, I’d love a glass of
punch!”
The Nature of the Bible Itself

The Bible Was Written by Men:


It Is a Human Book

Historical Gaps

Cultural Gaps

Religious Gaps

Linguistic Gaps
Fragment from the Great American
Empire Period (ca. 1900)
Defining Some Terms
Defining Some Terms continued
Defining Some Terms continued
Defining Some Terms continued
Defining Some Terms continued
Fragment from the Great American
Empire Period (ca. 1950)
Historical Gaps
{ ANE
{ 2nd Temple Judaism (a.k.a. the
Intertestamental Period)
{ Roman rule in the ancient world, in its
local governments, in Palestine
{ Development of the provinces of Asia
Minor
{ The dates of the respective compositions
{ The reasons for which each was
composed
{ The original audience of a composition
{ Geographical ambiguities (cities no longer
in existence)
{ Text criticism
Cultural Gaps
{ “Culture, in the { Family
anthropological relationships
sense, is all the { Political protocol
ways and means, { Economic practices
material and
social, whereby a { Military systems
given people carry { Agricultural
on their methods
existence.” { Legal systems
{ Philosophical
systems
Religious Gaps
{ The temple cult and the religions of the ANE

{ Judaism of Jesus’ Day

{ Emperor Cult

{ Mithraism

{ Proto-gnosticism

{ Mystery religions
Linguistic Gaps

{ Biblical languages are obsolete:


Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek

{ The issues of translation: difficulty,


interpretative function
Restating the Problem
{ As a book that has been composed by
men living in a linguistically, culturally,
religiously, and historically remote
setting, clarity is impossible.

{ “[T]he interpretation of the Bible now


appears to require expertise in a number
of highly specialized subdisciplines. Does
this qualification put the Scriptures out of
reach of most believers? Can we possibly
claim that the Bible is clear?”
Objections to Perspicuity
{ Many verses and entire passages
are unclear
{ Certain passages actually indicate
the obscurity of the Bible
{ The Bible is only clear to Christians
{ Believers disagree
{ Language is largely equivocal
{ The nature of the Bible militates
against such a conclusion
Classifying the Objections
Objections from Objections from
Divinity: Humanity:
{ The Bible teaches { Obscure
its own obscurity verses/passages
{ The Bible is clear { Believers disagree
only to Christians { Language is
equivocal
{ The nature of the
Bible
Conclusion to Part One

Putting it together with two points…


First: Perspicuity and Revelation

{ We should expect a clear Bible on


the basis of the Scripture as
revelation
Second: Two Classes of Objections
{ From Scripture’s Deity: Since the
Bible is God’s word and the only
inerrant book in the world, only its
own statements about its clarity (or
lack thereof) are reliable.
{ From Scripture’s Humanity: Since
the Bible is man’s word written
nearly 2,000 years ago, clarity is a
myth.