Are the words of Scripture precise?

, posted by Martin Glynn

Did the writers of the bible choose the words and the order of words intentionally? Yes, of course. The Bible consists of carefully constructed words.

However, are the words precise? No, simply because precise words are a fantasy. This isn’t really an issue with inspiration; it’s an issue with the nature of language. Language is imprecise by its very nature. Any word has a range of meaning, and often different meanings in different contexts (otherwise known as jargon).

Okay then, lets move beyond words. Are sentences precise? Again not really, though they are far more precise then a word. A sentence takes a series of words, and gives them a more focused meaning. However, the interplay of words within a sentence is still too restricted by grammar so that a complete sentence doesn’t necessarily represent a complete thought, except, maybe, in Proverbs. In fact, a sentence that represents a complete thought is rare enough that it is considered a figure of speech: an aphorism.

Fine, let’s move on to the paragraph. Are paragraphs precise? YES!! It is the paragraph that, in general, represents a complete thought. Look back on this post and you can see that the most basic form of each of my points is contained within the paragraph. Any word or even sentence cannot demonstrate my full intent. (though, for Paul, a sentence can be a paragraph. Scripturally, the point is to think in terms of passages as opposed to verses)

However, the problem with this is that though the paragraph represents a full thought, it does not necessarily represent a full message. Again, we can go back over this post and capture that idea. A complete message is usually found by examining a complete work/document. In the case of Scripture, this would be a book (excepting the case of Proverbs and Psalms, though themes can be isolated).

This comes down to the number one principle of hermeneutics: context, context, context, and again I say context. When interpreting any verse keep in mind the message of the book and the full passage that a verse is a part of. The messages and the thoughts are precise, but it is still using limited human language, and to ignore this is to adopt the same hermeneutic the cults use(though not necessarily the heresy). The result is that you get out of Scripture what you put into it. If its heresy, you read heresy. If its orthodoxy, you read orthodoxy.

Ironically, I have found that most Calvinists I meet online do not understand any of this. I am not under the delusion that this represents Calvinism as a perspective, but it does seem to represent most within this on-line Calvinist movement. Why this is, I do not know. What I do know, is that we cannot fall for this trap, and that we need to treat Scripture with reverence and respect, allowing it to define itself.