As we continue to reflect upon how to read the Scriptures, one obvious observation is that the Bible consists of words. Part of the interpretive task is to decide what specific words mean. That’s complicated by the fact that the same word can have different meanings, depending on the context.
Examples in the English language would include words like “ball” and “band.” A ball can be a sphere or it can be a dance. Likewise, a band can be a group of musicians or a strap of some kind, like a watchband.
Some examples from Scripture include the words flesh, world, hate and kingdom of God. The word “flesh” can simply refer to one’s physical body. It can also refer to the whole person, the “natural self” – body, mind and soul. But there are many occasions when it refers to the “sinful self,” or “sinful nature,” like what we mean by “fleshly.”
Similarly, the word “world” can have a neutral meaning; for example, when the Bible tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his Son….” But sometimes it refers to the sinful world, or what we mean by the word “worldly.” Read the rest of this post »