Key for Interpreting Scripture




Thomas F. McDaniel, Ph.D


2 Timothy 3:16–17


All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. 

To state simply, "The Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God," is to make an incomplete sentence. The complete sentence needs to include prepositional modifiers which affirm that “the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God (1) about the way and will of God and (2) about our human condition.” The Bible includes countless case studies about human sin and pathologies— including the sins and pathology of some very religious people—as well as case studies of God’s therapeutic intentions and saving activities.


The human pathologies evident in the Bible are revealed, in the words of Timothy, for our “reproof ” and for our “correction.” There are case studies of bad behavior and bad religion revealed in the Bible which should never be followed, lest we suffer the same consequences as did the biblical characters. On the other hand, God’s will and ways are revealed for “training in righteousness” and for “every good work.”


The guideline for distinguishing between the human pathology and the divine therapy in the Bible is to note first that whatever blossoms in the light of the Cross is the word of God about the divine will and the divine way. Secondly, whatever withers in the light of the Cross is the word of God about our human condition. Christ, the Living Word, clarified the ambiguities in the two parts of the divinely inspired Written Word. Anyone having difficulty distinguishing between our human pathologies and God’s will and saving acts must simply come closer to the Cross. The Cross demonstrated the difference between the therapeutic “loving enough to die” in contrast to the human pathology of “loving enough to kill.” When we approach the Cross, we become “equipped for every good work” to fulfill God’s will.