For indeed we believe as historical truth apart from any allegories, that the firmament, the sea, the earth, the luminaries and stars and even the animals of land and sea and man himself were created just as the Scripture of Genesis outlines.
- Liber de Ordine Creaturarum, Irish, 7th century
“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.”
- Exodus 20.11
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
- Psalm 33.8, 9
A fundamental protocol of Biblical exegesis goes by the rather impressive name of the analogy of Scripture. If you want to understand the Bible, you have to know how to use this protocol, for by this means the Holy Spirit leads us to compare Scriptures in order to discern truth (1 Cor. 2.12, 13).
The analogy of Scripture involves, as The Westminster Confession of Faith points out in chapter 1, trying to understand obscure or difficult passages of the Bible, by turning to other passages that shed light on those more difficult or obscure passages.
Scripture, in other words, must be its own best commentary, our first and last line of resort in trying to make sense of God’s Word. Every good student of Scripture understands that.
Today the issue of how to interpret Genesis 1 and 2 is heating up again among the followers of Christ. I guess I’ve been in one too many situations where those who believe the account of Genesis 1 and the creation week precisely as it is written (guilty as charged) are harumphed and dismissed as hindrances to an intelligent faith. A true understanding of the Bible, we are told, needs to submit to what is reasonable and scientific, which, according to them, a six, 24-hour days creation is not.
James Turner argued in his book, Without God, Without Creed, that that kind of reasoning – faith in submission to reason – is what has turned America from a nation under God to a nation that believes nothing or anything or even everything. Defaulting to science and reason, rather than following the plain teaching of Scripture, is a form of Scripture-twisting, and of employing a hermeneutic of convenience rather than the analogy of Scripture.
If we apply the analogy of Scripture to Genesis 1, what do we find? Look: here’s a commentator in Exodus 20 reflecting on the subject at hand. He seems to have considered that the six-days-working/one-day-of-rest pattern of the Ten Commandments reflects the actual events of Genesis 1, precisely as written.=
And here is a psalmist, who not only confirms the teaching of Genesis and Exodus, but who attaches believing in this to fearing the Lord (Ps. 33.8, 9). Do we wonder why the fear of God is in such sharp decline in our day?
We could cite many more similar examples from the Word of God. The commentator in all these texts is not the anonymous Irish scribe from the 7th century, whom we might look down on as “medieval”, but God Himself. God Himself instructs us how to think about Genesis 1. The Irish scribe understood that well. Do we?
Shall we say to God, “Ha ha ha, Lord, very amusing, and how quaint that you should persist in encouraging us to believe what science and reason tell us is utterly impossible”? The Celtic Christians had enough faith to trust God’s Word just as it is written. Trusting in God’s Word as God’s Word, they launched a revival that saved civilization (according to Thomas Cahill).
While we may think we “know better” than they, we have a long way to go before our way of understanding Scripture results in the kind of vibrancy and transforming power demonstrated by those quaint, naïve, backward, unreasonable, souls-saving, world-changing missionary/monks.
Ours may be a faith that accommodates the intellectual tensions of our age in flight from God. But theirs was a faith that empowerd them for revival, renewal, and awakening.
1. These days, whenever Scripture clashes with science, Christians tend to go along with science. Why?
2. What can you do to let Scripture be its own best commentary in your reading and study of the Bible?
Psalm 33.6-9 (Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
God spoke and heaven came to be, and all its hosts His Spirit wrought.
He heaps the waters of the sea; the deeps their dwelling place are taught.
Let all below now fear the Lord; let all in awe of Him abide!
The worlds exist by Jesus’ Word; let all on earth in Him confide.
I believe, Lord; help my unbelief! Help me to take You at Your Word so that I…
Help for your Bible reading
Our book, The Joy and Rejoicing of My Heart, can help you to improve your Bible reading and learn to use such disciplines as the analogy of Scripture more effectively. Order your free copy by clicking here.
Don’t forget to listen to this month’s Personal Mission Field Workshop. It’ll make you a little spongier (click here).
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Liber, p. 17.