by Miles Coverdale (1488-1569)
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need Not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2Ti 2:15)
God has designed a certain way by which we are to study the Scriptures. We are to rightly divide them. This is the divinely approved approach to the study of His Word.
Miles Coverdale (1488-1569) articulated well the important principles of right division in the introduction to his 1535 English version of the Bible:
It shall greatly help ye to understand Scripture if you mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows after. – Prologue to the Reader
We must be honest with ourselves when studying the Scriptures. Accurate Bible study must follow these simple principles, which have been termed by some as the “Golden Rules of Bible Study.” When studying any passage we must ask ourselves some basic questions:
- Who is doing the speaking?
- To whom is it being spoken?
- About what is being spoken?
- When was it spoken?
- What is the context in which it was spoken?
Some proclaim, “All the promises in the Book are mine!” This clearly is not true. For instance, God promised a child to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. This was a specific promise, made to a specific couple, at a specific point in history. One simply can’t claim this promise for themselves, context means everything.
Many are very careless in their approach to and use of the Scriptures. They just open up their Bibles anywhere and expect what they read to be directed toward them – that God will speak, specifically to them there.
Maybe you have heard the tale of the man who made the habit of randomly opening the Bible to a couple of passages in the Bible each morning for some insight and direction for this day. He would just let the Bible fall open where it would and aimlessly place his finger on a line of text. This particular day his finger fell on the line “[He] departed, and went and hanged himself.” He flipped a little further in the Bible and placed his finger on another line which read “Go, and do thou likewise.”
We must remember that while all the Bible was written for us, it was not all written to us, nor was it all written about us. Thus, the Bible must be divided; and not just divided, but rightly divided. That is, we are to look for the many dividing marks (or distinctions) that God Himself has placed within Scripture.
We must learn to make a difference where God makes a difference!