Reading the Bible

  • Cleave to the literal sense of Bible words, and beware of departing from it, except in cases of absolute necessity.
  • Beware of the system of allegorizing and spiritualizing, and accommodating, which the school of Origen first brought in, and which has found such an unfortunate degree of favour in the Church.
  • In reading the authorized version of the English Bible, do not put too much confidence in the “headings” of pages and “tables of contents” at beginnings of chapters, which I take leave to consider a most unhappy accompaniment of that admirable translation. Remember that those headings and tables were drawn up by uninspired hands.
  • In reading the Prophets, they are sometimes not helps but real hindrances, and less likely to assist a reader, than to lead him astray. Settle it in your mind, in reading the Psalms and Prophets that Israel means Israel*, and Zion Zion, and Jerusalem Jerusalem.
  • And, finally, whatever edification you derive from applying to your own soul the words which God addresses to His ancient people, never lose sight of the primary sense of the text.[1]

Further words on reading prophecy

It is high time for Christians to interpret unfulfilled prophecy by the light of prophecies already fulfilled.  The curses of the Jews were brought to pass literally; so also will be the blessings.  The scattering was literal; so also will be the gathering.  The pulling down of Zion was literal; so also will be the building up.  The rejection of Israel was literal; so also will be the restoration. [2]

What I protest against is, the habit of allegorizing plain sayings of the Word of God concerning the future history of the nation of Israel, and explaining away the fullness of the contents in order to accommodate them to the Gentile Church. I believe the habit to be unwarranted by anything in Scripture, and to draw after it a long train of evil consequences.[3]

Cultivate the habit of reading prophecy with a single eye to the literal meaning of its proper names.  Cast aside the old traditional idea that Jacob, and Israel, and Judah, and Jerusalem, and Zion must always mean the Gentile Church, and that predictions about the second Advent are to be taken spiritually, and first Advent predictions literally. Be just, and honest, and fair.  If you expect the Jews to take the 53rd of Isaiah literally, be sure you take the 54th and 60th and 62nd literally also.  The Protestant Reformers were not perfect.  On no point, I venture to say, were they so much in the wrong as in the interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. [4]

 

* My emphases

[1] J.C. Ryle, Prophecy 149

[2] J.C. Ryle, Are You Ready For The End Of Time? p. 49

[3] ibid., p. 107-108.

[4]  . 157-159.

J C Ryle (1816 - 1900) [Various sources]
Posted: 27 Nov 2018