How the Puritans Read the Bible

Pages 31-40

Toward Christ
The Puritans had a strong sense that Christ was the focus of Scripture. He is to be found on every page, if not in every line. He was set forth in the Old Testament through ceremonies and prophecies, etc., and in the New directly by description. They were willing to read texts as types and allegories pointing to Christ.

Westminster rejected a multifold sense of Scripture (WCF 1.9) such as the medieval four-fold sense. We ought not seek an allegorical and moral point to every text. But there are plenty of texts that lend themselves (literally) to such an interpretation. If the literal sense leads us there, fine, but don't impose some system or allegory arbitrarily on the text. Yet, one text may have several applications, even a literal and spiritual sense. Song of Solomon is the best example of this. It is a love poem, but not merely that.

With Types
Many events and circumstances in the OT prefigure Christ in some way.  Unlike allegory, these are necessarily historical, factual, and more limited in scope of application.  Thomas Goodwin is quoted teasing out how Adam's fall in the garden of Eden is an anti-type (points ahead by negative example) to Christ: Adam would sweat, Jesus sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane; Adam would have thorns to deal with, Jesus gets a crown of thorns; Adam disobeyed in a garden, Jesus did much of His obedience in a garden.

as a Consistent Whole
The Bible doesn't contradict itself.  When there are several possible interpretations, they are limited by what other Scriptures say.  This is called the analogy of faith.  Interpretation should be guided by what the rest of Scripture says.  We know what was going on in Abraham's mind in Genesis 22, but not because THAT passage tells us (Hebrews 11:19).  We may not speculate that Abraham assumed God wouldn't really ask him to kill Isaac.  Beeke/Jones cite Goodwin as even allowing for two senses of Ephesians 1:5, given Romans 2:4-6.  Did God elect us for Christ or for Himself?  The "one sense of Scripture" rule (above, WCF 1.9) doesn't narrow interpretation so drastically that we must choose one or the other.  So there are times comparing Scripture with Scripture will expand a text's meaning.

Drawing out implications
Many things we infer from Scripture - they aren't directly stated.  Examples: infant baptism, or that women partake of Communion.

With the Spirit's Help
Since the Spirit inspired it, we ought to seek the author's guidance in understanding it.  "Reason was helpful, but it had its limits" (39).  God's works and words aren't unreasonable, but are often beyond our finding out.  We will not understand or accept God's Word without the Spirit's aid.

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