How To Study The Bible #3
Get The Whole Truth
By Jody L. Apple
Learning how to study the Bible does not need to be difficult.
We have learned two basic principles that are fairly simple: read
to learn (know), and develop an intense desire to discover the
We will now focus on a third principle that is just as basic.
Reading is necessary to understand the meaning of scripture and,
as we have noted, it must be reading with the goal of gaining
knowledge. But, there exists an additional dimension to this principle
of reading: We must read all that the scriptures have to
say about a subject in order to have a complete understanding
of that subject. We must, in essence, get the whole truth.
Not Just Headline News
As you might suspect, this principle is one that we understand
and respect in areas of study outside the Bible. No one assumes
that a newspaper headline conveys all of the truth contained in
the article that follows it. The headline, while grabbing your
attention and certainly functioning as a memorable part of the
story is just that - only a part of the story. Likewise, when
you read a passage in the Bible, it is important to keep in mind
that it is only part of the story.
Consider the first verse in the Bible, Genesis 1:1, which states:
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
What is taught concerning the creation of the physical world in
this passage is true, but it is certainly not all that the Bible
has to say about the subject. There is so much more to be understood.
To illustrate this note: (1) Psalm 33:6-9 informs us that God
created and sustains the world by His word; (2) Hebrews 11:3 teaches
us that God made the creation out of nothing; and (3) John 1:1-3,
Colossians 1:15-17 and Hebrews 1:2 instruct us that Christ played
a role in the creation. These three corollary thoughts to creation
are not exhaustive either; to be complete we would have to survey
all of the Bible and glean every passage that relates to the topic.
Only then would we be able to say that we have fairly represented
what the Bible teaches about creation.
The Whole Truth: An Example
To further impress upon you just how important this principle
is, consider this lengthier Bible account. On the night that he
was betrayed, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane. All four
of the "gospels" refer to the events of this night,
and it is by examining the totality of their teaching that we
demonstrate the importance of getting the whole truth.
When we examine the events of this night, as Mark 14:47 states,
we note: "And one of those who stood by drew his sword and
struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear."
If you were teaching somebody about the events that took place
on this occasion, and you referred to this passage, you would
be examining a passage that taught the truth, but you would not
be examining all that the Bible teaches about the subject.
In addition to studying Mark's account, we must note what else
the Bible says about this subject. Matthew says: "And suddenly,
one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew
his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off
his ear." (Matthew 26:51) Mark's account told us: (1) someone
near Jesus drew a sword and (2) that person hit a servant of the
high priest with the sword, thus cutting off his ear. Matthew
adds the following information: (1) The person standing nearby
was "with Jesus" and (2) he used "his sword"
(as opposed to someone else's) to cut off the ear of the high
priest's servant (KJV in Mark simply says "drew a sword,"
but other translations say "drew his sword.")
Upon closer examination, we learn that this is still not all of
the truth. Luke states: "When those around Him saw what was
going to happen, they said to Him, 'Lord, shall we strike with
the sword?' And one of them struck the servant of the high priest
and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, 'Permit
even this.' And He touched this ear and healed him" (Luke
22:49-51). From Luke we learn: (1) Those with Jesus first asked
about using swords. (2) It was the right ear of the high priest's
servant that was cut off. (3) Jesus said "Permit even this."
And, (4) Jesus touched the ear of the servant and healed him.
Had we consulted only Mark or Matthew, or even both, we would
have missed this additional information. Only Luke presents it.
To have ignored what Luke said would be tantamount to studying
only part of the truth.
There exists one more account of this event. John informs us:
"Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the
high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's
name was Malchus. . . . One of the servants of the high priest,
a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, 'Did I not see
you in the garden with Him?'" (John 18:10, 26).
From this passage we learn: (1) It was Simon Peter who drew his
sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. (2) The
servant was Malchus. And, (3) one of Malchus' relatives was present
at the time of the incident.
Though each of the four accounts presented the truth, no single
account presented all of the truth. We learned all of the truth
when we studied all of the evidence. Everything that we learned
up to that point was true, but it was only part of the truth.
The lesson is clear. We must study all of the Bible's teaching
on a subject before we claim to know the truth. This principle
applies to everything the Bible teaches. If we only study some
of what the Bible says about a topic, then it is possible that
we will have overlooked some passage that would shed more light
on our study. Such is the case with the example given about the
events that took place in the garden of Gethsemane on the night
that Jesus was betrayed, and such is the case with all Bible subjects.
Before we can know all about the Bible - we must be willing to
study all of the Bible.
Read to learn. Study with great desire. Read all you can.