For some time now, I’ve worked, on and off, in my own modest way, on understanding the structure of a Bible book, in order to appreciate better its message and the meaning of a given passage. If context is meaning, and it is, this would seem to be an important task.

Before we can do the task of analysis, so the thought goes, we must see the whole picture, the synthesis. Continue reading

to whom does the writer speak?Are you talking to me? There are times when the wife talks to the dogs in another room of the house, and I think she’s talking to me. (No jokes now, you hear?) And two or three times now I’ve sent an email to the wife with some information (or a declaration of love) without noticing that my email service, which does an auto-complete on the name of the recipient, has sent it to a friend of ours with the same name. Fortunate for us that she is an old friend who’s not shocked by my mistakes.

In the same way, we must understand to whom Jesus speaks in John 13-16. Note this:

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me, and you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.
John 14:26-27 NET

In this block of teaching, Jesus is speaking mainly to the Twelve. His promises about the inspiration of the Holy Spirit are made to those who have been with him “from the beginning” of his ministry. This promise is not for all.

A basic rule for interpreting the Bible, and one of the most neglected, is to note who is speaking or writing and to whom one is speaking or writing. Any principle or truth gleaned from this passage must be a secondary application, and some things, like the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, do not apply to us today.

Be careful when you read the Bible. Maybe God is not talking to you.


The several interpretations of Scripture abounded no less in the past than in the present. Hence in his Millenial Harbinger, Alexander Campbell began his first article, “On the Laws of Interpretation,” with these words.

A more essential service, in our judgment, no man can render the present generation, than to call the attention of the readers of the Sacred Scriptures to the standard rules of interpretation. We are daily more deeply convinced that the confusion, ignorance, enthusiasm, and superstition of this generation are attributable more to false principles, or, perhaps, to the lack of all principles of interpretation, than to all other causes combined. Continue reading