We do not all perceive the world in the same way. Perception is understanding what we see, or comprehending what we see. Perceiving is more than seeing with the eye. It is grasping the truth of what is being considered.
When we consider the Scriptures we perceive them through our understandings, but our understandings may be limited by our lack of knowledge. What if we have never seen or heard of swine? How could we possibly imagine what sort of creatures they are? We would know nothing about them, and yet the Scriptures mention swine sixteen times. Leviticus and Deuteronomy define them as unclean animals that should not be eaten (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8). Even so, there are people in parts of the world who do not have the word ‘swine’ in their vocabulary. They have never seen or heard of them, and so for them to understand what is meant by ‘unclean’ must be a very difficult concept to grasp. Their perception is governed by what knowledge they have . This it true for all of us.
Perceiving the Bible
If we apply this reasoning to gaining a right perception of the Bible, we really would be wise to extend our *knowledge of the historical settings of the various books of the Bible. We need to be informed of the culture of the times when the books were written. A broad view of history over the timespan of the writing of the Bible will help us put things into perspective. A true perspective will place actions and events in the right settings and in the right chronological order.
The Bible’s focus is centred on one major theme – God’s plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). God created the world as a temporary abode for mankind, from whom He would choose (Matthew 24:22-30) a **people for Himself as a heritage (Joel 3:2; Micah 7:18). This heritage, His people, would love and adore Him forever. They would also love one another (John 13:34). Ultimately all of them will live with Jesus and His Father in a new and perfect world (Revelation 21:22-27) where they will be in Him (John 14:20; 15:1-8) and like Him.
So, this is the picture, the overall view of what the Scriptures are about. We are fortunate in our age; for we can look back and see things in perspective. We have the revelation of Jesus. He came to the earth and showed us God. He was and is God (John 8:14-19), the second Person of the Trinity. John testifies of Him thus: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:11).’ ‘And of His fulness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:16, 17).’ What a blessing this is!
The Shaping of Our Perceptions
We perceive the Scriptures in light of our knowledge, not just our knowledge of what is contained within the covers of the Bible, but our knowledge of the world and the universe as we see them and understand them. We cannot escape from our personal experiences that have shaped our understanding. We live in an age when scientists, mathematicians and astronomers have advanced their knowledge and technologies. Astronauts venture into space, and satellites and probes travel to the furthest edges of our galaxy. Astronomers have discovered black holes; indeed, they have made images of them by coordinating multiple telescopes in different parts of the world, proving they exist.
We perceive and understand the Bible within this context. The Bible does not change. God’s word does not change (cf. Matthew 5:18), and God does not change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 1:12). What He has decreed will take place. He is the Sovereign LORD who made the universe (Genesis 1:31-2:2). He preordained and predestined (Romans 8:29, 30) all things, and nothing will prevail against Him (cf. Matthew 16:18).
Living in our times is a special privilege because our perception of the world, i.e., our understanding of what we know about it is so much greater than previous generations. We have the advantage of being able to see films and videos made from space. We can get an astronaut’s view of God’s beautiful planet. Deep diving submersibles can take us to the lowest depths of the oceans where we can see fabulous and incredible creatures we didn’t know existed. We know of the wonders of genetics, biochemistry, and of the intricate workings of multitudes of organisms.
We have this privilege of perceiving God’s awesome creation. The more we learn, the more we comprehend His glory, adore and love Him. But some say that science and man’s knowledge of the universe proves the Scriptures are wrong. God could not possibly have created the world in six days (Genesis 1:1-2:2). The universe is more than thirteen billion years old, they say. It was created by the Big Bang. Those who have this view lack understanding of God’s Word. They do not perceive it through faith. They are incapable of perceiving the Scriptures through eyes of faith as those who have been enlivened by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). They have not received the Spirit who is from God (1 Corinthians 2:12), and because of this they cannot comprehend things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). They do not have ‘the mind of Christ (V 16).’
*Knowledge and Wisdom
**Biblical Perspective – God’s People