Timothy S. Morton
There is considerable confusion among Bible Believers about what is a true Bible fact. In the past few years some believers have begin calling doctrines that are unproven actual "facts." One such prominent doctrine is called the "Gap Fact," referring to the alleged gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Even though this doctrine is not explicitly stated in Scripture and is in fact an inferred belief based upon other inferred beliefs, many of its proponents still insist on calling it a "fact."
In this study we will look into the matter of how to determine true Bible facts and show how explicit or direct statements take priority over implicit statements or inferred beliefs. We will also look the relationship between the linguistic terms "imply" and "infer." We will use a couple claims of those who promote the Genesis Gap doctrine as an example.
The word "explicit" refers to a clear and direct statement. It does not leave any room for doubt. "Implicit" is just the opposite. It refers to an indirect statement which can be vague or unclear. Here are a couple examples.
Suppose a man is holding a knife and says, "I'm going to stab you with this knife." That is an explicit and direct statement. It clearly says what is going to happen. (Whether it actually happens is irrelevant. What matters is the statement explicitly says it will happen.)
Now suppose instead the man says in a menacing manner while holding a knife, "It would be a shame if something happens to you." This is an implicit statement. It indirectly states something which may be unclear. In this case it could be inferred something bad may happen to the person by the man with the knife. It is easy to see how the implicit statement can be ambiguous. Only the speaker knows for sure what he means.
"Imply" and "infer" are actually opposites. To imply something means for the speaker or writer to hint or suggest something without explicitly stating it, as demonstrated above. To infer means for the hearer to suppose or guess the meaning of what was said or written. Imply refers to the words of the speaker; infer refers to the conclusions of hearer. Here is an another example of both.
Suppose a man and his girlfriend are standing at the entrance of a football stadium and the man turns to the woman in front of everybody and says, "Will you walk down the isle with me?" The girlfriend overcome with emotion says in tears, "Yes, yes, I will marry you!" But the problem is the man was only implying they walk down the isle to their seats to watch the game! However, the woman inferred from his words he meant walk down the isle at a church to get married! See the confusion and uncertainty implied statements and inferred beliefs can bring? The man knew what he was implying with his statement, but the woman inferred it all wrong.
There are some classic examples of explicit and inferred statements in the Bible. The first deals with something the Lord said,
Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? (John 21:22-23)
The "brethren" wrongly inferred from the Lord's words Peter would not die, but Peter corrects them by reminding everyone that it was a conditional statement that started with "If I will...." Unfortunately, this is not the last time believers have read unintended meaning into the Lord's statements. It is rampant today. Most likely one reason this rather peculiar detail in Peter's life was recorded in the Scriptures was to show later Bible readers like us how not to read things into the Lord's words!
For an example of someone NOT heeding an explicit statement from the Lord, there are many in the Scriptures. One of the more well know is the refusal of Saul to follow the explicit order given him by Samuel to destroy Amalek,
Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (1Sa 15:3)
Saul heard the explicit words but did not treat them as such. He assumed it would be suitable to spare the best for sacrifice (1Sa 15:15). The Lord disagreed,
"Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments...." (1Sa 15:10-11)
Saul treated an explicit statement as implicit and inferred it would be alright to do what he did. He even said, "I have performed the commandment of the LORD." He didn't, and it cost him dearly (1Sa 15:23).
There is always a price to pay when someone ignores, dismisses, or defies an explicit truth found in the Scriptures.
Suppose you are on the jury at a trial of a man accused of stabbing another man with a knife. There are ten witnesses to events concerning the accused and each witness is telling the truth as he knows it. One witness states he may have seen the accused at the other side of town when the crime was committed. Another says he knows the accused does not own a knife. A third says he does not believe the accused is physically capable of stabbing the victim. The next six witnesses gave similar testimony stating why they didn't think the accused could have committed the crime, but then it was time for the last witness to speak.
The final witness takes the stand and states unequivocally that he saw the accused stab the victim with the victim's own knife.Now, what is the actual fact? What really happened? Nine witnesses tell why they think the accused did not commit the crime and one witness says that he certainly did. Remember, all are telling the truth, just like every word in the Bible is true, and no witness can contradict the other, just like the Bible doesn't truly contradict itself. The answer is obvious. The witness who saw the explicit act overrules all the other implicit inferences, implications, and speculation. It makes no difference if the ratio of evidence is nine to one or ninety-nine to one, explicit statements always take precedence.
In view of what we have learned about imply, infer, explicit, and implicit, lets consider some basic rules of understanding that will help us determine Bible facts from mere theory and speculation.
To see similar principles in use dealing with the Trinity, see This Page.
Now let's use these basic and well established principles to examine some key claims some make about creation. First, we need to understand the fact that God created everything,
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (Col 1:16)
This correlates with Genesis chapter 1 where it says God created the heaven (Gen 1:1), earth (Gen 1:1), light (Gen 1:3), darkness (Gen 1:2, 5; Isa 45:7), plants (Gen 1:11), animals (Gen 1:24), man (Gen 1:26), the host (inhabitants) of heaven (Gen 2:1), and then says God finished His creating at the end of the sixth day. (Gen 1:31)
These are all explicit statements and thus indisputable Bible facts to a Bible Believer.
Now consider another statement God made in the same immediate context about His creation.
"And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day." (Gen 1:31)
This is an explicit statement made within the immediate scope and context of all God's creation activities. Now notice the clear and straightforward conclusions of fact one can derive from this and the previous facts, heaven, earth, light, darkness, plants, animals, man, and the host of heaven are all "very good."
There is no hint of corruption, judgment, or negativity in all creation. There is no devil, no curse, no judgment, and no sin or even the remnants of sin. "Every thing" is deemed to be "very good" by the holy and righteous creator in heaven.
This simple, explicit statement as it stands, which can be understood by a grade school child, decimates the claim Lucifer was cast down and the world destroyed before Gen 1.2. If there was a fallen Devil and his evil hoard anywhere in heaven or earth then the Lord could not call "every thing" he made "very good." If darkness envelopes the universe as a result of sin and judgment, how could God look upon it and call it "very good." Anyone who claims Lucifer and others fell into sin during a "Genesis Gap" have the burden to explicitly prove how to reconcile this clear verse to their doctrine. To mitigate the meaning in any way they must produce explicit Bible statements that limit the scope of the context or the words. See our article, The Verse That Decimates The Gap Theory, which examines essentially all possible methods to do this and shows how all fail.
Understanding how the Bible uses explicit and implicit statements is critical to sound Bible study and determining true Bible facts. Below is an example taken from our book The Genesis Gap Sidetrack giving examples of explicit truth, strongly indicated evidence, and weakly indicated supposition.
With written words, to prove something that's being alleged usually requires an explicit statement of fact or very highly implicit circumstantial statements. Take Satan, for instance. The Bible explicitly states that Satan exists and is also known as the Devil (Rev 12:9, 20:2, 7, etc.), but it only implicitly states that he is the "god" or "prince of this world" (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; 2Co 4:4). However, that Satan is the "god of this world" is very strongly implied because of other circumstantial verses that link him to the world (Mat 4:8, Luke 4:5; Rev 12:9), plus the context the passages are found in. The evidence is so strong that it is almost universally agreed that Satan is this "god" and "prince." It would be fair to say that in a court of law this determination would hold true.
On the other hand, concerning Lucifer, there is no passage that states or even implies that Satan is (or was) Lucifer by name. The passages in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 which are often linked with Satan only suggest he is/was Lucifer because some of the statements cannot literally apply to a human being, and Satan is the only being many reasonable people surmise they could apply to. However, one can also make a reasonable case that the passages do NOT apply to Satan. As a consequence the inferrence that Satan is/was Lucifer is much weaker than the belief he is the "god of this world."
Obviously, the only claim mentioned above that can be considered a proven fact is the explicit statements saying Satan is also the Devil and Serpent. That he also is a god and prince of this world cannot be conclusively proven even though the evidence is very strong. The claim Satan is also Lucifer has some circumstantial evidence, but it is considerably weaker. These various levels of expression must be considered when determining what the Bible actually says about any subject.
From what we have examined so far some may get the impression that inferred doctrine from implicit statements may not be legitimate Bible doctrine, but that is not the case. There are several doctrines held by many that are based on inferred beliefs. For instance, the Pre-Tribulation rapture is one.
That a rapture (or catching up, 1Th 4:12-18, 1Co 15:52) is explicitly described in the Scriptures is acknowledged by nearly all. However, the time this rapture occurs in God's scheme of end-time events is not explicitly stated. One reason the Pre-Tribulation rapture is strongly inferred because the Tribulation period is a time of God's wrath and the New Testament Church is "not appointed to wrath" (1Th 5:9).
Nevertheless, even though a doctrine may have strong yet implicit evidence to support it (as the Pre-Tribulation rapture), that still does not mean it is a proven fact. Because of the very nature of inference no doctrine based solely upon it can be considered indisputable fact, but with sufficient evidence it can be considered a valid doctrine.
When a believer makes a claim of fact for a doctrine the Bible does not explicitly state, he opens himself, his Bible, and his Savior to ridicule and reproach. Actually, he is misrepresenting or even bearing false witness of the Scriptures by insisting they are saying something they actually do not. It is our duty as believers and ambassadors for Christ to represent Him faithfully and truthfully, especially with the Scriptures. Since the Lord magnified His word even above his own name (Psa 138:2), we would do well to be careful how we treat it.