Sunday Word of the week: Perspicuity (of scripture)

By Elizabeth Prata

The thread of Christianity depends on a unity from one generation to the next of mutual understanding of our important words. Hence the Word of the Week.

Do we need "Bible codes"? Is scripture unclear enough so that only a few, more knowing, can understand it? It is too much to expect that the layman study it?

No. No. And no.

The perspicuity of scripture means that the Bible can be understood by anyone. The Holy Spirit illuminates it to us. For the most part, scripture is clear, if one studies it properly (and is saved, "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing" 2 Corinthians 4:3, also 2 Corinthians 3:14).

Yes, Peter said that Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand, (2 Peter 3:16), but scripture itself can be understood clearly, without codes, mystics, or pretzel logic.

Larry D. Pettegrew
Professor of Theology

The basic doctrine means that the Bible can be understood by people through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and that people need to search the Scripture and judge for themselves what it means. Scripture itself attests its own perspicuity, but not to the point that it cannot be misunderstood or is in every point equally simple and clear. The doctrine does not rule out the need for interpretation, explanation, and exposition of the Bible by qualified leaders. 
The doctrine does mean that Scripture is clear enough for the simplest person, deep enough for highly qualified readers, clear in its essential matters, obscure in some places to people because of their sinfulness, understandable through ordinary means, understandable by an unsaved person on an external level, understandable in its significance by a saved person through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and available to every believer whose faith must rest on the Scriptures.

Further reading

Grace to You: The Clarity of Scripture part 1

Ligonier: The Clarity of Scripture


  1. I think that Luke 1:1-4 is a relevant passage to the perspicuity of Scripture.


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