Threat to society
What does the Bible really say?
To correctly handle the Word of God we must . . .
1. take the common meaning of the word in the original language
(Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) at the time it was written
2. take the cultural context of the passage
3. don't take everything personally
4. take the broadest, most documented position
5. take it seriously
The Bible should be registered as a lethal weapon!
warns us "the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged
sword . . ."
That's why Paul warns us to "do your best to present
yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed
and who correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:14-19,
sword cannot only be spiritually deadly, but physically as well. For instance,
numerous atrocities including the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, as
well as child and wife abuse have been justified with biblical "proof
texts." And the majority of heresies, such as Jesus Christ not being
God or "name it and claim it," have developed from the incorrect
handling of Scripture.
To correctly handle the Word of God we must . . .
1. take the common meaning of the word in the original language
(Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) at the time it was written.
Words have multiple
meanings. Is "blue" a color? Is "blue" an emotional
state? Is "blue" a protective coating on a gun? Is "blue"
a word to describe laws that have become obsolete but are still in force?
Is "blue" a synonym for pornographic? The answer is "all
of the above."
Not only do words
have many meaning, they also change over time. If you don't believe it
try using "gay" for "happy" at the break room at work!
Twenty years ago it communicated something very different from today's
meaning. Since Scripture was written over a period of sixteen hundred years
two thousand years ago, we cannot assume that the meaning of the word in,
say, 1600 B.C. is the same as today.
An example is
the word translated "perfect" in "be perfect as your heavenly
Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). The Greek word can also mean "complete,"
which seems more realistic. We can have a sense of being complete
in God, without implying we can be as perfect as He is.
An example of
word meaning changing over the year is found in 1 Timothy 2:12. Paul appears
to prohibit women from having "authority." However, the common
usage of the word "authenteo" in Ephesus referred to "one who with his own hands kills another or himself,
one who acts on his own authority, autocratic, an absolute master
to govern, exercise dominion over." The word didn't have the positive meaning of "leadership"
until after AD 200!
don't have to be Hebrew and Greek experts to discover word meanings. (I
passed Greek 101 and 201 "magna cum grace"!) Commentaries
and many word study books are available at most religious book stores as well as online at GospelCom.net and StudyLight.org.
2. take the cultural context of the passage.
Let's look again
at Paul's prohibition against the Ephesus women teaching.
First, this was
probably an accommodation to the fact that women were uneducated and illiterate
during that time and place. (It would be a bit difficult to teach
when one couldn't read the Sunday school quarterly or Bible study guide!)
of the new converts in the church of Ephesus were former prostitutes from
the temple of Diana there. These women, probably recruited as young girls,
knew only one way to relate to men, so some time for their spiritual maturity
was essential before they took on any kind of church leadership. Paul is
not only accused by some as being sexist, but as a supporter of slavery.
His command to
"teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything" (Titus
2:9), is simply acknowledging the cultural "facts of life." Due
to the Roman conquests, it's possible that many in the early church were
slaves--and slave owners. This is why he commands slave masters to, "provide
your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also
have a Master in heaven (Colossians 4:1). Paul's attitude toward the continuance
of this practice is revealed in 1 Timothy 1:8-10, when he lumps "slave
traders" in with "the ungodly and sinful . . . murders . . .
adulterers . . . perverts . . . and liars." Not exactly condoning
and history books can provide the cultural context of difficult passages.
3 don't take everything personally.
"commands" do not apply to us. For instance the ceremonial and
sacrificial laws of the Old Testament, such as circumcision, diet, Sabbath
observance, etc., do not apply to Christians today.
canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and
that stood opposed to us . . . took it away, nailing it to the cross .
. . Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or
with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath
day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however,
is found in [Him]" (Colossians 2:14, 16-17).
The moral laws
such as the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and the command to "Love
the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all
your mind and with all your strength" and to "Love your neighbor
as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31) are still in force!
Also, some books,
such as Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are more like spiritual "journals"
rather than biblical theology, commands, promises, or principles. For instance,
what do we do with this verse: "A feast is made for laughter, and
wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything" (Ecclesiastes
10:19)? Do not try this at home! This is a "journal entry" from
a man who is searching to find meaning in all the "vanity" of
life. It is scripture, but it's not a "promise verse!"
That's why we
must . . .
4. take the broadest, most documented position.
One college professor
suggested we burn all our concordances. "If you have to look through
the entire Bible each time you want to prove something, you'll see what
God has to say, not just some verse to prove what you want
to say." He's right. With over twenty-three thousand verses to choose
from, you can find a verse to prove your point on almost any subject.
is important when it comes to the two specific prohibitions against women
in leadership (1 Corinthians 14:34-36, 1 Timothy 2:12). In contrast to
these two isolated passages, there are hundreds of verses describing Godly
women in administrative and teaching roles: Miriam (prophet--there is no
distinction between "prophets" and "prophetess" in
Hebrew Scripture), Deborah (prophet, judge, military leader), Esther (queen),
Hulda (prophet), Noadiah (prophet), Anna (prophet), Mary Magdalene, Joanna,
Susanna and "many others" (Christ's disciples), Mary Magdalene
(the first evangelist), the daughters of Philip (prophets), Priscilla (teacher),
Chloe (house church leader), Mary the mother of John (house church leader),
Lydia (house church leader), Nympha of Laodicea (house church leader),
Phoebe (deacon, not "deaconess" as translated in the KJV),
and Junia (an apostle).
two passages have been distorted by various groups as being "oppressive
to women," the general principle is found in his letter to
the Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave not free,
male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." What a radical
concept in a culture that viewed women as "property" of men!
And Paul's command for husbands to satisfy their wives sexual needs (1
Corinthians 7:3-5) was shocking even in the early 1900's! In several passages
Paul even commends women leaders in other churches!
But what do we
do with those two passages prohibiting women in leadership? At that
point in time (circa AD 50-60), place (Corinth and Ephesus)
and cultural setting (where women were unable to read), it was appropriate
to not allow women to teach.
But, the over-all
principle--throughout the Old and New Testament, is that women have
an equal opportunity to serve in whatever area God's Spirit has called
them (Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:17-18).
Here's a simple
test. If a "biblical teaching" doesn't square with "the
greatest commandment" to "love the Lord your God with all your
heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength"
and to "love your neighbor as yourself" it's not a command
for the church universal, but for a specific audience!
Finally . . .
5. take it seriously.
I believe carefully
analyzing Scripture does not show disrespect to God's Word, but is actually
exhibiting an even higher level of respect. I want to know accurately
what God actually wanted to convey to His followers--and to me.
And the better
we can understand scripture, the better we can apply it. James, never one
to mince words, commands, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so
deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but
does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror
and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he
looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives
freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but
doing it--he will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:22-25).
Copyright © 1996 James N. Watkins
Bible, Babel, and Babble: Foundations of Bible Translation
Keith Drury's excellent essay on accountability in applying Scripture
Ken Schenk's excellent book excerpts: Who decides what the Bible means?
Should a Christian Wear Purple Sweat Socks? How to decide what's right or wrong for you.
A couple days ago I had the opportunity to talk with a philosophy
student at a local university. One of the many topics that we talked
about dealt with the inspiration of the Bible.
We both had differing views on the Bible and how it was written. He
believes it was written by several human authors to convey God's
relationship with man from a human perspective with no divine
inspiration. I, on the other hand, believe that the Bible was written
by several human authors who were inspired and guided by the Holy
Spirit to write about how God has and continues to interact with humans.
What is your opinion on the inspiration of the Bible? How do you
think God interacted with the writers of the Bible?
I believe God divinely, miraculously inspired the writers to express His
truth through their own personalities and writing styles. For instance,
Luke sits down, does research, and apparently writes a few drafts (Luke
1:1-4). Paul, on the other hand, is pacing back and forth dictating to a
scribe who is trying to keep up with him--thus the run-on sentences and
writing that Peter admits is "hard to understand" (2 Peter 3:16). I
believe both were inspired and contain God's truth--but both were written
with an entirely different approach and style.
There is too much consistency (40 authors over 1,600 years) and fulfilled
prophecies (hundreds) to have been written "with no divine inspiration."
I don't believe God dictated it word for word. I don't believe every
line is God's truth (Ecclesiastes is a man's spiritual journal, not a
theology text. How else can you explain Ecclesiastes 10:19?!) I don't
believe everything that made it into today's Bibles should have (for
instance, the Apocrypha, and Mark 15:9-19's support of snake handling is
not found in the most reliable manuscripts).
I do, however, believe that the Bible is divinely, miraculously inspired
while being written in the style and personality of the human authors,
and does contain everything needed to know and practice to establish a
love relationship with God and lead a holy life.
Do you think he
still communicates with us that way today? email@example.com (October 2006)
John 16 implies that, through the Holy Spirit, God will continue to guide
us into His truth and how to apply it, but I don't believe any new truth
(new doctrines, new commands, anything contradictory to the canonical
books, etc.) are being inspired today.
Click here for some thoughts on how I believe God "speaks" to us today.
Thanks for your article on interpreting the Bible. Thought you might be interested that on July 22, 2004, the Lycos 50 reported:
So what are the most consistent searches on Lycos? We took a list of the top 100 searches of the year, so far, and calculated the standard deviation of each term's search total from the mean over the past seven months. The result shows us the most consistently popular searches on Lycos, as well as searches that peaked far higher than their normal level.
Here are the terms in the top 100 that have been most consistently searched, from week to week, during 2004:
1) The Bible,
2) Paris Hilton,
4) Clay Aiken,
5) Pam Anderson,
6) Sailor Moon,
7) Britney Spears,
8) Carmen Electra,
9) Weight Watchers,
11) Weight Watchers,
12) Final Fantasy,
13) Atkins Diet,
15) Christina Aguilera,
16) Jessica Simpson,
17) Las Vegas,
20) Harry Potter
Not sure why Weight Watchers is at 9, 11, and 14, but is nice to know that the Bible beats Paris and Britney! firstname.lastname@example.org (July 2004)
Perhaps you have addressed this subject before. My son said there was a program on the History Channel yesterday on "the Bible codes". He is worrying himself to death over this type of information as he has two small children and is very concerned on them having the best and fullest life. I didn't see the program and have a definite problem believing that a "code" exists. I am very interested on your "take" on this subject. Thank you and as always I love your site. email@example.com September 2003
The Apologetics Index site has a long list of links to reliable sources that completely debunk "The Bible Code." I put The Bible Code in the same category as the Nostradamus nonsense.
I just read your idea of what the bible really says. You certainly have no idea, but you will do anything for money in this life, but you can't take it with you. Not that it matters where you are most likely to go unless you do "works" worthy of repentance. You have no idea what God's system is all about and the judgments people will suffer who do as you and Balaam do, add to the word of the Lord God. Or the blessings of obeying God's covenant instead of adding or subtracting from God's w ord. Look on your back. Perhaps you are Balaam's ass, or donkey as you call it, and maybe this warning will cause you to turn aside to avoid death by the Lord's Angel!
firstname.lastname@example.org (June 20, 2000)
I do appreciate your concern for me. Thanks! I am, however, concerned that your letter doesn't seem to reflect Christ's command that "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35, KJV) and Paul's admonition to "Let your speech be alway with grace . . ." (Colossians 4:6, KJV). May we both work to be more "conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29, KJV).
Jim, I truly enjoy reading your site. I agree with you most of the time (can't make everybody happy all the time). I especially enjoy your position on the Bible. I do have one question, however. Which Bible do you read. I am a staunce supporter of the Authorized Version of the 1611 King James. I believe with every fiber of my mortal being that the King James Version is the ONLY word of God for the English speaking people. email@example.com (February 26, 1999).
Steve, I wish I could say the original Greek is my favorite verson, but I nearly flunked the four semesters of Greek I took. The New American Standard Version--in my fallible opinion--is as close to the original Greek as I've found.
On a local forum at www.tunkhannock.com there has been
sort of a religious vs non-religion debate between 2
posters. Someone interjected that "Guide to the Bible"
Isaac Asimov should be read to help one realize how the
Bible has been "bastardized". (their words.) I have
of various Kings (ie Constantine) taking things out of
Bible because he didn't agree with them (reincarnation)
and would appreciate your opinion on how much of the
may be altered to reflect later man's view and not the
views of the writers of the time.'' Is Asimov a
source or just another opinion? Thank you. firstname.lastname@example.org (March 2004)
You can read excerpts from Asimov's book at amazon.com.
In the short section he presents the typical "higher
criticism" of the Bible writing that the first five books
were not writTen by Moses but compiled by editors "P" "J"
and "E" (for the names of God used).
He makes the claim that Genesis supports the polytheism
(many gods) of that culture and the the Sabbath is
actually a Babylonian observance.
So, in the five or so pages I read, Asimov is certainly
not a reliable source for those who hold the Bible up as a
divine, supernatural work--rather than simply the creation
I much prefer Lee Strobel's books, particularly A Case For Faith. There are
also some insightful articles on the Bible's reliability at ApologeticsIndex.org. And here's a concise article The Bible: Human or Divine by Hank Hanegraaff.
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