Thursday, February 23, 2017

31 - The Perfect Bible?

Pictures in this post are from
The Bible

Before we start our study of the New Testament it is important to first lay the foundation by stating my stance on how a person might view the place and authority of the Bible. We will take two posts to do that.

Many years ago, when I was a student in Bible college, I was young enough and foolish enough to believe that everything the teachers told us must be true because they could always verify their statements with Bible verses.  What I did not realise is that, by taking Bible phrases out of context, any teaching can be substantiated by the Bible. 

It was not until after I graduated that I realised that. Then I started doing my own studies and my own thinking about what the Bible teaches.

The Bible claims that God inspired the Bible, but saying the Bible is inspired is not the same thing as saying that the Bible is perfect.  The Roman Catholic Church does not claim infallibility for the Bible; that doctrine came with the Reformation.  Until about 50 years ago many Bible teachers taught that the Bible is word perfect, some even believe it in our day. They insist that it says exactly what God wants it to say.  In the last number of years, Bible teachers have come a long way from that stance. 

The King James Version

 If one insists that the Bible is word perfect one must, of course, decide which translation is the perfect one.  For many years, countless people insisted that the King James Version was the only Bible that was word perfect.  If that is true, it would go without saying that, only after James was crowned king of England, did the world have a perfect Bible and even so the perfect Bible was available only to English speaking people!                                                                                                                                                                                               

How could any version of the Bible be verbatim the Word of God?  Every translation is different, in words and meaning than the writings were when the Bible was first assembled. 

However, this fact certainly does not mean that we shouldn't use the Bible as our guide and instructor.

An Old Bible

The Bible has served society well over the centuries

Lately, there has been a whole horde of new translations, and what is so upsetting about that fact is that the translators add their own theological bent to certain Bible portions. 

Surely, people have a right to their beliefs and opinions but it is absolutely wrong for anyone to rewrite the Bible so that it will foster their own theological viewpoint. For now, one example will suffice to make my point.
Back in the fourth century, when the doctrine of the trinity was being heatedly debated, Jerome was translating the Greek Bible into the Douay translation and without any scriptural backup he added words to 1 John 5:7.  The words he added clearly support the doctrine of the trinity.  His plan was to, finally, end the debate about the trinity.  This kind of gimmickry has been going on a lot, especially in some of the newer translations.  I will point out some of them in our studies.

Muslims believe that if the Koran is translated from the Arabian, in which it was first written, it ceases to be "the word of Allah".  In this matter, the Christian church might do well to learn from them.  It seems as if in Christendom every man and his neighbour feels free to take it upon themselves to translate the Bible, to add their own opinions to the "holy text" and still call it the sacred scriptures.

The Bible makes the claim for itself that holy man of God who were moved by the holy spirit, wrote it.  That statement, of course, does not say that the Bible is absolutely without error.  It says only that Jehovah did His part in making the Bible; when we consider that the other part was done by humans it is easy to believe that the Bible, most likely, is not perfect.

Honest, upright people, who were interested in sharing their history, cultural leanings and spiritual insights with their fellow countrymen, wrote it!  At the time they were writing, they had no idea that someday their writings would be thought of as “holy books".

It is easy to believe that sometimes they inserted "facts" or ideas which, to them seemed to be relevant, but which had little to do with the history that they were writing or the things that we consider to have spiritual implications. 

Here is an illuminating statement; the recording of history with literal exactness of detail is a fairly modern development. At the time when the Bible was being written, precise fact was far less important than the spiritual message of the stories shared. Jesus and His Times published by the Readers Digest

Surely, the inspiration of the Bible was an act of God, or, is it more accurate to say, "God still inspires the Bible"?  It is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness." 2 Timothy 3:16

Let's not force it into a man-made mold.  The Word of God is not our servant so that the Bible’s teachings have to fit into the boxes we have built for our own ideas! 

The Bible does not need to fit our theology, our theology, regardless of what we like to believe, must fit the Bible!  When once we set the Bible free from our tenacious grasp we will find that it all makes a lot more sense.

The next post will continue this topic.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

30 - Re-Introducing "Think Again"


I was gone, now I'm not

If you look back, way, way back into your past, when you were still younger than you are now, look back to just before Christmas of 2016. If you were following my blog, you may recall that I closed the blog called "Spaceship theology". 

I suggested then that I might start a new blog to study the New Testament as we had studied the Old Testament.  Well, here I am again!  However, rather than starting a new blog I have decided to resurrect my first blog, which is called, THINK AGAIN, and which was closed in July 2012. 

As in our study of the Old Testament, we did not touch on every story or even attempt to analyse every doctrine; that is the same format we will continue with here.   Just as in my other blog I use red for Bible quotations; blue for quotations from other works and purple for those times I put words into people's mouths.  Unless otherwise stated I use the Modern King James Version.

In 2012, in the first 29 posts of this blog, we looked at various doctrines held by the Protestant church at large. It became apparent that many of the doctrines accepted by numerous churches, in fact, do not agree with what the Bible actually says about the subject.

The Bible as the Center Piece

What an individual chooses to believe is certainly his or her choice but it seems to me that every person that chooses to believe something, should, at the very least, know that what he or she believes is supported by the book he or she has chosen to follow.

By way of introduction to this section of the blog, we will review a few previous posts from this blog.

Picture the New Testament as a bookshelf with four shelves. 

Some would have it with 5 shelves.  In doing that they have the first four books, "the Gospels", on one shelf and one book, "the Acts of the Apostles", on the second shelf.  I see it as though they belong together because all 5 books are historical.

  1. 5 books of History. 
  2. 13 books by Paul. 
  3. 8 books called, "General Epistles". 
  4. 1 book which is, Prophecy. 
5+13+8+1=27, the number of books in the New Testament.

Most Bible students put 14 books into Paul's writings and only 7 into General Epistles.  However, I think that perhaps Dr Luke, and not Paul, wrote the Book of Hebrews, and so I place the Book of Hebrews with the General Epistles.  As early as the third century AD there already was a debate about this issue.

1. On the first shelf, we find the books of History.
  • Matthew 
  • Mark 
  • Luke - all three tell the story of Christ while He lived on earth.
  • John - focuses on the teachings and spiritual impact of Christ.
  • Acts - (of the Apostles) - reports the history of the early church.

Acrostics help to memorise the order of the books. Here is an acrostic.: 
Mother Mary Likes Juicy Apples

2. On the second shelf, we find the letters of Paul; this shelf is divided into two sections. Nine letters to churches, and four letters to people whom Paul knew:

As the name implies, each of these books is a letter written to the people whose name it bears:
  • Romans - to the church at Rome in Italy
  • Corinthians, 1st and 2nd - Two letters to the church at Corinth in Greece
  • Galatians - A letter to the church at Galatia
  • Ephesians - A letter to the church at Ephesus
  • Philippians - A letter to the church at Philippi
  • Colossians - A letter to the church at Colossae
  • Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd - Two letters to the church at Thessalonica
Acrostic: Real Christian Generosity Emphasises Personal Commitment Throughout.

The following four letters were written by Paul to people who needed some guidance from a more mature person.

  • Timothy, 1st - Timothy was a young pastor, and Paul sent him some advice as to how to lead a church.
  • Timothy, 2nd - general guidelines about a preacher's lifestyle.
  • Titus - Similar information for Titus.
  • Philemon - Was the owner of a slave who had run away and Paul gave Philemon some advice.
Acrostic: Tony The Tiger Perspires

3. On the third shelf we find "The General Epistles"

  • Hebrews - to Jewish Christians who were not clear about the value of Christ's death
  • James - Martin Luther, erroneously, called this "a letter of straw"
  • 1st Peter - If we really are Christians our lifestyle will show it by our mild demeanour
  • 2nd Peter - Speaks of life on earth just before the return of Christ
  • 1st John - Christians must have genuine love one for another.
  • 2nd John - Avoid false teachers and
  • 3rd John - hold to that which is upright
  • Jude - Probably written by the brother of Jesus Christ.  Mostly a repeat of 2nd Peter.
Acrostic: However, Just Peter Joined Jude.

4. The Revelation - The book of prophecy: Things that were still future to Saint John.  This book is often called "The Revelations".  That is absolutely wrong because there is only one revelation; it is a revelation of Jesus, The Lamb of God.

It is also often called, "The Revelation of Saint John the Divine".  If one is going to call it by that name the word "of", must at least be changed to "written by" and the word divine would only mean, "a notable person".