Buried Treasure – Part 3 – “The Bible Proves Itself”

If you seek [Wisdom] as for silver and search for skillful and godly Wisdom as for hidden treasures (searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,) then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:4-5, Amplified/The Message)

“The Bible is full of contradictions,” a friend once told me. What followed was a great conversation about the Bible.

At first glance, the Bible does, at times, seem contradictory in places. How do you reconcile, “O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” with “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…Love your enemies…”?

Nowhere in the entire book of Esther is God mentioned. But that’s why there are 65 other books in our Bible. Esther was intended to be read and studied in light of “the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) The reformer, Martin Luther, argued that James should not be a part of our Bible due to its seeming over-emphasis on works. But, read James in light of Romans, Galatians & Ephesians and it begins to make sense.

Cult leaders, power-hungry megalomaniacs, Neo Nazi’s and the KKK all specialize in half-truths and Bible verses taken out of context. Never forget – almost anyone can pluck a Scripture out of the Bible and make a half-baked argument to the masses that their particular interpretation is right. This is what the Pharisees of Jesus’ time did best, reducing the Word of God to legalistic “cold demands of rule-ridden perfectionism,” which is why Jesus fired back at them with a public scolding: “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” And it’s exactly what Satan did when he tried to manipulate the Scriptures to tempt Jesus away from what Christ had come to earth to accomplish. (Matthew 4, Luke 4)

So, how can we be better equipped to detect a misuse of Scripture? Systematically study the Bible – all of it. The Reformer, John Calvin, said, “Scripture interprets Scripture.” David wrote, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding….” Take, for instance, the “unfolding” of Saul’s conversion experience. Recorded by Luke three separate times throughout the book of Acts , each time we’re given added insight to Paul’s story of meeting Christ.

Charles Hodge, the 18th century Princeton Theological Seminary professor, stated, “The best evidence of the Bible being the word of God is to be found between the covers. It proves itself.” Simply put, what you find to be true in one part of Scripture will be supported, tested and proven true throughout the rest of Scripture. “Every word of God proves true;…” (Proverbs 30:5)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Buried Treasure – Part 2 – Responsible Interpretation

If you seek [Wisdom] as for silver and search for skillful and godly Wisdom as for hidden treasures (searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,) then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:4-5, Amplified/The Message)

Theologian/author, R.C. Sproul, states, “If we can identify the author’s chief purposes as well as their intended audiences, this goes a long way in helping us understand their teaching with greater accuracy.” (This is part 2 of a 3-part series.)

Think about it – if, while rummaging around in their attic, a New England resident came across a letter written hundreds of years ago, would it not help give priceless insight if they knew who wrote it, to whom it was written, and for what purpose?

The basic principles of biblical interpretation are commonly called “Hermeneutics.” And it can be somewhat involved. But the basics pointed out above by Sproul are a wonderful place to start in realizing deeper insight as a result of a more comprehensive understanding of a given passage.

For instance, Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always!” carries deeper impact when you realize Paul was, himself, in prison solely as a result of his own faith when he wrote it. Equally, Peter’s triumphant words, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God…” makes even greater sense when you realize he was writing to believers who had recently been disenfranchised, ostracized and “scattered” because of their faith in Christ.

Interestingly, Matthew wrote his gospel account specifically to the Jews, explaining why you can find more references to the Old Testament in his account than in Mark’s, Luke’s and John’s. Based on Colossians 4:14, scholars believe that the gospel-writer, Luke, was a physician. So it makes sense that, only in Luke’s gospel account, are we told of Jesus’ bout with hematidrosis, a stress-induced phenomenon where tiny capillaries in our sweat-glands burst, mixing with our sweat, making our sweat look like blood. “And being in anguish, [Jesus] prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)

Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, “context” is vital. Anyone can cherry-pick various verses, take them out of their context, and make it mean whatever they want it to mean. Cult leaders are known for this. Systematic Theology (I address this subject at length is Part 3) is the discipline by which we learn to “interpret Scripture in light of Scripture.” In other words, God will never contradict Himself. Whatever we find in one part of His Word will be in agreement with the rest of Scripture. Context is vital. This is why Paul told the Ephesian elders, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27)

Most Study Bibles include excellent introductions to every book in the Bible addressing authorship, audience, and purpose.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Buried Treasure – Part 1 – “Lost in Translations”

If you seek [Wisdom] as for silver and search for skillful and godly Wisdom as for hidden treasures (searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,) then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:4-5, Amplified/The Message)

I want to offer a few tools that may, perhaps, prove helpful in digging for this buried treasure Solomon so richly describes in Proverbs 2. (This is Part 1 of a 3-part series).

A lot’s happened since King James authorized the 1611 version of the Bible. There was a day when Baskin-Robbins had only 31 flavors, and a person’s choice of biblical translations was fairly simple. But today, the choice of translations from which to choose more resembles the number of food choices offered at the buffet at Furr’s Cafeteria. But remember, there’s a vast difference between the nutritional value of baked chicken and pecan pie.

Within the arena of modern Bible translations there are two extremes: Formal Equivalence (essentially literal) and Dynamic Equivalence. Formal Equivalence is translated more “word for word,” and Dynamic Equivalence more “thought for thought.” Parenthetically, a literal word-for-word English translation would be extremely difficult to read since translating any foreign language requires interpretation in regard to nuance. (For something close, though, I’d recommend Young’s Literal Translation).

Examples of Formal Equivalent translations are our New American Standard, New King James, Holman Christian Standard, and the English Standard Version. Good examples of the Dynamic Equivalent translations are the New Living, Good News, and the J.B. Phillips New Testament .

The extremely popular New International Version is a solid middle-of-the-road translation. I love Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible, but rather than a literal translations, it is a paraphrase of the original languages. And one of my favorites, the Amplified Bible, actually attempts to go beyond the “word-for-word” concept of translation to bring out the richness of the Hebrew & Greek.

A responsible use of multiple translations can, at times, help communicate a point by employing wording one can better grasp. For instance, in Romans 12:19 (esv), Paul warns, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Here’s the same passage from Peterson’s Message Bible: “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Personally, I read from a number of translations regularly to help me better understand.

Bottom line, do your homework. Choose prayerfully. And start mining the Scriptures.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick