Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Studying The Scriptures IV

We can be sure the scriptures can be trusted because they were written by man as God directed them to write, according to II Peter 1:19-21.  “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

The scriptures were written in ancient forms of Hebrew and Greek, languages most people do not speak.  As a result it is necessary to have them translated into languages people understand today.    Unfortunately, there are no languages which translate word for word into another language.  Words may have similar but slightly different meanings, or the organization of thoughts differs from language to language.  In addition languages change to meet the needs of the people, so that Old English is a great deal different than modern English and American English is different than British English.   As a result, each translation, and each language change introduces potential confusion as to what the scriptures actually meant. 

God was aware that the problem would arise, and II Peter makes the point that because all the writers were directed by God, no passage can be interpreted independently of the rest of the scriptures.  This allows us to test our understanding of the passage to se whether we are interpreting it correctly or not.  Let’s look at a common example. 

There are many who believe baptism is essential for salvation, quoting Mark 16:16,,”as proof that their interpretation is accurate.  Numerous passages such as John 3:14-18, John 3:36, Romans 10:9-13, Ephesians 2:8-9, etc., indicate that one can be saved simply as a result of believing in Christ.  If Baptism is required, then of necessity, all the other verses are incorrect, and the Bible cannot be trusted.  If the verses about simply believing are correct, however, Mark 16:16 can also be true because the person has believed and being baptized will not change that.  Quite simply, if one’s interpretation of a verse or passage conflicts with other verses or passages, the interpretation is incorrect, regardless how many may believe it. 

No translation of the scripture is perfect, but understanding this principle can enable us to identify and correct the flaw in our teaching.  While the quality of different translations varies, we no longer have to worry about whether the one we are using has flaws and can avoid many of the conflicts we have seen in America over which translation is used.  It does require that we be willing to spend the effort to study and compare the scriptures to be sure of our interpretation, however.

Many of the conflicts and false doctrines in modern churches are the result of teachers who are too lazy to do the necessary studying.  Instead they focus on their interpretation and if another translation quotes the verse somewhat differently, declare that translation unacceptable.    At the same time, it important to remember that there will be less confusion if everyone in a service is using the same version of the scripture, and God is not author of confusion.  That does not mean we cannot use other versions in personal Bible study.  

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