Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Interpreting the Bible – A Class and a Text

The Horizons Bible Study, In the Beginning, shows why it is so important for the people in our churches to have a good grasp on scripture and its interpretation. Unfortunately, many people in the PCUSA are functionally biblically illiterate. To be sure, they love the Lord Jesus; however, their understanding of scripture is quite limited.

When Evergreen Presbyterian Church became a Purpose Driven Presbyterian Church we made some commitments to our congregation. Part of the commitment is that we would provide classes/learning situations that would assist a person as they grow in their faith and become a disciple of Jesus. A bedrock class in our discipleship series is called Interpreting the Bible Faithfully. The class will introduce the skills necessary to dig into God’s Word. The text for the class is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.

The PCUSA is at a critical point in its history. The only hope for the PCUSA is to have a membership that is firmly rooted and grounded in scripture. For that reason we are trying to get as many of the Evergreen family into this class as possible. We average around 100 in worship each weekend. We have 43 people taking the class! I believe that this shows that people are VERY interest in digging into God’s Word.

Over the next few days this blog will look at Fee and Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth.

The book encourages the reader to think seriously about the version of the Bible that they use for devotions and study. All Bibles are not equal! It is important for a person to know the strengths and weaknesses of the translation that they are currently using. There are quite a number of older folks in our congregation. Most of them drive automobiles that are less than ten years old. Their kitchens are equipped with fairly new microwaves. Many of our older folks even have cell phones and use the internet! However, when it comes to the Bible that they use they insist on using a translation with LOTS of errors. I just don’t get it… a poor translation of God’s Word is ok but a poorly running car is not ok? The Bible that we use is very important!

Fee and Douglas educate the reader on “formal equivalence,” “functional equivalence,” and free translation. The versions of the Bible that strive for formal equivalence try to be as close as possible to the exact wording of the text. That sound great, doesn’t it? The only problem is that sayings (euphemisms) in the Hebrew and Greek do not show through in formal equivalence. A great example of this is found in Ruth. Ruth 3: 14 says, “So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized…” That is what the Hebrew says—it is not what the Hebrew means! To “lay at his feet” is to say that she seduced him and had sex with him! I have heard sermons on how wonderful Boaz was because he let Ruth sleep at his feet and he never touched her sexually. That is the exact opposite of that the text means! Versions of the Bible that strive for functional equivalence stay as close to the text as possible and try to communicate clearly what the text means. A free translation/paraphrase takes great liberty with the text as it strives to communicate God’s Word in easy-to-understand contemporary English (or Spanish, French, German, etc.).

What version of the Bible do you use? Why do you use it? If it is less than accurate, why do you continue to use it? What version of the Bible is most widely used in your congregation? What version is in the pews? Why?

I don’t believe that God appreciates the answer, “Because that is the one that I’ve always used.”

PS-The “link” function on blogspot is not currently working. I will provide the appropriate links asap.


At 12:36 PM , Blogger Bible Discernment said...

The Bible is under attack from all sides. Satan knows it tells the truth about him, the victory that Jesus had at the cross, and what will happen in the future. As such, Satan has and still is making every attempt to destroy the Word of God. What better way to do this, than to change the meaning of the Bible over time with different bible versions; each version as it comes along claiming it is the truth and the most accurate of all the versions up until that point.
The line must be drawn where we say, "If the King James Bible was good enough for 400 years, then it is still good enough for me." For by it men and women have been saved and the knowledge of God imparted unto them. When new bible versions come along, they always take something away that is never replaced, only to be lost forever. If you believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then stand up for it. Take a stand and speak out against these new bible versions. An objection often raised against the "King James Only Crowd" is that people learn something from the other (modern) versions, too, and that some even get saved: but I dare say that this occurs in spite of these errant versions, not because of them!
The Authorized Version of 1611, or, in other words, the King James Bible, stands alone in its uniqueness, integrity, and fidelity to the truthfulness of God’s Word. Among reasons why this writer holds this conviction is because of the great harm done not only to the Word of God, but the detriment wrought in the local church in its public worship, and, of course, because of the confusion created in countless group and individual Bible studies. After all, it could be said: How do you think your professor would think or feel if all of his students used different textbooks in his class?! In our case, God is our Great Professor! He alone is the one true God, who has walked among us upon this earth and left us the living and enduring legacy of His Word and His Spirit. Until He comes, Amen.

At 11:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bible Discernment talks about where I was. In further reading I have learned that as knowledge grows we are able to more understand the context and interpretations of the Bible. Yes the Bible is inspired by God. That does not mean that all of the scholars that interpreted the Scrolls were inspired. If we learn that a mistake (or misinterpertation) was made, why not correct it?


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