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Bible Study
See other Bible Study Articles

Title: Seeing Through the Bible
Source: bionic mosquito
URL Source: https://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com ... seeing-through-bible.html#more
Published: Oct 23, 2019
Author: bionic mosquito
Post Date: 2019-10-24 09:45:21 by Deckard
Keywords: None
Views: 263
Comments: 16

This post will tread closer to topics that I would rather not debate at this site, yet I feel as if it is important for me to write it out – it helps me to think it out.  So…I ask for some leeway and will also offer some leeway in the comments.  Just remain polite and respectful of others.




It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.

A conversation between Sarah and Paul VanderKlay, at about the 38-minute mark:

Sarah: Do you think the Bible can be an idol itself?

Paul: Oh, yes.  Absolutely.  And we see that played out often.  Idol and icon: what’s the difference.  An icon we are supposed to see through.  Jesus is the icon of the invisible God; I am quoting Greek here. The book of Colossians.  We are supposed to see through the Bible to the Bible’s source.  That’s the whole idea of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

When we stop seeing through the Bible to its source and just divinize the Bible itself, well, now you’re worshipping a book and we are not supposed to worship a book.

Of course, the Bible is the Word of God.  But it isn’t God.  Can words capture God?  Words that are comprehensible to humans?

The Bible was originally written in many languages, all – to varying degrees – languages lost to history.  The Bible describes that which is almost incomprehensible to humans...in any language.  Both conditions drive us to difficulty in interpretation – a challenge ongoing even today.  Sola Scriptura hasn’t resolved these issues.

Regarding the Hebrew Bible of 39 books:

The texts were mainly written in Biblical Hebrew, with some portions (notably in Daniel and Ezra) in Biblical Aramaic. Biblical Hebrew, sometimes called Classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of the Hebrew language.

The first translation was into Greek, but this wasn’t the Greek of opah and ouzo.  It was Koine Greek, “spoken and written during the Hellenistic period, the Roman Empire, and the early Byzantine Empire, or late antiquity.”

The Latin Vulgate by Jerome was based upon the Hebrew for those books of the Bible preserved in the Jewish canon (as reflected in the Masoretic Text), and on the Greek text for the rest. …Christian translations also tend to be based upon the Hebrew, though some denominations prefer the Septuagint (or may cite variant readings from both).

We haven’t even come yet to the New Testament….

The books of the Christian New Testament are widely agreed to have originally been written in Greek, specifically Koine Greek, even though some authors often included translations from Hebrew and Aramaic texts.

Some scholars believe that some books of the Greek New Testament (in particular, the Gospel of Matthew) are actually translations of a Hebrew or Aramaic original.

And some believe the original language of Mark was Latin.  That’s wild.

But WWJS?  In what language did Jesus converse?

It is generally agreed by historians that Jesus and his disciples primarily spoke Aramaic (Jewish Palestinian Aramaic), the common language of Judea in the first century AD, most likely a Galilean dialect distinguishable from that of Jerusalem.

Keep in mind: people didn’t travel much then.  There was no such thing as mass media beyond one’s village.  Language and dialect varied even from village to village – a “Galilean dialect distinguishable from that of Jerusalem.”

The villages of Nazareth and Capernaum in Galilee, where Jesus spent most of his time, were Aramaic-speaking communities. It is also likely that Jesus knew enough Koine Greek to converse with those not native to Palestine, and it is also possible that Jesus knew some Hebrew for religious purposes.

Of course, Jesus knew enough of any language necessary; He spoke in the language common to the people to whom He was speaking.  Koine Greek, Aramaic of a Galilean dialect, Hebrew.  And I am certain: none of these could be understood by any speakers of Greek or Hebrew today.  As to Aramaic:

Neo-Aramaic languages are still spoken today as a first language by many communities: predominately by the Christian Assyrians, followed by the Mandaeans, and nearly extinct among the Jews of Western Asia. There are numerous variants spoken by Assyrians…

And I am certain it isn’t the Aramaic that Jesus spoke.

What is my point.  The difficulty of interpretation was built into the Bible from the beginning.  The Bible, from the beginning, was a translated text.  Think about what this means – both regarding our humility toward it and about it as well as the necessary nuance and subtlety with which we must approach our understanding.

We have enough trouble communicating difficult topics in writing via our native language.  Increase this difficulty exponentially when dealing with multiple translations.  Of course, scholars and theologians will go to the original Greek – but it wasn’t even originally in Greek.  And have you tried understanding words in Greek – or any other language?  It usually takes several words in English to get some general idea of what one word from another language means. 


Bible Gateway offers almost sixty different versions of the Bible – and that is just in English!  If understanding was so straightforward, would this be happening?

I have been chastised (or mocked) by the Saker: go to the Patristic fathers, he says.  Fair enough.  But I can do him one better. Let’s go to the disciples – the ones who actually walked with Jesus and heard His actual words in their native dialect – the same words we are hearing twentieth-hand and the same words that even the Patristic fathers heard third or fourth hand.

I could cite several examples of Jesus’s frustration at his disciples’ lack of understanding – the same disciples who heard it straight from Him, the same ones who lived in His culture and context, the same ones who spoke His language and dialect, the same ones who saw His miracles.  Even from the beginning our knowledge and understanding was to be only partial:

Paul told us what was most important: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and the importance of love (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8). Our knowledge, he says, is only partial (verse 9). It will be completed after Christ returns, but for now, love is more important than knowledge (verses 13, 2). In saying this, I don’t mean to imply that doctrinal correctness is not important. We strive for correctness, but admit that we are not infallible.

That would be the Apostle Paul to you; don’t refer to him as if he was your buddy.

Peter was ready to bring on the revolt against the Romans, with his sword on the ear of the guard.  Some say that the betrayal by Judas was actually his attempt to force Jesus to lead the revolt against Rome.  In the first chapter of Acts, they asked “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”  This is how well the disciples of Jesus understood Jesus.

Further, read the accounts of the early church in Acts and several of Paul’s letters – talk about family feuds.  How on earth did this bunch of ragamuffins – divided bitterly regarding doctrinal correctness – ever conquer Rome?

Yes, we should understand the Patristic fathers, but we must also understand the complexity of the task of understanding – so complex that those closest to Jesus didn’t get it; so complex that interpretation continues – as it must – even today.

So, I return to the discussion between Sarah and Paul VanderKlay:

Sarah: It seems like that sort of Biblical idolatry is tied to trying to fit the Bible into this very materialist, literalist type of interpretation.

We want to force the Bible to fit.  Sarah is getting at the historicity of the Bible.

Literal: in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical.  …following the words of the original very closely and exactly.

You tell me: what, on earth, can be “literal” about the Bible?  What, on earth, can be literal about anything in language?  We have to define our meaning all the time – and this in our own language: words as seemingly simple as liberty, equality and fraternity.  Consider this reality when trying to understand the meaning of words from which we are removed twenty-fold, and then let me know about “literal”!

Allow me to compound the problem: The Bible is intended for us to find God; it is not intended for science, biology, anatomy, even history beyond that which is aimed at finding God.  Do you think this finding of God can be put into words – words in any language, words subject to clear and unequivocal interpretation by even the most scholarly of human beings?

Until about three hundred years ago, the most brilliant scholars in the Christian world were grounded in understanding the Bible.  Many of these devoted their entire lifetimes to its study; all of these took it as necessary for education and understanding of the world around them.  Yet, here we are – with less consensus than ever.

John 1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2 The same was in the beginning with God.  3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

What can we truly comprehend about any of this – even these four short verses, about 50 words?  Yes, we cannot escape the Word.  But to think that we – the clay in this creation, waiting to be molded – can comprehend infallibly even these four short verses of the Word is arrogance of the highest order.

Many want to take the Bible literally.  You cannot – God cannot be understood in such a manner, and for sure not in a language twenty times removed from you and infinitely removed from God.  In any case, there are too many passages where a literal understanding is not in any way possible. 

Am I suggesting that we should accept some parts of the Bible as irrational, not grounded in reason?  Hardly, in fact precisely the opposite.  God is the source of both reason and faith.  How could these be in contradiction?  How could a faithful Christian be afraid of using reason to break open the mysteries of the Bible?  He will not disprove God; he will only come to understand God more deeply.

Where humans criticize the Bible for apparent contradictions between faith and reason, this only reflects the shortcomings of humans – for all of the reasons given.

Am I suggesting that we are free to make up any meaning we want from the Bible?  Hardly.  But if it was so simple to understand the meaning, why would the Apostle Paul remind us that we can only know in part until the perfect comes?

We look through the Bible to see God; we have been given Jesus Christ – the Form of the Good made manifest – to aid us in our understanding. 

1 Corinthians 13: 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Conclusion

Paul wrote of the resurrection as being most important; from the first days after the Resurrection, we see the same thing:

Acts 2: 32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.

37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”  38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

This is Peter – the same Peter who was a scared little baby when Jesus was taken to be crucified.  Do you want evidence of a miracle?  Christianity was born from this – against the mightiest empire and against the religious leaders; it has outlasted countless man-made empires and institutions.  It conquered the empire (for the good and bad of this outcome) without sword or army.  This is more miraculous than turning water into wine or any such.


The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start.

…to ‘the disciples’, to those who accepted the teachings of the apostles.  There is no question of its being restricted to those who profited by that teaching as much as they should have.  There is no question of its being extended to those who in some refined, spiritual, inward fashion were ‘far closer to the spirit of Christ’ than the less satisfactory of the disciples.

Do you think those first 3,000 understood perfectly, or was their incomplete understanding sufficient? They were added to the church “that day.”  Their incomplete understanding was apparently quite sufficient.

We use the Bible to see through to God.  Try to make any sense out of the first four verses of John.  Wrap your mind around the Resurrection and its implications.  Understanding even these snippets of the narrative is difficult enough for one lifetime, even a lifetime built on the shoulders of the giants before us.

Epilogue

As I have internalized these thoughts, my faith has grown significantly.  This has been an important side effect of searching for a proper foundation for liberty – clearly the side-effect has proven more important than the original objective.

Reason does not do battle with faith.  Nor does Christianity do battle with Liberty.  Nor do custom and tradition do battle with Christianity.  Each of these, in fact, support the others.  The more that I grasp these, the more that my reason, faith, Christianity and liberty grow.

Not a bad side-effect for this little insect.

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#1. To: Deckard (#0)

Interesting thoughts. Thank you.

Vicomte13  posted on  2019-10-24   10:06:37 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: Deckard (#0)

There's some food for thought here, but I've snagged a couple of fallacious premises here, the first right off the bat.

Yes, ANYTHING can be an "Idol" -- including, a book -- The Bible, Statues of Jesus (baby & adult), Mary, and the Saints. It doesn't mean this a consensus.

These two (Sarah and Paul VanderKlay) also claim the Bible can NOT be taken literally.

I DISAGREE. STRONGLY.

MOST of scripture is intended to be understood clearly; More understanding increases, by design, intended for those whose heart is open to God; Other Scripture are parables and metaphors. They are obvious.

But where I do agree with them: Some of God's Ways SHALL remain a "mystery" -- though this is articulated in Scripture.

The writers seem to be almost overwhelmed by the sheer volume of all that is the power and word of God in the Bible. It is truly awesome.

They understand: "The Truth shall you free."

Liberator  posted on  2019-10-24   12:58:45 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: Liberator, Deckard, Vicomte13 (#2)

These two (Sarah and Paul VanderKlay) also claim the Bible can NOT be taken literally.

At first, I thought Sarah and VanderSoy were talking about dead, liberal churches who place a gilded Bible up front by the pulpit, but never actually use the Bible in their services.

Then it dawned on me (I'm slow that way) that they are talking about conservative Christians (like me) who take the Bible literally.

They're calling ME an idolator.

Please tell me I'm wrong, that I have misunderstood them.

watchman  posted on  2019-10-25   11:32:59 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: watchman (#3)

I don't know if you're right or wrong. I know nothing of the VanderKlays, other than what was in the article, and I don't remember much of that.

I do know that the endless bickering and division of Christians has harmed Christianity a great deal, and is one of the last things that Jesus prayed to his Father about before he died - that his followers would remain united.

Well, we're not. And the terms of unity of most seem to be along the lines of "You must believe as I believe, or you're not REALLY a Christian". So much Christian blood was shed and Christian flesh was burnt, by other Christians, over that very same belief. It permanently tainted the brand name to vast numbers of people, and makes it very difficult nowadays to hold anything together.

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

For my part, I don't spend a lot of time trying to tease out each set of beliefs of others on the matter. I've been yelled at and insulted enough by "Christians" over differences of belief that I know such conversations are a fool's errand, at best, and are mostly just an opportunity to be abused by some fanatic for his own cause. And really, why bother? I don't CARE what he believes, and he's certain that what I believe is wrong.

Vicomte13  posted on  2019-10-28   16:54:58 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: Vicomte13 (#4)

I do know that the endless bickering and division of Christians has harmed Christianity a great deal

For once we can agree.

So much Christian blood was shed and Christian flesh was burnt, by other Christians

Isn't this more accurate: So much Christian blood was shed and Christian flesh was burnt, by others who SAY they are Christians (for example, the Roman Catholic Cult)

I don't CARE what he believes, and he's certain that what I believe is wrong

There's something deeper at play in your statement, Vic, than mere doctrinal difference. I believe it has more to do with this verse:

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Phil 2:1,2

Isn't this what's missing in your belief, namely, the fellowship of the Spirit? You are at odds with Christians because you don't have the same love, the same accord, the same mind of Christ.

Christians who have the Spirit of God share an unbreakable bond. We may "endlessly bicker" over doctrinal issues, even to the point of not worshiping together, but we still have that "fellowship of the Spirit". We intuitively know each other to be brother and sister in Christ.

Do you have that fellowship of the Spirit with Christians?

watchman  posted on  2019-10-28   20:53:12 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#6. To: watchman (#5)

Do you have that fellowship of the Spirit with Christians?

With many. Generally not with those who declare their enmity to my particular branch of the faith.

Vicomte13  posted on  2019-10-28   22:58:40 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#7. To: Vicomte13 (#6)

my particular branch of the faith.

What exactly is your "particular branch of the faith".

Do you have something, a doctrinal statement, the name of a church denomination, anything that will give me some idea of what I need to know about your branch of the faith.

watchman  posted on  2019-10-28   23:09:27 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#8. To: watchman (#7)

Do you have something, a doctrinal statement, the name of a church denomination, anything that will give me some idea of what I need to know about your branch of the faith.

To start most broadly: Catholicism.

Vicomte13  posted on  2019-10-29   9:13:31 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#9. To: Vicomte13, watchman (#8)

Some christian rock for you.

A K A Stone  posted on  2019-10-29   9:25:31 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#10. To: A K A Stone (#9)

What is THIS supposed to be about??

Liberator  posted on  2019-10-29   12:23:29 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#11. To: Vicomte13 (#8)

Catholicism.

A brain washing cult.

Catholic parents take their kids right from the womb and quietly terrify them, just as was done to them when they were infants.

Listen to yourself, Vic. You're trying to break loose but the brain washing won't let you go. So you put on your crazy pants, toss out Scriptures you don't like, mutter stuff about mortal sin this and that, dress everything up with references about ancient religious languages and texts...ack!

Let's face it. You're foul-hooked through the gills. Even if you try to make a run for it that catholic brain-washing just cranks you back in.

Some very precious words for you, sir: If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8:36

watchman  posted on  2019-10-29   13:29:19 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#12. To: watchman (#11)

Listen to you, going on and on.

What is your specific denomination. Let's go through its litany of sins, shall we?

Vicomte13  posted on  2019-10-30   6:32:46 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#13. To: Vicomte13 (#12)

What is your specific denomination.

Non denominational conservative Bible church.

You may not find much dirt on us, but it's there.

Anywhere you find men, you will also find their sin and failure.

watchman  posted on  2019-10-30   6:57:13 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#14. To: Liberator (#10)

What is THIS supposed to be about??

Have you ever thought about your soul can it be saved? Or perhaps you think that when you're dead you just stay in your grave Is God just a thought within your head or is he a part of you? Is Christ just a name that you read in a book when you were in school?

When you think about death do you lose your breath or do you keep your cool? Would you like to see the Pope on the end of a rope do you think he's a fool? Well I have seen the truth, yes I've seen the light and I've changed my ways And I'll be prepared when you're lonely and scared at the end of our days

Could it be you're afraid of what your friends might say If they knew you believe in God above? They should realize before they criticize That God is the only way to love

Is your mind so small that you have to fall In with the pack wherever they run Will you still sneer when death is near And say they may as well worship the sun?

I think it was true it was people like you that crucified Christ I think it is sad the opinion you had was the only one voiced Will you be so sure when your day is near, say you don't believe? You had the chance but you turned it down, now you can't retrieve

Perhaps you'll think before you say that God is dead and gone Open your eyes, just realize that he's the one The only one who can save you now from all this sin and hate Or will you still jeer at all you hear, yes I think it's too late

A K A Stone  posted on  2019-10-30   8:31:28 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#15. To: A K A Stone (#14)

Have you ever thought about your soul can it be saved? Or perhaps you think that when you're dead you just stay in your grave Is God just a thought within your head or is he a part of you? Is Christ just a name that you read in a book when you were in school?

So.... You believe the satanic Ozzy Osborn and his tune from Black Sabbath is gonna help "save" me?

Beyond Weird.

Liberator  posted on  2019-11-02   14:20:39 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#16. To: Liberator (#15)

So.... You believe the satanic Ozzy Osborn and his tune from Black Sabbath is gonna help "save" me?

Beyond Weird.

Ozzy isn't satanic. That is a lie. I don't think Ozzy is going to save you God does that. I think they wrote a christian song because they believe in God. On what basis do you make the outrageous claim that Ozzy is satanic. There is more evidence that you are satanic because of your flat earth lie you push, and I'm not saying you are satanic. Just fooled.

A K A Stone  posted on  2019-11-02   17:33:09 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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