Other than some training and teaching here and there, I am NOT a formal Bible scholar by any means, and, I have never put myself forward as one, at least purposely. Like the average “church-goer” I know how to use a Strong’s Concordance pretty effectively, I know how to research resources provided by former “church” fathers, like Concordances, Lexicons, Topical Bibles and the like. But I have been “blessed” (blessing from my point-of-view) by not having a University or Seminary education in how to interpret or understand the Bible.
I am NOT however, knocking those that have that form of education, IF it works for them and it doesn’t interfere with the Holy Spirit’s teaching within their own lives and line of study. I’ve witnessed too many scholars whose education is strictly head-knowledge, with no clear understanding of the spiritual depth of the Word of God. They are awesome with history and word usage, but completely fail in their understanding of the POINT being made by the verses they are studying!
Before you castigate me for my stance AND my “narrow” thinking, I want to submit this Scripture from the Apostle Paul as the first piece of evidence in my defense:
1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
The second Scripture verse is one that those who know me may be getting tired of reading and yet it is the one verse that guides not just my study but also every attempt I make to read the Scriptures. It also is from the Apostle Paul:
2 Corinthians 3:5-6, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Notice that Paul reminds us right from the start, “our sufficiency is from God and not from ourselves” no matter how highly we make think our knowledge, education, etc., is! God, Himself, our Heavenly Father through the power of His Holy Spirit has made us ministers, or as the word implies, servants, of this new covenant under Christ. It is NOT a covenant of the letter or the words within themselves, but rather a covenant of the Spirit, the very Spirit that has made us servants! The Words can bring and give life, but not the words or the individual letters (no matter the language) themselves for they are merely words, rather, it is the Spirit, the inspiration that penned those Words in the first place, by the hands of many men, it is the Spirit that those words point too, that leads too and gives life! How marvelous that when we read the Word of God, we are reading as the Apostle John points out, the Word of Life! (1 John 1:1).
*What has led me to write this particular article was a post a dear friend made on Facebook. Now, before anyone tears into me, let me say that the post inspired me to write an article so as to reason with my brothers and sisters out there in the blogosphere. I am NOT critiquing the post my dear brother made, though I did comment on it, for I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this brother loves the Lord with all his heart and was putting forth a concern that many God-fearing, truly sincere Christians have when it comes to the validity and veracity of the Bible version they are using for reading and study. I know he will see this post and I want him to know that the intent is to help others open their eyes of faith more fully than rely totally on peer pressure or other outward forces. I am NOT looking to further the debate OR the divide that exists over the translations available, just trying to ask the readers to think of the Holy Spirit in all of these concerns.
2 Corinthians 4:18, “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Paul is clearly speaking of faith in this instance and especially when it comes to those things that beset us in our everyday lives, but I want you to delve deeper into what this is saying and give it some thought concerning your everyday lives and the Bible (which hopefully is an integral part of that life).
When we read the words within the Great Book, it is the words mission to form a thought that leads to a conclusion within the mind of the reader. If those words were inspired by the Mighty Hand of God, the Holy Spirit, then it is His mission that we understand the conclusion He is trying to make for the purpose of making our lives and relationship with the Father more productive and greater in purpose and scope. In truth, the mission of the Holy Bible, as the Living Word of God, is to draw us into a relationship with our Heavenly Father that was lost to sin!
That’s it; pure and simple. The Bible is a roadmap to get us back on the track to a relationship with God Almighty that we fell off from due to the inherent nature of sin! Everything that is written in the Great Book, is meant to point us to the Cross of Christ, the only True Way back into the graces of our Heavenly Father. That is the TRUE Spirit behind ALL the words found within that Book. That is and always has been the Holy Spirit’s role AND mission, from the initial inspiration through the hands of the many writers, to the counsel and direction He gives to individual hearts who read the words; it is to draw us all to Christ Jesus and thereby restoring our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Now, the Holy Spirit inspired the men who wrote the various books and letters of the Bible to do so in the language they were familiar with and the language that their readers were familiar with. Did the Holy Spirit, Who IS God, the power and counsel of God’s character, choose to stop His inspiration at that moment when the books or letters were completed? Does faith allow us to believe that these writings were for only a specific moment in the history of mankind and no longer hold relevance to the ages of men that followed after?
If that were the case, then every instance of prophecy, of the prophetic words would be to no avail for they would have no relevance to any readers that followed in the ages when those prophecies were to take place. The words of spiritual wisdom would carry no bearing on the affairs of men past the age of those inspired to put them down on “paper.”
So let’s take this a step further; we have had the Bible translated from the original languages of the Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek into the different dialects of those base languages. We have had it translated into Latin, French and Czech and so many more all with the various dialects and so on, all with the purpose of making it accessible to the common man to whom it was basically addressed. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that chapters and verse numbers were added for ease of study.
Yet it hasn’t been until our modern age that controversy over which version is “true” and which version has been mishandled in its translation has arisen. As the Bible has become more common, more accessible to all peoples around the world, those who value the Bible have become coalesced into one faction or another. Yet until the last handful of decades when translations were being put forth one after the other, no one questioned the inspiration behind the translations themselves.
Since the English translation found in the 1611 King James Version of the Bible is one of the oldest used and relied upon, having survived over three centuries of use, I can understand just from a natural standpoint how so many church-goers are adamant and reliant upon that version of the Bible as the go-to Book for spiritual guidance. BUT – you would think that as our time in the Word has increased and our ability to have the Bible in so many formats (speaking of our new digital age) we would have a deeper SPIRITUAL understanding of the Word and our concerns over the text would have diminished. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
My first experience ever with a Bible, was the Catholic coffee table Bible we had in our living room when I was growing up. It was big and thick and full of ornate and beautiful pictures that I could spend hours at a time looking at. I couldn’t however understand much of what I tried to read through my young years. At that time my Parish Priest told me that the Bible was too deep for the common person and that is why God called Priests into the ministry, so they could teach from the Bible (it isn’t for the most part that way now as everyone is encouraged to study individually).
I didn’t start to “get it” until after I was born-again (spiritually reborn) just before my seventeenth birthday when I was gifted with my first King James Version Bible. I was encouraged to first start off with the Book of Romans, read through the Epistle of Jude, then read the Gospels and the Book of Acts and only then attempt to read Revelation and the Old Testament. The Psalms and Proverbs were encouraged, but nothing more than that until I had a grasp upon my faith!
Believe it or not, that advice, though I think it is up to the individual, helped cement my love for the Scriptures and the Word of God! But I was always a person, even at a young age who loved to ask the question WHY and only second to that one, HOW or how come! It was learning to trust in the leading of the Holy Spirit and learning to love the Word of God that my heart and mind started asking the why when it came to the ever increasing translations available from the 1970’s on.
Over the years that I have had experience with the Bible I have seen many things take place that truly shouldn’t. As my faith increased and my ability to let God Almighty out of the “box” I had created for Him, I started to recognize what was happening in the “church” world as a whole. I have always been gifted with seeing the “big picture” as well as the individual “images” that make up the “big picture.” I stated in a previous article that basically there are two types of people; those that “can see the forest for the trees,” or those that “can see the trees for the forest.” But there is a third group that isn’t constrained by one or the other for they “can see the forest AND the individual trees that make up the forest.” One is not lost upon the other. I believe this is a gift from the Lord and nothing remarkable in the makeup of the individual themselves. It all goes back to that Scripture Paul talked about 2 Corinthians 3:5-6.
I have been witness through the years of too many Christians break fellowship with one another over a version of the Bible and especially when it comes to the 1611 KJV. Because of that I have this question I really want my readers to ask themselves seriously:
Isn’t it possible for the same Holy Spirit who inspired the original writers of the Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek to ALSO inspire the English versions from the first even unto the latest?
If the Holy Spirit truly inspired the men of old to write what they wrote (this is rhetorical) and He did so that all men could have this guide to relationship with the Father we once lost, doesn’t it stand to reason that He would also inspire modern men (whether they are aware of it or not) to protect His Word through the various translations being put forth?
I may not always personally trust the men (or group of men) who initiate the translations, but I DO trust the Holy Spirit to protect His Word. When you further realize that the natural man, no matter how well-meaning they are in their motives for the translations, and even if they themselves lack the ability to understand the depth and breadth of the Word of God, you can begin to understand the importance of that other verse I gave you from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14.
**I have had opportunity in the past to even read through other Bibles (and I use that title loosely) that were bad translations and in fact NOT translations at all, but the “religious” organization had changed the text to suit its own theological bias in many places. YET — and I want you to understand this, when it came to the two greatest commandments that Jesus was asked to identify in Matthew 22:37-40, love of God above all and love of one another, that commandment, that direction was in that false translation. Also, when it came to the plan of salvation through the person and sacrifice of Jesus Christ as found in Paul’s Letter to the Romans, that plan was there without any mistake. If someone is relying upon that false translation for spiritual guidelines and they stand before Christ Jesus on Judgment Day, they will have no excuse if Jesus turns to them and says, “depart from me for I knew you not.” For they had opportunity to know Him personally and rejected Him willfully.
So, what is the Bible for, if not to point to God Almighty’s plan to restore our relationship with Him eternally by pointing the Way to Him through the Cross of Christ Jesus? If the version of the Bible you read and study is doing that, if the Spirit of the Word is coming through to you as a spiritually discerning person you have nothing to fear or even be slightly concerned about.
One final question: Is the Bible you read and study going to get you into Heaven? Is it what you are reading with your eyes that is temporary and natural, or is it the Spirit (which is eternal) behind the Word that points to the One True Way to God, our Heavenly Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that raised Christ Jesus from the dead, that is going to get you into Heaven?
The Bible(s) I read and study point the Way to Christ Jesus and the relationship through Him with my Heavenly Father. My faith, my belief and yes even my knowledge is secure in that fact! How about you?