I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO…
A few days ago I suggested making your own version of the Bible to help you gain a fresh perspective of the text. In 1968, Clarence Jordan made his own translation called the Cotton Patch Version. His version attempts to put the New Testament into words fit for a Georgia farmer. He explains the motivation for his translation:
Perhaps the main reason, though, is that the major portion of my life has been spent on a farm in southwest Georgia where I have struggled for a meaningful expression of my discipleship to Jesus Christ. With my companions along the dusty rows of cotton, corn and peanuts, the Word of Life has often come alive with encouragement, rebuke, correction and insight… I have longed to share God’s word with [these companions]. So in making a translation, I have kept in mind the little people of great faith who want to do better in their discipleship but have been hindered by big words they don’t understand or by ancient concepts they don’t grasp.
Here are a couple of passages from the Cotton Patch Version of Paul’s Epistles to get us ready for thanksgiving.
2 Atlanta (2 Corinthians 9:10-15)
Well then he who supplies the farmer with seed will also provide you with bread to eat. What’s more, he will multiply what you plant and increase your harvest of justice. When you are so blessed in every way, and generously share with everybody, it just sends a prayer of thanksgiving through our whole being. Because you know, this worshipful act of sharing is not only overflowing to meet the needs of the needy Christians, but is also resulting in an outburst of thankful praise to God. By the convincing evidence of this offering you are glorifying God in matching belief in Christ’s gospel with obedience and with generous sharing with them and others. And they will pray for you, being drawn to you by God’s overwhelming favor in you. Thank God for his gift that’s simply out of this world.
1 Timothy 4:1-5
The Spirit definitely tells us that as time moves on some people will twist Christianity out of shape. They’ll go wild over misguided preachers and books of distinguished devils. With their consciences branded with a hot iron, they hypocritically preach what isn’t so. They teach that it is wrong to marry, and to eat certain foods which God made for believers and others who have an understanding of the truth to eat with humble gratitude. For all of God’s creation is good, and nothing we gratefully accept is forbidden, since it is made kosher by God’s work and intervention.
I finally saw it. I was driving to work today when I pulled up behind a car with the bumper sticker I have heard so much about. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”
I first ran across the statement in a book I read this summer called The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight. The author was lamenting that though this is a common motto, the evidence suggests that most Christians don’t see God’s words as settled. His claim is that this bumper sticker implies two things, to which he replies with the third
His problem though, isn’t so much that Christians are hypocrites or engage in sinful living, but that they seem to pick and choose which parts of the Bible they “believe and practice.” He complains that Christians claim to believe and practice everything in the Bible but don’t observe the sabbath, don’t believe in tithing, don’t practice foot washing, and don’t follow a host of other things that the Bible prescribes.
Interestingly, rather than calling everyone back to a universal following of the Bible, he suggests that we need to develop the skill of discernment to decide how to take an ancient text and live it out in a modern context. He describes this as the local church’s responsibility “to discern how best to live out the gospel in its day and in its way.”
Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of wiggle room for the church to mess things up. If how we live out the Bible changes with every generation and every culture, then how can we know we are getting it right? The truth is, we may not know for sure, but if we just invest a little bit of time we can probably get close.
I firmly believe that the best way to gain confidence that you are reading the Bible right is to start by looking for meaning before moving to significance. That is, analyze the text as a historian before you start to apply it. Remember that meaning is the author’s intended message, and is rooted in history with the original author. The first task of the Bible reader is to find this historical, authorially intended, meaning. This is not always an easy task. But with a little bit of work, we can usually be confident that we understand what the author is saying.
Only after we find the meaning can we move to significance. Only then can we ask how do we live the gospel out in our day and in our way. This task can be just as difficult as the first, in fact, it is often much more difficult. However, the better we do our jobs as historians, the easier it will be to ask how the Bible’s authors would live in our day and in our way.
God said it.
I interpreted it as best I could in light of all the filters imposed by my upbringing and culture, which I try to control but you can never do a perfect job.
That doesn’t exactly settle it but it does give me enough of a platform to base my values and decisions on.
There is a certain pressure that comes with being a seminary student. At every holiday you are the one who is supposed to pray. And even worse, at every Bible study you are supposed to be the expert. The problem is that expert status doesn’t come with a degree. You can only become an expert in the Bible if you read it; read it often and read it well. And the truth is, seminary students don’t have a corner on the Bible knowledge market. Even if you never go to seminary, you can study the Bible and become the resident expert in your church, small group, and family.
In John Piper’s book, Brothers, We are not Professionals, he tells the story of a man who took this to heart. Heinrich Bitzer was a German banker who was committed to the study of the Bible in the original languages. Even though he was not a “professional Christian,” he took the time to learn Hebrew and Greek. He even wrote a daily devotional called Light on the Path, which had excerpts from the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament and a devotional thought to go with them.
Piper quotes Bitzer as saying:
The more a theologian detaches himself from the basic Hebrew and Greek text of Holy Scripture, the more he detaches himself from the source of real theology! And real theology is the foundation of a fruitful and blessed ministry.
I understand that not every Christian will be able to learn Greek and Hebrew, but I think it would be awesome if more did. Imagine a church where the people, not just the pastors, were excited about learning to read the Bible in the original languages. A church like this would be an exciting, and challenging, place to be.
It’s not so much the original languages that I think are pressing (though I would love to see a church offer Greek and Hebrew to people who were interested in learning). Instead, just think how exciting it would be if normal people, not just pastors, decided to become the experts on the Bible. Normal people like Heinrich Bitzer, who even though he was just a banker, committed himself to studying and knowing the Bible. I imagine that many churches would look quite different if we had a few more Bitzers.
A couple of years ago I purchased a copy of the Holman Christian Standard Bible. I have come to really appreciate the translation for several reasons. One of my favorite features is that in the New Testament, Old Testament quotes and allusions are printed in bold font. It is a visual reminder of how integrated the entire message of the Bible is. The New Testament authors knew the Old Testament and they quote it with such frequency that you can tell they expected their readers to know it too.
Another tool that can help us see how verses are related to other verses in the Bible is a cross reference. This tool, which is located in the center column of my HCSB, lists several other verses which have similar wording as the verse you are considering. Typically, a Bible only provides an abbreviated list of these cross references. That’s because, according to Chris Harrison, there are over 63,000 cross references. This means that the Bible comments on itself, alludes to itself, or borrows its own wording over 63,000 times. What astounding unity!
If numbers aren’t your thing, perhaps you will find a visual representation more moving. The picture below, created by Chris Harrison and Christoph Römhild, uses computer graphing technology to draw an arc connecting each cross reference. The result is an amazing rainbow depicting the astounding degree of interconectedness of the Scripture. It is a beautiful reminder of the unified message of our Bible.
- The English Standard Version – This version claims to be an essentially literal translation and it seeks to provide a word for word translation whenever possible.
- Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
- The New Living Translation – This translation seeks to transmit the thought process of the original Greek text in accurate, yet contemporary terminology.
- Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
- The Arthur S Way Translation – S. Way was a pastor who translated Paul’s letters in 1906. He stated that his goal was to make the argument of the author clear by adding certain links necessary for the English reader.
- Everybody knows that all the denunciations of the Mosaic Law are of course addressed to Jews, as being the only persons amenable to the Law. Every murmur is consequently hushed, and all humanity finds itself subject still to God’s jurisdiction. For, when humanity is tried at His bar, the verdict of innocence will not depend on the question whether they have in every case fulfilled the requirements of the Mosaic Law. In fact, the real function of that Law is but to awaken the human conscience in relation to sin.
2. After reading the text in several translations, try to make your own interpretation. Rewrite the text in your own words, or better yet, as if you are writing to a new audience. Perhaps you will want to write a translation to a real audience, like a youth group. If you are feeling particularly creative, try a more outlandish audience like elves or snowmen. Regardless of the audience you choose, as you try to communicate the author’s message in a fresh way, you will stretch your mind, your understanding of the text will grow, and you will have fun doing it.
He’s right. That is a tragedy. If you don’t understand what you are reading, then you are not reading – you are wasting your time. I’m afraid that many people come away from the Word having basically wasted their time, because if their life depended on it, they couldn’t tell you what they read.
But how do we become better readers? Hendricks recommends a couple of books about acquiring reading skills. Mortimer Adler’s book, How to Read a Book, provides helpful tips on how to read different kinds of books. He also recommends Norman Lewis’, How to Read Better and Faster, and points out that it “promises to help you read 50 to 60% faster than you do know, and with better comprehension.” Finally, Hendricks offers his own advice in the form of “ten strategies for first rate reading.”
- Read thoughtfully – “You’ve got to penetrate the surface with more than just a cursory glance. In other words, you’ve go to think.”
- Read repeatedly – “The genius of the Word of God is that it has staying power, it can stand up to repeat exposure… Read it over and over again, and you’ll still see things that you’ve never seen before.”
- Read patiently – “As you dive into the Word for yourself, relax and enjoy the experience. God’s truth is there, and you’ll find it if you just give yourself time to read it patiently.”
- Read selectively – Try to answer six questions about the passage that you read: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and Wherefore?
- Read prayerfully – “Learn to pray before, during, and after your reading of the Scriptures.”
- Read imaginatively – “The idea here is to do whatever it takes to see the Word from a different perspective. If we always read the Scripture in the same way and in the same place, we run the risk of making it into a routine exercise with little excitement.”
- Read meditatively – “I’ve learned that first rate Bible reading calls not for snapshots but for timed exposures.”
- Read purposefully – “Purposeful reading looks for the aim of the author. There isn’t a verse of Scripture that was thrown in there by accident… Your challenge as a reader is to discern that meaning.”
- Read acquisitively – “Read not only to receive [the meaning of the text] but to retain it.”
- Read telescopically – “Every time that you analyze Scripture, every time you take it apart, realize that you’ve only done half the job. Your next task is to put it back together again.”
A cartoon in the New Yorker shows a man making inquiry at the information counter of a large bookstore. The clerk, tapping on his keyboard and peering intently into the computer screen replies, “The Bible? . . . That would be under self-help.”As the cartoon suggests, in postmodern culture the Bible has no definite place, and citizens in a pluralistic, secular culture have trouble knowing what to make of it. If they pay any attention to it at all, they treat it as a consumer product, one more therapeutic option for rootless selves engaged in an endless quest of self-invention and self-improvement. Not surprisingly, this approach does not yield a very satisfactory reading of the Bible, for the Bible is not, in fact, about “self-help”; it is about God’s action to rescue a lost and broken world.If we discount the story of God’s gracious action, what remains of the Bible is decidedly nontherapeutic. We are left with a curious pastiche of ancient cultural constructions that might or might not be edifying for us, in the same way that the religious myths of any other ancient culture might or might not prove interesting or useful. Indeed, some postmodern readers have come to perceive the cultural alienness of the Bible and find it dangerous and oppressive.