Marriage: Where does it begin? (pt. 2) Chapter 1 of The God-Wild Marriage

31 05 2012

Over the next couple of months, I will use The Inkling to introduce you to each chapter of my new book, The God-Wild Marriage.

Chapter 1: The Power to Be Out of Control

God-Wild Marriage

A journey is like a marriage. 

The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it.

John Steinbeck

Only God can satisfy the hungry heart of man.

Hugh Black

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…

Ephesians 5:18

I like being in control. As an athlete, I captained most of the teams I played on. As a senior in high school, I was the student body president and enjoyed telling the principal how to run the high school. (You think I’m kidding? I’m not.) Then I got married.

Marriage changed everything.

Liz doesn’t like to be controlled. It took me about one day into our honeymoon to realize that I had signed up for a world that was frighteningly different than any other. We were in Hawaii and I wanted to get up early on the first day, hit the beach, go snorkeling, and then dive off some nearby cliffs. I thought it was all so ordinary. Wouldn’t anyone want to begin a honeymoon in such a way? Fat chance.

My wife wasn’t going to be controlled.

Liz was exhausted. The wedding ceremony less than 36 hours earlier and a torrential rain storm and flood just before we left Tokyo, coupled with an eight-hour flight to Hawaii, was enough to keep her in bed for at least one day. I couldn’t relate.

For me, it was a case of “You only come to Hawaii once, let’s get rolling.” It was time for fun on the beach, adventure and action! But for Liz, it was a time to recover and relax—her way. A heated argument inaugurated our first day of marriage. I lost, she won. So much for my ways; so much for my control.

All of us want to be in control of our lives. All of us want our way— because it’s the right way, right? All of us are enslaved to cultural bondage and a need for control that has infused and impacted our thinking, making it virtually impossible to understand God’s design for a wildly fruitful marriage. This was no less true in biblical times than it is today. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he referred to a cultural axiom stating that “every Roman man must have a concubine for pleasure, a mistress for adventure, and a wife for progeny.” Western culture is no different.

Marriages today are indeed out of control. The typical couple walking down the aisle is guaranteed a marriage that will last about seven years, a span of time that is less than the life of your washer, dryer, or refrigerator. As unbelievable as it may seem, the divorce rate in America has increased by over 200 percent in just the last 40 years.1 The Pew survey on marriage, the largest ever conducted, found that nearly 40 percent of us think marriage is obsolete.2 (It is interesting that of those who said marriage is headed for extinction, only 5 percent said they don’t want to be married.3 Hmmm.) If you’re the product of a broken home, your chances for a tumultuous, difficult marriage are even greater.4

As one who regularly counsels couples, I can tell you the family in general, and marriage in particular, is in real trouble. Couples are ditching their commitment to marriage at an alarming rate, even those who attend church—especially those who attend church. According to the Barna Group, those who call themselves “born-again” Christians have a higher rate of divorce than non-believers (27 percent compared to 23 percent). Those who label themselves “fundamentalist” Christians have the highest divorce rate of all, at 30 percent.

I once asked my mom if she had ever thought about divorcing my dad. “No, I’ve never considered divorce,” she replied, “but murder? Yes.” She was being humorous, but the struggle was real and is real. In just this past year, Liz and I have been continually shocked to watch many of our close friends filing for divorce. Many a morning this past year, we have sat across from each other at our breakfast nook and wept over and prayed about dear friends who are leaving their commitments to marriage. Discussing with these couples how and why they have decided to break up has been heart wrenching.

Every marriage is hard. Every marriage is a battleground. You may be feeling just this way right now. Your marriage has not turned out to be what you had hoped and dreamed. The “storybook” romance you thought you were signing up for has actually turned into some kind of Shakespearean tragedy. Your Prince Charming has turned into a frog. Your relationship with your spouse is an endless foray into either verbal arguments, quiet distance, or both. You probably have felt at times like you have a marriage lost in space—your husband is from Mars; your wife is from Venus.5

Read more in The God-Wild Marriage by Dr. Steve Holt





Bible Translations: Are they really Trustworthy? Part 3

11 09 2009

 

In the first two blogs on Bible translation, I have dealt with such questions as how we got our current Bible, the translation process, revelation, and inspiration (Bible Translations I).  We then looked at how we got our current canon of 66 books, preservation of the Bible, and transmission (Bible Translations II).  In this article, I want to look at how we can get the most out of our current English translations through understanding different Bibles that are available to us today.  Choosing the Bible translation that is right for you can be difficult.  I’m hopeful that my blog will be helpful in your understanding and evaluation of our current modern translations.

 

If you were to enter any Christian bookstore today, you could be overwhelmed by the plethora of Bible translations available.  While there are literally hundreds of Bible translations, there are three versions that account for probably 90% of all the Bible sales worldwide.  They are: the New International Version (NIV), the New American Standard Version (NAS), and the much loved and respected King James Version (KJV).  These three translations are very accurate, readable, and faithful to the original languages of the Bible.

 

English Bible translations tend to be governed by one of two general translation theories. The first theory has been called “formal-equivalence,” “literal,” or “word-for-word” translation. According to this theory, the translator attempts to render each word of the original language into English and seeks to preserve the original syntax and sentence structure as much as possible in translation.  The second theory has been called “dynamic-equivalence,” “functional-equivalence,” or “thought-for-thought” translation.  The goal of this translation theory is to produce in English the closest natural equivalent of the message expressed by the original language text, both in meaning and in style.

 

Word for Word Translations

 

Word for Word translations make a special effort to translate each word from the original languages as accurately as possible.  The philosophical perspective of Bible translations through word for word translation was the guide of Bible translators up to the middle of the 20th century. 

 

These translations are excellent for word studies and accuracy, though the poetic style and nuances of the original languages can sometimes be lost.  Probably the most well loved and popular versions available today would be the New American Standard Version (NAS), the English Standard Version (ESV), and the New King James Version (NKJV), which I currently use the most often at Mountain Springs Church.

 

New American Standard Version (NAS)

 

Originally translated in 1971; updated in 1995, the NAS was produced by 54 evangelical protestant scholars sponsored by the Lockman Foundation.  This version is very literal in vocabulary and word order, although the criticism has been that the English seems a bit stilted at times.  Of all the literal word for word translations, I believe the NAS to be the most literal of all.  I like this translation and it is the favorite of my wife.

 

English Standard Version (ESV)

 

The ESV is the newest literal translation on the market today.  It is growing rapidly in popularity among the reformed crowd.  I was recently at a conference where this translation was hailed as the best word for word translation available today. This excellent translation was published in 2001 by Crossway and developed by a team of 100 scholars with the goal of accuracy and readability.

 

New King James Version (NKJV)

 

In 1982, the old King James Version (KJV) was updated with more modern english. Although the choice of words make it easier to read, it still maintains the beauty of language with its unique poetic style and 17th century sentence structure.  This is my personal favorite as a study and preaching Bible.  I find the word for word translations to be accurate most of the time and the ease in word studies to be on the level of the NAS.

 

Thought for Thought Translations

 

In the category of thought for thought translations, the primary purpose of scholars has been to keep the meaning of the languages of the original authors and translate it into the same pattern of thought in the readers language.  In deciding on a thought for thought Bible, you might want to consider the grade level of the reader.  The most popular thought for thought Bible would be the New International Version (NIV) which is written on an 8th grade level, the New Century Version (NCV) written on a 4th grade level, the Contemporary English Version (CEV) written on a 5th grade level, New Living Translation (NLT) on a 6th grade level, and Today’s English Version (TEV) on a 7th grade level.

 

New International Version (NIV)

 

The NIV is considered to be the most popular translation of the Bible today.  It is most admired for its straight forward and accurate style.  Completed in 1978, it was the product of 115 evangelical scholars from all over the English speaking world.  Over 150 million have been sold since 1978, making it by far the best selling translation today.  Its language is easy to read and its accuracy very well respected.

 

New Century Version (NCV)

 

The NCV reads like a newspaper.  It targets the 4th grade reading level and is an acceptable balance between literalism and paraphrase.  Some paraphrasing is used to avoid words no longer in common use.

 

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

 

The CEV is a new translation published in 1995 and was originally intended to be a children’s translation.  Thus, it is quite readable and easy to understand.  It is excellent for the unchurched and non-native speakers of English.

 

New Living Translation (NLT)

 

The NLT is a completely new translation of the Bible first produced by Bible.org in 2005.  It contains more than 60,000 notes by the translators to help readers understand the process of translation.  This version seeks to retain the easy reading style of such thought for thought translations as the Living Bible and splits the difference between the paraphrase and the literal translation.

 

Today’s English Version (TEV)

 

Completed in 1976, the TEV was translated by Robert G. Bratcher and six other scholars.  Over 118 million have been sold and this translation is very free-flowing and fairly accurate.  This translation tries to avoid traditional biblical vocabulary and looks at the passages of the Bible in more nontraditional ways.  Excellent for non-christians and the unchurched. 

 

Which Translation?

 

I believe that all the translations we have looked at above are accurate, readable, and produced by fine scholarship.  I would recommend all of the above.  The question for the reader in selecting a Bible translation is one of purpose.

 

If you are interested in a serious study of the Bible, including grammar, vocabulary, and word studies, I would highly recommend one of the three word for word translations of which I have just written.  If, on the other hand, you are using your Bible for more devotional reading, or reading to your children, you may want to consider one of the mentioned thought for thought translations.

 

All of these translations are excellent.  Let me encourage you to pick up the Bible translation you love and then love it!  Love the Bible!  Read it, study it, and memorize it.  The purpose of reading the Bible about God is that we might come to discover, love, and obey the God of the Bible!  Go for it, jump in.  Have fun.

 

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Steve 

 

 

 





Is the Bible Trustworthy? Part 2

10 06 2009

Ever since Satan challenged God’s promises and Eve succumbed (Gen. 3:1-7), the enemy of our souls has been attacking God’s Word with his own version of what God means.  As soon as Jesus made His first move toward His mission, Lucifer was ready to challenge His every word.  During Jesus’ time of fasting and prayer for forty days, Satan came to contradict the words of Jesus with his own interpretation of Scripture.  And as a result, for thousands of years, men have been tempted to distrust, doubt, and deny the validity of God’s holy Word. 

As a missionary and pastor I have heard just about every conceivable question and interpretation of the Bible that man has to offer.  While some of them have bordered on the ridiculous, many comments are simply based out of ignorance and are sincerely asked in a search for truth.  It is with such people in mind, and the many at Mountain Springs who regularly ask me thought-provoking questions, that I write this article.

I would refer any reader to my sermon in the doctrine series, The Bible: God Speaks, given April 24th, 2009, for further elaboration on the topic of the Bible in general.

This is part two in my blog on Bible translations.  If you would like to understand the context of the last blog, let me encourage you to read part one first.

God’s Publishing Process

How did we get our current Bible? Is the English translation that you are using reliable?  Can you have confidence that the Bible you are holding is anything like the manuscripts written by the first authors?  These are excellent questions.  The Bible purports to have divine qualities.  But does it really?  And if so, how were these qualities passed down through the generations to make up our English version of the Bible?

There is a divine process that has been used by God to give us our current Bible.  This process can be summed up in a five part process:  Revelationà Inspirationà Canonicityà Preservation à Transmission. In part one, we concerned ourselves with revelation and inspiration.  In part two, we will continue our look at God’s publishing process.

Canonicity

John MacArthur writes, “We must understand that the Bible is actually one book with one Divine Author, though it was written over a period of 1,500 years through the pens of 40 human writers.  The Bible began with the creation account of Genesis 1, 2 written by Moses about 1405 B.C., and extends to the eternity future account of Revelation 21, 22, written by the Apostle John about A.D. 95.  During this time, God progressively revealed Himself and His purposes in the inspired Scriptures.” (Study Bible p. xiv)

This raises a significant question: “How did the church know which books ought to be recognized as canonical or authoritative?  Which writings should be included and excluded?”  We find three ways that the early church fathers determined the authenticity of a book for the Bible.

  1. Conformity to “the rule of faith.” Did the book in question conform with orthodoxy?  Christian truth recognized as normative in the churches?
  2. Apostolicity. Was the writer of the book an apostle or did the writer of the book have immediate contact with the apostles? For example, Mark’s gospel was tied to Peter and Luke’s to Paul.
  3. Catholicity. For a document to be considered canonical it must have had widespread and continuous acceptance and usage by churches everywhere.

Thus, when the various councils in church history met to determine the authenticity of a book, they did not vote for canonicity, rather they recognized what the churches had come to determine as authoritative.  Much like ordination in our church, we are not ordaining anyone but simply publically recognizing someone who God is already ordaining through the life they live and witness of their ministry.  In a similar way, the church fathers and theologians who came together recognized the twenty-seven books that became the New Testament as being authoritative based on the criteria above and the consensus of the church.  In simplistic form, the church already believed these books to be the canon of Scripture and the councils confirmed what was already common knowledge.

In regard to the Old Testament, MacArthur writes, “With regard to the Old Testament, by the time of Christ, all of the Old Testament had been written and accepted in the Jewish community.  The last book, Malachi, had been completed about 430 B.C.  Not only does the Old Testament canon conform to the Old Testament which has since been used throughout the centuries, but it does not contain the uninspired and spurious Apocrypha, that group of 14 rogue writings which were written after Malachi and attached to the Old Testament about 200-150 B.C. in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament called the Septuagint (LXX), appearing to the very day in some versions of the Bible.  However, not one passage from the Apocrypha is cited by any New Testament writer, nor did Jesus affirm any of it as He recognized the Old Testament canon of His era (cf. Luke 24:27,44).” (ibid, p. xv)

Carson and Moo write, “The fact that substantially the whole church came to recognize the same twenty-seven books as canonical is remarkable when it is remembered that the result was not contrived. All that the several churches throughout the Empire could do was to witness to their own experience with the documents and share whatever knowledge they might have about their origin and character. When consideration is given to the diversity in cultural backgrounds and in orientation to the essentials of the Christian faith within the churches, their common agreement about which books belonged to the New Testament serves to suggest that this final decision did not originate solely at the human level.” (Barker, Lane, and Michaels, The New Testament Speaks, p. 29; qtd. in Carson, Moo, and Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament, p. 736).

The completed Bible was formulated early in the history of the church.  By the end of the second century all but seven books (Hebrews, 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, James, and Revelation) were recognized as apostolic, and by the end of the fourth century all twenty-seven books in our present canon were recognized by all the churches of the West.

F. F. Bruce writes: “One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect. The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa—at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397—but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of these communities” (F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, p. 27).


Preservation

How do we know for sure that the Bible that was first written down by the original authors has been preserved and handed down to us accurately?  How do we know for sure that the Bible you are holding is truly the inspired, written Word of God?

Critics of the accuracy of the Bible routinely claim that it is in fact a series of fables and legends that have developed over hundreds of years because there are not enough copies of ancient manuscripts to alleviate their skepticism. However, a simple shepherd boy dealt a death blow to their criticisms in 1947. He wandered into a cave in the Middle East and discovered large pottery jars filled with leather scrolls that had been wrapped in linen cloth.

Amazingly, the ancient copies of the books of the Bible were in good condition despite their age and the harsh climate.  This was due to the fact that they had been well sealed for nearly nineteen hundred years. What are now known as “The Dead Sea Scrolls” are made up of some forty thousand inscribed ancient fragments.  From these fragments, more than five hundred books have been reconstructed, including some Old Testament books such as a complete copy of Isaiah.

I have visited on several occasions the Dead Sea Museum and viewed for myself the entire book of Isaiah.  The amazing thing is that the fragments found, the book of Isaiah in particular, are word for word the same as the Old Testament that we use today.

If someone seeks to eliminate the trustworthiness of the New Testament, then to be consistent they would also have to dismiss virtually the entire canon of Western literature and pull everything from Homer to Plato to Aristotle off of bookstore shelves and out of classroom discussions. The transmission process of Scripture is, by God’s providential grace, without peer.

The Bible says thus about itself in Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”   With increased archeological discoveries, the truth of this statement become more and more clear.

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.  (Isaiah 55:11)

Transmission

The Bible has been translated into over 3000 languages.  How can we be sure that these translations are accurate?  How can we be confident that our English Bible reads the same as the original autographs written by Paul and Peter?  Let’s look now at transmission through the centuries. 

Transmission occurred when the autographa was carefully copied by trained scribes so that other copies could be made available for people to read. While these handwritten copies have the occasional minor error (e.g., spelling or punctuation):

  • They were accepted as accurate and authoritative by God’s people (e.g., Deuteronomy 17:18 cf. 1 Kings 2:3; Ezra 7:14; Nehemiah 8:8). For example, the apostles, who were the senior leaders in the early church, taught from copies of the books of the Bible. (Acts 17:2; 18:8)
  • The early church tested all teachings against the existing scrolls. (Acts 17:11)
  • Furthermore, Jesus Himself taught from copies of the books, not the autographa, and treated them as authoritative. (e.g., Matthew 12:3–5; 21:16, 42; Luke 4:16–21; 10:26)
  • In conclusion, God’s people have always relied on manuscripts, and these writings have proven to be accurate and trustworthy. Jesus’ own perfect example assures us of their trustworthiness.

Tragically, opponents of Scripture have attacked the Bible’s trustworthiness by falsely stating that our current English translations are built upon poorly transmitted copies. However, the bibliographical test of Scripture flatly refutes this false argument. The bibliographical test seeks to determine the historicity of an ancient text by analyzing the quantity and quality of copied manuscripts, as well as how far removed they are from the time of the originals.

The quantity of New Testament manuscripts is unparalleled in ancient literature. There are more than five thousand Greek manuscripts, about eight thousand Latin manuscripts, and another one thousand manuscripts in other languages (Syriac, Coptic, etc.). Both the number of transmitted manuscripts we possess of Scripture and their proximity in date to the autographa are astounding and unparalleled in the canon of Western literature. Moreover, the Scripture quoted in the works of the early Christian writers (mostly AD 95–150) are so extensive that virtually the entire New Testament can be reconstructed, except for eleven verses, mostly from 2 and 3 John.

Our English Bible

The translation of a full English Bible began with John Wycliffe (ca. A.D. 1330-1384), who made the first translation of the whole of Scripture (Old and New Testament).  Later, William Tyndale was associated with the first New Testament translation of the Bible in A.D. 1526.  Myles Coverdale followed in A.D. 1535, by delivering the first complete Bible printed in English.  In 1611, the King James Version (KJV) had been completed.  Since then, there have been many translations printed from the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures.  In my next blog we will look at each of the major translations and analyze their strengths and weaknesses.

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Steve





Bible Translations – Are They Trustworthy?

19 05 2009

Part I
Ever since Satan challenged God’s promises and Eve succumbed to temptation (Gen. 3:1-7), the enemy of our souls has been attacking God’s Word with his own version of what God means.  As soon as Jesus made His first move toward His mission, Lucifer was ready to challenge His every word.  During Jesus’ time of fasting and prayer for forty days, Satan came to contradict the words of Jesus with his own interpretation of Scripture.  And as a result, for thousands of years men have been tempted to distrust, doubt, and deny the validity of God’s holy Word. 

As a missionary and pastor I have heard just about every conceivable question and interpretation of the Bible that man has to offer.  While some of them have bordered on the ridiculous, many comments are simply based out of ignorance and are sincerely asked in a search for truth.  It is with such people in mind, and the many at Mountain Springs who regularly ask me thought-provoking questions, that I write this article.

I would refer any reader to my sermon in the doctrine series, The Bible: God Speaks, given April 24th, 2009, (sermons.mountainsprings.org) for further elaboration on the topic of the Bible in general.

If I were the Devil…
If I were the Devil (please no comment), I would do everything in my power to keep people from digging into and loving God’s Word, the Bible.  I would especially attack the “inspiration” part of God’s publishing process.  If I could attack the very inspiration, “God-breathed” part of heaven’s transmission to mankind, I could potentially win the battle for the validity of the Bible.

If I were the Devil, I would do everything possible to distort the Bible’s accuracy. If I were the Devil, I would do everything possible to create doubts in the minds of people about it’s authenticity.  I would do all I could to create confusion over it’s meaning.  I would send out my minions to distort and lie about its purpose.

I would broadcast through the media and governments of the world that the Bible has no bearing on real life issues like marriage, family, and happiness.  I would broadcast through the educational system that it is archaic and old fashioned.  If I were Satan, I would do everything possible to get the Bible out of the schools, out of government, and out of mainstream society.

Wow, I guess I would do just what he’s already doing!

Reformation Legacy
Two of the greatest legacies of the Reformation in the 16th Century were that of the Bible being translated into the vernacular (language) of the people and, secondly, that anyone could privately interpret the Bible for his/her own life.

While under the questioning of the imperial authorities about his writings, Luther’s famous reply at the Diet of Worms was, “Unless I am convinced by Sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant. For my conscience is held captive by the Word of God and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe.  Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me.”

Luther believed that the Pope and councils could err and his only true source of truth was the Bible because the Bible never errs!  The gift of the reformation is that God wants all of us to have His Word in our hands, written in a way that we can easily understand.  And that each one of us can use reason, good sense, and an understanding of doctrine to hear God’s voice.

God speaks!  God speaks today!  God speaks today to every believer.  God speaks today to every believer through the Scriptures.  God’s Word to us is the Bible.  Someone says, “you mean you read the Bible literally” and my response is “Of course I do!”  There’s no other way to read it.  Who in their right mind wouldn’t?

The Bible should be interpreted in its literal sense.  This was Luther’s principle of interpreting the Bible, sensus literalisLiteralis means in Latin that we interpret it as literature according to the normal rules of grammar, syntax, and context.  In other words, we interpret poetry as poetry, history as historical fact, idiom as idiom, etc.  To not read any piece of literature literally is to distort it’s intent and meaning.  So, to be true to the general rules of reading literature, yes we always read and believe the Bible literally!

To begin our journey into how we have arrived at the current translations of the Bible we must begin with the book itself and what it says.

The Bible’s Self-Disclosure Clause
What does the Bible say about itself?  If you pick up and read the Bible for every long you quickly realize that it often speaks about itself.  Over 2,000 times the Bible in the Old Testament alone claims to be God’s Word spoken to man.  The phrase “the Word of God” occurs over 40 times in the New Testament.  In brief, here are a few choice passages of statements from Scripture about Scripture:

• Inspired Word of God Almighty — 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19–21

• Able to develop a person fully — 2 Timothy 3:17

• The very words of God — 1 Thessalonians 2:13

• Without error — Ps. 12:6; 119:140; 30:5a

• All we need to know about God — Luke 16:29, 31

• A perfect guide for life — Proverbs 6:23

• Pure — Psalm 12:6; 119:140

• True — Psalm 119:160; John 17:17

• Trustworthy — Proverbs 30:5–6

• Perfect — Psalm 19:7

• Effective — Isaiah 55:11

• Powerful — Hebrews 4:12

• Nothing to be taken from or added to — Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32

• For everyone — Romans 16:25–27

• To be obeyed — James 1:22

Some poetic images from Scripture about Scripture:
• Sweet like honey — Psalm19:10

• A lamp to guide our life — Psalm 119:105

• Food for our soul — Jeremiah 15:16

• A fire that purifies and a hammer that breaks us — Jeremiah 23:29

• A sword — Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12

• A seed for salvation planted in us — James 1:21

• Milk that nourishes us — 1 Peter 2:2

By its own declaration, the importance of Scripture can hardly be overstated. Psalms 19 and 119, plus Proverbs 30:5-6 make incredible statements about the innate power and life of God’s Word.  Let me encourage you to read these passages and ask God to speak to your heart concerning the Word of God.

Jesus Affirms the Bible
Jesus said that He came to fulfill everything in the Scriptures.  By His claims, Jesus endorsed and gave authority to the Bible.  Many times in conversations about the Bible I have asked people, “Do you believe that Jesus was a good man?  Do you think He would lie?” The answer is always is a resounding “yes” or “no.” It is from that vantage point that I present what Jesus believed about the Bible.  Here are a few of His proclamations about the Scriptures:

Luke 24:27  “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Luke 24:44-47  He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

Matthew 5:17  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

John 5:39  “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me.”

Jesus clearly articulates his prophetic fulfillment of the Scripture.  By His very words, Jesus affirms the supernatural nature of the Bible.

What is the Bible?
The Bible is the bestselling book of all time, and is now available in nearly three thousand languages.  The Bible is made up of 66 individual books written over a period of 1500 years, written by kings, peasants, shepherds, law givers, law breakers, fishermen, historians, prophets, tax collectors, missionaries, and poets.  The Scriptures were written in palaces, caves, houses, and prisons.  They were written in three languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.

In light of this, the Bible is really more of a library of books rather than a single book. I like to say, “Old Testament concealed; New Testament revealed,” meaning that the Bible makes promises and prophetic predictions in the Old Testament that are concealed from our understanding until we read the New Testament.  The New Testament is the revealer and fulfiller of the Old.  Hence there is great unity between the two testaments.

This point is illustrated by the fact that the New Testament has roughly three hundred explicit Old Testament quotations, as well as upwards of four thousand Old Testament allusions. In many ways, the Old Testament is a series of promises that God makes and the New Testament is the record of the fulfillment of those promises.

A lecturer at the University of Paris created the Bible’s chapter divisions in the early 1200s, which accounts for our current 1,189 chapter divisions. Its current 31,173 verse divisions were not fully developed until 1551, in an effort to provide addresses (not unlike those on our homes) that would help us find particular sections.

God’s Publishing Process
But how did we get our current Bible? Is the English translation that you are using reliable?  Can you have confidence that the Bible you are holding is anything like the manuscripts written by the first authors?  These are excellent questions.  The Bible purports to have divine qualities.  But does it really?  And if so, how were these qualities passed down through the generations to make up our English version of the Bible?
There is a divine process that has been used by God to give us our current Bible.  This process can be summed up in five part process: 
1.) Revelation
2,) Inspiration
3.)  Canonicity
4.) Preservation
5.) Transmission

Revelation
God has chosen to lift the fog of human speculation with divine revelation. Whereas speculation is the human attempt to comprehend God, revelation is God’s communication to humanity with clarity that is otherwise impossible. Revelation is the miraculous event whereby God revealed Himself and His Truth to someone and inspired them, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to write down what He had to say—perfectly. This original copy is called the autographa.

It is important that we understand that there are two kinds of Revelation:

1. General Revelation (Ps. 19:1–4; 94:8–10; Rom. 1:19–21): the personal act of God by which He makes Himself known to humanity in general through his creation, providence, and conscience so that they might come into relationship with Him.

John Calvin on general revelation: “God not only has sowed in our minds that seed of religion but revealed Himself and daily discloses Himself in the whole creation and preservation of the universe. As a result, humans can not open their eyes without being compelled to see God.” (Inst. I, V, 1)

2. Special Revelation (2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:1): the personal act of God by which He makes Himself known to many people by His redemptive word-work so that they might come into relationship with Him.

We read in Hebrews, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1)  The means may have varied throughout Biblical history.  At times God spoke through visions, dreams, prophetic sermons, etc. but God’s unequivocal standard has always been the bedrock of His divine Word.  God has taken the initiative to reveal Himself to man.  The revealed and written Word of God is the only revelation of God for all time.  God’s special revelation is most specific, most powerful, and most trustworthy revelation is through the 66 books of the finished canon, the Bible.

Inspiration
We read in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  The Greek translation for “inspiration” is Theopnest, meaning “God breathed” or “breathed out by God,” This talks about the Word of God, the Bible speaks out to us!  God is the One who is speaking, even as He uses human agents to write down His words—but make no mistake about it, God is the One who is speaking. 

The belief that God wrote Scripture in concert with human authors whom He inspired to perfectly record His words is called verbal (the very words of the Bible) plenary (every part of the Bible) inspiration (are divinely inspired revelation). Very simply, this means that God the Holy Spirit inspired not just the thoughts of Scripture, but also the very details and exact words that were perfectly recorded for us as Scripture.
This doctrine is inextricably tied to the character of God Himself. God is a truthful God who does not lie (Heb. 6:18; Titus 1:2). Therefore, because God is ultimately the author of Scripture, it is perfect, unlike every other uninspired writing and utterance.

Peter says that “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20–21).

Christians believe that Scripture is our highest authority, or metaphorical Supreme Court, by which all other lesser authorities are tested. Practically, this means that lesser courts of reason, tradition, and culture are under the highest court of truth, which is divinely-inspired Scripture.

During the Protestant Reformation, the slogan sola scriptura (and sometimes prima scriptura) became popular to summarize this conviction; it means Scripture alone is our highest authority. This should not be confused with solo scriptura, which is the erroneous belief that truth is only to be found in Scripture and nowhere else. Scripture itself tells us that God reveals truth to us in such things as creation and our conscience, but that the beliefs we may subscribe to from such forms of lesser revelation are to be tested by Scripture.

In part two, I will take up a further discussion of God’s publishing process as we look at the further development of the Bible that we currently have in our possession.  I will also begin to look at the different translations of the English Bible and how they differ. 

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Steve





Revolutionary Love

13 02 2009

I’m sitting in the R&R coffee shop in Black Forest thinking about the message of the apostle of love.  If you’ve been listening to my messages the past three months at MSC, you know that I’m caught up with this apostle of love and his epistle of love.  I call it a “revolutionary love” because it is, well, just so revolutionary.   It is so foreign to our thinking.  It is so foreign in most of our churches.  It is so foreign in most of our relationships. 

It is the passion of one of the twelve, a man who called himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  The apostle John was enraptured and overtaken with the love of Jesus.  He just can’t contain himself as he scribes his letter to the church.  Fifty six times John speaks of love in this small letter!  No other book of the Bible so speaks as often and so repeatedly on the theme of love. 

John wrote his first letter for two reasons.  First, he was aghast at the success of the Gnostic teachers in pulling the believers in Ephesus away from their new found faith.  John is writing his letter to refute the false theology and practice of these first century cultists.  But, secondly, John is emphasizing that real belief in the real God is best expressed and proven, not by persuasive arguments but through a lifestyle of love.  John wants us to understand with our heart that “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him.” (1 John 4:16b)

From a “Son of Thunder” to an “Apostle of Love”

John didn’t start out as the apostle of love. Just like Simon, whom Jesus renamed Peter, the Rock, Jesus saw the raw unsanctified man John, a rugged fisherman who had a plan for his own life.  Jesus could see the raw ambition and lust for power. Jesus recognized the outspoken, brash, and intense personality of John.  So, looking at John one day, Jesus renamed him “Boanerges” the Aramaic name for a “Son of Thunder.”

John and his brother James were probably the most ambitious of all the disciples.  It was John who led the discussion about who is the greatest among the disciples. It was John who forbade a man from casting out demons because they were not in the inner circle of the disciples.  They certainly had no scruples about making their intentions and ambitions known:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Can you drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; 40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. (Mark 10:35-41)

Just do “whatever we ask”? Is this not the picture of arrogance and presumption? Then when Jesus challenged them if they understood what they were asking, they didn’t back down one bit.  They said “we are able”! This is most definitely a son of thunder.

But here’s what I find amazing.  Jesus never lost faith in John.  In spite of such arrogance and pride, Jesus loved John.  Jesus saw something in John that even John didn’t see in himself.  Can you imagine the incredible love Jesus had for John that he would take this ambitious, even foolish man into His inner circle and so deeply love him?

Jesus had a vision for John.  Jesus could see that love for God and the kingdom would replace lust for power and position.  John never lost his personality as a Son of Thunder, but instead of a passion for position, John was transformed into a Son of Thunder for God’s love. John would be changed from being full of himself to being full of God’s love.

Somewhere in his journey, John was changed from being a “Son of Thunder” to becoming “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  I believe John experienced the love of Jesus day after day and this love of the Spirit chipped away at his ambition and lust.  This constant exposure to the light of the agape love of Jesus gradually drove back the darkness in John’s life.

John was so transformed by the love of Jesus that he even forgets who he once was.  In all of his writings, John never identifies himself as a Son of Thunder. But five times in his gospel he self identifies as “the one whom Jesus loved.”  John mentions God’s love twenty six times in his gospel, almost more than all the other three gospels combined.  If we combine John’s mentioning of agape love in all his letters, it is over seventy five times! John is overwhelmed with the revolutionary love of His Savior, Friend , and Lord.

As an old man, at 90 years old, John wrote his signature of how he wanted to be remembered, “Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper. “ (John 21:20)  John wanted to be remembered, not for what he had done for Jesus, but rather how he related to Jesus. John’s identity was based in his relationship with Jesus not his ministry for Jesus. 

The Thunder of God’s Heart

John had discovered that the thunder of God’s heart is love.  Jesus didn’t die of asphyxiation while on the cross, Jesus didn’t die from shock on the cross, Jesus died of a broken heart.  Jesus died because of His great love for you and me.  And the greatest act and symbol of the love of Christ is the cross.  Mother Teresa once wrote,

Our vocation is the conviction that “I belong to Him.” Because I belong to Him, He must be free to use me.  I must surrender completely.  When we look at his cross, we understand his love.  His head is bent down to kiss us.  His hands are extended to embrace us.  His heart is wide open to receive us.  This is what we have to be in the world today.  We too must have our head bent down to our people—they are Jesus in disguise…He said, “You did it to Me.  I was hungry…I was naked…I was homeless.” Let us not make the mistake of thinking that the hunger is only for a piece of bread.  The hunger today is much greater; it is a hunger for love, to be wanted, to be cared for, to be somebody.  (Mother Teresa: Contemplative at the Heart of the World by Angelo Devananda)

All of us are hungry for this love—it is the true longing, the true desire of our lives.  We all need a revolution of love.  John knew this love and he wrote 1 John that we would understand with our heart that each of us can be renamed, “the disciple whom Jesus loves,” present tense.

Jesus’ arms are open wide to embrace you!  Jesus’ heart is wide open to bless you!  Jesus wants your heart.  John Eldredge writes,

What [God] is after is us—our laughter, our tears, our dreams, our fears, our heart of hearts.  Remember his lament in Isaiah, that though his people were performing all their duties, “their hearts were far from Me” (29:13)  How few of us really believe this.  We’ve never been wanted for our heart, our truest self, not really, not for long.  The thought that God wants our heart seems too good to be true.  (The Sacred Romance)

God wants your heart!  He wants to know you deeply just for the fact that He created you for fellowship, and really loves you.  This is the revolution:  discovering the thunder of God’s heart for you.  Have you discovered this love?