In my June newsletter, I took a tangent on the interpretation of one of the scripture verses. I went in a direction that the author never intended. I went in a direction that God never intended. I guess it is a good thing that no one really reads the news letter. I did, however find out something very important. It is very easy for one person to misinterpret scripture and then teach that misinterpretation to someone else. I suppose that is how cults are formed
Why is it so easy to mislead someone? I believe that it is because most people do not read the bible for themselves. Many that do, don’t make a habit of studying the Bible. Some that try to study the Bible, don’t understand the simple rules of hermeneutics. For you Hank Hanegraaff fans, that would be the art and science of biblical interpretation. This will not be an online course in hermeneutics!
Why don’t people read the bible for themselves? After all, the word of God is of infinite importance. Our eternal destiny hinges on faith in the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God. Isn’t His message to us important? How can a person have faith in that which he doesn’t know. The Bible is the only way we have to truly know God! So why don’t people know their bible?
Let me hazard a few guesses.
- The Bible was written in a language we don’t understand. That is true enough. The books of the Bible were written in either Hebrew (The Old Testament) or Greek (The New Testament) a few passages of Aramaic were thrown in just for good measure. Most of us certainly don’t understand those languages so we have to have the Bible translated into our language.
- The translations are hard to understand. I’ll grant you that! Some of the early translations into English are impossible to understand. The most prolific English Bible, the King James Version was published in 1611 and is still in print today. The problem is that I don’t know anyone that speaks the same English that was spoken 400 years ago. In my opinion, the King James Version needs to be translated. That problem has been overcome in America today. We have a plethora of translations and paraphrases. The idea of the paraphrases is to convey the idea of the original languages. Some are accurate, others not so much.
- The thoughts conveyed in the original languages cannot be translated accurately in the English language. An example of this is the word ‘love’. There are three words in the Greek that are translated as love in English. The Greek words are: agape, eros, and philia. Three completely different thoughts represented by the thought that the word love conveys. Passages with the word love would be easy to misinterpret in the English language.
- People are just too busy. Bible study and interpretation is just too demanding and too time consuming. It is much easier to let the pastor do the work and just listen to his sermons. One problem with that is no one knows if the message was understood correctly. The people hearing the message do not know if the pastor interpreted the passage correctly. The hearers, don’t know if they understood the pastor correctly. The pastor doesn’t know if the hearers understood him correctly. There is so much room for error in this scenario it is a wonder that we engage in the activity at all. It is, however, what we’ve always done!
- If you are only listening to Sunday sermons, it will take over 20 years to hear the whole Bible. How well would you know the Lord’s prayer if you’d have heard it only three times in your entire life?
My point is, if you want to know that you have God’s truth, you need to learn to study it for yourself, engage in discussions with other learned bible students to ensure you have not gone astray, and pray for God’s guidance in your studies.