Paul's Passing Thoughts

Taking Back the Bible from Christian Academia: Confident Study of the Scriptures, Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on February 4, 2015

Originally published October 1, 2013

Let us now look at some basic principles for learning. Although the Bible is full of mysteries, allegory, and parables (but mostly objective truth), these are all for the purpose of teaching you something. God is not a God of confusion. Those mysteries belong to us:

1Corinthians 3:19 – For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.


Luke 10:21 – In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

Again, this was turnabout. Instead of the elitists controlling the wisdom, God was delivering it directly to the people and keeping it from the “wise” which is most often used by the Bible authors pejoratively.

The primary problem at Corinth was dependence on world philosophy. And frankly, that’s exactly what’s wrong with the church today. Commentary on the Bible is immeasurable. Again, the industry that interprets our Bibles for us is a multi-billion dollar business. This isn’t how the biblical teachers taught. The citations of outside sources to make specific points to be applied to life are completely non-existent in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t borrow any wisdom from the world at all. In a few places, it’s used for examples of bad behavior and false teachings, but the Bible is its own source for any positive truth or revelation. Christ and the apostles only cited other Biblical authors.  All books of the Old Testament are cited except Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Christ quoted from twenty-four Old Testament books.

So, know that the Bible is written to you, know that you can understand it, know that you are responsible to properly understand it and teach it to others (MATT 5:19 ff.), and interpret the Bible with the Bible. The Bible has 42 authors; their writings should be your commentaries. That’s 42 commentaries which is plenty of commentary for any library. The biblical writers make their points via other Bible authors exclusively. To be honest with you, I got rid of all my Bible commentaries. The only one I have left is MacArthur’s Bible commentary and I only kept it because of its extensive cross-referencing. I put little stock in MacArthur’s opinions as he is no longer trustworthy and has become a follower of men. But again, I find his extensive cross-referencing useful.

As far as interpretation by the commentaries of other Bible authors, you can find online resources that list Old Testament quotes in the New Testament. When a New Testament writer cites an Old Testament text, you can then read those passages in order to gain understanding in regard to the point that the New Testament writer was making.

Remember these basic principles as well: application to life (obedience) leads to more understanding, and remember that God communicates in a straightforward manner and doesn’t want confusion, but rather edification (1COR 14). God’s goal is edification. His people die for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). Also pay close attention to what’s being stated. The Holy Spirit is not like us who often write things with a goal for volume rather than substance. Remember those literature assignments in school that had to be 3000 words? That’s not how the Holy Spirit writes. Every word of God is for life (Matt 4:4), and ALL Scripture is profitable for equipping (2TIM 3:16,17). Be patient as learning wisdom for life from the Scriptures is a lifelong endeavor. Do not be too concerned with what you don’t understand for now, it will come with time and diligent study. Seeds of future understanding are being planted in your mind and God’s word will not return void.

Therefore, when you read or study your Bible, look for the plain sense of the text. If you decide to study a particular book or epistle, read through it a couple of times thoughtfully and make note of what it is plainly stating. Then make note of other Scriptures cited by the author and read those as well; they are commentaries on what you are reading. Paul cites the Old Testament about 41 times in the book of Romans. Those passages should be read as commentaries and for further clarification.

Before we move on let me note that one of the most powerful tools for understanding is daily Bible reading. An overall flavor of biblical content is extremely important and probably efficacious for discernment. If you don’t do anything else, partake in daily Bible reading.

Parabiblical information is an aid. However, Susan and I have gleaned things from the book of Romans that we have never been taught before and are life transforming; this happened without any research in regard to historical background or customs of that time in Rome. Our study of Romans has included little information apart from the book itself. But if you do use parabiblical aids this is key: as far as historical background, customs, or philosophies that might be alluded to in the particular text that you are studying, use secular sources that don’t have theological axes to grind. This assures that the source isn’t seeing something in the history that they want to see.

For topical study, do not, I repeat, do not buy a Christian book on the subject. More than likely it will be eisegetical rather than exegetical. Get a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and look up the key words and read all of the verses for yourself in context. I would also recommend Naves Topical Bible which will list Scriptures that address the subject you want to study. Buying a Christian book on the subject gets back to others thinking for us. How telling that this ministry continues to hear complaints that Sunday schools and Bible studies are usually conducted from recently published books that are the present-day Reformed rage.

Now let’s look at the all-important issue of translations. The Old Testament is pretty straight forward as it was overseen by the Jews. The New Testament has been attended to with far less anti-eisegesis. Nevertheless the multitudes of different translations and TYPES of translations offer an awesome resource for us. If there is any commentary worth more than the Bible authors (and there is not), it is the translations. New Testament translations offer the opinions of hundreds of Greek scholars. Some translations are literal word by best English word translations (literal translations; ie., the KJV). Other translations, known as paraphrases, attempt to show the ideas or intent behind the Greek words. You can look at all of the varying opinions, and determine which ones fit the context and what other Bible texts teach about the same issue or subject.

Then there are the expanded translations by Greek scholars. These are very interesting. These expand Bible sentences to reflect the Greek moods and tenses in the best and most accurate English words. An example of this would be Kenneth S. Wuest’s expanded translation of the New Testament.

Now let’s discuss the manuscripts that these translations come from. The original writings are gone; eg., the actual letter that the Romans held in their hands or the early copies thereof. Translations are taken from manuscripts which are composed of ancient fragments. These fragments may be actual copies of the original and also based on ancient commentaries that rehearse Bible verses such as the writings of the early church fathers. Most English translations come from either the Received Text or the Critical Text. These are manuscripts based on differing sources of fragments and other ancient texts. And there is a difference. The Critical Text has 2,886 fewer words than the Received Text, and calls into question the validity of 41 verses found in it. In other words, some translations exclude words and in some cases entire verses that are in dispute. Sources that document these differences can be found, once again, ONLINE!

Another problem with the New Testament as far as English translations are concerned is that most of our English translations came from the Reformers. In fact, Chapters and verses were first used in the Geneva Bible which was a Calvinist study Bible. It’s the Bible that arrived in America on the Mayflower, and in the true spirit of the Reformation, it was the law in Scotland that every household of means was required to purchase one. Progressive Justification was the doctrine/gospel of the Reformation, and bias towards that doctrine permeates the English translations, particularly in regard to tenses. Clearly, in the aforementioned manuscript texts mentioned, there is a difference in many verses between salvation as past and present continuous.

In regard to these discrepancies, it is up to us to study in order to show ourselves approved. God doesn’t do it all for us. He superintended the transmission of the Bible while allowing freewill. And by the way, the Bible documents its own transmission (There are books that document the historical transmission of the Bible as well). Did you know that? In my own daily Bible reading I see references to this in many different ways, which brings me to another learning tip and the significance of daily Bible reading: that would be the BIBLE NOTEBOOK. This is some form of the Bible in a notebook with tabulated sections. Sections can be divided into subjects of interest, and as you see references in your daily Bible reading, you compile those references in the appropriate section. One can also use the same process to document Reformed aberrations that favor the false gospel of progressive justification which is perpetual resalvation and perseverance by faith alone in sanctification. These discrepancies are going to be found primarily in the ESV, but are also prevalent in many other translations.

This brings me to yet another tip regarding Bible Study software: you can jettison the catalogue process by using Bible study software that will do comprehensive word searches in all translations. Let’s say that transmission of the Bible is your interest. You can search key words like, “word,” “book,” “write,” etc., and then read those verses in context.

(As an aside, a basic observation in the category of transmission that can be made is that words can be written down by many different means on many different materials and are difficult to control unlike electronic data).

Lastly, because of the internet, you can also research lesser known translations such as the Aramaic/Hebrew New Testament. The argument here is that Greek was a vehicle, but not the vernacular of the people who wrote the New Testament. In other words, the Greek may not properly transmit the Hebrew mindset and what they meant by certain phrases etc. This brings us to the importance of systematic theology.

All of these considerations must work together with the fact that the Scriptures are written systematically. There is a method; doctrines, covenants, etc. make this clear. Obviously, it is more than fair to say that the tabernacle was a systematic theology. Creation was done systematically. Ever heard of the “Solar System”? We see a system in the book of Revelation: seals, trumpets, woes, methods, documents, timelines, and specific places. God is a God of order. This is the importance of systematic theology and its elements: justification; sanctification; imputation; Christology; Pneumatology; anthropology; hamartiology; soteriology; ecclesiology; angelology; eschatology; etc. The fact that systematic theology is not taught in the churches is scandalous and indicative of Protestant control mania.

There are many considerations and schools that make a complete picture of truth. A word in a translation that in some way contradicts sound soteriology must be suspect and investigated. I recommend Cambron’s Bible Doctrines: Beliefs That Matter and Barackman’s first edition of Practical Christian Theology. Avoid the other three additions as he gravitated toward radical aspects of Reformed theology after the first addition. Obviously, John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is a systematic theology and has been greatly expanded upon for contemporary use by Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way. This systematic theology will determine the interpretive outcomes of a whole generation of pastors.

The next point is eschatology as part of this vast biblical system. The study of last things is critical to showing how the Bible all fits together, especially in regard to soteriology. Old Testament and New Testament eschatology fits together for the making of one picture showing how covenants fit together with God’s plan of salvation. A lack of emphasis on eschatology has had a catastrophic effect on the church. To minimize eschatology is to deprive God’s people of hope, and a wealth of spiritual information. For one, consider that J. Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy catalogues 737 prophecies that are either fulfilled or reiterated in the other texts by different authors writing hundreds of years apart. As we have observed here at The Potters House, eschatology also fits the plan of salvation in regard to judgments and resurrections as one would expect to be the case. Eschatology is vital for a proper understanding of the Scriptures. In regard to pastors who deemphasize eschatology, mark them and flee from them.

In regard to the question of the best Bible study software, you can consider software that has the elements we have discussed in this study. However, I would recommend Olive Tree online software, and it is very inexpensive. It has the most important feature, a word search engine. It will do a comprehensive English word search, but it will also do a Greek word search. This enables you to see how a Greek word is used in other passages—this is very telling in regard to the original intent behind the word. Also, if you do an English word search for a certain word in both the New Testament and Old Testament, you can see what the Hebrew counterpart is to the Greek and vice versa. You can get many different translations, and if you hover over any word with your mouse, the Greek or Hebrew word will appear with its definition. If a definition is not available, it’s an English filler for the purpose of flow and readability.

And don’t forget Google. Google is an extremely powerful search engine. It is also virtual world knowledge connected to virtual mind. What do I mean by that? If you want to recall something you read in the Bible several years ago but you don’t remember where it is in the Bible or even the exact wording, all you have to do is Google the fragment or the idea and a link to an article about it will appear. A wealth of information regarding any subject can be called up in seconds. And thoughts such as, “I wonder if the Bible talks about that?” can be answered in seconds. Merely Google the thought and a vast amount of information will appear. I am convinced that the final form of the final kingdom that will rule the Earth in the last days has feet of iron mixed with clay because of the Information Age. Tyranny is only effective to the degree that it can control information. This is why our founding fathers were pro education and information. This is why they proliferated information of all kinds with aggressive intentionality.

The dumbing down of America is no accident—it is the road to tyranny. The dumbing down of the Protestant church is no accident—it has always been predicated on tyranny and always will be unless Christians take back our Bible.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s