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A “Sincere” Illustration That Isn’t

I was reading through our Sunday School Quarterly last night and came across a common illustration that isn’t based in truth. The lesson writer states that,

“Being sincere literally means to be without wax. This is a potter’s term and it refers to the devious practice of patching cracked pots with a mixture of colored dirt and wax in order to hide imperfections. An unwary buyer would think he had bought a good vessel until he used it. Then he would discover that it was defective. A sincere person does not have a cracked character that will be revealed under pressure. Of course, those who are sincere will not give offense to others. We should be honest with ourselves and God and allow God’s Word to mold our character.” (Fall Quarterly, Growing in Love, Joy and Knowledge p. 15, Bogard Press) (Note: I have serious concerns about this lesson writer and the publisher, but I digress.)

This sounds really good, and the premise has been used in many sermons to encourage people to be genuine and authentic. Unfortunately, it isn’t rooted in reality.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “There has been a temptation to see the first element as Latin sine ‘without.’ But there is no etymological justification for the common story that the word means ‘without wax’ (*sin cerae), which is dismissed out of hand by [this dictionary] and others, and the stories invented to justify that folk etymology are even less plausible.”

If we are to be sincere in studying and teaching God’s Word, we must be very careful when using stories like this. When we use “preacher stories”, we actually communicate untruths. Now, I won’t say that those of us who use illustrations like this are lying when we do so, because lying is telling an untruth with the purpose of deceit. What the lesson writer does is not unlike many Bible teachers when we use eisegesis instead of exegesis to study the Bible. Eisegesis means to read into whereas exegesis means to read out of. The dead giveaway for me — that sent me to research this – was the use of “literally” in the definition of sincere. Sadly, many times we say, “literally”, it isn’t literally true.

The Scripture Passage in question is Philippians 1:10 The lesson writer takes an English word sincere that was translated from the Biblical (Koine) Greek word εἰλικρινεις (eilikrineis) which means “pure”. Instead of translating the word from Koine Greek forward into Modern English and translating the word, “pure”, the lesson writer goes from 1611 Elizabethan English (KJV) backward to Latin to find a word pair that never existed to make an illustration that isn’t based in reality. This is a classic example of reading into the Bible what you want it to say, rather than simply letting the Bible Text speak for itself.

Thankfully, this illustration does little actual harm to a Sunday School Student. But being sloppy like this in studying and teaching God’s Word is irresponsible. And if the educated teachers (and degreed lesson writers) are sloppy and irresponsible, can we expect better from our students?

Let’s be sincere and let God’s Word speak for itself.

 

Scripture Memory

Last week, I talked about the importance of reading the Bible in 2014. I hope you took to heart my encouragement to get started with a Bible Reading Plan. But as important as it is to read the Bible, it isn’t enough. We must also spend time thinking about what we’re reading. That’s the purpose of memorizing Scripture.

“But I have a bad memory and I can’t memorize things.”

Sure you can! What is your address? What’s your phone number? What’s your social security number? What’s your birth date? What’s your anniversary date? What are the lyrics of your favorite song?

The reason we memorize these things is that we attach a value to remembering them. In other words, we remember those things we deem to be important. At the risk of being blunt, the reason you don’t think you can memorize Scripture is you don’t think it’s important. Ouch!

OK, I’m not talking about memorizing entire chapters or even books of the Bible – though there are many people who have done that! As a matter of fact, the first Bible passage I ever memorized was the 23rd Psalm; we did it in Sunday School when I was eight years old. And I remember it today – all of it. Why? Because our Sunday School teacher told us she would give us a trinket if we would do it; and we valued the trinket. I don’t remember the teacher’s name because it’s been 30-something years since I last saw her. But I do remember the chapter because I often will recall the verses in times of need.

How to Memorize Scripture

Memorizing Scripture is no different than memorizing anything else. Seriously! All you do is find a verse or two that you want to remember such as John 3:16. Read it in several translations and choose one. Begin reading the words slowly. Write the words down on a piece of paper, including the verse reference (think of the chapter and verse numbers as the verse’s “home address”). Write the words and reference on a sticky note or an index card. Post the note on your bathroom mirror where you will see it when you brush and floss your teeth. (You may remember that I compared the importance of dental hygiene and reading the Bible last week). Twice a day, look at the card and read the reference. Then read the verse and read the reference again. Do this the entire time you’re brushing and flossing. If you do this twice a day and include flossing, you will spend about five minutes a day running the verse and reference through your mind. Periodically go back through the verses you have memorized in the past. The result? You will be absolutely amazed at how many verses you can remember over the course of a week, month, year, and a lifetime! Encourage your family and friends to ask you what verse you’re currently memorizing. And ask them the same thing!

So, where are you going to start?

May I suggest a few?
John 3:16-17
Romans 3:23
Romans 6:23
Romans 5:8
Romans 10:9-10

 

How to Read Through the Bible in 2014

Yesterday I suggested that we approach our Bible reading as a means of growing our relationship with God, rather than looking at it as something we’re supposed to do like eating our veggies and flossing daily. Yesterday, we looked at the right “why” of reading the Bible

Today, I want to look at the “how” of reading the Bible in 2014.

Assuming you have the right approach, knowing that you are eager to hear from your loving Father, how can you go about reading through the Bible in a year? Given the fact that there are about 775,000 words in the Bible and most people read about 200-250 words per minute, you can read the whole Bible in about ten minutes a day. Just saying, “I’m going to read the Bible for ten minutes a day.” may not be enough planning for everybody. So what is one to do?

Which Bible Reading Plan?

There are many ways to read through the Bible and none is the “best”. It comes down to asking what do you want to accomplish? Do you want to read through the Bible straight through from Genesis to Revelation? Do you want to read the Old and New Testaments together each day? Do you want to read the Bible in a more chronological way? Do you want to just read the New Testament? If you want to read just the New Testament, do you want to include readings from Psalms and Proverbs?

A few years ago, our church read through the Bible using a plan developed by the 19th Century pastor, Robert Murray M’Cheyne. The plan had four readings from roughly two chapters from the Old Testament and two chapters from the New Testament. M’Cheyne’s plan is tried-and-true, but many of us found it to be a bit disconnected and lacked continuity as we read a little bit from four different Bible books each day. You may want to try this plan; if you do, you might want to check out Donald Carson’s “For the Love of God” blog which adds a devotional commentary to the daily readings.

The next year, I chose the Blue Letter Bible’s reading plan that covered readings from the Old and New Testaments. We found it to be much easier to follow.

Last year, I thought it might be better to get a chronological view of the Bible, so we went with Dr. George Guthrie’s plan based on his book, Read The Bible For Life. I used YouVersion’s free Bible App (works with iOS, Android and web) because it keeps track of where I am in my readings. I found the plan to be ideal and will use it again next year, however the Bible Eater Plan looks interesting.

For other thoughts about Bible reading plans, I highly recommend you take a look at Justin Taylor’s very helpful blog post. and you can find even more Bible reading plans at your favorite online Bible resources.

Though I think most people underestimate what they’re capable of, there’s always The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.

Once you have chosen a plan, you need to choose a Bible. Some Bibles come with their own reading plans built in, such as the hugely-popular One Year Bible.

 

Which Bible Translation?

People used to be able to say that they couldn’t understand the Bible because they don’t understand all the thee’s and thou’s. Through its 400-year history, many believers have benefited from the King James translation of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. I don’t know about you, but I don’t speak Elizabethan English like William Shakespeare did, and I have as many issues trying to understand the King James Bible as the next guy! I have briefly discussed modern Bible translations elsewhere on this blog.

Since you’re reading this on a computer connected to the Internet, you have access to many Bible translations in your native language on numerous websites, including YouVersion, Biblia, and BibleGateway to name a few.

So how do you know which one to use?

That depends on what do you want to get out of it. If you want to get the general “feel” of the message from the Scriptures, you may want to use the New Living Translation or the New International Version. If you want to get more specific about the words used to convey the message, you may want to use the English Standard Version.

 

Now what?

You know that the reason to read the Bible is to grow in a relationship with God. You know that there are many plans and translations to choose from. But please don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with all the choices. And don’t run out and spend a bunch of money on a fancy Bible. Ask God to guide you and then “get after it!”

This time next year, you’ll be glad you did; you’ll have a better understanding of who God is and how He works to bring people into a relationship with Him.

 

(Note: Some of the links on this page will take you to Amazon where you can purchase products. If you use these affiliate links, I will receive receive a small  commission for the referral.)

 

 

The Gettysburg Address: “Under God” or Not?

Today marks 150 years since Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. Throughout the day, I have seen several posts on Facebook debating the question, “Was ‘under God’ used by Lincoln?” It appears that there are several versions of the Address and not all of them agree on the “under God” part. In addition to the versions of the speech, there were news reports as well that included the Address. I responded to a friend with a link and he responded with another link.

As stated in the Wikipedia article linked above,

Every stenographic report [the reporters who telegraphed their notes], good, bad and indifferent, says ‘that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom.’ There was no common source from which all the reporters could have obtained those words but from Lincoln’s own lips at the time of delivery. It will not do to say that [Secretary of War] Stanton suggested those words after Lincoln’s return to Washington, for the words were telegraphed by at least three reporters on the afternoon of the delivery.

Obviously, the three agreeing eyewitness accounts, who telegraphed Lincoln’s spoken speech, validate the “later copies”, thus validating the “under God” reference as being “autograph” material.

Why have I gone into such detail? It comes down to how ideas are communicated through multiple copies. And this relates to the Bible’s manuscripts. Not all of the manuscripts agree on word, though there are no doctrinal discrepancies among the 26,000+ New Testament manuscripts and fragments.

We do not have the “original” manuscripts of the NT. However, as we compare the manuscripts we do have with the writings of the early Church Fathers, we can recreate the “original” manuscripts with a very high degree of accuracy.

There are individuals and organizations (such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation), who seek to rewrite American history with their agnostic/atheistic/secularist biases, claiming to be “unbiased”. There are also individuals and organizations who seek to rewrite Biblical history with their agnostic/atheistic/secularist biases, again claiming to be “unbiased”. We all have biases and we should acknowledge them to ourselves and to others.

 

Now, getting back to the Gettysburg Address…

As I learned in Speech class many years ago, there are three speeches:
1- The one that the speaker prepares.
2- The one that the audience hears.
3- The one that is reported.

In the case of the Gettysburg Address, “under God” qualifies as at least two of those. So yes, I believe we can confidently say that Lincoln included “under God” on that fateful day.

I invite your comments below. (Note: Comments will be moderated to remove spam)

 

NC Church Plans to Burn Bibles on Halloween

Say what???

 

 

(Note: This story is a little dated [2009]. I cannot find that AGBC will burn books this Halloween [2013], but my comments are still applicable.)

Yes, you read that correctly. Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, NC also plans to burn books written by Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and others.

Why would they do that?

Rather than repeat what I have said elsewhere, I’ll just say that once again, one uninformed group is making the rest of us look bad. And that’s too bad!

Many well-meaning people believe that the King James translation of the Bible is the only correct English translation. They even go so far as to say that all other translations are inspired by the devil. One of our former church members made the mistake of visiting to one of our city’s KJV-Only churches. After several weeks, the pastor tried to get her to trade her Bible (a modern translation) for one of his KJVs. She observed that this pastor had a collection of non-KJV Bibles with “Poison” emblazoned on the spine and the page edges. By the way, our former member told me that the pastor of this Independent Baptist church also believed that theirs was the only true church in our city.

I don’t know anything about Amazing Grace in Western NC, but from the news report above, it appears that these sincere people are sincerely wrong.