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Can & Should You Take The Bible Literally? Inerrantly? All of it? Some of it? Which portions? Why?

Such was the question posted by a Facebook Friend. It’s a great question — or series of questions. Here’s my response to his post.

 

For an “academic” answer to your question, I’m an inerrantist. I take it at face value as I read it, trying to take into account the author’s original message to the original audience in the original historical context in the genre it was written. And – not wanting to get into a translation debate – this requires that you use a modern language translation if you don’t know the original languages.

History (much of the OT, the Gospels and Acts) describes what happened.
Didactic (teaching like we find in the NT epistles) prescribes how things are supposed to happen.
Poetry (Psalms) uses imagery and figures of speach.
Apocalyptic (parts of Daniel and Revelation) uses very picturesque language and more figures of speech.

We can easily run into problems when we read an apocalyptic or history passage through a didactic lens. Taking into account the context (historical, culture, and genre) — as best as possible – will give us a proper theological framework to understand the passage in question.

Having said all of this, you don’t have to be an academicians, have a bunch of advanced degrees, and be fluent in the original languages to get the message God wants you to hear.

Adding to what [another commenter] said above, read [the Bible] as a love letter from a holy, merciful, just, gracious God Who relentlessly pursues His people in covenant.

 

Just as I posted my response, I saw an excellent article that was linked by the commentor. You may want tocheck it out!

The CENTRAL Issue in the KJV-Only Debate

A friend posted a video on Facebook yesterday showing John Piper’s recommendations regarding using a contemporary English translation of the Bible. As the video played, captions appeared (with many misspellings), attempting to rebut Piper’s comments in real-time. I am not providing a link to the video simply because it isn’t worth glorifying by linking to it.

Below is my response to my friend and to her Facebook friends. It is a long post. On this website, I will welcome comments for a few days, but I will only post comments if they are respectful of everyone involved in the debate.

 


Regarding the person/persons who added the captions… their knowledge of the CENTRAL issue at hand is no more accurate than the spelling in their captions! (There are other peripheral issues regarding the KJV, but I am withholding my remarks because they aren’t the CENTRAL issue at hand and I don’t want anyone to get distracted from the CENTRAL issue).

Yes, the Biblical writers DID IN FACT use the common language of the day (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) to record what God said — in the common language at the time.

(Note: An additional note to my original Facebook response:
Example: Moses didn’t record the Exodus in Egyptian Hieroglyphics (even though, growing up in Pharoah’s house, he would have been very capable of doing so]. Instead, he recorded the Exodus of God’s people in the language that they would understand.)

The reason William Tyndale was burned at the stake (in 1536), and one of the many reasons Martin Luther was in so much hot water: attempting to get the Word of God *back* into the hands of normal, everyday people so they could understand it in the common language of the day.

The very fact that the KJV was even translated in the first place (1611) was to GET THE WORD OF GOD INTO THE COMMON LANGUAGE OF THE DAY!

The KJV was not the first English translation. As far as I can tell, many of the previous (partial eg, Psalms, the Gospels) English translations were translated from the Latin Vulgate (which itself was translated from the original languages in order to GET THE WORD OF GOD INTO THE COMMON LANGUAGE OF THE DAY.

The KJV was a revision to Tyndale’s works (published from 1494–1536) and Bishops Bible (1568 which was revised in 1572; the 1602 edition of the Bishop’s Bible was prescribed as the base text for the King James Version.

The translators of the KJV recognized the limitations of their work and acknowledged that as language changes, English translations would need to be updated accordingly.

The bottom line: The KJV-Only proponents are not consistent in their argument for the legitimacy of KJV-Only.

As I have told people in churches where I have served, if you normally speak (fluently) only in 17th Century Elizabethan English, by all means, use the KJV! Otherwise, use a good modern-day translation in your first language, which for most of us is mid-to-late 20th to early 21st Century English.

The CENTRAL issue at hand is “How does God speak? How did He originally intend to speak?” When God breathed out His Word (2Tim 3:16), He did so in the language of the hearers in their contemporary dialect. And if they had God’s Word in their contemporary language, so should we.

We need to have the most understandable translation of the Bible in our native language so we can<br />
1) understand it,
2) study it,
3) meditate on it, and
4) apply it to your daily life. (2Tim 3:17)

 

So, what’s your take on this issue? Do you believe the King James translation (translated in 1611) is the only legitimate for Christians today? If so, please state your case.

 

Is Premarital Sex a Sin?

Another day, another Facebook post. And another blog post. A friend referred to an article on The Christian Left’s website. The article asked if premarital sex was a sin.

The author goes into great detail, spanning some seven pages of text, to argue that premarital sex is not a sin. He says that the Greek word we use to translate fornication does not mean premarital sex. He says that the Biblical references that speak of fornication actually address rape, adultery, and prostitution. He concludes,

Since the most important law in Christianity is the Law of Love this must apply to sex too. Don’t use people. Don’t hurt people. Don’t hurt their feelings. Don’t lead them to think you feel one way when you really don’t just to get sex. Don’t view them as an object. Don’t push them to do something they may not be ready for. Sex must be mutual. …

The author’s conclusion insists that, as long as sex is expressed in a loving context, and as long as it’s consenting adults and nobody gets hurt, premarital sex is not a sin.  I beg to differ, however.

The author uses several “manners and customs” resources written from a rabbinic perspective, to make his point. However, he does not address the concept of how words and customs change over time (see Note 2 below). Also, he never cites lexical (Hebrew or Greek dictionaries) resources (see my notes below); and this is unfortunate. He is correct in pointing out cultural differences between Biblical times and modern times. However, he does not address the fact that modern (especially Western) conventions of courtship and post-teen marriage was unknown in the Old and New Testament times. Therefore there would be no need to address the modern concept of premarital sex in the Old Testament or New Testament. In other words, in Biblical Times, about the time they reached puberty, young men and women would enter betrothal, leading to marriage. Also, verses like Genesis 24:67 describe that marriage occurred with act of intercourse; in other words there was no courtship or prearrangement at all. The author speaks of how the Bible treats multiple wives and concubines, however he fails to differentiate between those things described (i.e., the things that happened) and those things prescribed (i.e., the way things are supposed to happen) in Scripture.

For example, in the story of Abraham, we are told that Abraham had intercourse with Hagar (described), though God did not prescribe that Abraham to do it. In the case of Solomon, we are told that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1Kings 11:3 described), yet God distinctly tells the Hebrews to not marry foreign wives (Exodus 34:16 prescribed). In fact, we are told that his downfall was that over time, Solomon’s wives distracted him into following their gods (1Kings 11:4 described).

Another important description/prescription can be seen in the Old Testament descriptions of polygamy, and the New Testament prescriptions that church elders and deacons must be a “one-woman man” (1Timothy 3:2, 12).

The author is correct in pointing out that the term fornication includes rape, adultery and prostitution and that most of the OT “fornication” passages refer to those definitions. However, the New Testament Greek word (from which we also get pornography) includes all sorts of sexual immorality, not excluding premarital sex. He also neglects to address another Greek word used in the New Testament to describe sexual sin: licentiousness. Between these two Greek words, pretty much all non-marital sexual activity is covered.

Finally, in a most offensive, presumptive comment, the author reveals his bias:

Many of the sexually repressive teachings that developed in the middle ages are still being followed today. These teachings are based on oppressive Christian traditions that have no biblical basis other than ignorance.

In contrast to the authors comments, the New Testament is very “un-oppressive” and has a great deal of descriptions and prescriptions painting women in a very positive light, as they are given new freedoms in the New Covenant (Galatians 3:28). Women are the first people to see the Empty Tomb (Luke 23:55). Women are very active in the early church. Acts 2:17-19 — quoting Joel 2 — even says that with the Holy Spirit’s anointing, women would prophesy). Also, Romans 16 mentions the deaconess, Phoebe (Romans 16:1) and the apostle, Junia (a legitimate translation of Greek in Romans 16:7). Any “oppressive” Christian traditions do not find their foundation in the inspired, progressive Biblical revelation.

 

Application

We often come to wrong conclusions because we ask the wrong questions. “Is premarital sex sinful?” is one of those wrong questions. If the Greek word for fornication means “sexual immorality”, we must ask, “Does premarital sex fall under the category of sexually immorality?” Corollary questions are, “What is sexually moral?” and “What is prescribed (not just described) in Scripture?”

The foundational question we should ask is, “Biblically speaking, what is the purpose of sex?” I think it’s safe to say that the first Biblical purpose of sex is procreation Genesis 1:22), though it is not limited to just procreation. Paul says that sexual oneness is a mysterious model of Jesus and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32) Thus, Paul’s prescription for Believers seeking to obediently follow Christ by the leading of the Holy Spirit is: Celibacy outside of marriage and fidelity in marriage. (Galatians 5:16–17)

Paul acknowledges that we have sexual desires, but says that there is a proper context for expressing those desires. “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV) Note that Paul prescribes a one-man, one-woman marriage union.

In relation to the paragraph above, the right question is, “What is right about premarital sex?” Does premarital sex model the mysterious union between Jesus and the church? It does not. God’s prescription of the “Law of Love” does not negate the law of God’s righteousness. Biblically based sexual expression is within the confines of God’s righteousness. And God prescribes it as “very good”. (Genesis 1:31, 2:24) Paul goes on to say that married couples should regularly engage in this pleasurable activity. (1 Corinthians 7:5)

So to answer the question, “Is premarital sex sinful?” the Biblical answer is, “Yes. Sexual activity outside the confines of marriage is sin.”

 


Notes:

1. πορνεία [porneia /por·ni·ah/] n f. From 4203; TDNT 6:579; TDNTA 918; GK 4518; 26 occurrences; AV translates as “fornication” 26 times. 1 illicit sexual intercourse. 1A adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc. 1B sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18. 1C sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12. (Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 2001 : n. pag. Print.)

 

2. Later Judaism shows how the use of porneía broadens out to include not only fornication or adultery but incest, sodomy, unlawful marriage, and sexual intercourse in general. (Kittel, Gerhard, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 1985 : 919. Print.)

 

3. πορνεύω [porneuo /porn·yoo·o/] v. From 4204; TDNT 6:579; TDNTA 918; GK 4519; Eight occurrences; AV translates as “commit fornication” seven times, and “commit” once. 1 to prostitute one’s body to the lust of another. 2 to give one’s self to unlawful sexual intercourse. 2A to commit fornication. (Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 2001 : n. pag. Print.)

 

4. ἀσέλγεια (sensuality/licentiousness)

In some languages the equivalent of ‘licentious behavior’ would be ‘to live like a dog’ or ‘to act like a goat’ or ‘to be a rooster,’ in each instance pertaining to promiscuous sexual behavior. (Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains 1996 : 770.)

 

New Testament Prescriptions Regarding “Fornication”

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (Galatians 5:19 ESV)

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV)

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV)

 

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

 

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.