Wednesday, October 22, 2008


IV. What Do Scriptures Say?

When we are bombarded with different opinions from the philosophers, culture, Rabbis, teachers, media, friends, the only safe place to go to find the truth is the Bible. I'm not saying this because I'm a Christian. I'm saying this because the Bible has proved itself countless times, historically, spiritually, and even logically. The Way the Bible points us in, I've found, is the Way that works the best, makes the most sense in my heart, and relates the most to who I am at the very core of me. You, of course, are free to find this out on your own. Dig into the Books and find that truth for yourself.

A. Interpretations

1. When talking about different interpretations of the Bible, I've heard people say things like, "Well, I just take scripture for what it is. It says what it says. I don't read anything in to it." This is a good thing. It does say what it says, and it's dangerous to read any of your own agendas in to it. It would be awful to follow a wrong truth just because it suits you better. However, to what degree can we really just "take the Bible for what it is" ? Almost everything it says has to be interpreted. And actually, every word in it HAS been interpreted....into Latin, and then into English. Unfortunately, we cannot hide from the responsibility to interpret it. When you say, "I love you" I have to interpret that. Do you love me like you love cupcakes? Do you love me like you love a friend? Do you love me romantically? Context, and a previous knowledge of who you are helps me determine what you mean. I interpret your words, and then I choose whether or not to believe them.
Now, let's look at the Bible. The New Testament was written in Greek, the Old in Hebrew. Men made interpretations and translated it into Latin. Then more men interpreted that and translated it into English. Then even MORE men interpreted that and translated it into modern version. Add that to thousands of years of cultural changes, and you have the Bible as it reads today.
All this to say, I want to add that I trust the Bible completely. Yes, completely. However, sometimes I read something that trips a wire in my brain or my heart, and I feel like it's a wise thing to do to look things up in the original language. I usually find, in those cases, that the original word communicates something different, something that may seem to line up more with who God really is.
The only way to just "read the Bible for what it is" is if you read Greek or Hebrew. The very best we can to today is to read the Bible with our hearts, and with a basic knowledge of who God is.

2. Sometimes the Bible is hard to read because the language is so formal. It's not how we talk. It's not written like and exciting fiction book. Don't let the vernacular of the Bible fool you into thinking God is rigid, formal and too holy to approach. The New Testament was written in the street language of the day. It was written in the casual language of the markets so that everyone could understand it. The language is called Koine Greek. God wants you to understand the scriptures. He wants to communicate with you casually, like a friend. He is approachable. With a little practice, the Bible is too.
B. Concordance: A concordance is a book that tells you what each word in the Bible translates to in the Greek or Hebrew, and defines the original word. FUN!!
When I discovered concordances it was like Christmas. There was so much truth at my fingertips. I dug and dug and dug. I usually found that the translators did a terrific job at holding true to original meanings. Usually the original words just added a new "deep" to scriptures I knew. But, occasionally, there are words that will shock you. These are things every Christian should be aware of, so that they can decide for themselves, with God's guidance, what truth is.

C. Cultural Context

1. The Bible was written in a very different time from now. Laws, governmental, spiritual, and social were often wildly different. Much of the New Testament is letters; letters written to dear friends. We also have to take into account conversational context.
2. I believe that everything the Bible says is valid for today. However, to get the most out of it, we have to read it with an understanding of the context. Doing this will either simply give you a deeper understanding of scripture, or present to you entirely new ideas that you then have to take to God, and people you trust.
a. Example: When Jesus said to His disciples, "Come and follow me" he was saying something very beautiful. Jewish children would go to school and learn and memorize the Torah. If they had reached the highest level, which was an honor and very hard to do, they would be eligible to apprentice under a Rabbi. Children who didn't make it that far, which was the majority, went home to learn the family business. If you DID make it to the top of the class, the Rabbi, if he thought you were able to mimmick and be like him, and if he thought you were good enough, would say "Come and follow me." This was the highest honor.
Jesus' disciples were not Rabbis, they were not scholars, they were not in school. They didn't make it that far. He said "Come and follow me." This meant he believed that they could be like him. It was a high honor to apprentice under the Rabbi. Wow. Cool huh?

D. Translating

As a class, we are going to learn to use a concordance and look up some controversial scriptures. We are going to start in Ephesians 5. Students, please discuss what you learn with your parents, and test it in your own hearts. You'll learn some controversial things, and I don't want you to believe it just because I do. I want to believe what you believe with strength and surity. You need to own your beliefs, not just rent them.

1. Ephesians 5: 21-33 "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."

When I first read that, I thought, "How could God put one person over another if we're all equal to him?"

Let's look it up.

a.Look up "head". It is kephale. The definition reads “from the primary kapto (in the sense of seizing); the head (as the part most readily taken hold of), literally or figuratively:--head.”

Paul did NOT use the word arche which means “(properly abstract) a commencement, or (concretely) chief (in various applications of order, time, place, or rank):--beginning, corner, (at the, the) first (estate), magistrate, power, principality, principle, rule.”

The word kephale was also a military term meaning “spearhead”. This was the first person into battle.

This helps us understand what Paul really meant to say. He specifically avoided a word that meant chief, magistrate, power or ruler. But of course! Christians are told to be in submission to each other. How could a man submit to a woman if he was her ruler? No, he is the head of the woman in the same sense that Christ is the head of the church. Christ is the first into battle for us. He is the part most readily taken hold of. He gave up His life for us because He loves us so much. He came not to be served, but to serve. He doesn’t call us servants, He calls us friends.
Paul, carefully choosing not to say arche, was saying something quite different from Artistotle’s analogy.

b. Look up “submit yourselves” It is hupotasso “from 5259 and 5021; to subordinate; reflexively, to obey:--be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.”

He did not say peitharcheo, which means “from a compound of 3982 and 757; to be persuaded by a ruler, i.e. (genitive case) to submit to authority; by analogy, to conform to advice:--hearken, obey (magistrates).” We are told to peitarcheo God, though.

Also note that Paul did not tell husbands to hupotasso their wives. He told wives to hupotasso themselves. It is a voluntary choice. He didn’t say that wives ARE hupotasso to their husbands. He was not describing the state of women. He was making an appeal to them.

This was also a military term at the time. This bit of information touches me very much. When a solider failed to join the others, or held back during an advance, a captain might order him to hupotasso. It meant “join the ranks.”

Also note, that when Paul says we are all to submit to each other, the word is hupotasso. We are not supposed to rank ourselves. We are to care for each other. Jesus set the ultimate example of servant hood. Being a servant doesn’t make you less in rank. It certainly didn’t make Jesus less in rank.

Paul says that all the church should be hupotasso to God, and also wives to husbands. In my opinion, this is common sense. If I am supposed to serve God and others, OF COURSE my husband is in there too!

c. Look up “love”. It means agapeo which is the verb form of agape which means “ love, i.e. affection or benevolence; specially (plural) a love-feast:--(feast of) charity(-ably), dear, love.”

Paul did not say phileo, which means feeling fondness or deep liking.
Paul did not say erao, which means a sexual desire.

Agape is not so much a feeling, but an action. It’s the most frequently used form of “love” in the New Testament.
This same word is used in commandments to love our neighbors, our enemies, and God.
Husbands are supposed to love their wives like they are supposed to love God, and like God loves us, and like Christians are supposed to love each other.

Both agape and hupotasso involve giving up your own interests to care for another person. This would make a beautiful marriage, and a beautiful church. In fact, if all believers did this, instead of arguing over who is better and who is leader and who is supposed to obey and who is suppose to lead, we would be a much more inspiring example of love to the world.

d. Conclusion

Paul was not advocating Aristotle’s analogy. He was challenging it. I personally believe that Paul was a champion of sexual equality. His careful choice of words makes me smile, because they are a subtle challenge to what Aristotle and the philosophers said. I think it’s a shame that we read his words through the eyes of Aristotle.

I’ve heard some men use this scripture to demand that he is better than women, and that women should obey them. Now, to demand service is not love at all, is it? To do this, is to do the opposite of what Paul asked.

As Christians, male and female, we should all love and submit to each other. No man should force or even expect a woman to obey him. He should love her. No woman should demand love. She should serve, like God serves the church.

Think how similar it is to love someone in your actions and to serve someone with your actions. Quite similar, indeed! The responsibility is on both the husband and the wife to serve, love, and respect. I think the way we’ve interpreted this scripture in the past has created many miserable and unheathy relationships. It’s made women sad and unfulfilled, and it has made husbands lonely and unsatisfied. Let’s all love, respect and serve each other.
Paul could pay no greater honor to marriage than he did, patterning it after the bond between the Savior and those whom he loved more than life itself.