Through a Lens Brightly: Jesus on Scriptures

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“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

Sometimes I will find myself in a heated argument over the importance of scriptures. In essence my position is this: If a person knows Christ, through the Gospels, to what significant advantage does he or she have in studying the rest of the Bible? As a Christian, the Gospel of Jesus supersedes the rest of scripture. It even seems to me that a certain rigid adherence to specific scriptural verses, without relating them to Jesus, leads to legalism and is counterproductive to spreading the Good News.

According to the above verse from Timothy, there must be a great benefit to studying all of scripture, not just the Gospels (since when this letter was written there was no “New Testament”). One very important thing that we gain from studying the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) is a greater understanding of the Jewish environment that Jesus and the apostles were part of, an understanding that doesn’t seem to be promoted very often today. An in depth study of the Old Testament will also reveal God’s passion for social justice, which Jesus speaks about often in his ministry. Something else that is missing from many of our church and radio sermons.

Certainly the ex-Pharisee Paul, if no one else, understood the dangers of a pre-Christian interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures as well as a rigid devotion to the laws spelled out within. Paul spent most of his life trying to convince people of the necessity of putting all their trust, hope and vision into Jesus alone. Problems arise when we read scripture without remembering to shade every meaning, every nuance with the Gospels. Without the added focus of looking at scripture through the eyes of Jesus we can take the Word of God and twist it into something else, often something that is exactly the opposite of God’s will.

Anytime we study scripture and do not deliberately measure it against the message of Jesus we are taking a great risk. It is easy to read into the written word our own fears, wishes and idiosyncrasies but only when we measure it against the Gospels will we find the Truth. We must remember not only who the Biblical authors were and who they were writing to but also in what language they were writing. Paul uses Greek, which has no punctuation and many of the words have multiple meanings, meanings that were often lost in translation. It becomes easy for two people to read one of Paul’s verses and come up with two completely different interpretations. If our interpretations of scripture do not jive with Jesus’ Good News, then either there is something wrong with the translation or, more likely, with our interpretation.

Examples of biblical misinterpretation are not too hard to find. Throughout the past 2000 years the Church (or its various factions) have used the Word of God to justify slavery, colonialism, torture, murder and despotism. Even today there are those that can find biblical justifications for classism, racism, sexism, total war and capital punishment. Today the Bible is being used by some to validate positions and attitudes that encourage the condemnation and expulsion of certain targeted people from our churches. Rarely does it seem that they reference the Gospels for support, with most of their support stemming from the remainder of the the New Testament as well as the Old Testament books of the Law. The compassion of God that Jesus preached of is sometimes easy to miss in these books, especially when we proof text them or read them out of context.

Steven Kay does a better job addressing this problem in an excellent article published on the Ooze website entitled; “Am I a Christian or a Paulian?” He sums up his thoughts this way;

Christ is our example, Christ is the one that we follow, and Christ is the one we need to emulate. There can be no denying that Christ dealt with the need of the people, so my question is how can a follower of Christ not see that as their primary goal?

http://theooze.com/articles/index.cfm

Of course, I am speaking from a Christian perspective. Obviously someone who is Jewish would have a different, although as legitimate, perspective than mine. I am just curious as to why some Christians, professed followers of Jesus, would place as much, if not more, importance on other parts of the Bible. Especially when their interpretations of these other parts may contradict Jesus’ Good News.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)

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  1. #1 by Qheay on July 22, 2007 - 8:19 pm

    20,000 factions & counting! Theres Only one Jesus. He will show you the WAY. To grow closer to him worry not of the things of this world. Judge not and surrender…….
    Seek you first the kingom of God and his righteousness and all of these things shall be added unto you.
    Matthew 6:33

  2. #2 by BuddyO on July 23, 2007 - 10:45 am

    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was [a] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”

    God = Jesus = Father = Holy Spirit

    I Worship One God. Not the God of the OT and the God of the NT. One God.

    “Anytime we study scripture and do not deliberately measure it against the message of Jesus we are taking a great risk.”

    Don’t you get it..? The message of Jesus begins at Genesis 1:1. It’s “The Story We Find Ourselves In”.

    Jesus had to come and dumbdown and personally deliver the message because the knuckle heads througout history didn’t get it…. And we still don’t… we’re no better than them.

  3. #3 by Christian Beyer on July 23, 2007 - 11:43 am

    You’re absolutely right, Buddy. I like the way you put it – Jesus dumbing it down so that we all could get it.

    But that’s my point; anytime we are confused about what the Bible might be guiding us to do (such as….”should I drop that bomb on that city?…after all look at Sodom and Gomorrah” or even something as benign as “Oh, my gosh! That kind of music might attract the wrong kind of people to our church”) we can always refer back to “God for Dummies: The Gospel of Jesus Christ” for the straight dope.

  4. #4 by BuddyO on July 23, 2007 - 12:44 pm

    The problem that would lead one to read the episode of Sodom and Gomorrah and conclude that they should drop a bomb is not that the lens they are using to read is void of the Gospel, but that it is too narrow; like a telescope viewed backwards. If the Gospel were necessary to interpret the OT writings, poor Moses, Solomon, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, etc were in quite a pickle… If the need for a Gospel lens was the solution, we do we still not get it today even with the Gospel?

    The real issue is that the Bible is not the encyclopedia, nor is it Mobey Dick, Roots, Josephus or Shakespeare. When people read it as any of the such they are sure to be both disappointed and mislead.

  5. #5 by Christian Beyer on July 23, 2007 - 2:54 pm

    Agreed. Well put.

  6. #6 by journalingwoman on July 25, 2007 - 8:14 am

    Christian,
    Excellent post. I, too, am saddened by how the bible is used for everything except for proclaiming Jesus Christ and Christ alone. We need to quit using it as a weapon and begin using it to reveal Jesus who invites all to the banquet.

  7. #7 by Steve on July 26, 2007 - 10:56 am

    Christian,
    I don’t always agree with all of your theology, but you are absolutely spot on. I think all Scripture comes down to Christ’s question to Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” We then struggle with how to balance the answer to that question with our day-to-day lives in a fallen world.

  8. #8 by Christian Beyer on July 26, 2007 - 11:19 am

    Thanks, Steve. I appreciate that, especially since we don’t always see things in the same way. It is exciting that we are able to appreciate what we keep in common as well as where we differ.

    I’ve enjoyed exploring your website, and while I too don’t always agree with you either (but for the most part I do), it is in that tension where I learn the most.

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