Archive for November 11, 2009

“Word for Today” – 1 John 5 –

TLSB 1Recently, I received as a gift the new The Lutheran Study Bible.  I own several study Bibles, and make regular use of them for different purposes according to their strengths.  Like most study Bibles, The Lutheran Study Bible contains the biblical text on the top half of its pages with extensive notes marking the bottom half of its pages.  These notes contain important interpretive commentary as well as quotes from the church fathers and even the occasional prayer to assist me as I meditate on a particular biblical text.

One of the concerns that many study Bible publishers share, including those who published The Lutheran Study Bible, is that a clear demarcation be made between the biblical text itself and the notes on the biblical text.  For as helpful as study notes may be, and as salutary as the doctrine that they confess may be, a study Bible’s notes are not the inspired, inerrant words of God.  Another study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, explains thusly:

The ESV Study Bible contains two kinds of words.  The first kind is the actual words of the Bible, which are the very words of God to us.  These are printed in the larger font at the top of each page.  The second kind is the study notes, which are merely human words.  These are printed in the smaller font at the bottom of each page.  The difference in font sizes serves to remind readers that the words of the Bible itself are infinitely more valuable than the words of the notes.  The words of the Bible are the words of our Creator speaking to us.  (ESV Study Bible, 10)

As valuable as notes on the Word of God might be, it is important, say the publishers of the ESV Study Bible, to distinguish between the words of man on the Word of God and the Word of God itself.  For the latter are inspired and inerrant words while the former are not.

This all brings us to our reading for today from 1 John 5.  For John writes about man’s testimony about God over and against God’s testimony about himself:

This is the one who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. (verses 6-9)

Interestingly, the King James Version of the Bible inserts another sentence immediately before verse 8 not found in the New International Version of the Bible, quoted above.  The KJV includes:  “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost:  and these three are one.”  Why does the NIV not include this sentence?

The earliest biblical manuscript in which this sentence from the KJV appears is Minuscule 88, a twelfth century manuscript, now housed at a museum in Naples.  Notably, this sentence is not included as part of the biblical text, but on the side margin, much like a study Bible note.  Apparently, some early biblical interpreters took John’s reference to “the Spirit, the water, and the blood” in verse 8 to be a reference to the Trinity and so inserted this note clearly proclaiming the doctrine of the Trinity.  With time, this originally marginal note made its way into some manuscripts as part of the actual biblical text!  The translators of the KJV used one such manuscript and so included it in their translation.  More recent scholarship, however, has noted that these words were not originally penned by John as part of his letter.  Thus, they are not included in more modern translations.

Do these words from the KJV concerning the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost teach false doctrine?  Absolutely not!  Are these words helpful in properly understanding the Trinity?  Of course they are!  Then why leave them out from modern translations of the Bible?  Because as true and helpful as these words might be, they are finally words of man, written later, and not part of the inerrant, inspired Word of God.  These words make a terrific note for a study Bible, but they are not part of the Bible itself.

More notes, commentaries, and books have been written on the Good Book than any other book in the history of the world.  Many of the notes, commentaries, and books have lots of enlightening, encouraging, and true things to say.  But remember, they are the words of man on the Word of God, not the Word of God itself.  And nothing can displace or replace the Word of God as primary for a Christian.  Thus, commit yourself to continued reading of God’s Word, first and foremost.  For this is the only Word in which we hear the absolute sure and certain voice of God.  Everything else is just commentary.  And so ends my commentary for today.  Now, go and read your Bible.

November 11, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

“Word for Today” – 1 John 4 –

Casablanca 1“Beam me up, Scotty.” “It’s elementary, my dear Watson.”  “Let them eat cake.”  “Play it again, Sam.”  Who said each of these quotes?  If you guessed James Kirk, Sherlock Holmes, Marie Antoinette, and Ingrid Bergman, you are incorrect.  These are famous misquotes that, because they have been so often repeated, have become more well known than the real quotes which they parody!  Captain Kirk didn’t say “Beam me up, Scotty,” but “Beam me up, Mr. Scott.”  The quote “It’s elementary, my dear Watson” is found not in a Sherlock Holmes novel, but in a 1929 New York Times film review.  Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat bread,” not cake.  And that oh so famous line uttered by Bergman to Dooley Wilson from Casablanca is, “Play it, Sam.  Play ‘As Time Goes By.’”  She never said, “Play it again, Sam.”

Accurately quoting someone is very important.  That’s why books and articles have footnotes, endnotes, and in-text citations.  Indeed, the value of accurate quotation is what John extols in our reading for today from 1 John 4:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (verses 1-3)

John reminds us that to acknowledge Jesus Christ and correct doctrine about him is paramount to the Christian faith.  The Greek word for “acknowledge” is homologeo, meaning, “to speak the same thing as.”  Thus, John is exhorting us to “speak the same thing as” Jesus.  He is exhorting us to faithfully and accurately quote Jesus in all he teaches.

There are three main ways in which Jesus is not homologeo-d in our world.  It is useful to briefly examine each of these.

People speak against what Jesus says.

The first failure to homologeo Jesus constitutes a crass and belligerent rejection of what Jesus has said and done.  For example, when Jesus foretells his suffering and death to his disciples, one of his disciples, named Peter, responds, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22).  Peter is speaking against Jesus’ mission of the cross.  And Jesus’ response is fierce and frank: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).  We are never to speak against what Jesus says.

People speak part of what Jesus says.

Some people, who are not nearly so bold as to crassly dismiss Jesus’ words, instead subtly undermine his teaching by taking into account only the parts of Jesus’ teaching which comport with an already preconceived world view.  For example, some people may proudly quote Jesus saying, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1), but never read on to see that judgment of sin is allowed, albeit only after a Christian has carefully considered and judged his own sin (cf. Matthew 7:3-5).  What is prohibited in Matthew 7 is rash and hypocritical judgment, not all judgment of sin.  In order to quote Jesus correctly, a person must take all of what Jesus says, not just some of what he says.

People speak arrogantly what Jesus says.

Some people, although they may speak the words of Jesus, refuse to speak them in the spirit which Jesus sepaks them.  In other words, rather than saying the same thing as Jesus from a position of humility and compassion, they say the same thing as Jesus from a position of arrogance and self-righteousness.  As the apostle Peter, himself familiar with the dangers of arrogance, reminds us, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).  We are not only to say what Jesus says, but we are to say it in the way which Jesus says it.

Homologeo-ing Jesus is a sobering mantle.  For it is imperative that we speak Jesus’ words accurately and appropriately.  But speaking Jesus’ words is also a joyous privilege.  For his words bring hope to the hurting, joy to the pained, and even life to the spiritually dead.  With whom can you homologeo Jesus’ words today?

November 11, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,061 other followers

%d bloggers like this: