A Great Quote and A Short Rant…

Preparing for Bible study tonight, I’m both nervous and anxious.  I’m nervous because we’re going to address 1 John 5:7-8 and there are some recovering KJV Onlyists in Cornerstone, so I’ll have to walk very lightly and be especially tender with people.  I’m anxious because I also love talking about textual criticism and have been looking forward to explaining far more about the history of the Bible with everyone.  I know we cannot talk about every subject at once, so we simply address the theological and doctrinal questions and problems that come up when we arrive at them in the scripture.

I try hard to never shy away from any difficulty or issue, but I also am in no rush to bring up issues that will be either difficult or sensitive for some.

In preparing for tonight, I ran across a great quote that both challenged and inspired me:

All of the Reformers—from Luther to Calvin, from Zwingli to Melanchthon—insisted on two fundamentals for any who would become pastors. First, they had to hold to the right doctrines—sola scriptura, sola fidei, sola gratia. But second, they had to learn Greek and Hebrew. This was not an option for any ministers of the Word.

The battle cry of the Reformation was ad fontes—“back to the sources!” This meant back to the original text. For too long the Church had been enslaved to tradition and to biblical interpretation that was given to it by others. The only way to get past tradition, and to test anyone’s interpretation of the Bible was to know the original languages.

Daniel Wallace, Part III: From the KJV to the RV (from Elegance to Accuracy), http://bible.org/seriespage/part-iii-kjv-rv-elegance-accuracyCited Oct. 1, 2011.

That’s so true.

I read the Bible in English, and I enjoy doing so because it’s easy for me to do…

…but I have a growing love for the languages and enjoy working in the original languages because the Bible is simply richer in their original tongues.  I’m learning the crucial importance of doing biblical lexicography, and I’m learning the importance of understanding the nuances, figures of speech and patterns of thought that come out in the original text.

I also need to grow a lot in my understanding of Hebrew and Greek and I need to significantly cultivate my abilities with those languages.  My vocabulary and reading comprehension are probably 1/4 what they were when I was in seminary, and they weren’t very good in seminary!

In a loosely related rant, I was listening to a sermon from somewhere in another province as I was working last night, and I was torn between crying and tearing my hair out.  A pastor was preaching on what many would think is a “bland” text (just a story that doesn’t, at least on the surface, address any major doctrines), and he apparently didn’t find much to say about it so he started manufacturing depth.  What I mean by that is in an effort to stretch his sermon to 30 minutes, he got into numerology to explain the surface meaning of the story.  He started analyzing a number that appeared in the passage (for several minutes) and found a way to relate it to both the fruits of the spirit and the exodus of Israel (and it wasn’t the number 40).  I re-listened to what he said and felt so sorry for the people in church that Sunday because nothing that he said was either clear or even logically connected to the passage at hand and it made the Bible look both cryptic and impossible to figure out.

If you need to incorporate numerology and perform complex allegorical equations to understand even the surface meaning of a story, why bother studying the Bible at all?

I was thinking and then I was struck by the Wallace quote above.  I’m guessing that the pastor didn’t get much training and didn’t learn his languages back when he went to Bible school (or seminary).  He also won’t be judged by my standard and I’m not the one who authoritatively applies God’s standard of ministry success/faithfulness to him.

My anger and frustration at his mistreatment of the word of God is also a blistering rebuke against my own need for far more care in exegesis and exposition, and my own need to cultivate the gift of education that I’ve been entrusted with.  If he’s been entrusted with 1 talent and he’s getting a 1/2 talent worth of return, can I be proud of my 1 talent return (if I’m even getting that) on my 5 talent investment simply because I’m getting twice the return of him (with 5 times the investment)?

Until Next Time,

Lyndon Unger


3 thoughts on “A Great Quote and A Short Rant…

  1. It seems to me a great shame there’s not more interest in the original languages, I know in my 3rd year of Greek and 2nd of Hebrew, I’ve benefited so much from it. It’s crazy to think the academic blessing God has given us. We have so much training available to us and so easily compared to past generations! Thanks for the post!

    • I hear you Jordan!

      Yesterday, I was thiknking about Logos, Bibleworks 9, and Accordance and I wondered what all the other great theologians/pastors/reformers in history would have done with the resources that we have access to on an iPad?

      I shudder to think what would more would have been accomplished for the gospel if people like Wycliffe or even Spurgeon would have had access to even half the resources that we take for granted.

      I can explore textual critical issues by referencing photo-facimilies of the actual source papyri, uncials and codexes with the click of a button.

      I can search the entire bible for the usage of any Greek or Hebrew word in any number of stems or forms in seconds. I take for granted that I can literally do my own lexicography in minutes instead of reading and having to trust out of date resources or sources with crippling theological bias.

      I can look at how the early church spoke of certain subjects and plumb the depths of hundreds of writers in reference to a specific topic with just a few hours.

      I have more books on my laptop than most people in history have ever actually possessed, and the library in my office is more thorough than the libraries that many great men of the faith had access to, ever.

      One of my professors at seminary speculated that for all the resources and tools that we have available, the Lord could realistically expect 10 fold from us what he ever expected from the people from history we love to quote as authorities on biblical and theological matters.

  2. Wow, so I praise God that He has allowed you to love the WORD in the original languages! I’ve been growing in my love of doing exegesis the ‘hard way’–paying attention to lexical ranges, nuances in the syntax, classifying functions of words for it’s exegetical significance, etc. God bless you and your ministry!

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