March 13, 2012 Leave a comment
* Disclaimer I am neither a medical doctor, novelist or Greek scholar in textual criticism – I invite those with such skills to correct anything at their leisure. All other comments and further discussion are truly most welcome!
Thomas (T): Good morning Doctor Khan
Doctor Khan (DK): Good Morning Thomas. How can I help you?
T: Doctor Khan, I am having some sleeping difficulties.
DK: That’s unfortunate. Tell me more.
T: Well I come in from a hard day at work and am obviously tired, but it is very difficult to sleep, some nights I don’t get to sleep till 5 a.m – an hour before I have to get up for work!
DK: That’s no fun is it! How long has this been going on for?
T: About two months now doc!
DK: I see, any dizziness, head aches during the day?
T: None at all, I’m just knackard all the time! It’s getting really bad, I’m sure you can imagine the wife is not impressed…likes her beauty sleep you see!
DK: Well I wouldn’t want to help you on the road to divorce so for now I’ll write out a prescription. If it continues after two weeks of this tablet I’ll put you on, I’ll get you in for a blood test. Now the best one out there is “SleepFast”.
(Doctor Khan writes out prescription)
Take this to the receptionist and he’ll sort you out! Is there anything else I can do for you?
T: Well funnily enough there is; you see I went to see Doctor Jones, who has a practice on my street last week and he told me that the best thing for me to take was “SleepEasy”. You see the thing is doc, I wanted to get a second opinion and so I came to you, so now I’m rather confused!
DK: Well I can assure you the best thing to take is SleepFast – Doctor Jones is an eminent physician but I would have to disagree with him on this one! All of my patients swear by SleepFast.
T: Oh I see! Well doc I suppose it’s down to your interpretation of medicine isn’t it and all that. Perhaps I’ll toss a coin? Maybe just stick it out for a while?
DK: (unnerved) Well, erm…yes, indeed it is, but interpretation isn’t going to solve your problem Tom; only the true medicine will do that!
What would you say to Thomas’ assessment of the situation?
Let’s up the ante. Thomas has a fatal illness, if left untreated.
Does he really flippantly throw his hands in the air and say – well it’s down to your interpretation doc this time? Unfortunately when two pastors/theologians/average Joes disagree on the meaning of a biblical text, people play the ‘interpretation’ card and walk off none the wiser.
Somehow we think it’s more tolerant, perhaps more amicable, maybe we even think that it is a mark of humility!
Well I think it’s foolish – you are free to disagree of course!
Now the Bible is distanced to us by language and age. Do you speak Koine Greek, or perhaps you’re a dab-hand when it comes to reading ancient Hebrew? I thought not.
While you can be on your way to starting many a theological enquiry by reading your standard (good) English translation (ESV, NASB etc.) and perhaps getting to grips with a trained teacher of the Word, some times things are a little harder to discern.
Take for example the Greek word ‘porneia’ – this could mean adultery, fornication or some other words relating to the area of sexual immorality (http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G4202). Usually we know how to translate a word based on immediate context and other things, but sometimes the problem is more nuanced and you get two different readings of a text.
[I feel compelled to insert that no major doctrine of Scripture is in jeopardy here - they are major doctrines simply because they are frequent themes running throughout and so most of the time problems regarding meaning in a place or two are - pardon the pun - meaningless, since we can ascertain the theme with other methods and the problems are easily solved.]
But sometimes you get a sentence, or a verse or part of a verse which could mean two slightly different things and you get two doctors (theologians) with two takes!
What do you do?
Consider the above scenario:
You would, perhaps, check out who had been practising medicine for a long time, Doctor Jones or Doctor Khan – maybe both have been.
You would check out what field of medicine they were both specialists in.
You may find some other trusted doctors and see what they say.
You may do a host of other things – the point is – that you would get to the bottom of it! Now yes I will be the first to admit that this will not happen in all cases – you may find a genuine 50-50 split down the middle and with the resources and people available to you at that point may be left none the wiser, but I hope you can see that the point I am trying to elucidate is that you wouldn’t simply throw in the interpretation card and go home!
And such must be our attitude – indeed, more than the aforementioned, with the very words of God. There will be those odd verses that we may not be able to say personally one way or the other…and that’s OK! But most of the time, the interpretation card simply will not stand up once we’ve actually done some work and got to the bottom of the text!
I hope that I have shown that knowing the meaning of a text is vitally important, and we must seek it out, if we are truly seeking God out!
We are dealing with the very words of God, and if we truly accept that proposition, then we simply cannot afford to be so lazy!
* I recommend a little book called “Knowing Scripture” by renowned Scholar, Philosopher and Theologian RC Sproul – who’s website is here with a brief article which would far better sum up some of the things I have sought to address: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/knowing-scripture/
* The book is available on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Knowing-Scripture-R-C-Sproul/dp/083083723X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331682959&sr=8-1