March 26, 2017 – Making Sense of the Bible Week 4: The Nature of Scripture

2 Timothy 3:10-17

       As we begin today, I’m going to ask you to think of some words that were not in existence 20 years ago.  I have six words for us to consider.

Blog

Everyone has a blog these days, and it’s kind of been that way since about 1999 — the same year “weblog” was shortened to blog by Peter Merholz as a joke. In 2004 it was Merriam Webster’s Word of the Year.

 

Google

It’s rare to go a day without googling something, and you probably use the phrase “Google it” on a semi-regular basis. It didn’t become an official word until 2006, but it was the American Dialect Society’s most useful word of 2002. It wasn’t until “Help,” an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that the verb hit television. Need to verify that? Just Google it.

 

Mashup

People have been combining songs as early as the ‘50s, but the word mashup didn’t show up until this style of music became popular at the turn of the millennium. They got a burst of legitimacy from the network TV show Glee, and they’ve been a mainstay of the industry ever since.

 

Muggle

This term may have started out in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, to refer to non-magical people — but it’s become a blanket term for someone who isn’t conversant with a particular set of skills, or a particular activity. Rowling has said that it comes from the British slang “mug,” meaning an easily fooled person. The word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003 with the definition “a person who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill.”

 

Staycation

The meaning of this term is pretty obvious — a vacation where you stay home instead of going on an expensive trip. “Staycation” first appeared in print in a 2003. By 2008 it was being commonly used, as more people started having staycations due to high gas prices. In 2009 it was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and in 2010 it was added to the OED.

 

Upcycle

This combination of “up” and “recycle,” means using discarded objects to create a product that’s actually of higher quality or value. The word was first used in 1994 by Thornton Kay in an article in Salvo. Since then it has become a movement to change the way we live and focus on reusing things that otherwise would have been thrown away.

 

As we continue to study the Bible with our sermon series, Making Sense of the Bible by Adam Hamilton, the fact that new words are created all the time is significant. Paul uses a word that has tripped up some folks as to how to interpret scripture. The word is ‘theopneustros’ which is generally interpreted to mean God-inspired. But what is interesting is it did not appear in scripture or in the Greek language until Paul used this term.  Because of this, we have no reference as to what Paul is talking about.

So what does ‘theopneustros’ mean?  For some, it means the Bible is literally God-breathed: God dictated every word to the authors who were simply scribes.  Yet when God literally ‘breathed’ life into Adam, a different term was used in scripture and interpreted into Greek.  If we follow this understanding, the Bible is infallible and inerrant.  Yet the idea of scripture being ‘God-dictated’ did not exist until the 19th century when many were questioning the authority of the Bible.  “None of the historic creeds of the church, those from the first five hundred years of the Christian faith, mention an infallible or inerrant Bible and none begin an affirmation of faith in the scriptures” (Hamilton pg. 140.)  Consider our Apostles Creed that we recite each week:  the pillars of belief are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – not scripture.

Instead, it is also possible Paul was using ‘theopneustros’ to refer to scripture that inspires us each time we read. Perhaps you have had the experience of reading a fairly familiar scripture or story only to hear or receive new meaning. “God-inspired” may be how we are inspired as we read God’s word.  I remember preaching on the story of the feeding of the five thousand. One of the congregants thanked me for providing a different detail she had never heard before concerning the leftover pieces of bread and fish. The point I made is that Jesus does not leave anything or anyone behind, and that was the inspirational message she needed to hear.

What we read as ‘God-inspired’ can be seen as divine influence both on the scripture writers and on its readers.  Hear this quote from our study author: [Read page 143] The scripture read for us from 2 Timothy speaks about scripture being truly ‘God-inspired’ – for its authors and us as readers.

Another question to consider – Is the Bible the word of God?  There is one particular place where the word of God is quite literally dictated and inscribed in stone and that is with the presentation of the Ten Commandments.  We see the Bible as a compilation of many authors with different styles and focal points, all inspired by God. Yet similar to a biography of a famous person, perhaps we can see the Bible as a biography of God and the story of God’s interactions with God’s people.  Consider an authorized biography.  I am sure the subject had direct input and is often quoted directly. But the tone and viewpoint of the person would come from its author.  In theological, churchy, techie terms, we call that hermeneutics.  It is the lens in which the author views the world and the subject in order to present a written document.

We too hold a hermeneutic. We have a 21st century lens of experiences with which to read and wrestle with scripture.  We have a long tradition within the Christian church to draw wisdom and knowledge as we seek to better understand and apply scripture for us today.  We have the gift of reason that allows us to gather meaning and purpose as we seek to live lives like Jesus would have us live.

We also have the greatest lens with which to view scripture.  Turn to the gospel of John the first chapter. Let’s read these words together: [John 1:1-3, 14.] The true word of God is Jesus Christ. Jesus became flesh and gives us a specific hermeneutic with which to view scripture.  When we read disturbing words about stoning those who commit adultery, we can turn to Jesus who when faced with an adulterous woman said to her, “Go and sin no more.”  When faced with a multi-tiered status system of those who were in and those who were shunned, Jesus shares a drink from a well with an outcast, a shunned woman, supposed enemy.  At a time when tax collectors were said to have to worst reputation as thieves and sinners, Jesus calls Matthew to “follow me.”  When hanging unjustly on a cross to face a criminals death, he said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  When considering if scripture is the word of God, theologian Karl Barth put it this way, “The Bible contains the word of God found within the words of its human authors” (Hamilton, pg. 152.)

We’ve reached a third question concerning the nature of scripture: Is the Bible ever wrong?  Some will claim the Bible cannot be in error because it is the word of God. Yet there are passages that contradict one another – we talked about Proverbs 26:4 and 5 as appearing to provide opposite advice.  We have addressed some others in past sermons, such as the passage noting that Elkhanan killed Goliath and not David(1 Samuel 17 vs. 2 Samuel 21:19.)  For those who believe the Bible is inerrant, these passages present a problem. Perhaps something was lost in the numerous translations and transcriptions of scripture. It is also likely that the authors of scripture placed their own slant on the telling of stories, reflecting their environment and status quo of the day.  Considering the fact that the Bible was constructed with human authors, inspired by God, it is likely there are times when scripture must be carefully evaluated.  Various authors with differing views may present some challenges as we seek to hear God speaking to us through scripture.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever read a passage and for some reason the words jump off the page and seem to speak directly to you? I have.  Not too long ago we did a series on Music and the Psalms. As we compared different genres of music to different types of Psalms, I found myself hearing a different focus and a deeper meaning to the scriptures. I trust this is your experience as well and I encourage you to read through some scriptures this week. Start anywhere – if you’ve never seriously read the Bible I usually recommend starting with the book of Mark.

As you read, consider the context of the author.  Consider the societal norms – maybe even evaluate a bit of history!  Consider why Jesus would say “love your enemies.” Consider why the apostles came to the decision they did in Acts chapter 15, beginning in verse 5. The apostles made a decision concerning the application of Jewish law to the Gentiles who were coming to faith in Jesus Christ. I encourage you to read this passage and realize that the apostles needed to interpret scripture to best fit the current needs of believers in Jesus. Pray for God to inspire you and stir something in your heart to become more like the true word of God – Jesus Christ. Amen.

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