Understanding the Bible; January 7, 2023


Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

The simple fact of the matter is, the Bible doesn’t make much sense without the help of the One who wrote it. We can see surface meanings, the record of history and the like, but it takes the Holy Spirit to connect all those things to each other and, most especially, to us in our daily lives. Linguistic analysis can only take you so far. That was the big problem with the theology that was all the rage around the turn of the 20th Century. They were finding manuscripts that had been lost, and “textual criticism” was all the rage, debating who actually wrote what, and when. In the process, some forgot that this was the Word of God, and some actively denied that it was. It hit me as I was writing that there is a lot of parallel with what is going on in the US right now, and it all stems back to the same period, when Marxists were trying to figure out how to destroy society, and they came up with “Critical Theory.” When they realized that simple economics weren’t going to cause the overthrow of democracies they went after other methods to divide people, and the current iteration of that is Critical Race Theory. In recent months I have learned more than I wanted to know about all that mess, but I hadn’t realized until just now that the destruction of trust in the Bible dates back to exactly the same period, and actually to the same group of people, because they all spoke German. Theologically speaking, some of them were honest scholars, but no amount of scholarship can substitute for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is indeed important and valuable to locate and identify early manuscripts, and understanding of language itself can improve. Translation is rarely an exact science! That’s all the more reason to ask the Holy Spirit what He meant when He caused something to be written.

This is very close to home for me, because my grandfather was a seminary professor right at the time of the rise of “textual criticism,” and was a Greek scholar to boot. For that matter, when my father got his PhD in Biblical Greek in 1934 his dissertation was liberally sprinkled with German, because he had to quote the scholars who were investigating and comparing the early manuscripts. Thankfully, both generations maintained their allegiance to the Author of the Bible. My grandfather was known for asking his students how big their Bible was, not in terms of printed matter but how much of it was in their mind and heart. That’s a question I ask myself, with the emphasis on the “heart.” I have a lot of the Bible in my mind (though I often can’t give you chapter and verse, for which I depend on my computer) but I have learned the hard way that until it gets into my heart and is expressed in my thoughts and actions, it doesn’t do me a lot of good. Just as the disciples needed Jesus to open their hearts to understand what the Old Testament said about the Messiah, I need the Holy Spirit to open my heart to grasp what the whole Bible is saying to me about my Lord, and about how I am to follow Him.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the incredible heritage I have of generations of ancestors dedicated to You and Your Word, and my own immersion in it from infancy. May I not presume on any of that, but in gratitude allow it to bear fruit in my own life and ministry, countering the lies of the enemy and setting people free with Your truth, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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