I grew up pretty traditionally Christian.
My dad was Baptist, my mom Mennonite, and though our family wasn’t very conservative, the community we went to church in was more so.
I think I had a fairly mainstream Christian view of the Bible – a mish-mash of literal and symbolic meaning, more caught from traditions of men than properly grounded, well-informed and thought-out study.
In 2015 I got serious about finding truth, although my quest was overshadowed by the fear of being deceived and mislead. As sure as I was that Christianity at large was missing something, and as desperate as I was to learn, I approached everything with suspicion.
It was really just a part of the fear built in by the religion, but that’s another post.
As I cautiously poked around, I began to realize how much what I had taken for granted had contributed to the lack of clarity and confidence I had in my faith life.
One of the big aspects was how I understood the Bible – the foundation for my belief.
Believe me, I clung to it like a lifeline because I didn’t trust myself, let alone anyone else, to hear the Holy Spirit without it – I mean, it says right in there we can’t trust ourselves!
But here are some of the things I gained greater understanding in that had a huge impact on making my faith much stronger 🙂
Lie #1: Biblical translations don’t matter.
In the community where I grew up there were churches that were strict KJV adherents. They were clearly legalistic about other things, however, so I came to see that as a legalistic viewpoint.
Three verses mainly influenced my belief about this, though.
2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”
Matthew 5:18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
I had faith that God protected His word from man’s errors, and trusted that His message came through in all translations.
Although I still know that God’s ability to speak to us is not dependent on the translations we choose to use, I have come to clearly see how much our ability to hear him can be affected by the lens through which we listen.
It’s not enough to read the Bible at face value because we bring too much of our own assumption to the interpretation.
Even when we dig into Strongs to get as close to the original meaning as we can, our understanding is still greatly skewed by time and culture.
For example, the phrase “heaven and earth” is actually an idiom referring to the temple – where heaven met earth, essentially.
Not to mention that the difference between Matthew 5:18 and 24:35 is that the first specifically talks about the Law, whereas the second is talking about Jesus’ words – neither of them refers to the whole Bible, despite my long-held subconscious belief that they did. Just wow.
So I guess in this context, the translation sort of doesn’t matter in that no matter what we’re reading we still need to dig deeper! But if we’re skimming, there are certainly some translations which are closer to the original text than others.
We mostly use NASB because it works well with Strongs and is easier to read than KJV (which also works well with Strongs). We also really love that it differentiates whenever the New Testament is quoting the Old Testament by capitalizing the quotes. Blue Letter Bible is a great study site to use!
Lie #2: The Bible is a reflection of God’s will.
This is certainly the most obvious lie I believed, but I don’t feel too bad because I think it’s the subconscious belief of the majority.
Clearly, a huge portion of the Bible is accounts of people doing a bunch of bad stuff. X-rated stuff kids shouldn’t read about.
But yet, if it’s not so obviously evil, or if it’s stuff God did himself, somehow we tend to just lump that all into the way God wanted it to be.
However, that was no more true then than it is now…
If you’re a parent, you know the way you interact with your kids is often not the way you would prefer to interact with them because they’re not at the place of maturity they hopefully will be someday.
Sometimes they make crappy choices and everyone has to deal with the fallout.
It seems easier to separate the bad stuff people did in the Old Testament from what went down in the New Testament, because Jesus.
But the reality is, the apostles weren’t who we tend to venerate them as – they had falling outs, they made bad judgments, they chased after their own ideas… chances are we wouldn’t have gotten along too well with some of them at times!
Yet I still used to read the details of what they did, by and large, as God’s will – and that can be a little confusing, mixed messages at best if you really dig and are honest with yourself…
See Lie #3 for more on why this is.
Lie #3: The Bible was written to us.
I think I probably had this subconscious notion because we didn’t get to live back in the day when God was speaking audibly, doing crazy things like parting the Red Sea, and sending Jesus and stuff…
Clearly we poor “last days” folks needed some sort of communication from him to tide us over, right?
Honestly, I just shake my head in amazement at how silly I now realize this is.
God is still speaking audibly, doing crazy things, and sent the Holy Spirit to do the works of Jesus through us – His other Sons (because gender isn’t a thing in the spirit).
We just don’t hear about even a fraction of what He’s doing because everything is so widespread, not to mention that we’re not looking for it because Christianity’s mindset has been largely defeatist, doom and gloom, waiting to exit the planet.
The truth is, the Bible was written to us in the same way any other history book was written “to us”.
Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is a billion times more intricate and amazing than any other history book. It’s layers upon layers of completely mind-blowing symbolism and meaning!
However, in and of itself, the Bible is a book – words on a page – not something to idolize or use to browbeat or guilt trip.
What makes it living and active is the true Living Word, the Word that was with God from the beginning – and He is not confined to any book.
The greatest value of the Bible is that it enables us to study what God has done through the ages – to see how connected everything is, how it builds and builds and builds through patterns that keep repeating.
If we look closely we’re able to see the bigger picture and how we fit into it.
The Bible is filled with much wisdom and insight that we do well to continue to glean from today, but it’s not the comprehensive rule book or end-all be-all I once considered it to be.
Most of it doesn’t apply to us directly, in the same way another country’s laws and culture don’t apply to us when we’re not visiting there.
Throughout the Bible we largely see the way God interacted and dealt with people based on the covenants he made with them:
- The Noahic Covenant – Genesis 9
- The Abrahamic Covenant – Genesis 12
- The Mosaic Covenant – Exodus 19-24
- The Davidic Covenant – 2 Samuel 7
- The New Covenant – Jeremiah 31
In order to interpret and understand correctly, we really need to line up what we’re reading with the covenant it corresponds to.
Very, very slowly, over generations, people were maturing and growing in relationship with God to the point where Jesus could come and establish the covenant that reflected the heart of the Father from the beginning.
I used to think everything from Jesus on was more “for us”, however, the first part of the New Testament through Jesus’ death was actually Old Covenant with Jesus beginning to introduce New Covenant concepts, and the rest of the New Testament was the transition period where everyone was having to deal with the old temple system still in operation up to 70AD.
But let me reiterate – yes, of course we still need the Bible and gain much from it… we just might need a bit of perspective adjustment.
Truths to rest in…
The main takeaway here should be, if something seems off to you, there’s probably a reason – there’s a good chance you might have a wrong belief or interpretation.
If something you read in the Bible doesn’t appear to point to God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness (and not in a twisted, martyr-mindset, have-to-make-excuses-for-what-“good”-is way)… dig deeper.
God was awesome and accessible before people had the Bible, and he’s still awesome and accessible past the comfort zones of familiar ideas and traditions.