The Bible. That word scares a lot of people these days. Some say scripture instead to soften the sharpness of the word. And many refuse to trust the Bible for what it is. Why is this?
I feel that many of us fear the Bible at times (some of us more than others). Or we don’t trust it to be the fullness of truth. I feel at times it is easier to drink a cup of tea than read or contemplate some of the truths in the bible.
Some deny the bible outright. They say it’s only a book of made up stories. Non-believers, I expect to say this. But even Christians fear the bible, too.
And we do it more often than we realize. We want to blunt the sword of truth if it disagrees with our wants and desires.
So how can we recognize when we (or others) do this so we can remain true. So we can trust God’s Word.
There are many ways, but, I’ll limit this for now with just a few examples of lies we tell others or tell ourselves when God’s Word cuts a little too deep.
Do you trust man or God? The devil said to Adam and Eve, “Did God really say…?”
The easiest way to not trust the part of God’s teaching we don’t like is just tear it out.
This is the most common thing I hear from people who reject God’s teachings. They simply remove the sections they don’t like by claiming it is not really God’s Word. Just writings from men.
There are two ways some do this. One is using the “telephone game” argument. They claim that we can’t possibly know what the original words were because they were passed down for generations before being committed to paper.
This has been proven false many times. I will take a moment to show why this analogy doesn’t work.
The telephone game myth assumes one person passing to another and then another, in a chain. No single person can verify what has been said before. In reality, the Word of God spread quickly as Christianity spread in that first generation. But entire groups heard God’s word together as they gathered and verified each other’s accuracy in transmission.
Second, the Word of God was written down much earlier than many people realize. There is much evidence to trust the gospels and Pauline letters were written by eyewitnesses or someone who could speak to an eyewitness (as the physician Luke did).
And looking at just the words of the bible itself, we have God’s words to trust it’s authenticity. Though many say just because a text says it is from God doesn’t make it so. This straw man argument is another lie we tell ourselves.
Most of the time, people refer to 2 Timothy 3:16 which says “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” The Greek literally means God-breathed. But there is more.
I’ve been studying Greek for years now and can attest to the internal beauty, consistency, and self-verification of scripture being from God.
It is like a web that is so complex yet beautiful that you can see the more you study it, the more tightly woven it is and how different parts support other parts.
God means it when He says it is His Word, it is God breathed. Even if you read just an English translation, you can see the beauty woven throughout.
The more we read His truth, the more we will recognize His truth. The more we are comforted by His truth. Read the Bible daily and pray to understand and recognize it for what it is. We can see that constant grand plan of His.
But when this method of tearing out His Word doesn’t work, we will then resort to another form of self-deception rather than trust it.
No translation is perfect. True. It is impossible to simply do a “find-and-replace” for Greek words to an English equivalent. Some people do think this is possible, and may find a more palatable gloss.
Languages are rich and words carry deeper meanings than a simple dictionary gloss.
This is why I love learning Greek and being able to read scripture in the original Greek. It strengthens my trust in it, too.
I heard an analogy that reading the bible through a translation is like kissing your bride through the veil.
But some think that you can still just “find and replace” words from Greek to English.
This can be easily seen in English with the phrase, “Look at that bolt.” What does that mean? Am I asking you to look at a hardware item with threads on it, or a giant flash of lightning? Or am I referring to how fast someone is running?
From this one simple example, we can see that we can’t just look up all the meanings that a Greek word can mean and pick our favorite one.
In order to capture the true meaning, we do have to work a bit. We have to look at the context to grasp what the writer was talking about. Sometimes we have to remember back to other parts of scripture to get a more clear picture.
For example, John 1:1 says,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
If we didn’t have context, this could be confusing. Does that mean God was just a single word? Is he the alphabet? A book? Well, if we don’t know, we can search.
Well, John, a bit further down, explains it to us. In John 1:14, he says one of the most amazing lines in the bible: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
He is talking about Jesus coming into this world. God, entering into His own creation.
This is awesome news! See how we can recognize His truth woven in the text just be reading an English translation.
Just by reading more, we see more.
But if we are not careful, we can trick ourselves and use bad word substitutes for our own deception.
For example, some people say that when Jesus says those who do not believe in Him will have eternal punishment, God doesn’t mean that. Yes, it is hard to hear that truth.
They say the Greek word for hell is “gehenna” and it just refers to a garbage heap outside Jerusalem. There is some truth to this, which makes it sound tempting.
If there is no hell, there is no punishment for what I do. Except that’s not truth. We deceive ourselves.
So we need to read more. Does this hold water? Let’s substitute this gloss and see if it makes sense in other places.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (gehenna). (Matthew 10:28, ESV)
Can we replace the word Gehenna with “a trash heap” and still make sense?
*”And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in the trash heap.”
Huh? Do you know of any trash heap that can destroy your soul? So the true gloss must be Hell in the traditional sense. But this is scary. It cuts to our core. But truth is not always easy.
But there is good news. Instead of changing Gods Word, we simply need to keep reading, for He has great news for us!
Some still resist, though. I have even done so at times. Sometimes we go to really extreme lengths to fool ourselves and make God more like us.
At times, we can find ourselves not trusting God and, instead, try to find some hidden meaning buried under the text that simply isn’t there. It feels like sometimes this is an attempt at us trying to make ourself more clever than God. Instead we should just trust God and take Him at his Word.
An extreme example, I’ve heard more than once, is how God is really a woman because of a reference to one of His attributes being Wisdom and in the Old Testament, Wisdom is referred to as a she. In this way, God isn’t the strong authoritative figure but a more loving, motherly figure who won’t punish sinners who go against His will. Now, I’ll admit, God is much more complex than we can imagine and has many attributes.
But the fact is, He has chosen to reveal Himself a certain way for a reason (whether or not one understands that reason is another question).
Here is how Dr. Michael Heiser explains it:
In literary terms, what we see here in regard to wisdom is personification—taking an abstract idea like wisdom and casting it as a person or living thing. Since the word for “wisdom” in Hebrew is grammatically feminine (ḥokmah), when this personification occurs “wisdom” is cast as a lady.
English personifies abstract concepts as well. We might say, “Lust overtook him,” or “Envy blinded her.” Lust and envy are cast as though they were living entities that can physically engage someone. That’s personification.
What all this means for our topic is that “wisdom” is not an actual woman or feminine entity who assisted God at creation (Prov 8:30). The language simply reflects the grammar.
But despite this, people still try to cast God as a woman in a very gnostic sense, attempting to relate God to ‘mother nature’ instead of God the Father, as He has chosen to revealed Himself.
Simply put, we love our life and ourselves. ”We like our stuff,” is a good way to put it. But God tells us many times to not love the things of this world, that His kingdom is not of this World.
He tells us that the world’s ways are not His ways. If the world loves us, then we are doing something contrary to His Word. 1 John 2:15 says,
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but from the world.”
We should be careful not to begin suppressing His truth. And Romans 1:21-25 builds on this,
”For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
But if we trust the bible, if we trust God, we can see that He is not doing this to punish us. He is not doing this to scare us or to be a “big meanie.”
He is doing this to save us from ourselves. If we go our way, choosing to ignore His Word, He will leave us to our sinful ways and we will suffer the punishment for that. BUT…
God chose to give us the bible so we can get to know Him because of His love for us.
He saved us. This means that God reached down and rescued us from the punishment that we deserved and pulled us up to Him so we could be with Him and know Him for an eternity, without death or sin tarring that beautiful relationship with Him.
So don’t be afraid of the bible. Trust it. Read it for what it is: the most perfect letter to us from our Creator, telling us that He loves us. And in this letter, He tells us how he did that and how we can love Him more and know Him now, while we wait for Him to make all things new.
Hi. I'm Scott Sullivan, a slave of Christ and husband to my awesome wife Angie. I'm an artist and writer,
living in the beautiful countryside of Lancaster, Pa.