Academic exegesis

Academic exegesis is that form of interpretation which copies academics or authority figures.  The Lord Jesus Christ cut through this in His teaching.

Academic exegesis is seen in the translation of several biblical passages.  Bible versions are the product of teams of academic translators pooling their collective knowledge to produce a final decision on the translation of particular texts.

It is easy to demonstrate that when a significant translation, such as the New International Version, makes a break from a traditional translation, then subsequent versions will follow, on the principle that new research has identified an improvement.

However, these are not always improvements but such is the bias of academia that academic exegesis kicks in to cement the new translation as the new standard, inhibiting independent thought and establishing a new paradigm.

Those who are unfamiliar with translation may think that this criticism is too strong. So it might help to give an example of academic imitation.  For a long time it has been recognized that Jn 5:39 is not a command ‘Search the Scriptures’, as the King James Version suggests, but a comment ‘You search the Scriptures’, meaning that in spite of their searching of Scripture they did not realise that the Scriptures spoke about Jesus.  The variations in translation can be viewed by clicking here.  So far, so good.

However, what about Jn 5:31?  A quick review of twenty versions, old and new, shows that there is little variation among them.  Yet most commentators know that there is a difficulty with this text and there are various attempts at explaining the verse.  The point is not which interpretation is correct, but that in spite of all the academics pouring over this verse none of them have translated any version as a rhetorical question.  The proper translation is: ‘If I bear witness of Myself, is My witness not true?’ which makes much more sense than the statement ‘My witness is not true’ – the uniform translation in all versions I have consulted – especially when the standard translation contradicts what the Saviour says in Jn 8:14.

Why is this?  Bible translations are produced by teams of academics, so how have they not analysed the Greek text for themselves and discovered this?  Have they been so busy studying the commentaries and weighed up the opinion of other scholars that they have not done their own exegesis?  If so, this is not exegesis of the text, but relying upon academia, the very thing that Jesus exposed.

This appeal to authority is what the scribes did in Jesus’ day – so when He cut through their academic exegesis and explained the proper meaning of Scripture, ‘the people were astonished at His doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes’ Mat 7:28-29 and Mk 1:22.  This mistaken emphasis is similar to modern theology, which is not ‘the study of God’ theos-logos but ‘the study of theologians’.

Proper exegesis of this passage would have yielded the result that the negative statement of all extant English translations cannot be correct, even before analysising the Greek text, which like Jn 5:39 has legitimate alternative translations.  So why have so many teams of translators followed each other along only one of these alternatives?  The answer is either that they have not considered the alternative or that they are too frightened to break out of the consistent consensus of academic opinion.  Neither option is commendatory.

Why call it academic exegesis?  1. because it is not exegesis, which does not need any qualifying adjective.  2. when something goes wrong with exegesis, there must be a reason for it.  The commonest error is eisegesis, which is the very opposite of exegesis.  3. in this case, the error arises because of an overweaning fear of breaking out of the academic consensus, so that ‘academic’ exegesis is an appropriate adjective.

This is only one of many examples of academic exegesis in Bible translation, in which academics are controlled by their peer group and too frightened to do their own exegesis, resulting in academic imitation, which Jesus broke through in His time, and which we must continue to assess in our time.  God willing, I hope to return to this subject with more examples as time permits.

Update:

10 Jul 2017: Ps 125:3: the NIV translates this with ‘the land’, which: 1. is not the Hebrew word, 2. does not make sense; 3. is not true; but 4. it is followed by many modern versions.  So why is this so?  They are copying each other – not exegeting the text.  Only some versions notice that another of the Hebrew words in this text is ‘wickedness’ and not ‘wicked’.

25 Jul 2017: Ps 104:4: ‘angels spirits’ has been translated as ‘messengers winds’, copied by current translations.  I happened to exegete this Psalm in my Bible commentary a few days ago specifically on this subject about the angels and today I discovered this article in the Trinitarian Bible Society Quarterly Record Oct-Dec 2016, pp. 17-21 on this very subject.  There is providence for you!

Do you honour Jesus Christ as Lord?

What sort of honour do you give to Jesus Christ, and to what extent?

Many people know that He claims to be the Son of God, but this washes over many of them as if it is just another item of news.

Rather, it is so significant that it cannot be ignored and deserves to be investigated.  Jesus said: “The queen of the south shall rise up in the day of judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here” Mat 12:42.

Some people minimise the concept of the Son of God and make out that He is an inferior creation of God, failing to give credit to the full meaning of this term.  Let us listen instead to what Jesus says about Himself:

“The Father judges no man, but He has committed all judgment to the Son, in order that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.  He that honours not the Son honours not the Father Who sent Him” Jn 5:22-23.

The Father has a definite purpose in committing the work of judgment to His Son.  Not only is it an honour to Him Whom men despised as Saviour Isa 53:3, that He should also be appointed Judge, but Jesus tells us that it goes further than this.  It is in order that all men should honour the Son in the same manner as they honour the Father.

Do you do so?  Do you honour the Son in the same manner as you honour God? If not, then Jesus says that you are not even honouring the Father, far less the Son.  “He that honours not the Son honours not the Father Who sent Him” Jn 5:23.

What if people will not do so?  Truly there are many such, who will not do so during their time in this earthly life, but they will be forced to do so at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

“God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Php 2:9-11.

Now compare this with the Lord’s speech in Isa 45:23 “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear”, quoted by Paul in Rom 14:11 “For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God”, which Paul puts in the context of “for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” Rom 14:10.

Every knee shall bow to Jesus Christ as Lord – either in mercy in this world or at the Day of Judgment.  Which will you choose?

 

 

The majority of mankind will be saved

It is not uncommon to hear the depressing and unbiblical doctrine that only a minority of the human family will arrive in heaven.

Various biblical texts are wrongly used to support this unbiblical idea.

  1. Jesus was asked: “Are there few that be saved?” Lk 13:23.  Jesus replied with neither Yes nor No to this, but that many would be too late, out of complacency, and to make sure that you are not among them.
  2. Jesus said: “Narrow is the way which leads to life, and few there be that find it” Mat 7:14.  However, Jesus does not say that there will always be few.  There were few in His day, and there may be few in your locality, but it is not always so.
  3. “A remnant shall be saved” Rom 9:27.  Paul wrote this in the context of there being many unbelieving Jews in his day.  It will not always be so.  Paul was dealing with the small number of Jews in his day who believed in Jesus as the Messiah  by showing that it was predicted by Old Testament Scripture.  This is not a comment on the whole number of the saved.
  4. Jesus said: “Fear not, little flock” Lk 12:32.  The disciples were a little flock in Christ’s day, but He went on to say, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  The little flock is not a comment on the whole number of the saved.
  5. Jesus said: “When the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on the earth?”  Lk 18:8.  This is commonly misinterpreted to mean that the world will get worse and worse and so the Christian church will always be in the minority.   Rather, Jesus is speaking about the international apostacy at the end of the world after the Millennium – see Rev 20:7-8 – so that Jesus will then come quickly on the last day Jn 6:39,40,44,54 and Jn 12:48 to judge mankind.  So Lk 18:8 is not a comment on the whole number of the saved.

The Bible teaches the opposite of this depressing doctrine.

  1. Believers inherit a kingdom Lk 12:32, whereas the devil and his hordes are consigned to a pit Rev 20:3 and then a lake of fire Rev 20:10 and Mat 25:41.  “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” Jn 14:2.
  2. There is an innumerable number of saved human beings already in heaven Rev 7:9.
  3. Even the majority of angels are on Christ’s side Rev 12:4.
  4. World population is growing exponentially and there have been more human beings living on Earth in the 20th century than in all previous centuries put together.   In the Millennium Rev 20:2-7, the kingdoms of this world will “become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” Rev 11:15.  This Millennium will be more than enough time for the Lord’s people to outnumber the ungodly on Earth.
  5. It is possible and even probable that untold numbers of babies miscarrying in the womb, and infants dying in infancy, have arrived in heaven.  See Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s sermon on 2Kings 4:26, who supports this view in spite of his two unbiblical comments against infant baptism.  A more definitive treatment of the subject is The Theology of Infant Salvation by R. A. Webb, 1907, reprinted by Sprinkle, 1981.
  6. Jesus will have the majority at last: “And He is the head of the body, the church: Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence” Col 1:18.  Jesus will not be beaten by the devil and his hordes.  Jesus is a winner, not a loser.  “None of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” Jn 17:12.

The ungodly will find themselves belonging to a minority of losers, on the wrong side of history, to their everlasting shame and dismay, while the godly will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world Mat 25:34.

The ungodly are hazarding this gift of eternal life through their supercilious unbelief.  Jesus challenges them: “If I say the truth, why do you not believe Me?” Jn 8:46.  Jesus invites them to examine themselves and to look at themselves in the mirror.

Atheists believe in God – they just don’t believe in the devil

Agnostics are more honest than atheists.  Agnostics acknowledge that they do not know if there is a God, but atheists declare confidently that there is no God.

Does this mean that atheists have searched the Universe and concluded that there is no God to be found?  No – they have not searched the Universe.  Atheists arrive at their conclusion by reasoning.   It goes like this.

If God is all powerful and good, then why do evil and suffering exist?  Either it means that God is not all powerful or that He is not all good.  As evil and suffering exist, this proves that God does not exist.

No – it does not.  What it does prove is that atheists intuitively know that God must be both all powerful and all good.  They acknowledge in their reasoning that God cannot be one without the other.

For the more theologically literate, this is the modern, practical use of Anselm’s ontological argument.

The problem with this atheist reasoning is that the atheist does not believe in the devil as the source of evil.  They blame God for the devil’s work.  A simple mistake in their reasoning.

It also shows the limitations of rationalism.  Reason is not sufficient to prove something but only to test a proof.  The reason for this is that one’s reasoning is not infallible, and one can make a mistake at any stage in one’s reasoning, just as the atheist has done above.  So reason cannot prove that there is no God; it can only be used to check if a proof holds water.  Some things are too high for reason to explain or understand.  Reason is a useful tool, but it is not sufficient.  Some things are above reason and some things are against reason.  Do not confuse one for the other.

This is why in the scientific world we use experiments to check if a hypothesis is right, and this is why we need divine revelation to keep us right in our thinking about God, origins, the purpose of life, death, life after death and eternity.  We neglect it at our peril.

Postscript:
1/5/2017: John Macleod on atheist beliefs in ‘There is no God, and we hate Him’ – Scottish Daily Mail, Thursday 27th April 2017: “atheism is not rationality. It is a religion – a faith-based belief system, like any other religion, and in whose names some of the most appalling crimes of the twentieth century were committed. And the fanaticism and hatefulness of so many atheists suggest their position is not, in truth, there is no God; it is that there is no God, and they hate Him.”

Seven Testimonies to the Person, life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ

The three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, give us three independent accounts of the Person, life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are called synoptic because they are so similar to each other. Why does God’s Holy Spirit give us three similar accounts? There are many reasons, but not least is to demonstrate that the story of the life of Christ is not simply one man’s fantasy story about an imaginary miracle worker, but being separately documented by three independent writers the reality of His Person and work is demonstrated.

The fourth account of the life of Christ is the Gospel written by John.  It is a more theological treatment of His Person and teaching, explaining the meaning of His death and resurrection by Jesus’ close friend and acquaintance, the apostle John. John continues the story after His resurrection with the glorious scenes in the book of Revelation. In his three epistles he gives us the ethos of Christianity – love – as he learned it directly from the lips of Jesus Christ.

The fifth testimony to Christ is by the apostle Paul, who bore testimony to the risen, exalted and glorified Christ by his remarkable conversion on the road to Damascus, recorded by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, both historically and from the lips of Paul himself. Paul’s remarkable conversion from persecutor of Christians to the foremost apostle of Christ confounded his critics, and his faithful and zealous life of Christian service testifies to the reality of the risen Lord. If anyone would know if Christ’s dead body had been stolen, it would be Paul. Instead he preached boldly the resurrection of Christ and the doctrines which flow naturally from so important a fact.

The sixth account is by the prophet Isaiah whose prophecy, written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, describes most vividly and theologically the meaning of Christ’s atoning death – to such an extent that it has been called the fifth Gospel. The account in Isaiah 52:14-53:12 is a graphic account of Christ’s death with a theological explanation of its atoning purpose and achievement.

The seventh testimony is the whole Old Testament record, which foretells and explains the Person, life and work of Christ, showing that the Saviour Whom God would send into this world is both divine and human – the Son of God and the Son of man.

‘Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift’ 2Cor 9:15.

‘For the wages due to sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ Rom 6:23.

Patrick’s Places – the difference between Law and Gospel

Patrick’s Places – the difference between Law and Gospel
by Patrick Hamilton, 1527.

Patrick Hamilton was Scotland’s first Reformer and martyr, burned at the stake by Roman Catholic cardinal Beaton at St Andrews in 1528 for preaching the Gospel. Of noble birth, he graduated MA from the College of Montaigu, Paris, in 1520 and enrolled in the University of St Andrews on the same day that John Major was received as Principal of St Mary’s College on 9/6/1523. In 1527 he was one of the first students in the new University of Marburg founded in 1527 by Landgrave Philip I of Hesse. The same year he wrote Patrick’s Places in Latin, translated by John Frith into English who named it Patrick’s Places ‘for it treateth exactly of certain commonplaces, which known, ye have the pith of all divinity.’

The nature and office of the law and of the gospel

The law showeth us our sin, Rom. iii. 9-20.
The gospel showeth us remedy for it, John i. 29.
The law showeth us our condemnation, Rom. vii. 23, 24.
The gospel showeth us our redemption, Eph. i.
The law is the word of ire, Rom. iv. 15.
The gospel is the word of grace, Acts xx. 24.
The law is the word of despair, Deut. xxvii. 15-26.
The gospel is the word of comfort, Luke ii. 10.
The law is the word of unrest, Rom. vii. 24.
The gospel is the word of peace, Eph. vi. 15.

A disputation between the law and the gospel; where is shown the difference or contrariety between them both.

The law saith, Pay thy debt.
The gospel saith, Christ hath paid it.
The law saith, Thou art a sinner; despair, and thou shalt be damned.
The gospel saith, Thy sins are forgiven thee, be of good comfort, thou shalt be saved!
The law saith, Make amends for thy sins.
The gospel saith, Christ hath made it for thee.
The law saith, The Father of heaven is angry with thee.
The gospel saith, Christ hath pacified him with his blood.
The law saith, Where is thy righteousness, goodness, and satisfaction?
The gospel saith, Christ is thy righteousness, thy goodness, thy satisfaction.
The law saith, Thou art bound and obliged to me, to the devil, and to hell.
The gospel saith, Christ hath delivered thee from them all.

Dr Donald M. Boyd
3/10/2016

The Ark of Noah – and The Unsinkable Dream

I have just finished reading The Unsinkable Dream by Johan Huibers, the Dutchman who has built a full-sized replica of Noah’s Ark. Its Dutch title is Let Your Dream Sail.

It is a wonderful read about an amazing project with so many lessons that you should simply purchase the book for yourself.

The Ark is currently on a tour around the ports of South America, such as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the Olympic Games are being held at present.

You can read about it and support it here: www.arkofnoah.org.

Ark Of Noah Foundation video on Vimeo; more Ark of Noah Foundation videos here.