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!

American Independence Day

Today, American Independence Day, reminds us of ‘no taxation without representation’.  This was the principle on which the American War of Independence was fought.

It was not simply a desire for independence, but a revolt against undemocratic control.

Another blow for freedom was struck exactly 200 years later on 4/7/1976, when the Israel Defence Forces stunned the world by the iconic rescue of Israeli hostages at Entebbe Airport, Uganda.  The new state of Israel showed the world what it could do. Shortly afterwards, in the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, the Americans bungled a similar rescue of Americans held hostage in Iran when two of its helicopters crashed into each other in the desert.

Between 4/7/1776  and 4/7/1976 the world had changed dramatically.  The USA has become the world’s dominant power and, of biblical significance, the state of Israel has come into being.  The greatest advances have been in science and technology, and the worse changes have been the ungodly abandoning of Christianity, leading to the two world wars and horrors of the 20th century with massive slaughters promoted by atheistic regimes, notably in Russia and China.

However, in the realm of governmental democracy, celebrated by American Independence Day, it is pleasing to note that while there were only 11 democracies in the world in 1941, in 2017 there are about 123 democracies out of 192 countries in the world.

This governmental shift is consistent with the biblical teaching on the change in governmental principles that will be evident in the Millennial period of human history.  Christ’s mandate for the world is on target – “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” Mat 6:10.

 

 

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.

Control freakery is running wild

Prime Minister Theresa May was pilloried because she did not express public grief over the Grenfell Tower disaster in a politically correct manner.

It reminds us of the public mood at the time of Princess Diana’s tragic death.  Instead of allowing the Queen to grieve in her own way, the public demanded that she grieve publicly according to its politically correct opinion.

Public figures are now expected to express their grief over tragedy according to an unwritten politically correct script determined by the mood of the time.  This is control freakery.

Let people form their own judgments about how to express their grief.

Melanie Philips made a similar point tonight in BBC Newsnight’s Viewsnight.

Prince Harry has also criticised his being made to walk publicly behind his mother’s coffin as a 12 year old boy, although it is claimed that this was a family decision rather than a bureaucratic one.

BBC Radio nan Gàidheal interview

The full BBC Radio nan Gàidheal (Gaelic radio) interview with Dr Donald Boyd, the leader of the Scottish Christian Party for broadcasting on 19th May 2017, which was only partially broadcast on the day.

Dr Boyd was asked about the SCP vision for Inverness and the Highlands, and he was asked in conclusion what the SCP would do to promote the Gaelic language.

He pointed out that Gaelic road signs are unnecessary but of much more use would be to teach school children the meaning of the Gaelic names of the mountains on Highland maps, helping them to understand the geography of the Highlands and to increase interest in one of the main features of the Highlands.

He repeated his 2015 claim that the Scottish National Party has no specifically Scottish vision for Scotland and the Highlands, and this is the reason for voting for the Scottish Christian Party instead.

We all speak many languages

Most people think that they speak one language, but this is not so.

There are more languages than ethnic languages – there are professional languages, the language of hobbies, sport, etc. The average person would not understand a medical conversation, nor a discussion between lawyers, but the same would be true of a football coaching session or a tennis coach, a chess grandmaster explaining strategy and moves. Simply put, every area of life has its own vocabulary that people need to learn in order to participate in conversation.

This shows that even the most undervalued person has great potential, and this should raise their self-esteem.

We are all multi-lingual, with great capacity for self-improvement.

The Law against Natural Justice

It is a well-known adage that only the very rich and the very poor can afford to go to law, because the poor receive Legal Aid from the public purse.  Not only does this give the poor an advantage over middle-income earners, but it is contrary to natural justice.  If there is not equal access to the legal process there is injustice.

The legal aid budget is being squandered by inefficient bureaucracy whereby legal aid lawyers turn up in court to find that there is a procedural irregularity that requires further postponement  of the case – another day’s pay from the Legal Aid budget for no work at all.

As social workers gain more control of the nation’s children through Named Person’s legislation, more and more middle-income earners will discover their income being reduced as they employ lawyers to fight for their God-given rights to their own children.  They will watch in dismay as each court case is postponed to the next.  If there are penalties for late trains and late airflights, we need to introduce penalties for postponed court cases.  Law-abiding citizens should not be harassed by a social system that expects them ‘to obtain legal advice’ in order to defend themselves against the draconian powers exercised by social workers.

There needs to be equal access to the law, just as we have equal access to health care.  We need a National Justice Service like the National Health Service, to be free at the point of access to justice.

As a step in this direction, I suggest that where a person has the right to apply for legal aid, other parties to the process should have a similar right.  This will 1. begin to address the injustice, 2. help the legal aid board to assess the probability of success in granting legal aid and 3. reduce the opportunities for abuse of the system.

As for appeals from a decision – the core of a justice system – this may involve not only extra expense in travelling costs and time, hotel fees and the risk of paying hefty legal fees if one loses – but the tricks that lawyers employ to drag out a case (more fees for no work) will ensure the necessity of employing a lawyer who knows how to circumvent the tricks, or at least keep up with them.  So justice is not served by such an appeal system – it is itself contrary to natural justice if one must find the funds to employ a lawyer simply to keep abreast of the procedure.

Procedural irregularities are a good way to avoid addressing the issue or at least spinning it out as long as one can milk the system for what it’s worth.  This is not justice and it needs reform.  It is time to reform legal services and to develop a national natural justice system.

Update:

10/5/2017: the leaked Labour Manifesto advocates a National Education Service to provide “cradle-to-grave learning that is free at the point of use” from early years to adult education.  “The National Education Service” is the fifteenth episode of the BBC comedy series Yes, Prime Minister and was first broadcast 21 January 1988.

17/5/2017: Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, is also promoting a National Investment Bank, which Natalya Naqvi on the Newstatesman website thinks could help to fix ‘our damaging financial system’, but which Oliver Riley on the Adam Smith Institute website thinks is ‘barmy’.  Interesting and helpful though the idea is, we need rather to revisit how money is created –  instead of creating money by indebtedness to private banks.

15/7/2017: I have heard of a case where two lawyers receiving legal aid argue the same case against another lawyer also receiving legal aid.  Is this sensible, far less just?

21/8/2017: what would you think if your doctor told you to get legal advice to know what your options are?  Apparently in a legal case it is ‘legal advice’ to be told your options!  I would have thought that legal advice is advising which option to choose, but it is part of the cabal of the legal system that you must pay lawyers even to find out what one’s opinions are within the legal system.  Why does the system not freely tell a person their options?