So you think you don’t have enough time?

Some people think that they don’t have enough time to investigate the claims of Christianity and in particular the claims of Jesus Christ.  They think that they have better things to do with their time.

Only – they do have enough time.  God has given them the time.  It is called their lifetime, but more particularly God has given them holidays – ‘holy days’ – in which to consider the matter.

God has given you seven weeks’ holiday every year; probably more than your employer.  It comes round every week –  the first day of the week called the Sabbath, which is Hebrew word for Rest.  It is your rest day.  Your employer cannot force you to work on it.  It is God-time  – your time to find and enjoy the fellowship of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you neglect it, you are missing out on quality time with your God, and when you meet Him at the Judgement Seat you will not be able to say that He didn’t give you enough time.

God was the first to give us holidays.  “Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God” Ex 20:9-10.  Your employer should let you have the Sabbath off work, as your quality time with God.  This secular society calls it a Funday for the family.  It is more than that.  It is the family’s time to learn about, worship and enjoy God’s fellowship.  It is a gift from God.

Your employer may give you six weeks’ holiday in a year, but this includes six days of God’s holiday, so almost one week of the six weeks are God’s holiday anyway.

Welcome to a new outlook on life – your lifetime.

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!

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.

Jump to attention

Many public bodies think that their authority allows them to call the public to jump to attention.

Take the tax office.  One will wait weeks and even months to get a response from them, but they expect you to answer them within so many days, with the threat of penalties – even although you may be away from home when they choose to respond, or you have pressing business, etc.  You must jump to attention when they say so.

A business would soon lose its customer loyalty with such an attitude, and many do.  This attitude is common wherever there is authority.  Jesus spoke against this abuse of authority, but few people know nor pay any attention to what He says.  He said that we should use authority to serve, not to be served.  Authoritarians abuse their authority to give themselves a sense of worth.  Jesus gives a sense of self-worth without the need for abuse.

There are many areas of public life where the public are kept at arm’s length by those in  authority – the justice system, lawyers and police, the media, council officials, etc.  Most people do not realise this until those rare occasions when they must interact with them.  However the average person encounters it in their employment, from individuals at work, even if not from their employer as such.  It leads to much of the mental health issues and lack of productivity at work.

In fact it begins at 2 years old – the terrible twos – when little children want to control their little siblings and even their doting parents with screaming tantrums.  Some people never grow up and they continue to control and manipulate others as much as they can get off with.  What they don’t realise is that they must give account to Him Who has the ultimate authority.

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.”

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

Sermon on Acts 13:26

‘Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you fears God, to you is the word of this salvation sent’ Act 13:26.

God’s salvation is sent to you.

The Holy Spirit sends the Gospel to all who hear it and offers salvation freely to them.

This makes the Gospel of Jesus Christ a ‘must hear’ item.

Preached Wednesday evening 21/4/1999 at Glasgow, commencing the Communion Season.

Direct link to download