I struggle with finding the right interpretation of the Bible Jeff
You mention your struggle with trying to find the right interpretation of the Bible. As long as you are looking for the right interpretation you will continue to struggle with how one lives the Christian life, because life is not a matter of interpretation. You see, there are some really off-the-wall interpretations made by those who are viewing all things through the new creation in Christ, while some really good interpretations made by those who are viewing life as through the flesh. Does that make any sense?
In other words, regarding a good interpretation of the fleshly kind: if a person holds to a viewpoint that has more to do with his performance then he’ll read everything within that view, even if he knows the Greek and Hebrew and the background info, etc. He may even take a decent degree of the context into consideration and use cross-references and Bible commentaries, and get a decent historical insight behind the passage. But in the end, he will force his view of performance into his interpretation. Period.
Don’t you remember the Biblical accounts of Jesus and the religious men who kept trying to trap him up through their problem passages? In one instance, the Sadducees jumped in after the Pharisees had failed in their attempt (regarding the scriptural prohibition of paying taxes to Caesar).
Here’s the Scriptural set-up:
That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” Matthew 22:23-28
Now, keep in mind that we have already heard this (since the whole adventure was recorded) and have already assumed it was in error. But for the religious leaders of the day it was a Biblical brain-teaser, and even though the Pharisees probably didn’t agree with the Sadducees’ interpretation I’m pretty sure they didn’t know how to answer it. After all, it was Scriptural and had probably been one of the ongoing unsettled arguments of the day (that is what the rabbis did all the time …. argue, argue, argue). This particular argument was the Sadducees’ backup plan in case the Pharisees’ trap didn’t work. Suffice it to say that if you and I had been there we would have had NO IDEA how Jesus could have gotten out of this tricky scriptural mess, because we would have been too busy trying to resolve it with even MORE scriptural statements.
See, what they did was to play around with the technicalities of the Law. We still do this all the time. How? When we come up with our ridiculous assumptions about how God COULDN’T do this, or would HAVE to do that, all in an attempt to argue away the obviousness of the simplicity of Christ. They figured they had found a scriptural proof that there was actually no resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees did hold to a resurrection of the dead, but only because it was a scriptural teaching, for they were just as screwed up regarding the true resurrection as were the Sadducees who didn’t agree with the Pharisees interpretations. When it came down to it, what difference did it make if one agreed with the Pharisees’ interpretation that there was a resurrection? It didn’t do them any good, did it?
Don’t miss the fact that there is only one real consideration regarding EVERY SINGLE ONE of the set-ups made by the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, the lawyers, the priests, the rabbis, or whoever. The bottom-line purpose of it all was to disprove Jesus. That is how it remains to this day.
How did Jesus handle it? Of course, we already know how he handled THIS - and all the other arguments, but somehow we think our contemporary interpretation arguments are so different. They are not. Here’s the reply:
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, `I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Matthew 22:29-32
I’m telling you, the ONLY reason we think this is a good answer is because it has been recorded in the Bible. Other than that, we would think Jesus had copped out on HIS interpretation. Now, the by-standers were blown away by what they heard:
When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching Matthew 22:33
You can rest assured that the Sadducees were thinking that his comeback was unfair - even though it must have thrown them for a loop!
Don’t miss the impact of his statement, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures”. These men spent their lives studying the Scriptures, and were able to hold their positions of being Biblical scholars in the face of the more literal approach of the Pharisees. Jesus didn’t fall for their little game, but simply told them they didn’t have the faintest idea what they were saying because they didn’t know the scriptures. I’ll bet they were ready to blast him with their qualifications … and were just waiting for him to finish. They could have had no idea what he was going to say.
Jesus also told them that they did not know the power of God. All these men knew were WORDS formed around logic. Then Jesus made a point blank statement smashing the absurdity of their argument about physical relationships in the resurrection. These men assumed that the reality of God would be governed by the physical world. They did not know the power of God.
But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you … ?
This was spoken as if it was an off-hand thought. Like, Oh yeah, by the way, did you ever consider …? Jesus had made a simple statement of fact before saying this that stood on its own. But in the minds of the Sadducees, Jesus had avoided the validity of their scriptural argument. Notice that he didn’t even get into the passage they were playing with, for that would have only given them a basis upon which to continue their sneaky little set-up. Instead, Jesus took a WELL known scripture, and with a few words had uncovered an incredible implication of the reality of the resurrection not even the Pharisees had given a moment’s notice. It had been right there in front of their eyes the whole time and NONE OF THEM EVER SAW IT. Why not? Simply because it was TOO REAL. They were looking for STATEMENTS declaring this supposed truth, but the fact is that the truth is EVERYWHERE, and it CANNOT be hidden. We’re looking for the verse that says … instead of the truth that is oozing out of every word!
I AM the God of …
You see, the people recognized Jesus as having spoken with authority. You know what that means? It has absolutely nothing to do with the tone of his voice, or the claims that he HAD authority. The simple fact was that Jesus spoke as one who REALLY knew the one who sent him! Jesus knew GOD … and spoke as plain and simple as any ambassador who was bringing the words of the one they represented. They might argue many of his points, but one thing they could not shake was the so-obvious sense that he knew this Father of whom he spoke. It got under their skin so bad that the Pharisees were pushed into blasphemy in John 8 by saying something they NEVER would have said otherwise. “God is our father.” They had judged Jesus to be blaspheming earlier (in John 5) by claiming that God was his father … they had said, You make yourself equal to God in saying this! Now here they were making a FORBIDDEN claim. They should have stoned themselves for saying this. :)
Jeff, if you are in Christ, then the life is IN you. You are straining too hard to find the obvious because you think it is out there, somewhere. Your life is NOT found in the Bible, but instead the Bible is just oozing with the testimony of the real life of God that is in you. The new covenant is not a how to kind of life … it is simply the life of God living in man doing its amazing and incredible work. What else do you expect to find in a book that is attempting to give you a Biblical handle on how to life the Christian life? The simple reason why the author ends up with a teaching that says “the moral law is binding on us” is because that is what he holds to. The rest is just Biblical gymnastics. I’m SURE he has scripture to back up his point … along with a lot of Biblical sounding logic.
Well, I SURELY didn’t plan on writing any where near this much! :) Wow. Anyhow, it was just there. I think I really appreciated hearing from you … and am glad for your struggle. Yep, glad. It won’t ever really go away if you are hoping to find the right interpretation so that you can finally get this Christian life down to an understandable level. Know what I mean? :)
Your friend and brother, Jim