Saturday, February 06, 2010

Letting the Bible Define Its Own Terms

In a recent discussion about the meaning of a certain word in the Bible, my opponent kept appealing to the standard Greek dictionaries. I told her that this was a legitimate means of helping to determine the meaning of a term in the Bible, but that ultimately, you have to decide whether you want to accept this human source of definition, or if you're going to let the Bible define its own terms.

In the culture of the Restoration Movement in which I was raised, it was a staple of doctrine to call Bible things by Bible names and to let the Bible define its own terms and to accept the Bible as the only authority in religious matters, and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 was often cited as the proof-text for this way of doing things.
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Note that the man of God may be complete (or "perfect" in other versions) without any material other than the God-inspired Scripture.

She could not seem to understand that one could determine the meaning of a Biblical word without appealing to her e-Sword Greek dictionary or some other extra-Biblical Greek dictionary.

So I presented her with the following scenario in hopes of helping her to understand.

Suppose there were NO Greek (or Hebrew, or "Bible") dictionaries anywhere in the world, and no one knew what the word "psalm" means. You pick up a Bible, and read it in its entirety. You get to 2 Samuel 23 and come across the first occurrence of the word (NKJV):
Now these are the last words of David.
Thus says David the son of Jesse;
Thus says the man raised up on high,
The anointed of the God of Jacob,
And the sweet psalmist of Israel:

You go, "Huh? What's a "sweet psalmist"?" Of course you have no dictionary that can help you, because none exist. So you just shrug your shoulders and keep reading. Then you come to 1 Chronicles 16:7-8:

7 On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the LORD:

8 Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!


And then you go, "Oh-h-h! So a 'psalmist' is someone who writes some sort of poetry or thank-you greeting-card phrase or something!"

And then you get to the very next verse:

9 Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!

And you think, "Ah, a 'psalm' seems to be a song of praise to God."

And then you get to Nehemiah 12:8:

8 Moreover the Levites were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah who led the thanksgiving psalms, ....

And you realize that some psalms are for praise, and some are for thanksgiving.

And then you get to the book of Psalms, and a light clicks on in your brain: "Ah, got it now. A 'psalm' is a song of praise or thanksgiving or lament or encouragement, etc, centered on God and His works, sometimes involving instruments, sometimes dance, sometimes tears, sometimes laughter, sometimes clapping, sometimes even silence."

You've just now defined "psalm" without recourse to knowing Greek (or Hebrew), and without recourse to any dictionary anywhere, and without recourse to a native speaker of the languages involved, and without recourse to an expert in the culture; you've let the Bible define its own term. If the word had been "flinkermingle", the Bible would still have defined the term without recourse to a "flinkermingle"-defining dictionary.

Now, when you get to Ephesians 5:19 and read that we are to sing psalms to one another, what is your definition of "psalm"? Do you turn to an outside source, such as e-Sword's definition, or do you turn to the Bible to define your term?

Please do not mistake me; I'm not saying that outside sources have no value (I'm a great believer in them); nor am I saying that languages don't change over time, and words don't change their meaning, and that dictionaries do not highlight some of these changes. What I AM saying is that you can't claim to use ONLY the Bible as your source of authority and then turn to outside sources to prove your pet theory.

Let me be explicit: IF you use a Greek dictionary at this point to define the term "psalm", you are NOT using the Bible as your authority. If you're okay with that, so be it. Just be aware of what you're doing, and don't condemn others who stick with the Bible.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The difference between God and Jesus

One of the obvious conclusions from the relationship between God and Christ, found in Timothy [2: 5] he says: ((because there is one God and one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus))

A closer look at these words referred to above, brings us to the following conclusions: --

Because there is only one God, then it could be Christ's divinity. If the Father is Lord, and Christ is Lord, too, will be before the gods. ((But we have one God the father)) [First Letter to the Corinthians 8: 6]. So it was not reasonable that there should be another entity, called (God the Son), and allege false notion of the Trinity. ((Do not we have one father for all of us, not one God created us)) Malachi [2: 10]

We find in the Old Testament also describes a similar (to Jehovah), that the Lord is one which Father: Isaiah [63: 16, 64: 8].

In addition to this one Lord, there is an intermediary. He is the man Jesus Christ ((..., and one Mediator ...)) and note dear reader that the letter waw (f) indicates that Christ is different from the Lord.

And what is meant by ((mediator)) is that Christ mediates between man and God. It is inconceivable that the Lord as an intermediary, but must be a human being is human nature. And Paul said: ((the man Christ Jesus)) leaves no room for doubt the validity of this interpretation.

Despite the fact that Christ was ((son of man)). It says in the New Testament said repeatedly b: ((the man Christ Jesus)). But he called ((son of Ali)) [Luke 32:1] And since God is ((Ali)) and thus he alone perches optional. Since Jesus is the ((son of Ali)) Vhz mean it can not be the Lord alone. And the use of language to the Father and the Son of God and Christ, shows that they are not the same entity. While similar to the Son with his father, but they can not be a splendid one.

Have come in the Gospels are clear differences between God and Christ, and these differences show clearly that Jesus was not God himself: --

_ John wrote in [3: 35]: ((The Father loves the Son was paid everything in hand))

There can not be eternal God the Son is equal to the Father in everything and the Father is, however, which led the Son everything.

_ Came in the fifth chapter of John as well as the words of Christ: ((the right to tell you, The Son can work from the same thing but seen the Father do))

Here we find the son he can not work from the same thing.

_ Cited in John [12: 49] the words of Christ: ((I did not speak of myself, but the Father who sent me, he gave me a commandment what to say, and what I speak))

Here, son declares that he does not speak of himself, but the Father who sent him is the one who gave him a speech and advised him what to say!

We find the Son himself declaring that: ((and the talk you hear, not me, but for the father who sent me)) John [12: 24]

Any sane person say after this that the Son is equal to the father?

_ It says in Acts of the Apostles [1: 7]: the words of Christ ((not that you know the times and times that make it the Father in his power))

Has denied himself the son of the Sultan and demonstrated to the Father!

_ ((Because God is experienced)) [message James 1: 13] and Christ ((in all points tempted like us)) [letter to the Hebrews 4: 15].

_ God can not die and that Christ died three days as they claim.

_ And people can see the Lord ((God is not moving through one ever)) John [1: 18] The people saw Christ.

_ Paul said about Jesus Christ in his letter to the Hebrews [1: 4]: ((after making himself cleansing for our sins, he sat down at the right of greatness in the heavens, becoming the greatest of the angels as much as it inherited the name the best of them))

Here we ask not to say Paul that Christ has become the greatest of the angels is evidence that Christ was not the greatest of them, and became the greatest of them? If Jesus Christ is God, how can become greater than the angels?

Chyntt said...

I'm not entirely sure what Anonymous has just said (the writer's written English is unclear to me), but I think the jist is encapsulated in this statement:

[How can] Any sane person say after this that the Son is equal to the father?

In answer to that question, it seems that Paul and Timothy (Philippians 1:1) do (2:6ff):

...Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.

And John notes that what Jesus said was "making Himself equal with God" (John 5:18).

There are other claims to this effect also. Hebrews 1:8 declares the Son to be God; Isaiah 9:6 declares the prophesied child to be "Mighty God"; Matthew defines the name "Immanuel" to mean "God with us" (1:23); Jesus said that he was the I AM before Abraham even existed (John 8:58). And on and on and on.

I accept it as a mystery beyond my comprehension. But even though I can't understand it, it seems clear to me that the Scriptures declare Jesus to be both fully man and fully God.

I would encourage Anonymous to quit trying to comprehend it (and by doing so winding up choosing one option or the other, in this case, denying the divinity of Christ), and just accept it as something from a Mind far beyond our own.