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Showing posts with the label #Study

How to study your bible.

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When I was a kid, I went to a Fundamentalist church. Say what you will about these folks: They’re big on studying the bible. Not all of ’em know how to do it properly—and they definitely didn’t teach me how to do it. (Man alive was I over-dependent on the notes of my Scofield Reference Bible!) But I gotta give ’em credit for making a serious, earnest effort just the same. They really wanted to know what was in there, and rightly believed every Christian should.Yet even while I was in that church, I discovered I knew way more about the bible than others. Not ’cause I’m a genius or anything, although I do have a really good memory. I knew more simply because I read the bible. I read the commentaries in the bible, plus everything about the bible I could get access to: I studied.And most Christians honestly don’t. Most humans don’t. As soon as we get out of school—whether high school, university, or grad school—we figure we never, ever have to study again, and don’t. We quit. We’re done. …

Preaching the dictionary.

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Nine years ago I visited a family member’s church. The pastor had just started a series about home-based small groups. His primary proof text came from Acts 2, namely the part where Luke described the brand-new Christians in Jerusalem, and how they got religious.Acts 2.42-47 KWL42 They were hewing close to the apostles’ teaching, to community, to breaking bread, and to prayers.43 Reverence came to every soul, and many wonders and signs happened through the apostles.44 Every believer looked out for one another, and put everything in common use:45 They sold possessions and property, and divided proceeds among all,just because some were needy.46 Those who hewed close unanimously were in temple daily,breaking bread at home, happily, generously, wholeheartedly sharing food,47 praising God, showing grace to all people.The Master added saved people to them daily.He used the NLT, I believe. Its verse 46 goes like so:Acts 2.46 NLTThey worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for…

Expository preaching… if that’s what’s even happening.

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EXPOUNDɪk'spaʊndverb. Present and explain (a theory or idea) systematically and in detail.2. Explain the meaning of (a literary or doctrinal work).[Exposition ɛk.spə'zɪʃ.(ə)nnoun, expository ɪk'spɑ.zɪ.tɔ.riadjective, expositor ɪk'spɑ.zə.dərnoun.]I regularly run into this situation: People like to compliment their favorite preachers by calling them “great expositors.” Apparently they’ve learned exposition is the very best way to preach, so when they like certain preachers, that’s what they call ’em.And once again, this is one of those situations where I gotta quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride.Giphy’Cause I listen to these preachers for myself, and find they’re not great expositors. Or even expositors.Oh, they can preach. They have outstanding abilities as public speakers. They know how to keep their listeners’ attention. Some of ’em have even done their homework, and teach the scriptures admirably. But expositors? Nope.They get called “expositors” because they…

Prophets in the bible: Read their books!

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THE PROPHETSðə 'prɑf.ətsnoun, plural. Biblical writings by and about God’s Spirit-inspired messengers.2. [In Christian bibles and book order] Books in the Old Testament primarily consisting of prophecies. Usually Isaiah through Malachi.3. [In Jewish bibles and book order] The second major grouping of the Hebrew scriptures: Books written between 1000 and 400BC; Joshua through Malachi.Sometimes I refer to “the Prophets,” and I admit this can be confusing to Christians who grew up Jewish. To Jews, “the Prophets” are the middle part of their bible—Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the 12 minor prophets.But to Christians, “the Prophets” are the books with prophets’ names on them, specifically written by them, specifically full of their prophecies. Isaiah, Jeremiah (and Jeremiah’s book Lamentations), Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Some of us throw in the New Testament book…

Synoptic gospels: The three gospels which sync up.

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In other words, all the gospels but John.SYNOPTICSsə'nɑp.tɪksplural noun. The synoptic gospels.SYNOPTIC GOSPELSsə'nɑp.tɪk 'ɡɑs.pəlsplural noun. The gospels which show a great deal of similarity in stories, wording, structure, order, viewpoint, and purpose. Namely Mark, Matthew, and Luke.You’ll notice in my articles on Jesus’s teachings I often line up the different gospels in columns. ’Cause they’re telling the same story, but in slightly different ways. But even so, they sync up rather well. The phenomenon is pretty well described by the Greek word σύνοψις/synopsis, “see with [one another],” so three of the gospels get called synoptic.John is an obvious exception. I can sync it up from time to time, but nowhere near as well. Its author was clearly telling his own stories.There’s a rather obvious explanation for why the synoptics line up: Mark was written first. The authors of Matthew and Luke simply quoted Mark as they put together their own gospels. Sometimes they quoted…

How does one answer a fool?

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Proverbs 26.4-5.Whenever someone claims the bible never, ever contradicts itself, I like to take ’em to this pair of proverbs.Proverbs 26.4-5 KWL4 Don’t respond to a fool’s foolishness, lest you be compared to them.5 Respond to a fool’s foolishness, lest they become wise in their own eyes.Thing is, whenever I do this, the person immediately attempts to explain how they don’t contradict one another. Oh, they’ll do a terrible job of it. It’ll get ridiculous and illogical. But they do try.Because at some point in their past, they heard the bible never contradicts itself. They liked the idea. So they made it a core belief: One of the things which defines their Christianity, which defines their trust in the bible, is this ground-floor idea it never contradicts itself. Shake that belief and now they gotta rethink their belief system from the ground up.But there’s something in human nature where it’s just easier to go into full-on denial: “No it doesn’t contradict itself, and here’s why…” In…

The interlinear bible.

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For those who want the illusion of being able to read the original. INTERLINEAR BIBLEin.ter'lin.e.er 'bi.beln. Bible which presents the same text in different languages printed on alternate lines.First time I stumbled across an interlinear bible was back in high school. I was killing time in a Christian bookstore. (Remember those?) This one happened to have an interlinear Old Testament mixed in among the bibles. Never knew such a thing even existed, but I wanted it immediately: It had “the original Hebrew”—the Masoretic text of the scriptures, in a language I couldn’t read at all, ’cause I hadn’t even learned the alphabet yet. But its secrets were unlocked with a word-by-word translation, displayed beneath every Hebrew word. Looked like yea:
Acts 2.42-44 presented interlinear-style. Oak Tree SoftwareWanted to buy it immediately, but the sucker was expensive. (A lot of interlinear bibles are. Low demand, y’see.) Something like $80 in 1980s money.Ten years later I bought the NIV …

Mistakes we might make in our word studies.

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You saw what I did there, right? Last month I wrote about how to do a word study, and in that piece I largely emphasize how not to go to the dictionary first. ’Cause that’s how you do a word study wrong. Instead of drawing from the bible how its authors define a word, y’wind up overlaying the dictionary definition on top of the bible—whether it fits or not. (Or to use scholars’ words for it, y’wind up doing eisegesis instead of exegesis.)When people are overlay a definition upon the bible, they’re rarely looking at the context of the passage. (Yep, I’m gonna harp about context again. It’s important here too.) The few who do bother to look at context, often try to bend, fold, spindle, or mutilate it so it fits their new definition.Fr’instance a fellow teacher of mine was trying to tell his kids about making plans for the future, for “where there is no vision, the people perish.” Pr 29.18 KJV Except he couldn’t find that verse in his NIV, because they translate khazón as “revelation.” S…

How to do a word study.

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WORD STUDY'wərd stə.dinoun. Learning the scriptures’ definition of a word through its use in the text.In the churches where I grew up, when people talked about “doing bible study,” they really meant doing a word study. They weren’t actually studying the bible—by which I mean read a story or section of the scriptures, look at its literary and historical context, analyze the original language, determine what it meant to the people who originally wrote and read it, and determine how this info is relevant to us today. Much as you’d study any work of history or literature—but somehow the definition of “study” got changed in church into looking up all the instances of a word in the bible.Well you are using a bible, and you are studying.But properly they were doing a word study: They chose an individual, significant word, found in the bible. Like grace. Or gossip, redemption, repentance, longsuffering and any of the other fruits of the Spirit; any words which have a particular importance…

Hyperbole. So I don’t have to explain it a billion times.

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You saw what I did there, right?Hyperbole /haɪ'pər.bə.li/ n. Deliberate exaggeration: A claim not meant to be taken literally.[Hyperbolic /haɪ.pər'bɑl.ək/ adj.]You may not be so familiar with this word, but you’ve seen examples of it all your life. And that’s not hyperbole.Humans use hyperbolic language to get attention. You might not think much of the statement, “I had to clean a lot of dishes.” You pay a little more attention to, “I had to clean a truckload of dishes.” The exaggerated image gets attention. May even inspire a mental image of a literal truckload of dishes. May even strike us as funny, horrifying, sad, irritating; like most acts of creativity, it runs the risk of pushing the wrong buttons.Of course some hyperboles are so overused, they get no reaction anymore. They’ve become clichés. “I worked my fingers to the bone” probably horrified someone the first time they heard it—“No, really? Ewww”—but nobody bothers to flinch at it anymore. Not even if people claim, “…

Connect-the-dots interpretation: Stop that.

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Just because your brain sees a connection, doesn’t mean it’s real.Your brain is designed to recognize patterns.It’s how the brain stores data. It takes a memory, breaks it down into “what I know already” and “what’s new,” stores what’s new, and stores links to the memories we know already. And they don’t have to precisely be memories we know already; just stuff that’s close enough. If it sees a similarity, or pattern, in what we experience, that’s close enough.That’s how we pack 50-plus years of experiences into a 100-terabyte brain. And explains why some of our memories are kinda sloppy: Our brains were pattern-matching things which weren’t accurate matches.Our brains pattern-match inaccurate things all the time. Sometimes for fun: Ever played the game of “What does that cloud look like?” Or had to put up with your mom insisting that so-and-so looks like some celebrity, but you can’t see it at all? Or been startled by a shadow which kinda looked like a stranger was in your house, but…

The bible’s genres.

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It’s not all written in just one style of literature.Genre /'ʒɑ(n).rə/ n. Type or category of literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, and subject matter.Our word genre originates from the Old French word gendre/“gender.” ’Cause while men and women are both human, we’ve still got some important, distinctive differences. (Not as many as our culture dictates, but still.)There are many types of literature. Stop by the local public library, and you’ll notice how the books tend to be lumped into categories so we can find them easier. Whether your library uses the Dewey system or the Library of Congress system, you’ll notice the gardening books are on one shelf, the photography books on another, the legal books on another, the biographies on another.Now when the average person picks up a bible, they assume they’re picking up one category of literature: Non-fiction religious instruction. After all, that’s where we’ll find bibles in the library.Thing is, the bible’s an an…

Apocalypses: Those freaky visions in the bible.

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Short answer: No.Apocalypse /ə'pɑk.ə.lɪps/ n. Vision meant to reveal heavenly secrets through representative or parabolic images.2. Any supernatural revelation.3. [uppercase] Destruction or damage on a tremendous scale, particularly the end of the world.[apocalyptic /ə.pɑk.ə'lɪp.tɪk/ adj.]When people talk about “the apocalypse,” they typically mean the end of the world. “It’s the apocalypse!” means “It’s the End”—and we’re f---ed.Not even close to the original meaning of the Greek apokalýpto/“to uncover.” It’s just our last book of the New Testament, Apokálypsis Yisú Hristú—or Apokálypsis for short, Apocalypse in Latin and many other languages, Revelation in English—is about the End. So people have come to mix up apocalypse and the End. Stands to reason.Our word Revelation defines it best. It has to do with revealing. Uncovering. Telling us what’s gonna happen in future. Except… well… not literally.See, an apocalypse is a type of prophetic vision. Y’know how Jesus tells parabl…

Literally.

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The way a whole lotta Christians like to interpret the bible.The word literally has two definitions. And they contradict one another.Literally /'lɪd.ər.əl.li/ or /ˈlɪt.rəl.li/ adv. In a most basic and exact sense, without metaphor, allegory, exaggeration, nor distortion.2. Used for emphasis or strong feeling, though not precisely true.I know; plenty of people insist the second definition isn’t the proper definition, and anyone who uses the word like that is wrong. Problem is, words are not absolutes. I know; plenty of people wish they were, and insist they are. (It’s why people still buy the original edition of Noah Webster’s dictionary, instead of something more recent.)But words aren’t defined by historical precedent—like laws, treaties, or biblical doctrines. They’re defined, and regularly redefined, by popular vote. It’s why we need to keep re-translating the bible; why we need to look up the original definitions of the King James Version’s words when we interpret that transla…

Strong numbers. Or Strong’s numbers. Whichever.

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From time to time I refer to Strong numbers or Strong’s numbers. I suppose I need to explain ’em before people get the idea I’m introducing them to numerology.A concordance is a list of every single word in a book. People make ’em for the bible so they can use it as kind of an index: You might remember there’s a verse in the bible about “the meek shall inherit the earth,” but not remember where it’s found. (And you might live in 1987, when you couldn’t just Google it.) So you bust out that concordance, flip to “meek,” and find out where it’s hiding. Seems it appears 17 times in the King James Version.Nu 12.3the man Moses was very m., above all the menH 6035Ps 22.26The m. shall eat and be satisfiedH 6035Ps 25.9The m. shall he guide in judgmentH 6035Ps 25.9and the m. shall he teach his way.H 6035Ps 37.11But the m. shall inherit the earthH 6035Ps 76.9to save all the m. of the earth.H 6035Ps 147.6The LORD lifteth up the m.H 6035Ps 149.4he will beautify the m. with salvationH 6035Is 11.4re…

What, you thought there were only 10 commandments?

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God’s 613 commands, and how Christians treat them.Most Christians are familiar with the fact there are 10 commandments. Ex 20.1-17 Not so familiar with the actual 10 commands, but we do tend to know there are 10 of them, and it wouldn’t hurt to live by them. In fact the politically-minded among us think it’d be a good idea for the whole of the United States to live by them… although it’s a bit of a puzzler how we might simultaneously enforce “You’ll have no other gods before me” Ex 20.3and “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Amendment 1Some of us have also heard the idea there are 12 commandments. Where’d the extra two come from? Well, someone once asked Jesus his opinion on the greatest command. Mark 12.28-31 KWL28 One of the scribes was standing there listening to the discussion.Recognizing how well Jesus answered the Sadducees, he asked him,“Which command is first of all?” 29 Jesus gave this answer:“First is, ‘Listen Israel: Our god is the Lord. T…