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Words of a Fether

Opinions on Faith and Life

Familiarity Breeds Content

The recent post about Ephesians and interlinears, Dead Wrong, prompted me to say a little more about how much time we waste in the typical Bible study. I was in “Sunday School” for 43 years and really just kept getting the same set of lessons, over and over, filling in the blanks with all the rest. But not one of my teachers ever broke open an interlinear or did anything with the original languages beyond repeating the (alleged) many Greek types of “love”. It’s a terrible shame.

People wage war over which translation is best without having any clue what the issues really are, and even make bold pronouncements on which Greek text is the “right” one without even being able to so much as recite the letters of the Greek alphabet. They get their scholarship from other equally clueless people who sound authoritative and frequently don’t comprehend their own source material.

And I believe it all flows from a basic fear of personal study, especially the common idea that the average believer is not to be trusted with reading the Bible on their own. Elitism did not die out with the invention of the printing press which put copies of the Bible into more people’s hands. Many translators were burned at the stake because it was (and still is) believed that only a select few are capable of studying the Bible and therefore qualified to tell all the peons what it means.

Jesus bypassed the religious elite and went directly to the people. He only hid things from those who refused to see, especially those who thought so highly of themselves. He expressly stated, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Mt. 11:25).

It does take expertise to make an interlinear, I don’t deny that. But it does not require such expertise to read it; otherwise, what’s the point? Yes, a person who reads an interlinear must understand parts of speech and all the basic components of grammar, and it certainly is a large part of the context to read up on the history and literature of the time. But those things are within the grasp of most speakers of English, which is why it’s such a shame that people aren’t being properly trained in these things. If we are ignorant, it is the fault of our teachers, who never saw to it that we learned these vital things, for the ultimate goal of digging into the scriptures.

Think about the possibilities! Can you imagine the revolution that would result from every believer being educated instead of merely being indoctrinated? Christians should be trained in the history of Bible times; they should be familiar with the important literature and idioms of the language; they should be told about religious concepts that the writers were talking about and opposing; they should understand grammar (blame the government indoctrination camps for that!); they should study the great difficulties involved in translation. So much to learn, so little time! Why are we wasting it all??

Basic stories that instill people with values such as compassion and honesty are fine-- for children. But with the writer of Hebrews we must lament the lack of maturity in many believers, their remaining infants who need to be spoon-fed. I don’t care how many years it’s been done, or how hard it would be to find qualified teachers. It’s a waste of time to put people in classes they never graduate from. Let’s change the curriculum, for Heaven’s sake! Where is the outrage over this school that trains no one?

Familiarity with the scriptures will not breed heresy but contentment; knowing the content of the scriptures will be the truth that sets us free-- free from the tyranny of elitism and sectarian bias. An army of believers isn’t an army unless it is armed and trained. What have our “generals” been up to all this time? Why are they continually sending us out to battle in diapers? What will God say to them as he reviews their “service”?

Posted 2008-05-28 under Bible Text, Christian Living, scripture, study, education, elitism