For the Bible Told Me So

Wulfstan earlier asked this series of questions. Miraculously, I have time to answer them at least in part.

I am curious about the converstation regarding the Bible and the assertion of its infallibility and authority in all matters pertaining to whether a religion is true or not.

It appears from historical record that “the pope was dethroned and the Bible was enthroned’ by the European reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries. The reformers claimed in different manners that the Roman church was apostate in its teachings and therefore its authority. The reformers then had a need to replace the authority that they had thrown down with the church in order to defend their” new” beliefs. The only available place they could go for a defendable position on this new doctrine was to claim that their new authority came solely from the “Word of God.”

It is interesting to me that when participants are separated from actual events by a significant time, how absolute their position becomes. The early controversies that surrounded these early events of the Protestant reformation are diminished by the fog of forgetfulness.

If your argument today is that every word in the Bible is the true and absolute Word of God and therefore if someone’s belief contradicts the Bible, they and their beliefs are fatally wrong, I ask you from which Bible (what auhority) do you make your claim?

Isn’t it true that there are many Bibles and that they all differ in content and meaning. Even if your current scripture is the result of translation using earlier versions of different text, what then was wrong with those earlier scriptures that they had to be retranslated?

And finally, if today you claim that your authority comes solely from the Bible, it being the word of God, how can you reconcile that you have the truth today when it surely was not the claim by any in the early churches that existed much closer in time and proximity to the Savior and his disciples, that their authority came solely from the Bible?

I think that’s a bit of a “retelling” of the Protestant reformation. It seems to be politically skewed to show Luther and others and wanting to break free from the Catholic church and back-ending Biblical authority as an excuse or tool to do so. It would be my understanding that the Reformers found the Priesthood Authority in the Catholic church to be corrupt as they compared it to the Bible. They already understood the Bible to have more authority than the Pope. As it became clear to them that there was a difference between the two, they attempt to pull the Priesthood back into orthodoxy with the Bible. When it was apparent that it was not going to happen, they were either excommunicated or left the Catholic church and went forward with the authority of the Bible and Christ as the head of the church (as He has always been). Interestingly the Catholic Church eventually adopted most of the Reformer’s key points, so it appears that despite maintaining the priesthood, the Catholic church also found the Biblical authority to be stronger than the practice of their priesthood at the time.

If your argument today is that every word in the Bible is the true and absolute Word of God and therefore if someone’s belief contradicts the Bible, they and their beliefs are fatally wrong, I ask you from which Bible (what auhority) do you make your claim?

I’m not going to deny that there aren’t Protestant Fundamentalist that blindly and ignorantly mandate that every single word in the Bible is absolute in it’s meaning. But that’s not my view and not the view of 95% of Christians I interact with. I believe that the Bible should be taken on it’s own terms. Genre, intent, audience, and context are all as important as the words that make up each verse. That doesn’t mean I’m nuancing the meaning out of the Bible, but it does mean that I think it’s important to know a lot about what surrounds the Bible in order to know what it’s saying and to whom.

Isn’t it true that there are many Bibles and that they all differ in content and meaning. Even if your current scripture is the result of translation using earlier versions of different text, what then was wrong with those earlier scriptures that they had to be retranslated?

No that really isn’t true. Your comments generally seem more educated than to think there are many different Bibles that differ in content and meaning. I’m surprised you asked the question in that way. There are many different translations of the Bible (almost as many as languages in the world) and there are in fact many English translations of the Bible. But they all say the same thing in content and meaning.

There is nothing wrong with the older translations. I think the KJV is a great translation and I use it all the time when I’m talking with people who are over 350 years old. We have newer translations because English is a growing and changing language. We have both archaic and emerging forms of English. New translations are introduced to keep current with our changing language. But these new translations are not based on older English translations, they are always based on the oldest Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew transcripts we can find. If we can find even older transcripts than the ones we currently have we will abandon what we currently have and use the new findings. That is another issue with the KJV, we now have much more reliable transcripts to rely upon. There are now known errors in the KJV (but even those errors are minor in the scope of the whole text).

There are some differences between peer translations. The NIV and the NASB for instance were both translated at about the same time but are worded differently. The NIV was translated phrase-by-phrase, the NASB was translated word-by-word. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. But nobody claims that these English translations are in any way superior to the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic that they were translated from nor are there are not really any differences in content or meaning between them.

And finally, if today you claim that your authority comes solely from the Bible, it being the word of God, how can you reconcile that you have the truth today when it surely was not the claim by any in the early churches that existed much closer in time and proximity to the Savior and his disciples, that their authority came solely from the Bible?

I think authority doesn’t just come from the Bible (though it has a great deal of authority). I believe that ultimate authority comes from Jesus and the Holy Spirit who are personally interacting with the world and the Church. I also believe that the elders and leadership of my local church have authority (given that their actions conform to the Bible). In addition I think husbands have spiritual authority in their families (though that is a call to submit to the needs of their wives).

Advertisements

26 thoughts on “For the Bible Told Me So

  1. Welcome back! I don’t know enough about the Reformation to comment on that, but the rest of the response seems reasonable enough. I especially liked: “I think authority doesn’t just come from the Bible (though it has a great deal of authority). I believe that ultimate authority comes from Jesus and the Holy Spirit”

  2. “There are many different translations of the Bible (almost as many as languages in the world) and there are in fact many English translations of the Bible. But they all say the same thing in content and meaning.”

    Not to be nitpicky about this, but this isn’t exactly accurate that all Bibles are the same. There are Ethiopian Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Bibles which have different canons. Additionally, the assertion that all the translations in English say the same thing isn’t quite accurate either, otherwise there wouldn’t be more than one translation. There are really crucial interpretive differences between different English translations.

  3. I’ll be nitpicky too and agree with what TT said. All translators have a bias, theological or otherwise, and sometimes it creeps into the text. Also, it is impossible, because of the nature of language, to get a perfect translation. Even modern languages don’t line up exactly with each other in grammar and vocabulary, and it would be silly to expect modern English to line up exactly with biblical Greek.

    Two examples of differences in translation:

    1. The Hebrew almah in Isaiah 7:14 is translated as “virgin” in the KJV, as “maiden” or “young woman” in most modern translations. But a few modern translations, particularly those made by theological conservatives, stick with “virgin.” There is a clear difference in meaning, and the word choice here may say something about the view of the translators in the connection between the Old and New Testaments.

    2. In the New Testament, the word often translated as “sons” in the KJV can also mean “children.” So which word to use? Use of “children” gets across the idea that the gospel is for all people. But use of “sons” is a reminder that in the time the New Testament was written, it was the sons, not the daughters, who would inherit from the father. In other words, either word choice leaves out some of the truth the passage was meant to convey.

    Such differences in translation are one of the reasons that there are debates going on in many evangelical churches over which translation to use. For example, some refuse to use Today’s New International Version, because they say it corrupts the meaning of the original text, while others say it does a better job of indicating what the original writers were tying to say.

    All this said, the differences in interpretation are slight in the total scheme of things. It’s just that translation is often an art as much as it is a science. If I had to recommend one translation for serious study, though, I’d go with the NET Bible, which is available online at bible.org. It is extensively footnoted to explain why the translators made the choices they did, and it also thoroughly points out the differences among the ancient manuscripts we have available.

  4. Thank you for being honest in mentioning some true facts about the variety of Bibles around , which alot of others will try to hide or even argue!!

    Through reading the New Teastament several times I noticed
    Alot of contradictions in quoting Jesus sayings around the same event between the four gospels , which makes me so puzzeled ! How can I safely trust that the ultimate authority comes from Jesus and the Holy Spirit .

    For example the sign from heaven Jesus was asked to give by the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew ch.16.
    we find the Author quoting Jesus in verse 4 saying
    “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away”

    The same exact story will be found in Mark ch.8. we find the Author quoting Jesus saying in verse 12
    “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.
    IN Matthew it’s the sign of Jonahwill be given .
    In Mark No sign will be given .
    Here is the my problem when I read just Matthew and imagine myself standing in the actual scene with the Pharisees and Sadducees then I shall be waiting for a sign to be fulfilled since we Jesus accepted the challange of giving them a sign. from this point till the end of the Matthews Gospel the the sign of Jonah is the most important quot because it is the utimate sign not any other .

    but If I read Mark and imagine myself standing with the Pharisees and Sadducees when Jesus was asked for a sign from heaven and he replies no sign will be given ….I find that Jesus didn’t accept the challange of the Pharisees and Sadduceesn and just ignored them ……..which takes the the story to completly different angel ……….that was just an example ….
    So my comments was just on how can I still safely say that the ultimate authority comes from Jesus and the Holy Spirit .

    Thank you .

  5. Tim:

    “I’m not going to deny that there aren’t Protestant Fundamentalist that blindly and ignorantly mandate that every single word in the Bible is absolute in it’s meaning.”

    Why do evangelicals have the same type of aversion to fundamentalists that Christians used to have to sinners? I find that extremely curious. Which is it worse to be? A sinner or a fundamentalist? The absolute worst that can be said is that both are going to burn in the lake of fire for eternity. (I did not accuse you of holding that position; I am merely stating that it is the strongest thing that can possibly be said.) Given that the case, why the compassion and understanding for the former and not the latter?

    Now of course, evangelicals get into the habit of doing the “word processor find and replace function” when reading the New Testament and thereby substitute “fundamentalist” whenever they see “Pharisee.” A lot of good that does when “liberal”, “mainstream”, “moderate”, etc. Christians do the same to evangelicals, and lump evangelicals and fundamentalists into the same boat.

    What were the primary problems of the Pharisees? 1. They rejected Jesus Christ. Well whatever can be said about the fundamentalists, they are not guilty of that. 2. They replaced what the Bible said with their own manmade rules. I agree that such is a problem with fundamentalism. 3. They were self – righteous, hypocritical, falsely accusing, and lacked mercy. I agree, that is generally a product of 2.

    Let us look at 2. and 3. more closely. Say I am a fundamentalist who comes up with a rule that is not in the Bible. Say you break that rule. So I call you a sinner for breaking the rule, and call myself righteous for keeping the rule. Am I a false accuser for correctly saying that you broke the rule? No, in that regards I am factually correct. Am I a false boaster for speaking of my keeping the rule? No, again that is factually correct. So what is the problem? The problem was associating righteousness with something that I made up that is not in the Bible. That is Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7, worshiping God in vain by making the opinions of man into doctrines. THAT is legalism. And yes, some fundamentalists are guilty of that, and I shall not speak in their defense, because defending sin is sin itself.

    But a far bigger problem is people operating with a corrupt definition of legalism. Now that term is applied to people who oppose what the Bible actually does call sin, and people who correctly point out that others are doing what the Bible says that one should not do are called accusers. Because everyone is so deadly afraid of being tagged with the deadly label “fundamentalist”, which apparently is much worse than being called unsaved, the result is Christians becoming very lax and permissive when confronted with all manners of lawlessness, lasciviousness, and devil’s doctrines inside of and outside of the church.

    Which is worse, legalism or permissiveness? Some people choose to err on one side, most in our modern culture choose to err on the other. But either way it is error, and the Bible says not to turn aside to the left or the right. For the record, I am not a fundamentalist. I just happen to think that there are plenty of worse things that a Christian can be called.

  6. Fearless,

    The account in Matthew does not contradict the account in Mark, it simply adds more detail. These types of differences actually add to the authenticity of the text. If each of the four Gospels were carbon copies of each other, we would seriously doubt that there were four authors. John’s Gospel says, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

    You were not standing there as you have placed yourself in your comment. Had you been, you would have heard much more then what was recorded in either Gospel and you would 100% accountable for the truth you heard. Placing yourself in the text while living in 2007 is not a valid criticism of the text because it is impossible for the Bible to contain all the Jesus said and did.

    Jesus actually performed many signs. He healed, He performed miracles, He was raised from the dead. The point Jesus is making in both Mark and Mathew is that He was unwilling to perform a sign solely for the Pharisees and cater to their unbelief. Even when confronted with the truth of the resurrection, the Pharisees would largely remain unbelievers.

  7. There is no question the stories in the gospels are slightly different. Jesus dies at a different time/day in John vs. in Mark.

    How can you tell that these stories are even depictions of real events at all? Fearless’s point is that you don’t believe the Gospels because they are good documentary evidence, but because the story speaks to you and because of the Spirit behind the message.

  8. John says:

    Joh 19:31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was a high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

    Mark says:

    Mar 15:42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,
    Mar 15:43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

    Am I missing something?

  9. Tim, is it fair to say that Evangelicals and Mormons differ on the subject of authority only in the degree of emphasis they place on each source of authority?

    A few different sources of religious authority for our traditions:

    1) Scripture
    2) The Ecclesiarchy/Priesthood
    3) Personal spiritual witness or conviction
    4) From God directly, if this can be separated from the above

    It seems that both Mormons and Evangelicals place high emphasis on Scripture as a source of authority. However, evangelicals give it much higher authority (or more exclusive authority) than Mormons do.

    Mormons place heavy emphasis on the Ecclesiarchy (sort of like Roman Catholics), whereas evangelicals do not so much.

    Both faith traditions place an emphasis on personal witness, and I’ve never seen a convincing argument that Mormons and Evangelicals differ much in this respect, although I know Evangelicals like to accuse us of being more irrationally emotional in our approach.

    I’m not sure how you can separate a direct link to God from the approaches outlined.

    Thoughts?

  10. I pretty much agree with what Seth said.

    In theory, I don’t see evangelicals giving any credence to an existing priesthood. In practice, though, I suspect that many evangelicals believe in certain doctrines because that’s what their church leaders (granted, a bit different from the LDS concept of the priesthood) have told them, not because that’s what’s clearly in the Bible.

    As to personal witness, certainly Mormons place more emphasis on it. But I’m not convinced LDS and evangelical experiences in that regard are much different, and in my life I’ve been involved heavily in both LDS and evangelical congregations. Take out mentions of the prophets and “I know this church is true,” and what is said at a typical LDS testimony meeting isn’t all that much different than what you would hear at an evangelical testimony meeting where such a thing exists.

  11. I agree with Eric, “I don’t see evangelicals giving any credence to an existing priesthood.”

    This is because there are only 2 priesthoods in the Bible, therefore, a third cannot be of God.

    First is the Levetical Priesthood. Second is the priesthood of Melchizedek which belongs to solely to Jesus Christ who alone is High Priest and only mediator of the New Covenant.

    “The LORD has sworn And will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek”

    “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,”

    Any “third priesthood” would blasphemous in that it attempts to usurp the authority given to Jesus alone.

  12. Who said anything about a third Priesthood?

    Mormons would agree most emphatically that there are only two priesthoods, and that a third would be heretical.

  13. Sorry, I read this on another post:

    http://ifokus.wordpress.com/2007/12/26/the-uniqueness-of-mormonism/

    2.The Priesthood – The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God. During the great apostasy, the priesthood of God was lost upon the earth. This great apostasy was foretold in the Bible ( see 2 Timothy 3:1-5 ) and ( 2 Timothy 4:3-4 ). The Everlasting Priesthood was restored on earth once again when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ordained by Heavenly messengers in 1829.

  14. You’re right, but Mormons believe in two Priesthoods, the Aaronic (or Levitical) Priesthood and the Melchizidek Priesthood.

    The key difference here between what they believe and what you appear to believe is that Mromons believe that Jesus gave the Melchizidek Priesthood to this apostles, and his apostles came back from the dead to give it to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

    In other words, they believe that Jesus has authorized his earthly servants to use (and thus have) his Melchizidek Priesthood. You believe that Jesus alone has the Melchizidek Priesthood.

    Same number of Priesthoods–same Priesthoods even–just a disagreement about who can (and does) have the second one.

  15. I like the discussions here. I’ve been involved with both Evangelicals and Mormons as well and I have family members in both faiths.

    What is great about both religions is the concept of praying to a God how we would talk with our best friend…developing a relationship with the Savior. I see that both religions encourage this amoung their members and that is awesome.

    In regards to the comments on the Bible. I would say I agree with what TT said. There is one Bible yet many different interpretations of the bible and many different christian religions. For example, is it faith in Jesus or works or both that save us? Is baptism essential for salvation? How does Christ want His church to be organized and carried forth? What exactly are the Aaronic and Melchizidek Priesthoods and why are they necessary?

    Mormons believe that is why Jesus brought forth the Book of Mormon…to clarify these issues and show how He wants his church organized and what doctrines are essential for salvation.

    What are your thoughts on the Book of Mormon?

    ama49.wordpress.com

  16. Interesting that all of those questions are ones that Joseph Smith introduced with the backended explanation that the Book of Mormon answers them. It could easily be said that those questions (and particularly the way they are worded) wouldn’t be pondered but for the Book of Mormon.

    Also interesting that the Book of Mormon doesn’t really answer any of those questions. You have to look to the D&C to get answers to all of those questions.

    I think the Book of Mormon is a poorly written but largely benign document. It bears very little resemblance to any civilization that actually existed in the New World. As a historical document it should be entirely dismissed. As a faith promoting work of fiction, I think it’s somewhat interesting. But even then, it doesn’t answer all that many questions or introduce all that many unique doctrines. If the LDS church just had the Bible and the Book of Mormon, it would look very different.

    I think a better question to get at the differences between LDS and Evangelicals is “what do you think of Joseph Smith and why should he be believed?”

  17. “I’m not going to deny that there aren’t Protestant Fundamentalist that blindly and ignorantly mandate that every single word in the Bible is absolute in it’s meaning. But that’s not my view and not the view of 95% of Christians I interact with.”

    So who is further from the truth? Blind ignorant Protestant Fundamentalists (like Calvin, Luther, Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and basically every other historic non – Catholic Christian figure before John Wesley) or Mormons?

  18. On the subject of Biblical priesthoods, there are two, the Levitical Priesthood and the Priesthood of Melchizidek. The Levitical Priesthood was an earthly priesthood and a temporary priesthood – it ended with the birth of the church in the book of Acts.

    The Priesthood of Melchizidek is a heavenly priesthood. That means that if you are on earth, you cannot be part of this priesthood.

    Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (Heb. 4:14)

    In addition, the earthly priests offered daily sacrifices but the sacrifice of Jesus was offered once, for all.

    And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Heb 10:11)

    There is no longer a need far any earthy priesthood. Why would you need an earthly priest when you have access into heaven itself?

    Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10:19)

  19. Job,

    There is a difference between believing that God has wings because Psalm 17:8 says, “…Hide me under the shadow of Your wings” (poetry) and believing what the Bible clearly teaches.

    The major topic of the New Testament is salvation by grace through faith.

    For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Eph 2:8)

    If you can earn your salvation, then God “owes” it to you and God will never be a debtor to any man.

    Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness… (Rom 4:4)

  20. Tim,

    How’s the move going?

    “[The Book of Mormon] doesn’t answer all that many questions or introduce all that many unique doctrines.”

    Are you just hedging, or are you actually admitting that the BoM does answer some questions and introduce some new doctrines? You might like the discussion here.

  21. Kullervo:

    Ah, it appears that I misspoke. I am very sorry. But you knew my point, and that was why you responded so uncharitably.

  22. The Book of Mormon has a very unique take on Adam and Eve and the Fall. Instead of portraying the whole thing as a disaster for the human family, the view you get from a solely Biblical reading, it is viewed as a necessary step forward in God’s designs and Eve is portrayed as something of a hero.

    Considering how much Church-sponsored misogyny has been justified by the view of Eve as morally reprehensible, and all women sharing in her guilt, this does not seem a trivial difference to me.

    Furthermore, it places the Fall as not a catastrophe, but as a larger part of God’s designs for the human race. There follows a key discussion of all things requiring their own opposite, which I do not see duplicated in the Bible.

    Benjamin’s speech in Mosiah greatly clarifies the much-confused issue of grace vs. works that has bedeviled Protestants for a long time.

    The rise and fall of nations is linked to pride in a way that just isn’t as clear in the Bible.

    Then you need to read Jacob’s allegory of the olive trees. Never does the Bible spell out the big picture of humanity like it is spelled out in Jacob. The dispersal and gathering of Israel becomes the central narrative for all human history.

    Whereas the Bible only provides fragments, the Book of Mormon really gives us the big picture on humanity’s relationship with God.

    Not to mention the central message: God gives his words in more places than just ancient Israel and His word really is to all of us.

  23. No, Job, your point was ill-made. You either don’t really know what Protestant Fundamentalism means, or you’re wildly rewriting the history of religion to justify your particular expression of faith. Just like Mormons do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s