Two days ago, I posted THE Canon of Scripture — how we know the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven of the New are the inspired Word of God.
YOUR canon of Scripture is different. Yours is the part you read, study, believe, and obey.
If there are parts you don’t take seriously, you never read, you never teach (if you are a pastor or teacher), then you don’t really believe those parts are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16). You give lip service to the fact that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” but maybe you don’t really believe it.
I hope this blog helps you understand and apply the Scriptures, but if you can’t find time to read the Scriptures, perhaps you should quit reading blogs….
what??? quit reading blogs???
I mean, how could life go on?
Hey Don, the question mark on your keyboard works. 🙂
I like the idea of a personal canon, and I think it’s easy to avoid stretching ourselves biblically. On the other hand, I would add that not all parts of the canon are of equal value. If I could have only one book of the Bible on a desert island, I’d not choose Exodus or Leviticus. Young, tired mothers would do well to spend more time in Psalms and Proverbs than Exodus and Leviticus. But perhaps you would disagree?
Interesting question. Since I spend more time in Psalms and Proverbs than elsewhere, I would sort of agree. But I would pretty strongly disagree with saying that not all parts of the canon are of equal value. Perhaps it would be better to say not all were given for the same purposes. If I want to communicate the Gospel to an active Jew (Orthodox or Reformed) I would value Exodus and Leviticus very, very highly, because of the need, which their current practice does not really address, for a sacrifice for sin.
So recognising different purposes for different books, and acting accordingly in different situations in life, is not necessarily placing a higher / lower value on some parts of the Bible. Does that make sense?
But the main point is that it is all given by inspiration of God and profitable, and we shouldn’t ignore parts of it. And I’m not talking, really, about the person who has never read the Bible much at all, and decides to skip the lists because they got bogged down there the last three times they started to read it and never progressed. I actually TELL those people to skip the lists, if that’s their problem. As they grow in their Bible reading, they’ll learn to read those and actually find profit in doing so.
I’m talking about the people who have been Christians for ten years or more and never get out of Psalms, or out of the Gospels and Acts. God gave us the whole Book.
I like saying “not every part of Scripture has the same purpose.” That makes sense. I will say that my children have taught me the value of listening to the Bible. I downloaded the free dramatized version (old and new testaments) for them. My eight year old told me that it was easier to read the Bible after listening to it. For a young reader, or an adult reader who finds reading difficult, the audio can be a tremendous help. (In particular, it can be helpful to understand the flow of an argument/ narrative when hearing it read aloud by someone else. I’m a strong reader, but I’ve listened to a pastor simply read a passage, and think to myself, “It didn’t make that much sense when I read it!”
Yes, I agree on the benefit of hearing.
I always found reading aloud helped me memorise more quickly and effectively. That combines both seeing / reading and hearing.
I think I agree with Michelle mostly. It doesn’t all speak to me, therefore to me it isn’t of equal value. But parts that don’t speak to me, do speak to others. Over the past decade I’ve been studying and practicing Biblical storytelling, since for millenia all the original audiences for scripture would have had no possibility of reading it unless they were clergy. It seems to release an energy and understanding not produced or unlocked by reading alone. Then there’s lectio divina, the meditative practice of reading short passages aloud repeatedly in a group, with silent breaks between repetitions. I look forward to learning new ways to bridge the gaps produced by time and variations in translations.
I enjoyed looking over your articles in general, Jon.
Hi, Mikey. Perhaps it would be better to say, rather than “it doesn’t all speak to me”, to say something like, “I haven’t learned to appreciate it all.” It’s value is not defined by us. I would encourage you to read it all, because it really is all God-given and profitable. Don’t spend a lot of time on the parts you find hard, but don’t completely neglect them, either. It will pay off over time.
I wouldn’t say any of it is particularly hard to read. I’ve read it all hundreds of times, perhaps thousands over the past five decades, and taken courses from Sunday school to seminary. What’s changed in my faith process over time is that I’ve found other paths to God that have gradually become every bit as valid in the practice of daily life as the exclusive study of the Bible, including meditation, direct service, and studying the holy texts of other religions. I’m still a Christian. I’m just a whole lot more inclusive than I was before.
Well, interesting, Mikey. I don’t think you can hold that view and be logically consistent. If the Bible isn’t true, then Christianity is a farce. So to be logically consistent, if you are a Christian, you hold to a true Bible.
If you hold to a true Bible, then you believe Jesus said that He is the only way to God (John 14:6). I suspect you know that verse already. If Jesus said that, and He wasn’t telling the truth, then again, Christianity is a farce.
And if He was telling the truth, then there aren’t other paths to God.
So while I think I understand pretty well why many people say things similar to your comments, I actually think atheism or agnosticism is more logically consistent.
Of course, our grasp on logic and what is logically consistent is limited in some ways, but this just seems pretty straightforward to me. And it is very clear that God gave us brains to use, so we shouldn’t just throw logic out the window.
I hope that makes a little bit of sense, anyway.
There’s no inconsistency. I under-explained. The joke we were taught in my first college philosophy class to illustrate the inherent limits of logic goes:
God is Love. Love is Blind. Ray Charles is Blind, therefore Ray Charles is God.
But let’s go back to John 14:6, “The Gunfighter Stance” as we called it in Seminary (“Nobody’s gonna get through this door, lessen they go through ME!”) You’ve taken it out of the context which is clearly there in the book, and misapplied it as a litmus test for all people in all times and places. Jesus spoke it to his disciples, in response to a plea from Thomas for guidance. The companions of Jesus did not fully realize at that time that he was a fully realized and incarnate expression of God, and connected to God the Father without discontinuity. Unlike Paul, these were regular guys, not scholars. It’s a hard concept. Jesus was reassuring them that he knew what he was doing, and they could rely on him.
There’s been this historical problem of Christians holding the religion as being the exclusive path to God, as opposed to Jesus himself being the way. That may sound like hair-splitting, but it isn’t. There’s a big difference between religion and faith. Think of the early controversies about how to include Gentiles. Many said they all should be required to get circumsized (even as adults – OW!) and convert to Judaism first.
I accept the Bible as true, just not as literal. For example, I believe in the heliocentric structure of the solar system, so Joshua can’t have LITERALLY made the sun stand still, because the sun doesn’t move. I work in health care. No physical body can live to be hundreds of years old, nor could they ever have before. Nerve tissue can’t regenerate. That’s why the longer you survive, the more likely you are to develop dementia. What I said about the various parts of scripture was that some parts were more useful for me than other parts. I was also talking about my growing belief that there are other equally valid paths to God for others, even though Jesus is MY path.
Well, we’re not very much on the same page, I’m afraid. Jesus did say, “No man,” after all. If He’d have said, “None of you guys,” you might have a point.
He already told them He was leaving, and sending them to everyone, and how to behave to have credibility with everyone. Pretty universal stuff in John 13:33-35. So He says I’m sending you, love one another so everyone will know you are from me, and then He says He’s the only way to God. That’s universal in scope and exclusive in path.
As to the sun, I was up before sunrise the day before yesterday, but not today. That is true, even though the sun doesn’t actually rise. It’s obviously using casual, not technical, language. Unless you can find something in the context to indicate Jesus was using casual language that said “no man” but didn’t mean it, you’ve got a pretty weak case.
I’ve heard your logic joke. 🙂 It isn’t usually used to teach limits of logic, but to illustrate certain logical fallacies / abuses of logic. If I were to twist your words around to mean something different from what you said, that wouldn’t prove that your words are limited in value, it would just prove me dishonest. The joke proves nothing about logic itself — it just shows that dishonest (or daft) people can misuse it to lie (or be stupid :)).
Sorry I couldn’t reply right away – got called in to do some exams. Perhaps part of our difference is the two ways we read scripture. You prefer one kind of translating, and I prefer another. Back to John 14:6 —
λέγει αὐτῷ Ἰησοῦς Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωή: οὐδεὶς ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸν πατέρα εἰ μὴ δι’ ἐμοῦ. That’s the original Greek. What it says word-for-word is, “It-fortheth unto-it, an-Iesous, I I-be the-one a-way and the-one an-un-secluding-of and the-one a-lifing; not-moreover-one it-cometh toward to-the-one to-a-Father if lest through of-ME.”
The adoption of phrases such as “no one” or “no man”, which are not present in the original, follows a translation tradition called dynamic equivalence. In other words, some person or persons who are bi or multi-lingual are allowed to create what they deem to be an approximation of meaning to allow non-scholars to read the translated work. It sells books. It builds followers. It isn’t necessarily good scholarship, especially when the original is much more subtle and sublime.
An opposing view of how to translate would be intra-linear (word for word from the original), as I prefer, with study toward cultural and historical uses of language at the time of writing. In the original Greek text, this passage clearly shows Jesus using repetitions of the word “one” in two ways. He says it like “If one intends to come to the Father, one must come to the Father through me.” He also creates an equivalency that he and the Father are one. The repeated I is the Greek version of the Hebrew “I-I”, the I AM that is the mystical and symbolic explanation of Yahweh. The word “one” is being spoken in person to the companions. Therefore it means “none of you”. It doesn’t mean “no one, anywhere, ever”. But you are free to rely on a second-hand retell if you wish to. Most do.
Wow. Have you ever studied Greek? The word oudeis is masculine, not neuter. The second Greek word, which you translated unto-it, is masculine “unto him”, as the context also clearly shows. Jesus wasn’t speaking to an “it”, He was speaking to Thomas. The first word, legei, is not “it fortheth” but he-she-or-it (determined by context) speaketh. It is the same root as logos (word), and means speak or say. In other words, it means “he speaks or says”. In this case, Jesus is the subject (nominative case), so the “he” is dropped, and it is “Jesus says” (KJV saith).
Sorry. The under-it was a typo. I’m not a very good typist when I’m multitasking, but I hear your disparaging tone loud and clear, so I will retire this attempt to reach understanding and allow you to feel superior.
There is no disparagement. It is simply the fact that the Greek means far differently from what you wrote here. It’s not even close. There is little debate about the proper translation of the verse, though of course there are many different views, depending on one’s presuppositions, as to what it means.