Bible Literacy – Explore the Ocean

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)

2022-04-02 Flight RecorderMost jets are outfitted with an orange “black box” flight recorder that can help investigators figure out what when wrong after an airline crash.  The bottom line on most crashes is “miscommunication.”  The pilot or navigator failed to get important information, either about the weather, another aircraft, the runway or some other factor that resulted in the deaths of most or all of those on the jet.

There is much about eternity and the nature of God that is like that black box; we do not understand on this side of the grave.  And there is much about God we will never understand, even after we begin to live in Heaven.  After all, HE is the Uncreated God and we are not.

But there is much about eternity and God that we CAN understand, as He loves us and wants to share our lives for all of time, and He has revealed to us what we need to know.  What He has revealed is so simple a toddler can understand, yet so profound that the greatest philosophers and scientists can still miss it.  “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Matthew 11:25-26)

However, to get to know Him well we need more than the simple experience a child can fathom.  As C.S. Lewis pointed out, “If a man once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he will be turning from something real to something less real… The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based upon what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary.” (in Mere Christianity)

2022-04-02 Bible ContentsSuch is the Bible: a map for those wanting to know The God Who Is.  Like “cartography,” the study of maps, there will be much in this map of God that we will not understand at first, just as the novice explorer will not understand all the details of topographical or nautical instruction on his maps.  But to fully understand the terrain or ocean on which the explorer roams, he must learn to use his maps.

In the same way, to fully understand The God Who Is, as much as we can understand him from this tiny blue ball we call earth, we must learn to use the Bible, with care, accuracy and precision.  Biblical literacy is vitally important to fulfill all that Father intends for us to be and do while on earth.  Jesus warned, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29)

Some complain there are so many translations, which one is best?  My “best” recommendation is to explore multiple translations any time you embark on Bible study, as various ones bring different innuendo to the text.  See https://www.biblegateway.com/ for some excellent tools, including side-by-side translations, devotionals, blogs and other resources for Bible study.

There are three basic methods of translation: word-for-word, thought-for-thought, and paraphrases.
Word-for-word can be very awkward as languages have different syntax and structure.  However, you can find “interlinear” Greek and Hebrew texts online if that is what you wish to explore.  You will quickly see why translators for common folk such as us do not use word-for-word translation, but more thought-for-thought.

Of course, thought-for-thought can get dangerous if the underlying philosophy or theology of the translator is aberrant.  Fortunately, there are so many translations available, these will usually be easy to ferret out; e.g., if a translator discards masculine or feminine pronouns or dismisses the miraculous power of God to overrule His laws of physics or biology.

Paraphrases are the most subject to the translator’s personal opinions, but often can provide insight into cultural phrasing and attitudes that straighter translations will miss.  An example of this is The Cotton Patch Version’s treatment of John 1:5: “The light shined in the darkness and the darkness couldn’t do a blessed thing about it!”  This captures somewhat the idea, but puts it in a particular vernacular of southern US culture.

The following is a graphic illustrating the degree of “accuracy” of several English language translations, listing some translations as word-for-word, although they are not interlinears.  Note, for those who prefer King James English of 1611, the KJV remains one of the best translations for accuracy of the words.  My only concern with KJV is that the Old English employed can leave one feeling like you are reading a foreign language if you are not schooled in Shakespeare.  The poetry and beauty of it is unmatched by the NASB or ESV, but remember, when it was translated, THIS was the way common people talked!

2022-04-02 Biblical Literacy

The NIV is one of the most popular because of the excellent marketing the publishers did when it first came out in 1978 by one of the most prominent Bible translation groups around at the time, and its list of scholars were some of the greatest minds in evangelical circles.  The ESV came out in 2001 and utilized updated research and linguistic scholarship in an attempt to render as literally as possible what was in the original autographs (which have long been lost to antiquity), including recognizing different writing styles of each different author of the various books.

As you read and study the Bible, expect there will be things that are difficult to accept or understand, but the Scripture is the proven Word of God just as surely as Jesus is the Living Word.  It is not anti-science; it is not fantasy or myth; it is not racist or misogynistic or patriarchal.  When understood it will reveal a God who is holy and loving, gracious and truthful, and transcends cultures and ages of the world.

As I have noted in previous blogs, There is no book in history that has been more reliably preserved and translated than the Bible.  There is no book in history that has more power to change the human condition than the Bible.  There is no book in history that is more important for knowing the God Who Is than the Bible.

See https://capost2k.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/the-reliability-of-the-bible-part-1/ for the beginning of a series on The Reliability of the Bible.  Remember always that the Bible is the map, however, not the Atlantic Ocean!  Use it wisely, but do not get caught in the trap so many theologians fall into of studying the map in their offices in such detail that they never get in a boat to go sailing.

2022-04-02 Sailing With Jesus“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”  (John Shedd)

My Most Important Blog EVER

2021-01-30 News AnchorNews hits us faster than we can absorb it.  This began with television reporting back in the 60s and 70s of the last century.  The joke about our level of engagement came with a news anchor announcing, with a bright smile, “10 killed in hit-and-run on Broadway, film at 11.”

We are saturated 24/7, 1,440 minutes per day, with available information any time we look at our watches, phones or computers, most of which is unrelated to our daily lives, very little about which we can do anything, and most without consequence for any length of time, only lasting until the next broadcast or posting on social media.

But there IS something that matters, something integrally related to your life, something over which you have complete control, something that will last for all eternity: 
What will you do about the claims of Jesus, called the Christ? 

Jesus is the focal point of history, changing for over half the world the way we count the days of our lives ever since shortly after He walked on earth.  And He made some pretty audacious claims, so auspicious that I capitalize pronouns when I refer to Him.  Nothing particularly holy about capitalization, but simply to reflect that He is higher, better, greater (every positive superlative of which you can think) than any other human, past, present or future.

To understand who Jesus claimed to be one must read His biographies, which we call the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the first four books of the New Testament. (Many online sources are available and each one can be read in your native language in less than an hour; my favorite source is at Biblegateway.com where you can see if your language is listed.)

Even those who do not trust Him as what He claimed to be admit something unusual happened after He left the world, something that transformed His followers from meek and frightened, politically disenfranchised jellyfish to robust and daring defenders of what they had experienced.  What they experienced is recorded in Matthew 28, John 16 and 20, and Acts 1 and 2.  And all but one of them died rather than recant; only John survived to old age, but that was in exile on a prison island.

These disciples who had deserted Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, are next seen hiding in quiet rooms, afraid the High Priest, Sanhedrin or Roman authorities might be coming after them next.  Their political aspirations were dead, their leader had been crucified and the Jewish leaders had ensured that none of the disciples could steal His body.  They were confused and dismayed that the One they expected to lead Israel to international prominence, even over the Roman Empire, was dead and buried in a Roman-guarded sealed tomb.  How much worse could it get!?

But rather than getting worse, some women went to the grave in which Jesus was buried and found it empty, encountering angels who declared, He is not here, for He has risen!”  Mary Magdalene, hardly an archetype of integrity, did not believe the angels and came at first to announce to the disciples, who were cowering in their chamber, that the tomb was empty.  Two of the disciples, Peter and John, ran to the tomb to see for themselves and also found it empty.   But then Jesus met Mary Magdalene in the garden where His tomb was and showed her that He was alive!  A couple of others returned from Emmaeus and said they had seen Jesus alive!

In all of these encounters, the ones who knew Jesus best resisted the stories and did not understand the Old Testament scriptures and refused to believe tales of seeing Jesus.  They still could not think of the things He had taught them about His death!  It was just too much for a rational brain to take in . . . until He appeared to them in a locked room.  (They were still afraid and could not sort through the events that were happening faster than the Fall of the Berlin Wall in modern times.)   But when Jesus appeared to them, He showed them His wounds from the crucifixion and they finally believed.

So what did He claim about Himself? 
That He is the bread of life that came down from Heaven.
That He is the light of the world.
That He is the good shepherd.
That He is the resurrection and life.
That He is teacher and Lord.
That He is the way, the truth and the life.
That He is the true vine.
That He is not from this earth.
That He is King of the Jews.
That He is The I Am!  This is arguably His most significant claim to be God, as He claimed to be one with Father, the I AM.

2021-01-30 I AM

This short blog does not allow nearly adequate space for me to show you from the Bible all that it teaches of who Jesus is, but you are all intelligent and capable learned people.  Hey, you access a computer and blog! 😉  So do not take my word alone for this.  Read the Gospels and discover for yourself if you can trust this Jesus to be what He claimed to be.  What will you do?  You MUST do something, either admit these to be true or reject them to be false.  There is no middle ground.

If you believe, the next step is to receive HimJohn 1:12 says, “To all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God.”  Picture you came to my home and I offered to feed you dinner.  You could believe I was going to provide a meal; you could thank me for it; we could sit at the table together and talk about the food in front of us . . . but if you did not reach out and take the food, you would leave my home as empty as when you came.

So, first, reach out in your heart and mind to Jesus.  He is God and knows what is in your heart and thoughts even before you say it.  So invite Him to come and live in you.  Admit you are a sinner and have not let Him rule your life yet.  Turn away (repent) from your self-guided life and tell Jesus that you will trust Him to lead the rest of your life.  Do not worry that you are not perfect, or that you do not understand all this yet.  Simply trust Him that He will come live in you and begin to work in you to perform His will.  There are no special formulas for praying.  Just talk to Him as you would your own earthly father.

Secondly, if you decide to do this, the next step is to begin reading the Bible.  It is His directive to us, an ultimate guide for life and practice.  Do not be intimidated by the size (it is actually a library collection of small books; just take one at a time.)  There are numerous Bible-reading “plans” you can access, but just read!

Thirdly, if you talked with Jesus to invite Him to live in you, you have begun to pray.  Keep it up.  Again, there are lots of books and helps for praying, but remember, it does not take any special language.  Plus, as you get to know Jesus better (not just know about Him, but know HIM), you will find prayer is not just you talking to God.  In times of His choosing, He will talk to you!  Although the value of prayer cannot be measured by its volume, it can safely be said that prayer is valueless if you do not pray.  Make time to pray.

Lastly, God does not call “Lone Ranger Christians.”  Find a community of people who are seeking and experiencing the Presence of God.  Some will be phony; some will be misguided or misinformed; some will be manipulative; some will be dishonest; but you need them as much as they need you.  And as you pray and read the Bible, you will grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and your Savior, Jesus Christ.

Certainly, there is no requirement or expectation for you to contact me regarding your Journey into Faith, but if you want to contact me, please feel free to email me at capost3k@gmail.com.  No question is off limits.

Finally, let me assure you from many years of Bible study and examination of world religions from Atheism to Zoroastrianism, from Buddhism to Hinduism to Islam to Jainism, there is no intellectual reason for rejecting the claims of Jesus.  There is no text more authentically relayed to our generation than the Bible.  There is no way to get to know who God is, other than through the God-Man, Jesus.