I've spent the last three years of my life researching how people engage God's intent: that is, how do people today "get" what God was saying (intent) to his original audience. During my research I made two discoveries: one surprised me, one not so much.
Here's the not-so-surprising discovery: participants of churches (conventional or organic) tended to hear the Scriptures and sermons in light of their own worldview. In other words, they often interpreted what they heard based on what they wanted to hear.
Here's the surprising discovery: church leadership functioned in precisely the same way. The only difference between church leadership and church participants was that the leader had a platform from which to propagate their ideas.
QUESTION/TOPIC IN FOCUS: Responsible Bible interpretation
Learning to Think like a Hebrew
In the ancient Hebrew, words that are used to describe distance and direction are also used to describe time. The Hebrew word for east is qedem and literally means "the direction of the rising sun." We use north as our major orientation such as in maps which are always oriented to the north. While we use the north as our major direction the Hebrews used the east and all directions are oriented to this direction. For example, one of the words for south is teyman from the root yaman meaning "to the right." The word qedem is also the word for the past. In the ancient Hebrew mind the past is in front of you while the future is behind you, the opposite way we think of the past and future. The Hebrew word olam means in the far distance. When looking off in the far distance it is difficult to make out any details and what is beyond that horizon cannot be seen. This concept is the olam. The word olam is also used for time for the distant past or the distant future as a time that is difficult to know or perceive. This word is frequently translated as eternity or forever but in the English language it is misunderstood to mean a continual span of time that never ends. In the Hebrew mind it is simply what is at or beyond the horizon, a very distant time. A common phrase in the Hebrew is "l'olam va'ed" and is usually translated as "forever and ever" but in the Hebrew it means "to the distant horizon and again" meaning "a very distant time and even further" and is used to express the idea of a very ancient or future time.
||My Reflections |
Like your fellowship of believers, my fellowship works overtime to properly interpret the Scriptures. We work hard because we want to "correctly handle the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15). We work hard because we want to know our Lord! In an effort to dig deep, here are a few things we've had to come to terms with.
- We've had to cultivate a willingness to know the God who is instead of the god we want to be (the God who is is better anyway)
- We've had to become comfortable with words and ideas (Hebrew) that are weird or strange to us
- We've had to admit that we are wrong about particular theologies
- We've had to stop blaming our ignorance on past and present theologians (commentaries, teachings, and so forth)
- We've had to be gracious with one another because we don't all move at the same speed
Given the above, we've committed to becoming responsible theologians. This means treating our English versions of the Bible with a healthy/appropriate dose of skepticism. It means learning Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek (and yes, each of us has differing capacities in language acquisition, but we're all doing the best we can). It means being mindful of the various source texts available. For example, we've become aware that much of the New Testament may
have been originally written in the Hebrew language and translated into Greek
. Thus, as we study the available Semitic source texts, we're making some significant discoveries that are changing how we understand Messiah. It's really cool!