Wednesday, November 6, 2013

John 3:16 and Response to Chpt 2 of 'How Not to Interpret the Bible'

(This entry is related to a writing of a prominent anti-Paul scholar. He addresses the pious view of some that 'those who are led by the Holy Spirit do not need Greek-Hebrew lexicons because God will give you the answer.)

The author writes six or so chapters on how to properly interpret the Bible. He refers in each of these chapters to points Torrey offers and why Torrey is incorrect. He offers several alternatives which I see eye-to-eye with him on.;

One view of Torrey's he refers to is that the Greek and Hebrew translations are less valuable than being led by the 'Holy Spirit' into proper interpretation. The author views this as do I as likely to lead to misunderstandings due tot eh greek/Hebrew offering deeper meanings to what in English can only be read one way. It might also be observed that many times people claim to have been shown something by the Spirit they were things contrary to reason or even things contrary between themselves with many readers reaching all sorts of conflicting conclusions.

He refers to John 3:16 as being one that from Tyndale's day has not been translated with perfect fidelity toward the original meaning.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

He says the Greek is clearer as to what Jesus is meaning by 'believe'. The English is not as clear as the original language. It has always been interpreted then as a support for faith alone, when it is not. By ignoring the Greek here, it leads to a misunderstanding.

I say, if it is read in context of the entire counsel of the Word (minus Paul) what it shows is not 'believe in' but 'obey, follow' or works.

"If you love me (then) you will obey my commandments."

Here is the "if...then" statement that elaborates on John 3:16.

"If you believe in him" applied to this verse, if you could imagine what it would look like if they were combined would be, Whosoever believes in him, demonstrated by their obeying his commandments, shall not perish but have everlasting life." Whosoever believes in him by obeying his law that he came to fulfill will be saved.

Belief should be considered in two types: Inert and active.

The faith that Christianity teaches is inert. But Jesus simply tells us in Luke 18 to the rich young ruler that inert faith will not save you. "If you love me" your faith will not be inert but it will be active and "you will obey my commandments". James refers to the inert faith, refuting Paul:

"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" lists as synonyms for 'inert': asleep, dead, down. I offer the words inert and active as direct antonyms to one another and inert being easier to visualize than 'dead' is.

So Jesus is saying 'whosoever believes in him (with an active rather than inert faith) will be saved. "If you love [him]," your faith will not be inert, but instead it will be active and "you will obey [his] commandments."

I was happy to see the author confirm by reference to the Greek that my original understanding was correct. My final remark is that the Greek/Hebrew are valuable aids in proper interpretation but one must read TOPICALLY all related provisions and discover how best they align. This eliminates a lot of the problem the author has discovered.

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