"Yes, that's the book for me . . ."

OK, I'm gonna get all theological on y'all. This is just my pre-post announcement to say that there's no cute story in today's post. I'm going double-barreled this morning.

I love the Bible, but I hate what people do to it. My buddy Tim came by yesterday. He's going to be teaching my Bible Fellowship classes on Sunday and wants to do a lesson on Bible translations. We talked for almost two hours about it and, by the time we were finished, I think he realized that covering the subject in just forty-five minutes would be almost impossible. There are so many issues when it comes to Scripture it makes your head spin. I don't want to bore you here; I just want to give you some thoughts to make you think about the Bible. Here are a few random thoughts on the topic:

It's All Greek To Me
A perfect God had chose a medium by which to communicate His message to the world. And in a fascinating move, He picked language and the written word. I find it fascinating because language is a very imperfect form of communication. Just think of how many people you come across everyday who speak the same language as you and you still can't understand them. Or do this: define the word "bat" or "right." Homonyms make language even more confusing, don't they? Also, language never stays the same but evolves over years. For example, the word "hip" is not necessarily a part of your body.

This is why I'm amazed when I hear people say that one English translation is the best or that God has endorsed a selected translation. No Bible that we hold in our hands will ever be devoid of someone's interpretation. Scholars who translate the original Greek and Hebrew words into a language all have certain biases that prohibit them from being 100% objective. Plus as every year passes, discoveries in the fields of archaeology and linguistics tell us more about Biblical culture, allowing us to better understand the original languages.

Let's be honest: the biggest case of this kind of "Bible worship" surrounds the King James Version. In 1611, when the King James Version was translated, they did the best they could with what they had. The KJV was a good start but, at the same time, it's not the apex of Bible translation either. By the way, the last people who felt that strongly about a translation of the Bible weren't exactly the friendliest of sorts. The protectors of the Latin Vulgate used to burn people trying to translate the Bible into English.

Now, with all that we know, we can do much better with Bible translation. That being said, just because the knowledge is there doesn't mean we always get it right. The new TNIV ridiculously messes with pronouns in it's translation trying to be more PC. That's just dumb. And in defense of the KJV, though, I must say that I'm impressed with how they translated literally 1 Samuel 25:22,34. Did you know that "pisseth" is in the Bible? Nothing like Biblical potty humor. Good show. Still, I think the best translations are still out there to be completed.

I guess I'm trying to say that part of our faith is believing that God has preserved His Word throughout the ages so that we can access it today. We still have the texts in their original languages with remarkable accuracy. If you're really serious about the subject and have never studied Hebrew or Greek, you should. There's a whole new world out there for those who wish to explore it.

Commandment 4 of 10
No, not the one about keeping Sabbath. If you take the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20] as Jews split them up [which makes "I am the Lord Your God" commandment number one (a division that I think we Christians should adopt because that first statement makes all the others important)], the fourth one is this:

"You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain."

We usually interpret this as only referring to cussing with God's name, but that's a limited view. I believe this commandment is also a decree not to manipulate the Word of God, i.e., making the Bible say what you want it to say. I hear people all the time saying something absurd followed by the phrase, "and that's what it says in the Bible." If you ever say that phrase, you better be darn-tootin' sure that it really is in the Bible. Otherwise, you're a blasphemer. Be careful, little mouths, what you say.

God Revealed
I ask you, "What's the most important revelation God left us to help discover who He is?" You, prepared to give your average Sunday School answer, reply with, "The Bible." I would then tell you, "you're wrong."

Before Gutenberg's printing press, there was only one Bible per town. Even if people had Bibles to read, they wouldn't know how. We forget that the world has only experienced wide-spread literacy during the past two-hundred years. It's because of this that some in the Roman Catholic Church were able to manipulate people in the Dark Ages, teaching a voodoo type faith. The people depended upon the educated clergy to tell them the story in Scripture and many of them took advantage of the people. The Bible accessible to the masses is only a few hundred [or less] years old.

I would say that the most important revelation God left us to figure out who He is would be the world itself. God has spoken, for all to hear, though general revelation. The apostle Paul proclaims this at the beginning of his letter to the church in Rome. He writes that you can't look at the world and not know that there's a God [pardon my double negative]. So while the Bible is important to our lives, somehow people made it thousands of years without having their own copy. And despite all the abuses, Christianity survived. His Word is definitely powerful, but don't limit his Word to what can be printed.

All the Answers?
And you might not want to accept this, but the Bible doesn't have all the answers for your life. It just doesn't. Through examining Scripture you get a vivid picture of what God wants from you, but you still have to take the next step and exercise your judgment. It's called free will. There's a world of gray out there and God wants you to figure out how you're going to live in it. Great example in Acts 15 as the leaders of the church in Jerusalem are trying to figure out how to mesh Jew and Gentile Christians. In verse 28, in a reply to Gentile believers in the north, the leaders write, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . ." Why did they write "to us?" Wouldn't God's Word have been enough? I think they're acknowledging here that they needed to make the decision while seeking God's guidance.

What I'm saying is that the Bible won't make all our decisions for us. It's a wonderful guide for what God wants, but we have to figure out how to live that out. And finally . . .

DON'T MISINTERPRET ME [like people do the Bible]
I might have written some things here you find heretical, but understand what I'm really saying. I love Scripture. It's the most powerful book every written, inspired by God Himself. When we start this new church, our focus will be teaching out of the Bible. We want people to be familiar with it and see what a difference the Word of God can make in their lives. I'm just tired of people using the Bible in ungodly ways. I'm not saying I have it all figured out, but I'm not sure any of else really do.

You don't mess around with the Bible. It's not a toy, it's a weapon used to cut people up. In the wrong hands, you can really do some damage. So stop playing with it. Get serious, get dirty, and learn what God is saying through this beautiful book.