My Response to the Teaching, “Read the Scriptures, not the Bible”
For a while, I have come across notable believers charging the rest of us to stop depending on the Bible but to read the Scriptures in the original languages: Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament. This is similar to the notion that unless you call the Son of God by His Hebrew name, Yeshua, you are not addressing Him. That means your prayers are in vain at best or they are idolatrous at worst.
According to American television personality, Kathy Lee Gifford, in a Christian Post article. “We have not been taught The Truth. And we wonder why we have no power in our lives. We’re quoting Scripture that isn’t true understanding.
“If we’re not quoting what it actually says in the Greek, actually says in the Hebrew, then we’re not speaking The Word and The Word is everything.”
While I support reading the Scriptures in the original languages and improving our understanding of it if we can, I do not see that as the reason Christians lack power in their lives because that argument does not take into account believers who are illiterate and the basic conditions for receiving God’s power.
This idea that revelation and power can come only to those who can read the original Bible languages fails to answer the question, “How about those with limited education?” The apostles weren’t educated and yet they exhibited so much power that thousands upon thousands of souls were saved and the Jewish authorities tried so hard to stop their ministry.
This was the assessment of the Jewish leaders when Peter and John were summoned before them after they healed the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple and converted thousands with their subsequent preaching:
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13
In their translations of this verse, the NIV described them as “unschooled,” ESV called them “uneducated” and the NLT said they had “no special training in the Scriptures.”
Although they quoted Scripture, it’s possible they couldn’t read it for themselves but depended on what they heard in the synagogues, what they were taught by the Lord Jesus and what educated members of their group read to them.
Similarly, I have seen believers who can hardly read and even those who have just been saved gloriously anointed and exercising the power of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself was not much different in educational,terms. Although He could read, He had no special training in teaching the Scriptures such as the Pharisees and teachers of the law could boast of.
“14. When the feast was already half over, Jesus went up into the temple [court] and began to teach. 15. Then the Jews were perplexed. They said, “How did this man become learned [so versed in the Scriptures and theology] without formal training?” 16. Jesus answered them by saying, “My teaching is not My own, but His who sent Me.” – John 7:14-17 (AMP)
What the Jews failed to realise was that God was teaching Jesus directly as His Son, a privilege we also have today via His Spirit (John 14:10).
The insistence to learn the original languages is like the Jews’ expectation that one cannot handle the Word rightly without formal training. The gospel has been embraced by people all over the world who speak many different languages and have different levels of education. Learning Greek and Hebrew can never be a precondition for them to understand Scripture, to teach and live out its power in our day.
Such an insistence makes light of the great work that has been done by Bible translators to make the Scriptures accessible to millions in the languages they speak. It also fails to recognise the role of the Holy Spirit as the Teacher and Interpreter of the Word to each believer.
“But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie-just as it has taught you, abide in him.” – 1 John 2:27 (ESV)
“11. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” – 1 Corinthians 2:11-13
I believe that whatever errors are transmitted in translation are not sufficient to shut us off from the true revelation of God and His power because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Varying interpretations of words and passages cannot affect the essence of our faith when the Spirit of God is actively working in our hearts.
And talking of errors, I imagine that even the Scriptures in the original languages may contain some as well. These scriptures were written by fallible human beings albeit under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They could have missed something of what they received in their writing. I personally doubt that any human language can fully capture a heavenly message.
Furthermore, there was no technology for duplicating the Scriptures, so these original writings were duplicated by scribes. These scribes were human beings copying the words. Every copy was written by hand. It is quite possible that in that laborious process, they could not always make entirely perfect records. A jot or tittle misplaced could change the meaning of a word and several more could change the meaning of a passage. And so what is technologically multiplied in the Hebrew and Greek translations today may still be short of the original revelations.
However, more damaging than the notion of unintended errors in translation is the allegation which I read on the Facebook wall of a famous Nigerian Christian, Reno Omokri, that “many of the translators of Scriptures were either occultists, or worked for occultists, and they translated the Scriptures with their agenda in mind.”
Wowl Telling fellow believers that the Bible they are reading is misleading and was translated by occultists to promote an evil agenda? How distressing! But to what gainful purpose? None of these “insights” promote faith or joy in our walk with God. Rather, they breed a sense of betrayal and defeat. Why pray or trust God if the Word we have came from occultists?
This “insight” fails to acknowledge that God will use any available person to accomplish His purpise, including the heathen like King Cyrus of Persia (2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Isaiah 45:1-4). And that regardless of anyone’s agenda in doing anything, God can use the product for His own purpose.
The point I’m making is that nothing is perfect this side of heaven but we can make the best of what we have because God is in control and His Spirit is in us. Rather than burden believers with this notion that the Bibles they are reading are inaccurate, I think it’s better to point out the more dangerous misinterpretations, like those that diminish the incarnation of Christ and make certain sins acceptable.
This is because spreading the idea that only the Scriptures in original languages are reliable could destroy the faith of many and send them on the journey of learning these languages before believing, which is no mean task and detrimental to their ability to withstand the devil meanwhile in these perilous times.
Besides, knowledge of the Scriptures in the original languages does not necessarily translate to more piety or power. In fact, 1 Corinthians 8:1 warns that, “Knowledge puffs up.”
A lot of hardened “Christians” out there have seminary degrees (including PhDs), they can dissect the Hebrew and the Greek but they spend all their time arguing about words and phrases and tearing one another down. Some of them do not believe in the authority or infallibility of the Scriptures and do not submit to the rules of godly living.
Their adventure into digging deeper into these languages only show them “contradictions” and what they consider the possibility of varying interpretations to crucial verses upon which Christian moral teachings and conventions are based. They, therefore, question the Scriptural foundations for forbidding things like fornication, adultery, homisexuality and same-sex marriage. I came across many of these “learned Christians” in some Facebook groups and was shocked at their coldness, arrogance and unbelief. They were dismissive and callous towards Bible-believing Christians and those who differed from their particular opinions.
Note that I am not alleging that every knowledgeable Christian is this way but I am warning against the pursuit of knowledge that, if we are not careful, will throw us into confusion, make us ungracious and ultimately render our profession of faith meaningless. Any study we wish to undertake should be done with the guidance of mature Christians who love the Lord and are living in submission to His Spirit.
The Apostle Paul wrote that, “the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified” – 1 Corinthians 1:22-23. It doesn’t take a knowledge of the original languages to do that and when we do, the signs the Lord promised follow us.
“And these signs shall follow them that believe …” – Mark 16:17
“Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” – Acts 14:3-4
But what ultimately matters is not how much we know (Titus 1:16) or how much power we exercise (Matthew 7:22-23) but how faithfully we have followed the Lord. That is what will grant us entry into His presence now and in eternity.
“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” – John 14:23
Lord, guide my search for knowledge but keep my heart pure. May I not put any stumbling block before fellow believers and may I not allow anyone’s knowledge or declarations to dampen my faith. Keep me earnest in my service to you and wholly open to the instruction of Your Spirit in Jesus’ name.
The scriptures in this post are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible except where otherwise stated.
Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
I welcome your views on the matter addressed in this post. Have a happy new month!
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