Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Bible Reads Like a Children's Book! - Or does it?

Sometimes I get happy questions, sometimes I get angry questions and sometimes I get challenging questions like this one I have for you today.  I call it "challenging", because it challenges me to explain something that I didn't think needed any explanation.

Question: Pastor Keith, I've been listening to your "Biblically Speaking" shows and all throughout them you keep saying over and over "If you take the Bible for what it says, it reads like a children's book!".  I don't know why you say this, because I need someone to interpret so much of it for me because it's very hard to understand.  Why do you say this when it isn't true?

Answer: Ah-ha!  (I love saying Ah-ha!)  Let me to try to explain.

Allow me to use an example direct from Jesus Himself!

Matthew 16:5-12 - Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have taken no bread." But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? --- but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

Far too often we don't think.  And more than that, we don't pay attention.  And more than that, we don't think (wait, I said that already, LOL).  Jesus could have whipped up an entire grocery store full of bread, yet somehow they forgot the MIRACLES that they witnessed WITH THEIR OWN EYES!  And even worse than that, how on earth did they misunderstand "BEWARE THE LEAVEN OF THE PHARISEES" to mean that they had forgotten to bring bread???  Were the Pharisees bakers???

The reason that I insist that the Bible reads like a children's book, is because if you simply read the vast overwhelming majority of it, and take it for what it says, YOU WILL UNDERSTAND IT SIMPLY.  It WILL make perfect sense.  You will not require an "interpreter".  With that said, if you're not familiar with different types of speech, such as sarcasm, inference, analogy, simile and a host of other types of speech that I reference in THIS blog post, not only will you have a difficult time parsing what you read in the Bible, you'll have a hard time parsing any written word of real value.

With that said, there IS something I've discovered over the past few years that I should spend a moment here explaining to you all.

I happen to know the background of the person who sent me this question.  English is NOT their 1st language.  I've had people telling me for a while now, that the Bible is not easy to understand like I say it is, and every time I'm told this, it's usually by someone whose PRIMARY language isn't English.

So that brings up another issue.  Being in the United States, where the predominant language is still English, we native English speakers have one HUGE advantage!  The advantage isn't that we speak and read English, the advantage is that the BEST translations of the Bible are all in English!  And when I say "best", please believe me that I know there are 100's of translation errors, even in the BEST we have available.  If you're a native English speaker there are more than 150 English translations for you to peruse (of course most of them aren't worth reading).  If you are a native Spanish speaker (as just one example), you have maybe 2 primary translations to work with.  I only have a passing familiarity with non-English translations and I can tell you that from my own minimal experience, the non-English translations are not particularly amazing.  So when a non-English speaker is listening to me talk about the AMAZING SIMPLICITY that you can read the Bible with, they think I'm a little nuts.  Think about it, they listen to me, then they play back what I said in their minds in their own language, and then finally they go and try to look up the passages in their own Bible and they get totally confused when what I said doesn't even remotely resemble what they're reading!  So I empathize!

So as penance, from now on when I'm addressing an audience that i'm not 100% confident are completely native English speakers (such as doing a show), I will NOT be saying that anymore.  And if I do, I'll add the following to cover all of my bases: "If you read the Bible and take it for what it says - It reads like a children's book!  At least if you're reading it in your own native language."  Sure, it doesn't have a great ring to it, but since I'm aware of the potential for misunderstandings as basic as this one, I'll do whatever I can (reasonably) to avoid it.  :)

So what is the point of me expressing that the Bible reads like a children's book anyway?  Like in the example above where Jesus is chastising his disciples, the point is that the most obvious reading is more than likely the correct understanding.  Now with that said, if you're doing a particular study of something, such as Eschatology, you'll find that advanced subjects like this require a sincere effort in order to walk away with even a basic understanding of all the associated facts.  Which isn't to say that things like eschatology can't be explained simply, but that if you're going to be reading the passages related to it, and you want to make sure you're not confused or misled, you're going to need to have a better understanding of "biblical language".  Which of course is way beyond the scope or purpose of my blog and my general ministry work.

As always, please feel free to share with me your comments and suggestions!