The Greek text of John 21:15-17 indicates that Jesus used ἀγαπᾶν (agapan) for the Greek verb “love,” while Peter used φιλεῖν (philein) in his reply. The explanation often given is that the first word refers to a higher, truer love, whereas the second word means only “to be fond of.”
In the marketplace of ideas, legitimate biblical scholarship competes with the likes of Erich von Deniken (Chariots of the Gods) and Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), and other sensationalists.
Einstein famously claimed that “God does not play dice.” In what follows, I argue that God does not play Scrabble, either. That is, the idea of a so-called Bible Code, in which confirmatory words or messages can be extracted from the Bible by reading the letters as they fall at a certain frequency, is completely false.
Within popular piety in America today, it is widely believed that the Bible instructs Christians, either explicitly or implicitly, to give ten percent of their income to their local churches. Pastors teach this in the name of the biblical notion of “tithing”, a term applied to the giving of ten percent of one’s crops and flocks to the Levites. However, the Bible nowhere even remotely suggests that Christians are supposed to give ten percent of their income to the church, or anything.
This study is dedicated to those who have suffered the agony of divorce. Tragically their pain has been compounded by well-meaning Christians who have distorted both the letter and the spirit of Jesus’ teaching concerning divorce and remarriage. For them, may this article bring a measure of healing.
We Christians sing a hymn that contains these words: “Blessed be the name, blessed be the name, blessed be the name of the Lord.” We also sing choruses that proclaim: “Your name is like honey on my lips”; “His name is exalted far above the earth”; “Praise the name of Jesus, praise the name of Jesus….” However, we may have misunderstood, or partially misunderstood, many biblical expressions that contain the idiom, “the name of.”
Among the more creative scriptural interpretations related to the fulfillment of prophecy in our day is one centering on Jeremiah 16:16. According to it, the “hunters” in this verse are the brutal pursuers of the Jewish people, such as the Nazis who systematically murdered millions of Jews. The “fishers,” on the other hand, are the quiet and gentle persons who assist the Jewish people, for instance, the Christians who presently are engaged in rescuing Jews from the republics of the former Soviet Union.
Everyone knows that biblical verses should not be taken out of context, and most people can probably name a few examples of verses that are often abused in this way. I would like to suggest that one of the most commonly quoted verses in popular piety today is abused in this way, and hardly anyone seems to have noticed. The verse to which I refer is Romans 8:28.
I sing not, but (in sighes abrupt),
Sob out the State of Man, corrupt
By th’ Old Serpent’s banefull breath:
Whose strong Contagion still extends
To every creature that descends
From the old Little World of Death.
Jesus’ teaching on judging is one of his most frequently misunderstood sayings, sounding as if he is saying, “Have no discernment. Just ignore sin!” Often we struggle to find a way to sort out sin without actually calling it that so that we do not judge. While Jesus’ ethical demands are high, we often give up trying to follow them if they do not make sense to us.
The Bible is filled with customs and traditions that make immediate sense only in another culture, and another time. Anyone who reads the Bible, with an aim to recover its original meaning, must therefore try to accomplish the readerly equivalent of time travel. In this respect, our attempts to bridge the gap between biblical times and our own involve a lot of reflection about the ancient mindset. The point of this article, however, is that our attempts should also involve a certain amount of reflection about the modern mindset, in order to make us aware of how not to read. Unless we become aware of how our modern sensibilities predetermine our reading of certain passages, we can have no hope of really understanding the Bible on its own terms.
The apostle Paul asserted in Romans 11:1 that God had not rejected his people. Speaking metaphorically, he went on to compare the people of Israel to a cultivated olive tree. Because of unbelief, some, but not all, of the tree’s branches had been broken off, and a wild olive branch had been grafted to the stock. Paul emphasized, however, that grafting the original branches back to the stock of the cultivated tree would be a much simpler task than grafting a wild olive to it.