A Shocking Claim by My Professor: “The Bible was not written to us.”

an interpreter could find application or meaning that the original author did not intend

               “The Bible was not written to us”* These words can sound like both an alarming claim and a harsh assault to the widely held modern understanding of how to comprehend the Bible. Today, anti-intellectualism still influences the American church, and if one does not approach the Scriptures correctly, an interpreter could find application or meaning that the original author did not intend. While it is certainly true that the very basics of the faith can be discovered on plain reading, and certainly reading each passage in context provides even further clarity, education about the culture, geography, and literature are often necessary to ascertain what the author intended to communicate.

              It’s fair to modify the claim a bit: We were not the original audience, but certainly God knew we would be reading the text later. The author was originally writing to a different culture, and a different people, and that matters. Scripture encourages us to have this type of deeper and more accurate understanding. Ephesians 4:14 is just part of a passage calling us towards maturity and states, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;” (NASB)

              Unfortunately I have witnessed many troubled parents who had been emotionally blown about, and even driven from their faith by their own, or by another’s, misunderstanding of Proverbs 22:6 which states, “Train up a child in the way he should go; Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NASB) This verse does not serve as an absolute, but is, like all proverbs, a general truth. Parenting is certainly going to have an enormous impact on a child’s life; this, however, does not negate his or her free will, or serve as a solid guarantee, nor was it ever meant to. Instead, it was meant to encourage a parent to raise their child to honor God, not give them some sort of false hope. I’ve seen many tears from parents over this verse, and many have had to come to terms with their misunderstanding of the verse, or else blame themselves. Many choose the later because of a deeply ingrained misunderstanding. I have also sadly heard this verse used as an excuse to ignore the importance of apologetics, focusing solely on basic Bible stories, which truthfully is hardly raising a child in the way that they should go, given 1 Peter 3:15’s command to us all. Only a superficial teaching of Scripture is actually likely to decrease the child’s chances of staying on the path of faith in Christ as an adult. If they can’t defend why they believe what they do, they can quickly abandon it for some other worldview, whose adherents will offer more grounding. That grounding, of course, will be faulty — not nearly as rich as that of the Christian world view — but they won’t know that if they were sent to war with only the barest of intellectual training in the Bible.

              Not only do these misunderstandings cause trouble within the body, but similar issues arise from skeptics and are used as ammunition against the church and the faithful. Some will charge that God couldn’t be good or true, because verses like Proverbs 22:6 are promises that are obviously broken. A student of God’s word should be able to respond to this charge in two ways: asking the accuser about the literary context of the verse (is that meant for everyone?) and demonstrating the difference between a flawed interpretation and an infallible text. While a skeptic isn’t likely to accept the Bible as inerrant, it can be demonstrated that a reader’s understanding of what something says isn’t necessarily what the author intended. One could take “hit the nail on the head” as a literal direction or recognition of someone’s understanding. Context is the key to discovering what the author or speaker intended.

*Henderson, Scott PhD. Course Notes and Resources Biblical Apologetics: Luther Rice College and Seminary September 2015, accessed September 10th 2015, pg. 3.