The Diligence of a Christian's Study
The call to make every effort in all areas of studying Scripture
|RC||Mar 26, 2020||1|
This article aims to encourage Christians to study deeper, harder, and further into God's word, context, culture, and language.
You may have come across people in discussions that seem anti-scholarship or hold to a "plain and simple reading" of Scripture in the English transliterations. You may have been swayed to regret studying so profoundly because they assert that understanding the Supreme God and all His words are "simple and plain" to any believer.
These people often cite non-academic sources for their beliefs. Recently, in a conversation about Archaeology, I had a fellow cite a missionary who had no training in archaeology, Hebrew, or anything in line with that. Rather, they held a degree in missions. That isn't discounting truth; if the truth is true, it will be there regardless of ones holding of any degree, but instead, I was awestruck that he denounced biblical archaeologist findings in favor of a non-archaeologies theory. This occurred again when a different fellow was requested to cite works done by language scholars on the topical Hebrew, but instead, he cited two Ph.D. physics with no Hebrew training.
You may see a pattern here; the pattern is finding someone, regardless of their lack of training and expertise in a field, to fuel your own position. Mostly, I will find someone who tells me that I am right.
Sadly, we find that these people will accuse others as "reading secular scholarship" when that simply isn't true, as shown in the example prior, we were talking about the Hebrew and Biblical Archaeology. They will surely accuse you of being someone who is liberal, attested to higher criticism, and is swayed by wolves. You will see in the coming paragraphs a few reasons as to why this is not only untrue but harmful to the Church.
The strict irony in this discourse is that those who hold you only need to read the English translation of Scripture, without any proper training or hermeneutics, are using a translation that was worked on diligently for hundreds of hours, costing thousands of dollars, using hermeneutics.
The Christian is told to be diligent with God's word, the word diligent may not be strong enough here, but let me paint a picture for you. The Christian is called to know God's word as it was given, in the time it was given, in the language, it was given, the people it was given to and the authorial intent of the Scripture itself. You cannot do this simply by reading the New International Version of the Bible.
You may be wondering if I deem it essential to faith or salvation to have a higher knowledge of Scripture. For that, I say no, Scripture is clear how salvation occurs. I will say this though, if one wishes to be sanctified, refined in the fire, holy, and grow as a believer, I deem these essential.
In Joshua, we read, "This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it."
This concept in Hebrew of it not leaving the lips is one that may not seem completely familiar to the western ear. The Hebrews, along with other ancient cultures, practiced reading something out loud repeatedly for an entire day in order to memorize the passages. We do this, but I would say, not in the same diligence. The call to memorize Scripture is key.
Fast forward to 2 Timothy, "Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately."
Make every effort. This, right here, is why a high school drop out has now pursued multiple degrees, P.hD. And all. They deem reading the English translations is enough, and that may be the case for salvation, but I argue from the text that in order to "teach the message of truth accurately," you must make every effort possible to understand the fullness of Scripture.
Every effort includes Proper hermeneutic training, proper language training, appropriate exegetical methods, proper theological training, proper discipleship training, an appropriate grasp of every view in scholarship, adequate understanding of varying views, proper knowledge of Scripture's purpose, content, authorial intent, language, people and culture; all this is defined as diligence and making every single effort possible to present yourself as truth.
This letter, written by Paul, from Timothy, is one that is also interesting when working backward. Paul, prior to going to Jerusalem, went to Arabia to study the Word of God with his newfound salvation in Christ. He went back, the man who knew the Old Testament upon His lips, and studied all He knew in light of Christ (Galatians 1:11-2:10). The recorder of Paul's ministry eludes to 14 years of preparation for deep ministry. He then continues to deal with the next decade of ministry, further pointing backward, that Paul spent nearly 14 years training, reading, studying, and preparing to share the Gospel with everyone he encountered. These people would include Jews, Greek Philosophers, commoners, and more.
Examples of Why Diligence Matters
The primary case, in response to "I don't need a degree or more understanding to know God's word" in the case of the "tell me to do you love me" case, and it shows exactly why you cannot grasp EVERY passage (you can grasp many) without further knowledge and context of Scripture.
In John chapter 21, we see Peter and Jesus having a conversation about love. Jesus asks him several times if he, Peter, loves Him. However, upon looking closer, we see that Jesus uses two uses of the word "love." First, Jesus uses the word "φιλέω" which means "mutual interest, affectionate love." The second time Jesus asks the question, He uses the word "ἀγαπάω" which is agapao, meaning "expresses personal will and affection, rather than just emotional love." On the last asks of Jesus, He switches back to phileo or "φιλέω." This is not something that we grasp in the English translations, it's difficult to encompass these types of translations, so it is understandable. However, allowing yourself to take a more viable look at Scripture reveals the truth. We see Jesus asking Peter three times, which some speculate is a redemption method since Peter denies Jesus three times.
There may be a time when I discourse on the Early Church Fathers and there "anything but plain" reading of Scripture. Though many, wrongly attest that they know how the Early Church Fathers wrote plainly, they mistakingly ignore the context of which they were written. However, I digress.
However, I would be remiss if I did not simply point out an absolute fact about studying Hebrew culture, language, and theology: It is anything but plain. The writers of the Old Testament are masterful with words, on purpose, they made every effort to create a beautiful, masterful story and relationship between that of God and His people.
You can find a full array of examples of why "plain reading" is not always the correct method or at least not the starting method. Rather, using a proper hermeneutic, you arrive at the plain meaning. Click here: https://apologetics.substack.com/p/the-issues-with-plain-reading-of-scripture-and-ancient-texts
You may think that the task of 'making every effort' is daunting. I would implore you, however, that it will make a lifetime of difference in your walk with Christ. My story is one of testimony to this very fact, that going more in-depth, drives you closer to the truth.
My story, in short, was that I was raised in a Christian home. I was raised on building fun pictures of Noah's ark, without everyone dying underneath, while I was told that "Jesus loves me, this, I know." It turns out, that's all I knew. As I grew up, I was swayed, by the age of 15 I had nearly abandoned the faith in the placement of drugs, sex, and alcohol to find my inner peace and dealings with this dark world. It wasn't until the night of my overdose that Jesus saved me, honestly, and called me into a life that I never thought I would ever enter.
In the coming decade, I would engage with God's word on a new level, a deeper level, finding that the Bible contains much more than meets the eyes. The Bible is full of theological truth that pertains to our very inner beings. The Bible was given to a people and a place on purpose, God makes no mistakes, therefore, in pure Assassins Creed form, we must enter the animus and return to those times to better understand the truth of God's word in it's fullest picture and form.
You'll find yourself on a journey, learning a new language, maybe two, discovering new insights about Israel, bloodguilt, foretellings of our savior, revelation, and the picture full scope of Scripture. The list goes on and on, from Textual Criticism to New Testament Greek back to Ancient Hebrew and back again to Hermeneutics. You will find a fullness as you have never found before, a closeness to God never like before, and embark on an adventure with the Creator through His word and His time.
Be encouraged; make every effort.