The Signpost Up Ahead

waiting-for-a-signMay it be Your will … that You lead us toward peace … and enable us to reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace.

-Prayer of the Traveler

Before we take a long trip in a car, we first consult a map to determine the best route. If we know people who have already made that particular trip, we ask them whether there are certain spots to avoid, where the best stopovers are, etc. Only a fool would start out without any plan, and stop at each hamlet to figure out the best way to get to the next hamlet.

It is strange that we do not apply this same logic in our journey through life. Once we reach the age of reason, we should think of a goal in life, and then plan how to get there. Since many people have already made the trip, they can tell us in advance which path is the smoothest, what the obstacles are, and where we can find help if we get into trouble.

Few things are as distressful as finding oneself lost on the road with no signposts and no one to ask directions. Still, many people live their lives as though they are lost in the thicket. Yet, they are not even aware that they are lost. They travel from hamlet to hamlet and often find that after seventy years of travel, they have essentially reached nowhere.

The Prayer of the Traveler applies to our daily lives as well as to a trip.

Today I shall…

…see what kind of goals I have set for myself and how I plan to reach these goals.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Iyar 21”
Aish.com

I can see the point Rabbi Twerski is making with this, but he missed a few things. When the first European explorers were sailing their tiny ships to the west and south across the unknown vastness of the ocean, they had no maps at all to guide them, and even those who went after them probably had maps that were woefully inadequate to the task of surely guiding their voyages. Exploring ships would be gone for years at a time and some of them never came back, making it difficult for those who wanted to follow to repeat their journeys with any sort of accuracy. Sailing uncharted waters doesn’t allow for consulting a map first to determine the best route. It’s a voyage into the unknown. Here be dragons.

I know life isn’t exactly like that but there are similarities. While we can consult our parents and other people whom we feel would be good “guides” for our journey in life, no two people live exactly the same life, so there are going to be “blank spots.” My son David served in the United States Marine Corps and I’ve never been a member of the Armed Forces. Before he entered the Corps and during his service, I had no way to guide him through many of his experiences. Even now that he has been honorably discharged for several years, there are things I can’t relate to because I didn’t live the life he did. Only others who have also served could understand what David went through.

That doesn’t mean my understanding and “sage” advice to him is useless…but there are limits.

Which brings me to the Bible.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that the Bible is the perfect guide for a person’s life, and that it anticipates every detail for good or bad that we could possibly encounter.

Well, that’s not entirely true (Note: I wrote this before reading a chapter from John F. MacArthur’s (editor) book Think Biblically called “Embracing the Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture,” a photocopy of which was given to me by Pastor Randy…more on that in a later blog post). In the Aish.com Ask the Rabbi pages, someone asked the following question:

How do we know that the Torah we have today is the same text given on Mount Sinai? Maybe it’s all just a game of “broken telephone.”

This is part of the Rabbi’s answer:

The Torah was originally dictated from God to Moses, letter for letter. From there, the Midrash (Devarim Rabba 9:4) tells us:

Before his death, Moses wrote 13 Torah Scrolls. Twelve of these were distributed to each of the 12 Tribes. The 13th was placed in the Ark of the Covenant (along with the Tablets). If anyone would come and attempt to rewrite or falsify the Torah, the one in the Ark would “testify” against him.

Similarly, an authentic “proof text” was always kept in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, against which all other scrolls were checked. Following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the Sages would periodically perform global checks to guard against any scribal errors.

reading-a-mapMost Christian and Jewish Torah scholars and academics will likely disagree with this explanation, since it’s based more on Midrash than on historical record or other academic and scientific investigation. The Rabbi also neglects to mention the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and what would have happened to the Ark and the Torah scroll it contained (assuming Midrash is correct and the scrolls ever existed in the first place). When ten of the twelve tribes went into the diaspora, what happened to their Torah scrolls? Do any of those original scrolls exist today? If not, how do we know the level of fidelity of the Torah we have today to those earlier copies (and this is why the Dead Sea Scrolls are such in incredible find because they allow us to check much of our current Bible against much earlier manuscripts)?

Even within the scholarly study of the New Testament, experts such as Larry Hurtado often have differences of opinion with other academics in the field. These aren’t bad people, inexperienced people, or unintelligent people…they are educated believers who are experts in their field, and who, based on their studies, continue to disagree with each other, even on important aspects of the Gospels and Epistles.

That, of course, leads to different conclusions, at least to some degree, on the nature of Jesus Christ and what was being taught to the first century CE Jewish and Gentile believers.

It’s not just having a roadmap and it’s not just having an accurately translated roadmap, it’s interpreting the roadmap in one way or another. It’s also important to remember that interpretation starts right at the first step: translating the ancient text into a language we can understand.

I know what you’re thinking. What about the Holy Spirit? Isn’t the Spirit of God supposed to guide us in all truth and to help us correctly understand the Bible? In theory, yes. In practicality, it doesn’t seem to work out that way. Otherwise, all believers would have an identical understanding of the Bible and that would be that.

So what gets in the way? Our humanity. Our need to be “right.” Our trust in our own intelligence over the trust in God’s “intelligence.” So of all the different Christians and all the different Christian interpretations of the Bible, how do we know who is fully “trusting the Spirit” and who isn’t? Are we just supposed to “check our brains at the door” and let the Spirit “beam” understanding into our skulls?

They think self-surrender means to say, “I have no mind. I have no heart. I only believe and follow, for I am nothing.”

This is not self-surrender—this is denial of the truth. For it is saying there is a place where G–dliness cannot be—namely your mind and your heart.

G‑d did not give you a brain that you should abandon it, or a personality that you should ignore it. These are the building materials from which you may forge a sanctuary for Him, to bring the Divine Presence into the physical realm.

Don’t run from the self with which G‑d has entrusted you. Connect your entire being to its Essential Source. Permeate every cell with the light of self-surrender.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Self-Surrender”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

If we are to believe Rabbi Freeman, then God doesn’t expect us to abandon the use of our brains and expect us to just “sense” what the Bible, the world, and everything else means. Understanding and exploring our life is a partnership between the ordinary and the Divine, between man and God.

rabbis-talmud-debateHowever, because the trust and faith of a human being is never perfect, then our understanding is never perfect. We fill in the gaps with our own personalities, our own biases, our own intellect, and that’s what has resulted in about a billion different translations and interpretations of the Bible, and thus the differences we experience in our understanding of God…and the differences we experience in understanding ourselves and other human beings. That’s one reason (to use an extreme example) why some believers are completely delighted that NBA center Jason Collins came out as gay and other believers express concerns.

It would seem that while we’re all using the same roadmap, what it tells us is radically different depending on who we are. Taken to an extreme, we can get caught up in revising our understanding of the Bible to the point where we believe we can “reinvent” or “overrule” what it says for the sake of adapting to the current cultural context.

Where does that leave us as travelers on a journey? Are we “lost on the road with no signposts,” or are we making up the road and the signposts as we go along?

143 days.

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36 thoughts on “The Signpost Up Ahead”

  1. About that notion of rabbinic statements canceling out (or overriding) biblical statements — I can see a great deal of mischief being derived from such a statement if it is not considered within its context. I believe it is fairest to place an interpretive gloss over this notion, to recognize that it was intended to give the rabbis authority to cope with the unbiblical situations arising from the second exile, the loss of an operational Levitical system in the Jerusalem Mikdash, and the like. Hence one could not demand that biblical prescriptions be taken any longer at literal face value, as did the Karaites and as do some HR and OL folks today. Clearly it was necessary to dig a little deeper than the inapplicable face value to find underlying principles and enduring truths that could still be applied. When the current exile, that is still in process toward its true conclusion, reaches that point of restoring the Temple and its operations, then we may need to revisit that notion so that biblical authority and rabbinic authority are rebalanced and better harmonized for the new conditions that will mimic the ancient ones insofar as possible.

  2. As I mentioned in the blog content above PL, last Wednesday, my Pastor gave me a photocopied chapter from one of John MacArthur’s books about Biblical Sufficiency. MacArthur is one of my Pastor’s mentors and as far as I can tell, they think quite a bit alike about many issues, including this one.

    Both Christians and Jews interpret the Bible relative to the literal meaning of the text and how it was applied historically in order to determine how (or if) it should be applied in the present. Judaism tends to be more overt in stating that they are doing this while Protestantism tends to believe such interpretation does not make decisions that change meaning with application. When a conflict arises in terms of Torah, Christianity can conveniently state that “the Law” was replaced by grace and skirt the issue that way.

    I tend to think of understanding Biblical application as a struggle in which we are engaged across our life. It’s not as simple as saying “such and thus scripture literally means this” and not put any more thought to it. Otherwise, I’d believe that slavery was still OK and that women must wear a gag (figuratively speaking) in church letting only the men speak.

    As far as the MacArthur article is concerned, I wrote a two-part series (almost 4,000 words total) that I’ll post Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Before that, I’m meeting with my Pastor on Monday to discuss the article (we’ll only have an hour, so it will be interesting to see if we can compress our talk to fit the time frame). I’m sure I’ll have more to say after that.

  3. “It’s not as simple as saying “such and thus scripture literally means this” and not put any more thought to it.”

    This is where the “pardes” rabbinic interpretive system shines. It doesn’t rest with merely a cut-and-dried literal interpretation, nor does it discard it. It allows for deeper levels of interpretation, and even midrashic flights of fancy, and then asks what aspects of any of them may be applicable to a given “modern” situation, rendering all of them eligible contributors to the understanding and application of Torah, each within its own framework and limitations.

  4. “About that notion of rabbinic statements canceling out (or overriding) biblical statements — I can see a great deal of mischief being derived from such a statement if it is not considered within its context.”

    True. I think the best that can be said is that rabbis at times temporarily suspended a few of the biblical commandments, while always keeping in mind that they will be fully restored when conditions favorable to their proper execution arise once again.

  5. True. I think the best that can be said is that rabbis at times temporarily suspended a few of the biblical commandments, while always keeping in mind that they will be fully restored when conditions favorable to their proper execution arise once again.

    The commandment related to the Temple and the sacrifices immediately come to mind.

  6. “I know what you’re thinking. What about the Holy Spirit? Isn’t the Spirit of God supposed to guide us in all truth and to help us correctly understand the Bible? In theory, yes. In practicality, it doesn’t seem to work out that way. Otherwise, all believers would have an identical understanding of the Bible and that would be that.”

    If all believers trusted the Holy Spirit all of the time and were willing to hear and obey what he taught them all of the time then there would be absolutely no contradiction in the understanding received by all believers.

    However the reality is – most of us prefer to allow someone else to explain it all for us – in a way that is acceptable to us (not challenging us too much) instead of spending the time with God and His word for ourselves.
    The reason the understanding of belivers isn’t identical is because believers do not trust the Holy Spirit all of the time, and don’t listen for His voice (in fact many would deny the possibility of his “voice” being heard),and would not be willing to be obedient to His teaching anyway.

    We have to decide who we will trust – where our faith is placed. With Jesus and His promise of the Spirit, sent to teach. Or we trust ourselves or other men to “work things out”.

  7. So how do you decide which people are listening to the Holy Spirit and which one’s aren’t? Do we only agree with other believers when they have interpretations just like ours (assuming we believe we always listen to the Holy Spirit)?

  8. James,

    You quoted an Aish.com article which said that “an authentic ‘proof text’ was always kept in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, against which all other scrolls were checked.”

    My ears perked up when I read this, because this story, as I remember it, is much more interesting. First of all, the “midrash” refers to the idea that Moses wrote 13 copies of the scrolls. You’re almost certainly right about that claim being historically suspect. However, I don’t believe the second claim in the article is derived from that midrash; I believe the historical fact of Torah scrolls being checked with a reference text in the Temple is documented elsewhere in Jewish literature. However, this story, as I remember it, is much more interesting: if I recall correctly, there were *three* copies of the Torah text kept in the Temple, each differing slightly from the other. In places where the first two agreed against the third, that was the “correct” text, with the same logic applying places where the second and third agreed against the first and where the first and third agreed against the second. (I do not remember whether the case where each was different actually came up.)

    I believe I heard this in the following lecture by R. Adam Mintz. His lectures are really worthwhile, btw.

    http://www.rabbimintz.com/audio/establishing-the-correct-text-of-the-torah-is-our-torah-text-the-same-text-that-was-given-to-moshe/

  9. Thanks, Yahnatan. Have to start getting ready for work but I’ll listen to the lecture when I get a free moment.

  10. “So how do you decide which people are listening to the Holy Spirit and which one’s aren’t?”

    James, the important thing is for us to make sure WE are listening to the Holy Spirit. The more we learn to rely on Him, the more we will recognise others on the same path.

    It also becomes obvious when people are following men’s traditions and which traditions are being followed – from the vocabulary used down to the favoured bible verses regularly quoted and the labels they attach to themselves (ie Calvinist/Arminian etc.)

  11. My concern is I could mistake my own “voice” for that of the Spirit and thus delude myself into believing I’m the only one He speaks to. I probably won’t do that, but I imagine there are a few people who do.

  12. Are you sincere in your desire for the truth and are you willing to have your understanding corrected if you find it necessary?
    I assume the answer to the above would be yes. Then you are most of the way there.

    As long as someone maintains that attitude they will never believe they are “the only one He speaks to”.

  13. One of the more common attitudes is not “He only speaks to me” – it is that others (seminary trained) are more capable of understanding than we are. And then we place more trust in them than we do in the Holy Spirit’s ability and willingness to work in our lives.

  14. Are you sincere in your desire for the truth and are you willing to have your understanding corrected if you find it necessary?

    Yeah, pretty much.

    it is that others (seminary trained) are more capable

    However, I’m not willing to throw education under a bus either. I don’t think it’s wrong to read commentaries and to gain insights from people who can actually read ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. I also think there’s value in participating in Bible studies where we can share our experiences and insights with others.

    Hence this blog, for example.

  15. James there is value in group bible study – but only when WE have put in the study ourselves beforehand (seeking for understanding from the Holy Spirit ) however too many people turn up to those studies unprepared expecting to learn from others – or to get on-the-spot inspiration for their own contributions.

    Bible studies are part of the process in which our own understanding can be tested – part of that confirmation/correction process I’ve mentioned earlier. But for it to work we need to HAVE our own understanding to be tested. We should not go to these things “empty” and come away full of someone elses ideas.

    As for the commentaries, they are more often informed by the writer’s theological background than by delving into the original languages. Therefore someone like MacArthur will write commentaries more from a Calvinist viewpoint than from a genuinely biblical perspective.

    Again commentaries can be valuable AFTER we’ve done our own study but the same thing applies that I said above regarding group bible studies:
    “We should not go to these things “empty” and come away full of someone elses ideas”.

  16. James there is value in group bible study – but only when WE have put in the study ourselves beforehand (seeking for understanding from the Holy Spirit ) however too many people turn up to those studies unprepared expecting to learn from others – or to get on-the-spot inspiration for their own contributions.

    Oh I agree. We need to study (not just read and expect the Spirit to fill in the blanks) using the resources available to us, which includes the Holy Spirit. Believe me, I don’t go into any Bible study unprepared.

  17. James, I don’t see the Holy Spirit is a mere inclusion into our study plan. He is the teacher promised by Jesus and I trust Him to do the work He came to do. That is not merely filling in the blanks.
    He should be the first one we look to for understanding. All we need to do is ask and wait patiently in faith until the understanding comes. And when genuine understanding is given He will also provide confirmation in some way that the understanding IS genuinely from Him.

    Tim

  18. When I refer to “study” I mean spending time with scripture itself, reading and meditation on what we read, and relying on the Holy Spirit to teach what we need to know when we are ready to know it.

  19. Tim,

    It seems to me so far from reading your posts that you believe the Holy Spirit primarily speaks to each and every individuals. What about the understanding (extremely significant historically) that “the Teacher promised by Jesus” teaches by speaking to and through communities as well as to and through their designated leaders?

    Yahnatan

  20. Hi Yahnatan,
    Yes I believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to us as individuals. The benefit of community is having multiple inidividuals hearing from the same Spirit. This provides the opportunity for confirmation and correction that I’ve mentioned earlier. The Holy Spirit wouldn’t give contradictory teaching. He doesn’t teach you one thing and me something that is opposite and incompatible, so if we all hear from the same Spirit we would be mostly in agreement (I say “mostly” to take into account the problem of human pride getting in the way at times – and also the extent to which we may still be affected by past theological conditioning).

    We would assume that leadership would be more mature in their relationship with God and that their teaching would be similarly Spirit led, however, considering the serious doctrinal rifts throughout the church, there is clearly something wrong with the various teachings that are coming from church leadership. Do we ignore those problems and merely choose the teaching that appeals most?
    Or do we test their teaching? If we test it what is the standard we use? Following the scriptural example of the Bereans we turn to scripture and the Holy Spirit is the one most qualified to help us with our understanding of what we read from His word.

    A leader appointed by a church organisation according to denominational education requirements more often than not preaches the denominational theology he was taught in college/seminary in place of Spirit led understanding.

  21. When I refer to “study” I mean spending time with scripture itself, reading and meditation on what we read, and relying on the Holy Spirit to teach what we need to know when we are ready to know it.

    That’s not how I really experience it, Tim. I read the Bible, I look up resources, sometimes I dialogue with others, and within that process I trust that the Spirit is participating as a guide. However, I don’t hear voices saying, “This is that that verse means,” and so forth. I think God’s involvement is more subtle. I think He wants us to struggle with the text. Nothing that is learned and learned well is just given to us. We have to work for it. God designed humans to be more invested in things when we work for them…that includes knowledge of and relationship with God.

    My humble opinion, anyway.

  22. James,
    I haven’t said anything about “hearing voices”.

    When the Spirit gives understanding it comes as an “understanding”, what was obscure before becomes clear. A kind of “Ah Ha!” moment.

    And it happens without the need to look up resources. The value of “resources” comes in afterwards as part of the “confirm/correct” process. They can either confirm what we’ve learned, point out a weakness in what we thought we had learned, or maybe have no effect either wayl.

    When we go first to the teaching of others we run a greater risk of being influenced by THEIR traditions. Don’t underestimate the dangers of the “proof text” (the foundation of the majority of man’s theologies). A case in point is the recent reference Pastor Randy gave from Romans 9 to support his Calvinist stance. Those proof texts can seem oh so convincing when viewed in isolation and how much preaching/teaching do we come across that is based on ” “the text for today’s message…”?

  23. I was being a little tongue-in-cheek when I mentioned “voices,” but how exactly one tells for sure when an epiphany is the Spirit isn’t that easy, either. Human beings have a tremendous ability to self-delude. We often get that ‘confirming’ feeling about just what we want scripture or the answer to prayer to mean.

    Just about the only time I can be sure that something was a supernatural encounter was when it was completely different than what I wanted and anticipated. Few human beings would be willing to read scripture and then realize that God was telling them it had nothing to do with what they thought it meant, and especially that it wasn’t what they wanted it to mean. I think that sort of person and experience is rare.

  24. James,
    No it’s not easy, and the confirmation I speak about is not a “feeling”. In my experience confirmation has often come from others referring to exactly the same thing that my own study had shown me. Something I’d never heard before starts to be something regularly heard from a variety of sources, some of them very unexpected.

    I learned quite early not to speak or write about some of the things I was learning until that confirmation came because we humans do have a dreadful ability to self-delude as you say. I don’t necessarily trust myself but when confirmation comes from other unsolicited, Spirit-led sources the likelihood of self-delusion is decreased significantly.

    After recognising how far off track I’d been taken in the past through trusting established teachers/ministers, the question I had to face was whether to trust God and His promise of a teacher, namely the Holy Spirit (with suitable checks to minimise the self-delusion), or do I continue to subject myself to the possible delusions of others. In considering this I had the track record as a guide to which way should be more reliable.

    That track record was the countless conflicting theologies that were all being promoted as truth by men; compared to the claims that God makes about Himself and His truthfulness in scripture. There was clearly only one way to go – because if the latter was a delusion (God’s truth and God’s promise), no teaching of man would be worth anything anyway.

  25. This is an interesting discussion as my world was “rocked” concerning the subject of interpretation after being guided to become familiar with the history of Christian anti-Semitism by a researcher at the Simon Wiesenthal Center years ago. The question that resounded in my mind was: “If the ‘Church Fathers’ got it SO wrong concerning the Jewish people in the beginning, keeping the Adversus Judaeous tradition in mind with all of its weightiness to include Replacement Theology, then how can the rest of their interpretations of the Scriptures (which historic Christianity largely followed, even up through now)?” The thought remains with me today as I defer to Jewish sources for most knowledge, insight etc…. I appreciate this discussion…

  26. correction: “… then how can the rest of their interpretations of the Scriptures (which historic Christianity largely followed, even up through now) be trusted?”

  27. I learned quite early not to speak or write about some of the things I was learning until that confirmation came because we humans do have a dreadful ability to self-delude as you say. I don’t necessarily trust myself but when confirmation comes from other unsolicited, Spirit-led sources the likelihood of self-delusion is decreased significantly.

    How I understand your statement Tim is that you study (i.e. “read”) the Bible and receive what you believe to be a Spiritual interpretation of scripture. You don’t study any other materials but wait for confirmation of your interpretation from another source, which you then conclude is also Spirit led. The result is that you conclude your interpretation is correct when another unsolicited source arrives at the came interpretation as your’s. Is that right?

  28. I don’t study other materials to help me find meaning in scripture. I read scripture itself and trust God to teach me what I need to know when I’m ready to know it.
    I do not see scripture as needing “interpretation” – I see scripture is mostly straight forward and clear in its meaning.
    When parts aren’t clear I put them aside for the time being, expecting clarity to come when I am ready. I don’t go on a quest to see what others are saying saying to be influenced by their viewpoint.

    I trust God to confirm what He shows me and that confirmation will come from a variety of sources not from a single source – and as I’ve said before a few times, the process involves correction as well as confirmation. When I’ve misunderstood the Lord makes that clear too.

    Whose word do we seek for understanding of God and His ways? Man’s word or God’s word?

    Who is most trustworthy and capable to teach us? Man or God?

    What do we desire most? God’s truth or man’s theologies?

  29. Pardon me for jumping into this portion of the conversation, Onesimus, but I feel I should ask you if you are a fluent reader of Koine Greek? Do you also read the Septuagint as your study bible? Do you read the Tenakh in its biblical Hebrew (and a touch of Judeo-Aramaic for Daniel)? Are you Jewish or otherwise fully conversant with Jewish custom and tradition? In short, do you have any of the background necessary to place yourself metaphorically in the shoes of the writers of the scriptures? Certainly the scriptures were (mostly) straightforward to them and to their intended readers, and they can be so to us if we enter into their mindset. But if we do not, we are in the unenviable position of “reading someone else’s mail”. We won’t understand the references, the familial jokes, or any other “in-house” comments. On a slightly higher literary level, we may mistake literary devices and metaphors for literal statements, because some of this material is not aimed at third-graders. I’m not comparing “G-d’s truth” against “man’s theologies”. HaShem has provided many gifts of knowledge into the hands of men over the course of the millennia, which often are the only means by which men who are remote in time and culture from those to whom these writings were addressed can begin to understand them. Believe me that I speak from long experience with the scriptures, and I can compare my early experience of superficial reading with only HaShem’s spirit to guide me against my mature experience of reading with a greater measure of His guidance aided by writings of other men (and some women) whom He has guided. Along the way I also found that even my earliest primitive experience had been colored by what I had learned from other people, and often they were wrong due to lack of the kinds of knowledge I’ve described above. While their hearts were in the right place, their heads were not so much so. English speakers are schooled in modes of thought expressed in English literature and western European culture in general. Hebrew speakers absorb a different worldview along with their language skills. Those of the present age absorb both western and eastern thought forms, because of the breadth of geography that Jews have been forced to occupy across a very long stretch of time. The essence of both was already present in the first century CE, and appears in and influences the messianic writings about Rav Yeshua. Every English translation of the scriptures that you may read reflects the biases and theology and degree of understanding or misunderstanding held by the translator(s). Do you believe that HaShem has provided you already with sufficient understanding to be aware of and to overcome these influences and errors? I hope this may be so for you, if not now then someday. One of the glories of the scriptures is that it is actually possible to glean real meaning from them on simple levels. But accuracy and depth require more. When Rabban Hillel summarized the Torah in its simplest one-sentence form for a skeptical questioner, he concluded with the exhortation to “go and study”. He was, of course, quite right to do so, because there is so much more to learn. May you be so blessed.

  30. You are discounting the most significant thing – the reality of a living God who has provided His Spirit to indwell and teach His people. I place more trust in Him than in the intellect of any man.

  31. Tim, you behave as if God and people aren’t supposed to work in concert. You speak as if the Bible weren’t written in “partnership” with God, as if God simply “possessed” the Bible writers and that nothing of who they are is in what they wrote.

  32. James, if you read my blog (which you occasionally do) you would know that isn’t true. I recall you commenting on a post in which I made my viewpoint on the nature of scripture clear, including that idea of being written in “partnership”. I described scripture as being like an authorised biography, written by men but God having final editorial control. http://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/biblical-inerrancy/

    Also I have made it clear that reference to others’ understanding of scripture is helpful but comes AFTER we have addressed scripture for ourselves. The reference to others helps us to assess our own understanding it should not be the SOURCE of our understanding.

  33. Sorry, Tim. I don’t always remember every detail of everything I read from all sources. Leaky middle-age memory. OK, then maybe the only point of disagreement is that I believe that the Spirit can speak at any point in the sequence of learning…not just in the beginning and not just in isolation from other sources.

  34. James, of course He can speak at any point in the sequence of learning – I just think it is wise to purposefully include Him at the beginning and to consult Him before we consult other sources. Other sources can offer a check to our own discoveries (confirmation/correction)… but I’ve through all of that before.

  35. @Onesimus – THere is a saying cited in a cult film “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension”, that “Wherever you go, there you are.” Despite that this is found nowhere in Tenakh or the Rav-Yeshua messianic writings, it expresses a profound truth. Every experience you have of HaShem is mediated through your own intellect and attitudes, and all that you read of the scriptures is mediated by your understanding of the language in which you read it, and if you read it in a translation it is mediated also by the translator(s) and their own limitations. HaShem can help you to overcome all manner of limitations, but we must never ignore that they exist.

  36. That’s pretty much how I see it. Every experience we have, the Spirit is there, involved in everything we do like a constant companion. It’s not like I have to knock on the Spirit’s door, so to speak, and ask Him to help me read the Bible. God’s presence and influence is woven into our lives at all points.

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