The Anti-Scripture Scriptures – Part I

 

This post will initiate a series about when scripture is used against scripture.  An Example:

Jesus addressed the Pharisees in John 5:39,40 when he said, – “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

 

 

This verse is often used as:

    • A warning about too much bible study.
    • An exhortation against bible idolatry.
    • A condemnation for not relying on the Spirit.
    • Proof against Sola Scriptura
    • An attack on the concept of absolute truth
    • A rebuttal of propositional truth
    • A manner to question the reliability of the cannon
    • and
    • A means to question the bible’s authority

While this is not an exhaustive list, it should suffice for now.  Used incorrectly, John 5:39,40 can seemingly unwind any of the concepts listed, but it can also be used to confirm their opposites.  What do I mean?  For example, if we’re going to use this verse to question the authority of the scriptures, we’ve already given them authority by quoting it in a defense against them.  It’s an untenable position.  

I would admit that bible idolatry is possible, that we can use the bible as an end instead of a means to and end (Christ), that we can seek to gain knowledge, influence, and superiority over others by using the bible, and that we can mistake bible knowledge for spiritual maturity, or even worse, righteousness.  I would further admit, that there are those who tend towards self-atonement by reading the scriptures.  We pat ourselves on the back for the hours of “sacrifice” that we spend reading the bible.  Granted, many of those things can be, and are true.

But, to use John 5:39,40 as a knock against scripture itself is to commit many of the same errors cited above.  Further, to accuse someone of bible idolatry is tantamount to committing a grievous sin in the process.

There was another religious group called the “Sadducees,” that Jesus also rebuked regarding their use of the scriptures.

But, to them, he said virtually the opposite – “But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

So, please stop using John 5:39,40 to tell me and others that the bible is anything less than it is.  The Bible is the written Word of God, and YES, I capitalized my “W.”  Please stop telling me that the bible is only a book or collection of books using John 5:39,40 as your proof text.  Please stop worrying that I might be committing idolatry by loving, reading, meditating, and searching the scriptures.  Please stop telling me that I’m putting the Spirit on the back burner by my love for God’s Word.  Please stop telling me that I’m stuck in a “Western” mind-set for my thinking that the scriptures are absolute in their truth.  My mind is being transformed by the Spirit’s renewing.  He’s got this!  Instead, if you’re so concerned, let’s break bread together and crack open those scriptures (the bible) together and show me that we actually have a common frame of reference to dialogue.  Without that, our talk is useless.  Isn’t it? 

Tell me one thing you know about God that is not found in the scriptures. 

In part II of this series we’ll consider John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

0 thoughts on “The Anti-Scripture Scriptures – Part I

  1. Erica says:

    I think you’re misunderstanding the argument Miguel. To say that the Bible is not “this” or “that” doesn’t mean that the Bible isn’t spiritually valid or useful. The extremist position may say that the “anti scripture scriptures” you are citing mean the Bible isn’t valid at all, but that is a misunderstanding of what I am seeing people discussing. It’s about having the Bible in it’s proper place – useful for instruction, not not superior to a relationship with Christ Himself.

    • Miguel says:

      Erica, Thanks for the first time comment.

      In my circles, people have used this verse in the exact extremist way you mention. The end game is to minimize the authority of the written word in the bible to achieve some other ulterior end.

      If I may ask, where do you get this notion that the bible is useful for instruction but not superior to a relationship with Christ Himself? Is it from the scriptures or is it something God revealed to you personally?

      Christ said, abide in me and my words in you. Part of this relationship is the the Word’s words dwelling in us. It’s not a question of superiority. Christ and His Word have equal footing. WOuld you agree?

      • Erica says:

        The essential difference between the Old and New Covenants is that under the Old Covenant, the closest anyone could get to God’s words was through a mediator. Because of that, one did not receive God’s words directly, but through someone else relaying them, or reading them on stone, or later on on parchment.

        This “mediator-relayed” knowledge of God’s words *IS* an incredibly important part of the spirituality formed in community. In order to have spirituality in community, there has to be some common thread that all community members share, and this is done by some amount of “mediatorship” and common understanding of spiritual truth. Sacred writing plays a big part in this.

        But under the New Covenant, another element became crucial. It does not supplant the value of the “words through mediators” but it does take a higher precedence as it is one of the major facets of this covenant. The New Covenant is built on the Old, so the old mediator-relayed elements are not “discarded” or treated as worthless, and thus, the Bible still retains huge value in the New Covenant. However, the Word which comes NOT by mediators, but direct from God to man, direct from spirit to spirit, direct from Heaven to our ears…this Word is the True Word which we know and handle and touch and taste. The mediator-given words are useful for instruction, for righteousness, for leading one to the True Word which is alive. But they are definitely not the same.

  2. Thank you for following the principles of sound biblical hermeneutics, and not letting the text be taken out of context. Simple fundamental principles like context, can mean the difference between truth and error. I would venture to say most, if not all error, has been the result of ignoring this fundamental rule of interpretation. Thanks again !

  3. Jon says:

    Hi brother, can I question if by saying the Bible is the written Word of God with a capital ‘W’ you are adding something not found in Scripture. Or to go further, does Scripture ever refer to itself (the 66 books) as ‘the Word of God’. If not, I suggest it may be tradition that we are relying on when we hold tightly to these positions. I see the terms Word, Word of God, and Word of the Lord in Scripture referring to either God speaking to someone, a message from God, or referring to Jesus (as the Message from God). Yes, the Bible contains records of these messages from God, but it never refers to itself as the Word of God. It is our tradition that came up with that.

    I love the Bible, and all it has to teach and describe about my Lord. But I fear many people have been taught to follow the book instead of the one the book directs us to.

    I have found N.T. Write in “The Last Word” had some good insight on this topic. I’d highly recommend it, he explains it much better than I can… and I likely only understood 50% of what he said. 🙂

    • Miguel says:

      Jon,

      Luke 24:44-45, “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. ”

      Notice that Jesus speaks about what is written regarding him in the Old Testament. Then Luke writes that Jesus opened their mind to understand the Scriptures. What Scriptures? The Law (Moses), the Prophets, and the Psalms. This was a common designation for the Old Testament. Therefore, Jesus says that the written form of the Old Testament is Scripture. Jesus goes on to deal with the religious leaders who would violate these Scriptures which he called “the word of God.”

      My intention over this series of posts is to show that the NT are also called scriptures and therefore based on the verse above and others the “Word of God.”

      • Jon says:

        Are you referring to Mark 7:13 in the connection you are making? It would be a tighter case if it was one passage that called all 66 books “the Word of God”. If God really wanted us to call this book such, why wouldn’t He have said so? I suspect it was some other religious leaders who had the desire to give it this title.

        Do you see the role church tradition 300+ years after Christ played in putting our collection of books together? We must trust these men, and their guidance by God, as much as we trust the words these books contain.

        And I think we can trust other followers of Christ, we have been given this body to teach and build each other up.

        I guess to a degree we may be discussing semantics. For me “Word of God” reads “message of God”. I want to follow every message of God to me. My concern is when the book gets elevated higher than the messenger. When we become a people of the book more than a people of God. When Jesus is refereed to as the Word, why can’t we reserve that title for Him?

        Thanks for the dialog. I’ll add I still hold a lot of respect to my brothers and sisters who use such language. I hope people can understand my motives for reserving this title for Jesus, or any message God gives to us.

        • Miguel says:

          Jon,

          The only “books” in question are the 27 NT ones. It’s a well established conclusion that the 39 OT Books we have ARE scripture.

  4. Jon says:

    That would be N.T. Wright. All that writing about Words and words and thinking that I’m right and your wrong… I typed the wrong Wright. Hopes this makes it write. 🙂

  5. Rob Kampen says:

    I think the second verse you quote helps shed light on this topic – the Sadducees were told that they missed it due to misunderstanding scripture AND denying the POWER of God.
    As in most of life, a balance is needed – there is a tension between ideas, overdue emphasis on any single aspect then appears to pull one into extremity. I heard a quote that demonstrates this by suggesting that the narrow path to life has a gully on either side – legalism on the one side and freedom on the other.
    That is why the letter kills but the Spirit gives life – we need to pursue the Author and get to know Him – best source for the information needed – study the Bible. Will we have knotty questions – certainly, but God is big enough to handle honest questions. The trouble arises when we choose to take a position on something and then look for justification and vindication support in scripture. This is not an open search, rather a misguided abuse that leads to damage and hurt to ourselves and those around us. Any time we take our eyes off the Author we are going to loose our way.

  6. Gary Patton says:

    Amen and amen!

  7. Eli says:

    “Tell me one thing you know about God that is not found in the scriptures.” while that is a good question to ponder when it comes to say world view or doctrine, it has limitations when thinking of our unique personal walk with god and the diverse ways he has revealed himself in our lives. We must eventually ask questions such as “Do we know what love looks like because the scripture describes it or because something within us confirms what love is”
    Truth is not truth because a holy book says it is truth, but rather because it lines up with the very fabric of the universe. Religion is a terrible thing when men are convinced to hate rather than love because they have twisted understanding and hold onto falsehoods which line up with the evil in their hearts/minds.
    The trouble with calling the bible the ‘written word’ when Jesus is ‘the word’ is that christians inadvertedly minimize the life and meaning of christ to be contained within the bible which means like Peter they miss gods current working because it does not fit within their rigid interpretation of how god does and doesnt work.
    Anyways yes our talk is useless without common framework of scripture, but even more useless without common framework of jesus christ who is life. These days I tend to have worse conversation with people who ‘know’ scripture but do not know the language of the heart of love than vice versa.

  8. David Woods says:

    To me, this verse simply says the equivalent of: You (Pharisees) don’t truly understand the scriptures you profess to study because you would be welcoming me (Jesus) if you did.

    I don’t think it has anything to do with any of the subjects you mentioned, but I do see (if anything) how it shows that the Holy Spirit wasn’t guiding the scripture reading of the Pharisees, or they would have recognized the Messiah when they saw Him. It does show how the scriptures can be not only misinterpreted, but actually turned on their head if not followed into an actual real, active relationship with the God of which it speaks.

  9. Robin Boom says:

    There have been some excellent, well thought out responses to your article, Miguel.

    I take the view that Jesus is the Living Word of God, quick and powerful and sharper than two-edged sword. When Jesus refers to scripture he refers to the OT. The NT was not scripture in Jesus day. It has become canonical scripture since 325AD, sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church.

    Muslims regards the Quran as inerrant scripture, because that is their tradition, and the Quran as we have it today was sanctioned around 150 years after Mohammad. You can believe whatever you want to believe is inerrant truth, but when scientific and rational evidence contravenes what you hold to be truth, I have observed most fundamentalists of whatever persuasion will dismiss the rational and logical or scientific evidence because it violates their dogmatic believe in the inerrancy of their precious canon. When there are obvious interpolations, inaccuracies and contradictions, devotees seem to be blind to accept these or completely ignore them, as this will violate their precious belief. The Roman Catholic Church also later included other apocryphal Jewish writings into scripture written between the writing of the Septuagint in 250BC and the life of Jesus, the living Word of God.

    For me the Bible contains words from God, in which I need the Holy Spirit to help me glean the word of the Lord for me personally. It is a tool, a conduit for helping me grow in my understanding of God. It is not God. It is not living or powerful. It is not the Word made flesh. Neither is Jesus the Bible made flesh.

    • Erica says:

      Robin,
      I really appreciate your posting. As you can tell from my post above, we have much the same viewpoint here.

      But Miguel is very uncomfortable with this whole topic and as such, I am concerned that he might see any innaccuracies in what you have written as a proof that people with our viewpoint don’t know what they are talking about. For that reason, I want to tweek your posting (feel free to tweek mine if you don’t agree with my tweeking.)

      So here’s my tweek: The New Testament was scripture long before the Roman Catholic church canonized it in 325 AD. What they did *formalized* the canon for future generations, but reasonably speaking, most of the NT had long been considered Scripture before that. In the New Testament itself, Peter calls Paul’s letters “scripture.” (2 Peter 3:16) The so-called “church Fathers” before the 325 date also used NT scripture vociferously in their writings, showing that they saw it as carrying weight in regards to spiritual knowledge and understanding.

      Yet, scripture is what scripture is. And scripture is NOT what scripture is not.

  10. tamera says:

    what does vs 38 mean?

    • David Woods says:

      This is a good Q Tamera. The first chapter of John defines Jesus as “The Word” of God. vs. 38 says that they don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore, they don’t have the Word of God abiding in them. How then, can they correctly interpret scripture, and recognize the Messiah without the Word abiding in them?

      I’d like to hear Miguel’s take on this.

  11. Marshall says:

    we’re dancing around things known to us by the Spirit, yet which are difficult to accept because of our tradition and for all the theology we’ve built upon it.

    * New Testament writings are historically perceived by saints differently than “the Law and the Prophets” of the Old Testament.
    * canon and translation was accomplished by men. There is no voice from above, “66 books”.
    * we know by the Spirit’s work & power demonstrated how “Acts 29” continues to be written.
    * we know that the sayings of Jesus are more trustworthy than the words of Paul. example: Paul is teaching that it is well to eat meat sacrificed to idols. [contra: Revelation 2]
    * Paul himself appeals to us how he is, like others in Christ, a servant through whom others believe.
    * most centuries following the propitiation of Christ lack a Bible as we know it today; a printed Bible in your house or pocket is by modern aide.
    * the Bible we have today was prepared and handed to us (under protest) by a religious system. Protestantism has not appreciably changed this.
    * no one of sound mind would hold to a book (or, faith in a book) having the power to raise or save anyone to Life.

    Those who would skill themselves in rationalizing against these things do so at the cost of not fully looking to Christ (the Living word).

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