During my last 20 years of studying the Scriptures from a Hebraic perspective I have slowly refined my theological view and how I interpret the holy writings. I hope to be able to share a few thoughts on what GOD has shown me and how it has impacted my life.
When it comes to Biblical interpretation there are two primary opposing forces.
One side claims there are errors or discrepancies in Scripture therefor it cannot be trusted as inspired and GOD breathed divine voice. With equal fervency theological conservatives claim the Bible is absolutely true and without any error or discrepancy. Any apparent error is a result of our ignorance in our interpretation.
I am going to take a different approach that I hope will open more dialogue in this regards. Neither side has taken a true Jewish approach to interpreting Scripture.
A sailor rightly discerns that a sailboat needs a sail, but if the sailor has no idea how to sail a boat then then wind will catch the boat and cause it to crash.
In the same way, a student of the Bible, after having rightly concluded that the Bible is the true revelation of G-D, needs to know how to read it.
A key mistake that is often made by fundamentalists is that the Bible will read differently and there are differing rules governing its interpretations.
In their zeal to defend the Bible fundamentalists have taught us to read the Bible as if it’s divinely inspired truthfulness is so true that it does not need interpretation.
Any book can lead you astray if approached from a faulty perspective.
A few years back in my journey towards understanding Scripture I suffered a bit of a crisis of faith. I had been taught to believe that there are no discrepancies in Scripture and that the answer to these apparent problems would be found through blind faith. What I found frightened me. It brought doubt and uncertainty. The fact that I doubted scared me even more. During this time I prayed regularly “L-RD help me not to lose my faith”. I spend the next couple of months doing some serious Scriptural gymnastics to settle my doubts and fears. Allow me to give you some examples.
What was written on the sign that hung on the cross?
Matthew 27:37 “and above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS
Mark 15:26 “The inscription of the charge against Him read, ‘THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
Luke 23:38 “Now there was also an inscription above Him, ‘THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
John 19:19 “Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, ‘JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
Four Gospels and four differing accounts of what was written.
The Gospel accounts of the death and resurrection are full of apparent contradictions, especially between the synoptic Gospels and John. Was the Last Supper on Wednesday evening or Thursday evening? How many women showed up at the tomb to anoint the Masters body? In Numbers 25 Moses records that 23,000 Israelites died as a result of their sexual immorality. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul records that numbers as 24,000.
These are just a couple of examples.
The L-RD allowed me to go through this crisis so as to teach me some important lessons. One of the most important lessons He taught me was that I was reading the Bible wrong. I, like many others in the western world, I read the Bible as if it were an almanac of facts, dates, and names. For example; if Steven can be proven to have given wrong information in Acts 7 how can the rest be trust worthy. Were there 70 people that came with Jacob to Egypt or 75?
One of the most valuable lessons I was taught is that the Bible is art!
It is G-D’s revelation to us of who He is and how He wants us to fellowship with Him and with each other. The world is His canvas and we are the paint. When we speak, we paint, in a sense. We choose from a list of words that have hues and overtones that will help us express what we mean. Each language has a palette with a finite number of colors, which we draw from cultural memory and experience. When we paint with these words we do so with the colors we have available. When we try to paint a scene in a different language the results are never exactly the same.
This is especially true in the Hebrew language. Hebrew is full of the desert colors of a nomadic people. In order to paint G-D chose a language with only 4000 words (colors). In comparison English has over 400,000.
G-D paints using the colors of the Hebrew language, rich thick colors, splashed on with a thick brush. Details are sometimes rough, requiring us to fill them in from the context of our experiences. We do this all the time English as well. We sketch out a scene with a few word strokes and let people figure out the rest.
Take “pop” as an example. Am I referring to a can of soda, a pop in the nose, my father, a specific sound like removing re-moving a cork from a bottle of wine? Your mind fills in the rest through cultural memory and context.
Hebrew simply relies on this much more than English does. Now take into consideration that we, the paint and the brush, are flawed. G-D uses a flawed brush (us) to paint the most beautiful picture of truth and revelation. Now imagine G-D using four flawed paints to create the most beautiful picture of His Sons life, death and resurrection. Because the records of the Gospels are written by four people telling from their own memories and perspectives we have a more complete picture of Yeshua rather than an almanac of facts, names, and dates. They are all correct and true, they are only from differing perspectives.
G-D could have just wrote a book on His own and sent it to us in complete form.
Instead He chose to use us, as we are made in His image, to reveal His truth. By using us He embeds within us our own experiences and remembrances. I believe the Hebrew language was chosen as the primary language because it requires us to interact with it more than other languages. It requires us to use our own cultural memories and experiences.
I am often asked what Bible translation I like best. It is hard to come up with just one perfect English Bible translation. The reason is because we are trading in our broad Hebrew brush for a much finer tipped English brush. We also have a different palette of colors. The results can certainly capture the overall sense of the original but it won’t quite capture the atmosphere. Each translator brings out certain nuances that may or may not have been the original intention of the author.
This is why it is also important to understand the cultural context and the language of the Jewish people. In order to see the painting clearly you must see it from the vantage point of the one who painted it and the one it was painted for. It is also important not to relay on one translation. It is good to read more than one and compare, especially areas of deep theological significance.
Finally; remember that the great painter uses flawed brushed to paint and reveals the deepest levels of beauty and truth through these. He can and will likewise use flawed translations to speak to you. The picture made be a bit muddier but the truth is still front and center.