I have just read an article that highlights the gross ignorance of Scripture that prevails among professing Christians today. The following is a quotation from the article:
- “ Americans love their Bibles. So much so that they keep them in pristine, unopened condition. Or, as George Gallup Jr. and Jim Castelli said in a widely quoted survey finding, ‘Americans revere the Bible but, by and large, they don’t read it.’ Anecdotes abound. Time magazine observed in a 2007 cover story that only half of U.S. adults could name one of the four Gospels. Fewer than half could identify Genesis as the Bible’s first book.” [Christianity Today]
While the study cited specifically refers to Americans, the findings no doubt reflect the state of the visible Church everywhere. There is an abysmal ignorance of the word of God. Even when the Bible is read, more often than not it will be perversion of Scripture. Further, it is clear that there is little understanding of the teaching of God’s word; and still less application of its doctrine to practical living. It is nothing short of tragic to see the ignorance of God and His word that has descended upon the church today.
The prophet Isaiah wrote:
“Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.” (Isaiah 34:16 AV)
This text presents us with the following lessons:
1. We are to find the word of God. The word of God is to be found in the book that He has written. The Bible is His book—the book of the Lord. Jehovah, the unchanging I am has revealed Himself in written form. When the prophet uses the word translated seek ye out he uses a term that conveys the idea of wearing a path though frequent use. We have all seen how a frequently used short cut across a lawn can result in a path being worn in the grass. It is the duty of the Christian to wear such a path to the Bible. Our constant recourse should be to Scripture.
2. When found, we are to read it. The Bible is not to be treated as an ornament or a sacred talisman. It is not meant simply to be carried or honoured—it is to be read and studied. The verb ‘to read’ also means ‘to call’ and there is an obvious connection made between the reading of Scripture and prayer. We are to call on the Lord on the basis of what we read. The Church is prayerless today largely because it is ignorant of God’s word. Prayer will be necessary to understand the book of the Lord. This is exactly what the Lord promised Jeremiah when he struggled to understand what God had revealed to him—“Call [same Hebrew verb as read] unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things [in context, the contents of the previous chapter], which thou knowest not.” (Jer 33:3 AV)
3. The reason given for doing so. The second part of the verse can only be understood from the context. God has been saying stern things about His wrath being poured out upon Edom. It will be left desolate and populated by wild birds. Essentially what this text states is that His word will stand, it will come to pass in every detail. The Spirit of God Himself will see to its fulfillment. For this reason the word is to be read! Not one word of Scripture can fail. The particular lesson to be learned at this point from the context in which this exhortation appears is that the reading of God’s word is a means to escape the devastating judgement that will surely come on the wicked. The ‘holy letters’ of Scripture are still able to make men wise to salvation (II Tim 3:15).
But which Bible?
This is a practical question that inevitably rises as we consider the duty to read the Scriptures. Most have the idea that nothing short of a PhD in ancient Biblical languages is needed to sort the matter out! The complexity of this whole issue can, I believe, be grasped in very simple terms.
The issue of Bible versions revolves around the question of which Greek text is used as the basis of the New Testament translation. There are basically only two types of NT text: majority and minority.
The minority, or critical text has the support of very few of the preserved Greek manuscripts, hence its name. It is a corrupt text, riddled with errors and relies almost entirely on two Greek manuscripts: Codex Aleph (Siniaticus) and Codex B (Vaticanus). This critical text is essentially the text of Alexandrian heretics long abandoned by the Church of Christ. When the Westcott and Hort Greek text was published in 1881 as the basis of the RSV it was undoubtedly a brilliant piece of forensic scholarship that recovered the ancient text of the heretics in Alexandria who mutilated the text of the New Testament.
What has historically been identified as the majority text has the support of almost all extant manuscripts and is most commonly represented by the Textus Receptus.
All of the mainstream versions of the Bible with the exception of two follow the minority text—the only exceptions are the Authorized, or King James Version and the New King James Version. The NKJV, however, seeks to please both sides by including the minority text in its marginal notation. Only the Authorized Version is unequivocally faithful to the majority Greek text. When the issues of slang ‘translations’/paraphrases, dynamic rather than formal equivalence are added in there is a lot of confusion and error added into the word of God!
If you are interested in further reading on this subject I can heartily recommend you visit the website of the Trinitarian Bible Society.
Christian, do you read the Bible? Really? Are you one of those referred to in the opening paragraph above? If so, will you not put this matter right? It is time to get real with God and His word! You cannot possibly enjoy fellowship with God apart from His word. Here He speaks, here we learn to speak back to Him. Here only we may learn what He requires of us—what He will bless and what He will punish.
If you are interested in a serious Bible reading programme can I suggest an excellent scheme drawn up by Rev. Robert M. McCheyne (1813-1843) which you can download and print out here. Following this scheme will mean that you can read the Bible in its entirety each year, actually reading the Psalms and New Testament twice.