…unto God a Workman that needeth not to be ashamed, Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth! (Title, and Heading, 2 Tim 2.15 KJV).
I am forever a Student of the “Word of God,” the Bible. Having an insatiable hunger, and thirst, for it’s Truth, within the proper historical setting, and context. Both, from whence the Scriptures originated (were written), and then eventually came to us (became scripture). Another important aspect of understanding the Scripture text is the approximate date of the event being written about.
It cannot be overstated of what great importance the historical setting contributes to the proper contextual understanding of scripture! The scripture has a purposeful, historical, and contextual meaning! In other words, something was said, and something was meant by it, and there was a historical context. The “sitz im leben,” (settings in life), were ever present. Nothing was said in a Vacuum, the stuff of life was going on, with all of life’s tensions. It is our individual responsibility to read the Bible, and seek out it’s historical meaning. You see a good many people think that when it comes to the message of the Bible, that: “it means, what it means, To ME!” This assumption is Incorrect! See 2 Pet. Ch. 1. 20-21 below:
We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye Take Heed, as unto a Light that Shineth in a Dark Place, until the day dawn, and the Day Star arise in your hearts:
Knowing this first, That No Prophecy Of The Scripture Is Of ANY PRIVATE INTERPRETATION. For the Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they Were Moved By The HOLY GHOST!
Take Heed…Knowing this first…That no Prophecy of the Scripture is of ANY PRIVATE INTERPRETATION!!! There was, and is a meaning to what was being said!!! This is why the Apostle Paul mentions being a “WORKMAN that needeth not to be Ashamed.” Two points are important here, both in our time, and Timothy’s. First is to be a workman, or someone who works at knowing, and understanding the scripture. Secondly, the workman because of diligent effort in study, analysis, developing the historical, and contextual understanding of the scriptures, has no need to be Ashamed. For in so doing they have made themselves proficient in scriptural understanding. This is very important in not only Paul’s and Timothy’s day, but also our own day. It was not at all uncommon during the time of Timothy, to have to give an account for, and a defense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by reason of the Tanakh, the Old Testament, and the anointing of the Holy Ghost!
Giving consideration to the command mentioned above, given to Timothy by Paul, we can assume that Timothy had access to some scriptures. Not many had them at that time. Perhaps Timothy had one or two scrolls, or parchments, containing portions of the Prophets, and the Writings. It is also possible however, that he may have had the Septuagint, a Greek translation/interpretation of the Tanakh, perhaps supplied by Paul. What a treasure that would have been for him! Hardly anyone had possession of the written word at that time. In fact it must have been his very prized possession, and one to be cherished. The Christian today has the Bible everywhere, and it is doubtful that the majority of them have ever read their Bible through one time.
Now taking this command seriously, first concerning Timothy’s day, we must ask, what was the “Word of Truth,” at that time (the last half of the 1st century)? Was there a system of criticism, or study for Timothy to use? In Timothy’s time the “Word of Truth,” would have been the Tanakh as mentioned above. The word Tanakh is an acronym, with each consonant representing a category of literary genre within the Hebrew canon. For example, T, represents the Torah (the first five books of Moses, or the law, Genesis-Deuteronomy). N, represents the Nevi’im (the Prophets). K, represents the Ketuvim (the writings, such as Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, see St. Luke 24.44).
With that in mind how does one “rightly divide the word of truth?” As mentioned above it means to interpret the Word carefully, historically, and contextually, especially by modern criticism. In Timothy’s case, he would no doubt have concerned himself with rightly dividing the words of the Prophets, and the Writings! Timothy would have used the” Seven Rules of Hillel,” for his system of criticism, or study. The Seven rules of Hillel were a practiced system for Biblical Exegesis, even before the lifetime of Hillel, he was the first however to write them down. Gamaliel the grandson of Hillel who continued the School of Hillel, would have taught these rules very carefully to a young Saul of Tarsus, his pupil who would become a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and eventually the Apostle Paul. The Seven Rules are evidenced in Paul’s writings, and most certainly He would have taught them to His spiritual son Timothy. For more on the Seven Rules, see article on Home page of this Blog.
The prophets often times weaved multiple themes in layers, of time, and symbolic meaning, together like strands of twine woven together making a rope. Most particularly the prophecy of Isaiah, who intricately weaves the present, and future strands of thought together under the power of the Holy Ghost. His prophecy says in a few places, that God will show his people Hidden things! The hidden things, at least in part, are the truths that are obscured within the weaving of present, and future events, into one figurative cord. Once learned as to how to separate these weaving strands, powerful insights begin to emerge to the reader, in many cases overwhelmingly. Isaiah would more than likely be one of the first of Timothy’s studies, because his prophecy is the premier proclamation of Yehoshua of Natser, or Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah! Let us take a brief look at what it is to unravel these themes from Isaiah, in order to rightly divide the words of the prophecy, using Modern biblical criticism, and analysis. This masterful work of Literary/Historical criticism, has been done by, in my opinion a Great Scholar, and Theologian, Fred P. Miller. To See His Commentary Directory on Isaiah click link at bottom of Isaiah 48 article.
Isaiah 48 YHWH & Holy Spirit Send One Who was Present at Creation!
Isaiah Chapter Forty Eight
Chapter 48: This chapter completes the section begun in Isaiah 40:1 where the 5 major themes are introduced that are interwoven in the next eight chapters, this being the final one in the section. These themes are:
1. Idolatry is shown to be foolish by God’s prenaming historical events and persons.
2. The coming punishment, exile of the Jews and their captivity by the Babylonians.
3. The fall and ultimate disappearance of Babylon.
4. The future restoration of the nation and the temple at the direction of Cyrus who has messianic similarities.
5. The appearance of the Messiah who will introduce Zion and the comparisons of Cyrus with the Messiah.
This chapter contains the major remaining comparisons of the Messiah and Cyrus interwoven. Cyrus and the Messiah are spoken of together and because the passages mingle YHWH, the Messiah, The Holy Spirit, and Cyrus the section has very mystical qualities, especially in verse 6 and again in verse 16. In verse 6 YHWH reveals the name of Nazareth and in verse 16 it is very hard to distinguish the sender YHWH from the one sent who was present at the creation. After this chapter, Cyrus will not be referred to again and beginning with the next chapter the Messiah and the coming of Zion will be described with progressively greater detail until the crescendo of chapter 53.
1. Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, who swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness. 2 For they say they are from the holy city, and rely upon the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is his name. 3 I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass. 4 Because I knew that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew, and your brow brass;
Verse 3: I have declared the FORMER things from the beginning: There are two evidences offered again to his people that YHWH is the only God. No idol has been able to declare history from the beginning. God through Moses has declared even the pre-flood history of those first civilizations and the creative days that no man saw. But even more than this is offered in the next verses.
5 I have told you, even from the beginning, before it came to pass I showed it to you: lest you should say, My idol has done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, has commanded them.
Verse 5: Before it came to pass: God is not only telling the future before it happens but he is telling it such a way that only in the progress of time will historical events occur that will fulfill scriptures that no one suspected. The point is that God is telling things in such a way that when they come to pass no one can say “see we knew it all along.” Such is the nature of the mystical vision he refers to in verse 6. There will be no way anyone can say that we knew he would be called a “Nazarene.” But God revealed it in such a way that it is obvious that the name “Nazarene’ was spoken by the prophets! See Matthew 2:23.
6 You heard, and all this you have seen in a vision and will you yourself not announce it? I have caused you to hear new things from this time, even hidden things, which you did not know.
Verse 6: Seen in a vision: The Hebrew for “see” is chazon which is the word for receiving revelation in a trance-like state. The word “Nazareth” in this verse was seen in a state of special revelation. Isaiah was in a trance when he received the special revelation in this verse as befits the mystical nature of what is revealed here. This extraordinary verse actually names Nazareth. The Hebrew for “hidden things” is “netsoroth” which is Nazareth! Isaiah’s special use of the word Nazar is covered in the Chapter called “ Isaiah’s use of the word Nazar” which is must reading if you are to get the most out of Isaiah.
For instance, one of the verses noticed there is the one following from Jeremiah 4:16. (Notsriym b’aiym mey-‘arets ham-mer-choq.) If this phrase were found in a modern Hebrew newspaper it would be translated “Christians are coming from a far country.” The Hebrew word for Christians is “Nazarenes” or notsriym . The whole verse is given in the next comment.
(hazkiyru la-goyim hineh hashmi’yu ‘al yerushalam notsriym ba’iym me’erets ha-merchoq va-yitnu ‘al ‘arey yehudah qolam)
Make ye mention to the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah. KJV (‘al yerushalam) translated “against Jerusalem.” It is unnecessary to translate this construction as “against” instead of merely “upon Jerusalem.” The hifiyl causative of the verb translated “publish” actually means “Cause it to be heard” or “announce it” which would better fit “in Jerusalem.” So also “they shall give their voices upon the cities of Judah” rather than against. As said previously,
( ) the same construction in a Modern Israeli newspaper would be translated “Christians are coming from a far country.” Thus the entire passage would read, “Cause the nations to be reminded, Look here, cause it to be heard in Jerusalem. Christians are coming from a far land and they will give their voices upon the cities of Judah.”
7 They are created now, and not from the beginning; even before the day when you did not hear them; lest you should say, Behold, I knew them. 8 Yet, you did not hear; still, you did not know; neither was your ear opened from that time: for I knew that you would deal very treacherously and were called a transgressor from the womb. 9. For the sake of my name I will put off my anger, and I will desist my praise for you, so as not to cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not with silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.
Verse 10: Furnace of affliction: The years of punishment are seemingly interminable. They began in earnest with Tiglath-pileser about 735 BC and have not passed through the whole of the Assyrian affliction as yet. Israel as a kingdom is lost. The period of Babylonian oppression is yet far in the future and many decades, even centuries are to be endured. this is truly a furnace of affliction out of which the nation is to arise as purged from idolatry. The period of affliction was the fault of the nation and was not necessary. According to the verse 18, the messianic age could have come sooner.
11 For my own sake, even for my own sake, will I do it: for how can my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory to another. 12 Listen to me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. 13 My hand also has laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand has spanned the heavens: when I call to them, they stand up together. 14 All of you, assemble yourselves, and hear; which among them has declared these things? The LORD has loved him: he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans.
Verse 14: I have called him do his pleasure on Babylon: This is the last reference to Cyrus in this section that began in chapter 40 and reached it’s climax with the naming and detailed description of Cyrus and his actions against Babylon in the last few verses of chapter 44 and the first several verses of chapter 45. He is called “messiah” in chapter 45 so the comparison issues the extraordinary reference to The Messiah of whom Cyrus is a comparative shadow) in the next verses.
Verse 14: “His Arm:” Cyrus as a type of the Messiah to come has the attributes of the Messiah ascribed to him because he is the restorer of the Nation to the Zion of the second commonwealth and the initiator of the rebuilding of the temple. Because of these similarities he is called “YHWH’s arm” which is a messianic reference, See notes under 51:9 But this reference is so mystic that it triggers further reference to the one who comes from eternity himself in the next few verses where he (the Arm of YHWH) is pictured as being present at the creation.
Verse 15: His way prosperous: Still speaking of Cyrus but now also includes the man of Destiny who has spoken from the moment of creation is announced in the next verse as being sent by YHWH and the Spirit.
Verse 16: (whenever the beginning was) “I was there”: This makes the messianic reference plain. He is speaking yet YHWH is directing him. Who is HE? He is being sent by and is YHWH at the same time.. Compare this to Zech 2:8 where it says” For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. KJV. In the same way as Isa 48:16 it says YHWH “sent me” after Glory, which is a “Shekina” reference.. See also Zechariah 2:11 And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee. “You shall know that YHWH has sent me” Who is me? YHWH is coming to dwell but he “sent me.” I, me, my, and YHWH are all the same person in this passage. This is another one of the passages where YHWH and the Messiah and therefore the finite and the infinite are combined. Compare this to Zechariah 12:10: And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. It is YHWH who pours the spirit of grace and they look upon ME and mourn for HIM. These verses that mention YHWH and the Messiah in the same verse often have a metaphysical confusion in them which should accompany verses where activity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is mentioned in the same verse in human terms. In eternity I am sure that “I will pour and they shall look on me and mourn for him” makes sense. As also will the verses in Isaiah here where the ONE who spoke openly from the point of the creation, and was already there at that point, is now sent by YHWH and His Spirit. What an incredible verse. If you are earth bound don’t try to understand it.
Verse 16: YHWH and his Spirit: “YHWH and His Spirit sent me” so the text reads in KJV English and may therefore call forth a doctrine that the Son proceeds from both the Father and the Spirit. After his visit to the earth the Son sent the Spirit and the orthodox doctrine is that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, which I deem to be correct. The Hebrew construction in this verse however does not have a plural verb with a plural subject and interestingly the KJV has attempted to show that by using a singular verb as it is in Hebrew and by rendering it “YHWH, and his Spirit, has sent me.” The Hebrew construction favors this. [ve-‘atah adonay YHWH shelacha-niy ve-rucho]Literally: “and now the lord YHWH has sent me and his Spirit.”] In Hebrew: when two subjects are involved in the same action but not to the same degree, that is one is more responsible than the other, the plural subject does not take a plural verb. The responsible actor takes a singular verb and the secondary subject is and adjunct. Thus in Genesis 3:8 and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the face of YHWH in Hebrew is “ve-yit-chava’ ha-‘adam ve-‘ishto mipney YHWH” and is from a Hebrew construction that says “And Adam hid himself, and his wife…”. It does not mean Adam hid his wife, but that Adam was the leader in the action. In the same way Numbers 12:1 says And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses — the literal Hebrew says (va-tedabar Miryam ve-‘Aharon be-Mosheh) “And she spoke, Miriam and Aaron against Moses.” Miriam was the leader in the action and even though Aaron acted in concert with her she was held responsible as the leader. A similar idiom is used in Hebrew when plural accusatives take on the attributes described to the first object without repeating the qualities already mentioned. For instance in Genesis 1:16
(vay-ya’as ‘elohiym eth sh-ney ha-me’oroth ha-gedoliym eth – ha-me’eoroth ha-gadol Lememsheleth ha-yom ve-eth ha-me-‘or ha-qatan lememsheleth ha-layleh ve-eth ha-kokoviym)
The bolded parts says literally: (and God made) “the lesser light to rule the night and the stars.” This construction does not mean that “God made the moon and, oh yes I forgot He made the stars too” as most modern translation render the thought. That way, it is as though the stars are an after thought. But the Hebrew idiom means God made the lesser light (moon) and the stars to rule the night. There is no “also” in the text. Both the moon and the stars are accusative subjects of the infinitive “to rule.” The moon is the primary subject and the stars the secondary subject and the idiom does not require the repetition of the infinitive to refer the stars to the word “to rule.” It does not mean God made the moon to govern the night and, as an after thought, “He made the stars too.” Thus in Isaiah 48:16 the primary subject is identified by this Hebrew idiom and the KJV translators were correct in identifying this common Hebrew construction. It does not mean that YHWH sent his son and the Spirit anymore than it means in Genesis that Adam did more than lead in the action of hiding which both the man and the woman did. Both YHWH and the Spirit sent the one spoken of in this passage but YHWH is the primary mover while the Spirit acted in concert with Him.. It does not say nor mean that YHWH sent the Spirit. What does this say about modern versions which almost all concur in translating the passage. “The Lord sent me and his spirit” or “The Lord sent me with his spirit.”
Interesting is the fact that the Septuagint version which is notorious for not translating word for word does so in this verse. It does the same as the KJV and translates the verse following Hebrew idiom.
Kai nun kurios apostelken me kai to pneuma autou
Isa 48:16 In one of the few word for word translations in the LXX it makes the same translation as the KJV as it is observed that in the phrase to pneuma autou, “Spirit” is in the nominative case and therefore part of the subject. Also the LXX continues the Hebrew idiom of having a singular verb for a plural subject. The phrase means the Lord and his Spirit has sent me. Not “have sent me” which would be required grammatically in both English and Greek. Thus in the KJV and the LXX a grammatical error is left intact to indicate the presence of a Hebrew idiom in this verse.
17 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD your God who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way that you should go. 18 O that you had listened to my commandments! then would your peace be as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea: 19 Your seed also would have been as the sand, and the offspring of your loins like the gravel of it; their name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me. 20 Go out of Babylon, flee from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare it, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say, The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob.
Verses 18-19: It could have been different: See notes under verse 10 above. The affliction was chosen because of the obstinacy of the nation and their predilection to idolatry that had to be purged. Hence the unusual amount of “preaching” and nagging about that sin in this whole section from 40 to 49. If they had been obedient then they would have had great blessings and the nations also would have turned to God sooner. But as it was the Babylonian captivity was now a certainty created to purge the nation from idolatry.
Verse 20: Flee from Babylon: Those who will have lived in that future period, future to Isaiah are urged to flee from Babylon when the time came. So much has been revealed in this section that the pressure would have been great on the believer to obey and leave Babylon. In the event, when the time came, most of the nation was reluctant to leave the economic security of Babylon to return to rebuild a desolate nation. Hence the need for the urging here in verse 20 and in the next two verses.
21 And they did not thirst when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he split the rock also, and the waters gushed out. 22 There is no peace, says the LORD, to the wicked.
Certainly, and not least, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Daniel, and all the rest respectively, should be studied with the same close analysis, and literary criticism as you have seen above. There is no other way to gain so much intricate, valuable, and somewhat hidden information. The Torah, which also mentions the Messiah, derives information from Four Sources, both Oral, and Written. They are, Y, (YHWH Source) or J, (German transliteration for Y), E, (Elohim Source), D, (Deuteronomic Source), and P, (Priestly Source), that are woven together to produce the written form! Y represents the source from the Southern Kingdom of Judah. E represents the source from the Northern Kingdom of Israel. D represents a Northern source, and a portion of it written, i.e. the scroll found inside the temple wall. P represents the Levitical Source. Each source is identifiable by their respective literary motifs, peculiar ways of describing God, how He works with Man, by the very Name used for God, and much more.
All revealed by Literary, Historical, and Textual Criticism, and analysis. Some would say they do not have the ability to criticize, or study in that way! While that may be true, the information on these subjects is readily available, especially now more than ever. These disciplines should be studied to become at least recognizable to the modern day Theology/Bible student. A strong familiarization of how Upper Biblical Criticism is applied to the scripture will answer many, many questions, that the student(s) may have.
Today, there are many disciplines used to ferret out much of the subtle details, hidden facts, and historical backdrops, both within, and surrounding the Biblical Texts which greatly increase our understanding of their actual meaning. The analysis which bears out the sources, literary styles, motifs, redaction, changes in textual form, and much more, is all a part of Higher (Upper) Biblical Criticism (studies). Close analysis then, is a fundamental part of what it means to”…rightly divide the word of truth.”
In higher (Upper) biblical criticism (studies), one of the first principles used to interpret a text, is to first reach an understanding of the “sitz im leben,”or “settings in life,” at the time of writing by the author, editor, and for whom the document was being written! Secondly then, to understand that these settings in effect couch the context! In other words, the settings are the backdrop, or existential realities, which form the dialectical tensions in the life of the community that surround the context. This is not an easy task, but in many cases it can be ferreted out, and revealed. Once that has been accomplished the textual meaning increases greatly in appreciated value. To further illustrate this practice of “Rightly Dividing,” or in today’s language, “To Criticize, and Analyze,” let’s look at a NT text found in
St. Mark Ch. 10.1-12:
Note above pericope: No CAUSE mentioned!
Note Above pericope: Just DO NOT DO IT! No Exception given!
The pericope above in verse 12, points to the fact that the Gospel of Mark, was not written to a Jewish society, but to a Greek, or Roman society, which did permit women to divorce their husbands. In a Jewish society however, a woman could not divorce her husband, or remarry, while her original husband was alive. This would be a violation of the law, within Jewish society of the first century. The overarching point of this pericope (the original Form of the Text,) is vs. 9!
The Authors, and Editors, of each Gospel then use the pericope as they have it, either coming from an Oral, or Written source, and rework the form of the original root segment. We know in this case at least, that the pericope used above concerning Divorce does originate ultimately from an Oral Source! Within Pharisaical Judaism of the 1st century, there were two primary schools of thought. One was very conservative, and connected to the Rich. This was the school of the Great Rabbi Shammai, and the least popular of the two schools of thought. This is the only time that Jesus uses the Oral tradition of Shammai, and that is Shammai’s ruling on Divorce. The second primary school of thought within 1st century, Pharisaical Judaism, was that of the Great Rabbi Hillel. The Hillilean school was very much dedicated to the plight of the Poor. Hillel was very poor himself. He and his teachings were much more liberal than that of Shammai. Jesus uses Hillelean thought often, i.e., “the Golden Rule,” and more.
The editor then adds applicable details relevant to the community that will use each gospel tradition respectively. This is why the texts are more than similar, yet very different, at the same time. The form has been changed, redacted (edited), or interpolated (added to), to meet the needs of the community which followed the respective tradition. Often times these documents were edited by a member of the particular community that was following a tradition purported by one of the 12 Disciples, and the Apostle Paul (Pauline Epistles). In many cases, that literally was their Bible at that time, i.e., The Johannine community(s) (Gospel of John), the Petrine community(s) (Gospel of Mark), and the Matthean community(s) (Gospel of Matthew), just to name a few. To further understand this textual reality, it would involve the disciplines of Textual Criticism, of which are Form Criticism, Redaction Criticism, and other applicable disciplines of analysis, and study.
To me the first fundamental key to properly interpreting the Scripture, is to first understand, and be ever keenly aware of a certain fact! That is, that the Bible did Not fall from the Sky in it’s Perfect King James, (or any other Version’s) fashion! It was Written by Man with the inspiration of God, and had many sources, and influences. It was worked, and reworked, edited, and re- edited, many times. Our Bibles today are the result of a long evolutionary process of development. The Gospels that we have today show evidence of the same process, and are at very best, copies, of copies, of copies!
Another segment of the same pericope (see below), as found in the Gospel of Matthew, reveals redaction, and interpolation. It is used in this case as a juxtaposition against pharisaical hypocrisy.
St. Matthew Ch. 5.32:
But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, [saving for the cause of fornication], causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Above is a redaction, and interpolation, of the original pericope. The original was probably much closer in form to the version found in Mark.
Note the word CAUSETH! Also no mention of the man remarrying as being adulterous (See Above, Mk. 10.11)! This is because the editor is using this text in Ch.5, for a different purpose than the segment in Ch.19.
Now St. Matthew Ch. 19.1-12:
Note above pericope: EVERY cause?
Note above pericope: right up to now Matthew’s text was almost identical to that of Mark’s, until Jesus says, “EXCEPT for Fornication!” So it has gone from Do Not Put Asunder, to EXCEPT for Fornication! The text has been interpolated, and redacted, with more particular details for this community. In fact, Jesus shows his tenacity when his very elect disciples seem chaffed by this new teaching. Jesus doesn’t reverse himself, he more or less says, you probably should not marry, if you cannot handle that! But then he suggests in vs. 12 below, that most men will not be able to handle not being married either. So the author’s persuasion here is, that if you are called, and chosen for service by God, and can be without a wife then let it be so. However, most men who follow Jesus, or do not, will not be able to accept this! Not even for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake.
12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
Now let’s see a portion of this pericope (which is just one verse!) in St. Luke Ch.16.14-18
Note above pericope, No Exceptions! Like Mark’s version.
St. Luke’s version (which only contains one verse) of this pericope is almost identical to Mark’s. The pericope in Luke does not show much redaction, or interpolation, but the emphasis upon it’s use is where the Editor Places it! He uses this pericope as a juxtaposition, as Matthew’s Gospel does in Ch 5.32, to the Pharisee’s teaching versus their practice! To really appreciate this you would need to read all of Ch. 16 of Luke.
Why was this pericope on the subject of marriage, and divorce, presented differently? First, each Gospel had different Authors, and Editors. Each with different skill levels, as well as societal, and educational backgrounds. Secondly, the Gospel’s that contained this pericope were being written, and edited, for different communities, with different needs, problems, and settings in life. For example, the Gospel of Matthew is a very Jewish Gospel, written in a Jewish context, and to be used in a Jewish Christian Community. Mark, and Luke, were each written respectively, for use in Gentile communities. In large part without an overarching Jewish context. This has been determined by close study of internal evidence in each document.
Notice the Gospel of Matthew’s account, was very concerned with the Mosaic Law! Also the fact that Matthew’s account has the EXCEPTION. No doubt the Jewish Christians who used this Gospel were very legalistic. So Matthew’s Jesus answers very legally! Notice the question posed in Matthew’s Gospel to Jesus….is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for EVERY Cause? Trying to get Jesus to corner himself here, like good lawyers would do. They knew the answer, and Jesus did too! So he put the reason Moses gave the right to divorce squarely upon them, and for the Hardness of their hearts, and not the desire of God. Jesus gave in his answer to this legal question, the only justifiable reason to put asunder what God joined together, and that was for fornication. The reason being is that fornication with someone outside the marriage breaks the most fundamental marriage vow, thus it also undermines all of the rest of the vows. It destroys the foundation, commitment, and sanctity of marriage. It also tears asunder the union that has been made between the couple being one through God. This presupposes then that there was a problem with unjustified Divorce in the Jewish Christian community that would use Matthew’s Gospel.
There was yet another reason that Jesus answered in the way that He did. He said that if a man put away his wife, that he Causeth her to commit Adultery.! Why would this necessarily cause the Woman to commit Adultery? The answer lies in the fact that within a first century Jewish, and Patriarchal, society there would be no other way for her to survive. Not to mention that crime was rampant, the night hours were dangerous, and crime filled. There would be no way at all for her to sustain, or protect, herself. All doors would be closed to her. She would have to basically re-marry very quickly, or find her way into a man’s protection, or perish. Now the Jewish law also stated that she could not remarry while her first husband was alive! So this even further ties her hands and limits her chances of survival. Jesus was being protective of the woman in Matthew’s account, and his admonition was to men. Jesus knew that most divorce taking place, was for virtually any reason that upset the male participant. Jesus knew the woman’s plight! It was extremely dangerous for a woman of first century Palestine to be divorced, and would have put her in very great peril.
There is so much more that could be analyzed in this one pericope, but I think it is fair to say that this illustrates why it is important to understand the settings in life, that couch the context of this story! There are deeper truths, and understandings, when you get beneath the surface of the text. Things like societal, and legal circumstances, come to bear that make the text more logical. Sometimes it becomes clear who the text is being written to, or just as important, who it is not being written to. Approximate dating can also be understood by very close analysis of the document. So perhaps now in a small way at least, an understanding of what it means to rightly divide the word of truth can begin to become apparent.
Now for just a minute or two, write down your thoughts on what it would be like to live, and more importantly BE a person in the first century! At best you may be able to scratch the surface of being a first century human being. It has been said: “No man can escape his worldview!” This is true. We are 20th, and 21st, century people. We have been born, raised, and shaped in, and by, the scientific world view, and modern ethics. We think, and interpret events through the filter of science, and rationalism, and we cannot help it. It’s who we are. This is why a human being cannot escape their world view. The people of the 1st century did not interpret events, and life the way we do. Let’s look at just a few of the conceptual differences between the common 20-21st century man, and a 1st century man. In the first century there was no real science. The word science in the epistle to Timothy, means Philosophy. No scientific method was used at that time. No Empirical Wisdom to be drawn on at that time. No correct understanding of a system of mechanics in relation to the Earth within the universe, and vice versa. Nor was there any sort of Geological understanding of the Earth. There was scant medicinal knowledge available at that time. The earth was perceived to be flat, the heavenly bodies were immutable, there were three levels of Hell, and three levels of Heaven, all in straight lines in order of ascension, and descending respectively thus forming their interpretation of the common reality, or world view. There is an axiom that is meaningful to describe the process of understanding in the 1st century, that is: “In a society where science, and technology wane, magic and mysticism abound!” It was from this worldview, and perspective, that the New Testament was written. Here is an Example from Wikipedia about the view of the Universe at time of the writing of the New Testament:
In astronomy, the geocentric model (also known asgeocentrism, or thePtolemaic system), is a description of the cosmoswhere Earth is at the orbital center of all celestial bodies. This model served as the predominant cosmological system in many ancient civilizations such as ancient Greece. As such, they assumed that the Sun, Moon,stars, and naked eye planetscircled Earth, including the noteworthy systems ofAristotle (see Aristotelian physics) and Ptolemy.
Two commonly made observations supported the idea that Earth was the center of the Universe. The first observation was that the stars, the sun, and planets appear to revolve around Earth each day, making Earth the center of that system. Further, every star was on a “stellar” or “celestial” sphere, of which the earth was the center, that rotated each day, using a line through the north and south pole as an axis. The stars closest to the equatorappeared to rise and fall the greatest distance, but each star circled back to its rising point each day. The second common notion supporting the geocentric model was that the Earth does not seem to move from the perspective of an Earth bound observer, and that it is solid, stable, and unmoving. In other words, it is completely at rest.
The geocentric model was usually combined with a spherical Earth by ancient Roman and medieval philosophers. It is not the same as the older flat Earth model implied in some mythology, as was the case with the biblical and postbiblical Latin cosmology.[n 1][n 2][n 3] The ancient Jewish uranography pictured a flat Earth over which was put a dome-shaped rigid canopy, named firmament (רקיע- rāqîa’).[n 4][n 5][n 6][n 7][n 8][n 9]
However, the ancient Greeks believed that the motions of the planets were circular and not elliptical, a view that was not challenged in Western cultureuntil the 17th century through the synthesis of theories by Copernicus andKepler.
The astronomical predictions of Ptolemy’s geocentric model were used to prepare astrological charts for over 1500 years. The geocentric model held sway into the early modern age, but from the late 16th century onward was gradually superseded by the heliocentric model of Copernicus, Galileo andKepler. However, the transition between these two theories met much resistance, not only from Christian theologians, who were reluctant to reject a theory that was in agreement with Bible passages (e.g. “Sun, stand you still upon Gibeon”, Joshua 10:12 – King James 2000 Bible), but also from those who saw geocentrism as an accepted consensus that could not be subverted by a new, unknown theory.”
Many of the details in the Bible represent an ARCHAIC worldview! Though the Writers of that time were in Error, it is easy to understand their thinking. The Sun rose in the East, and set in the west. The stars, moon, and planets, of the night sky did appear to move through the night, and they had no outward feeling, or sense, that it was they who were moving, along with the other heavenly bodies around the Sun! God knew our Universe was Heliocentric, but men at that time had not perceived this as of yet. Even so, though the details of the miracle by God were not perceived correctly, but instead perceived through the lens of what the common understanding was at that time, it was still a miracle to them! They Won the Battle because of the hand of God! So the message comes through even though the perception of the Universe, and Earth, was not correct. The MESSAGE however, remains Alive, Powerful, and INSPIRED. The inspiration is in the message, in it’s overarching meaning, not in it’s word for word rendering!
Why did Paul give this commandment to Timothy? What position did Timothy hold in his community, or church? Did the Apostle Paul believe in His heart when He was writing his epistles to the churches, that He was writing Holy Scripture? Is what Paul, or what any of the other Apostles wrote as holy as the Ten Commandments, which God wrote? More importantly, did they think so? Or even as inspired by God as the writing of the Prophet’s? Finally, did they consider what they wrote to be even as important as the 3rd category of inspired literature, “The Writings?” The answer is No, they did not. The Torah (Law), The Prophets, and The Writings, were three separate categorical genres of Jewish literature (religious). These were listed in rank order of holiness, inspiration, and importance within Jewish society during the first and second centuries.
In 90 A.D. during the Council of Jamnia, work began for necessary reasons to close the Hebrew canon of Scripture. This was a process that started in the mid 5th century BC, and continued through 100 AD. Between 90 and 100 AD, there was serious effort made to end the disputing over the inclusion of quite a few books, which are now a part of the Hebrew Canon. One of the forces at work in this effort was the growth of Christianity, and the Christian writings, during this same period, particularly those of Marcion. The Jews felt it necessary to close off their canon, to further separate themselves from Christianity, and the apocalyptic literature that was proliferating at the time.
The “Word of Truth,” then to be rightly divided at the time of Timothy’s ministry, was the Old Testament, as discussed above. The Old Testament is a Collection of several different types of religious literature. The Law, Prophets, History, Songs, and Wisdom writings. It is the last three, History, Songs, and Wisdom writings, that make up the third category of religious literary genre, known as the Writings. Each book was written independently to stand alone. These books were then put in a Volume, we call the Bible.
Some find many contradictions between different scriptures in the Bible, without realizing that these books were written during different times, and different circumstances, with different actors, and most importantly different Editors from different periods in time. The books were not written to be in agreement with any other book, but written to stand alone, and be distinct. Each book is written from it’s own unique historical setting, perspective, and context, even though they are now situated between two book covers! The Bible is a Library of Books, not just a Book! The Bible is an awesome collection of religious literary genre, containing, many forms of literature! The Bible contains, 5000 years of experience, wisdom, and history. However, the Bible is Not a History Book, and Should not be read as Such! The Bible is a Volume containing many Religious Books, with Religious Goals, to be obtained by their respective writings. Not in any way a statement of History!
Something to keep in mind here, though the scripture, as we call it is inspired by the Holy Ghost, and it is, yet it is not Perfect! Man is too heavily involved in the writing, collecting, and choosing, what is labeled Scripture! It is a process made by, and conducted by, men not Gods! You see, the Source of the Inspiration is Perfect! Once our corrupt reality enters into the mix, it falls short of Perfection. In other words, even with God, we are not infallible, and no where near Perfect! Therefor the result of our efforts are not perfect. That is the very reason We Needed A REDEEMER, because we cannot be perfect, nor anything made by man can be perfect. The inspiration however, of the biblical message is Perfect!
There are several different ways to read the Bible. One is to read the text, and let the message come into your heart and mind, as it speaks to you. Another way to read the Bible is allegorically, which Origen, one of the Apostolic Father’s did. Another way to read the Bible is Critically. The actual meaning of the word Criticism is, to study! When one approaches the Biblical Text critically, these questions about the text should be answered, 1. Who? Who wrote the Text? To Whom was the text written? 2. What? What is the text about, or concerning? 3. Where? Where was the text written, and where was it to be read and used? 4. When? When was the text written, what were worldviews at that time? 5. Why? Why was the text written? 5. How? How was the text written?
One should remember what one the greatest theologians of the past century, Karl Barth, said about understanding the Bible: “The Bible cannot be taken absolutely Literally, but must be taken absolutely Seriously!”