Updated: Feb 5
Since nobody responded to my first offering of “Shelter in Place” Bible Studies, nobody made any suggestions for what to talk about next. That leaves it up to me to decide.
The thought occurred to me that the Word of God is not meant to be written so just any bozo can read it and understand what the meaning is. This, after all, is the foundation upon which sermons are built. If the words written in the Holy Bible were clearly understandable, Christianity would be ‘home schooled’. Since it isn’t, a Christian needs something more than simply showing up at a church and letting the warm breeze of someone’s oration from Scripture blow across their heads, with the drone of words read aloud sounding like the waves crashing upon a beach of sand.
This is not what going to church should be like.
Today, since there is nothing specific on the agenda, I want to talk about study tools.
When I was a child, being born into a Christian family, I was given a Holy Bible as a young boy. It didn’t get much use over the years and then just blended in with several my mother accumulated over her years of life. I remember being given a small, leather-bound book of Psalms when a child. Again, it never was read much.
My mother had a fairly large version of the Holy Bible that she read every day (in her retirement years), with all kinds of notes on paper stuck in among the pages and notes and highlights everywhere. She used it so much that cover was barely still attached and clumps of pages were disconnected from the binding and just wedged in place. None of the Holy Bibles in my bookshelf have been read anywhere near that much.
In the Bible Studies classes I attended at my wife’s churches, it was common to have someone read aloud whatever selection the group would be discussing. While we all had a printout of the text, one woman actually brought her Holy Bible with her to church and when she volunteered to read aloud, she would read from that. Her Holy Bible was the King James Version and to hear someone read in Old English was difficult to listen to, and she struggled with reading it too. My wife would leave me her Holy Bible at Bible Studies class, which is a New Revised Standard Version, and easy English to read.
In church, when I was a child in an “Evangelical” religion, the pastor would always give instructions to the congregation, “Turn to page ___ in your Bibles,” and the rustling of pages could be heard as the people did as instructed. People typically do not bring Holy Bibles to church with them these days. Most churches I have been in do not supply Holy Bibles on the pew racks, although some do. In several Episcopal churches I have been a member of, the book the priest reads from, while standing in the aisle, is a variation that is not the same as the printouts show.
My questions to you are these: Do you have a personal copy of the Holy Bible? If you do, do you read it regularly? What version is your Holy Bible? Do you get confused when two versions of the Holy Bible do not state the same verbiage?
The churches I have gone to have greeters at the door, saying “Good morning,” while handing out a printed bulletin that is filled with the script for that Sunday’s service. This includes the selected Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel readings. Some may include the Psalm, but some churches cut down their printing expenses by letting everyone do a fast grab of a Book of Common Prayer and tear through the pages at the last second, trying to find the Psalm just announced, usually finding it by the time the Psalm is halfway read. When Bible Studies is held before church, some of the bulletins are gathered and passed out to the attendees, for reading aloud and following along, while being a reference to thoughts about the meaning one will want to add.
A printed bulletin like this is like being give a free copy of the Holy Bible, only in bits and pieces. According to the rumor, a three-year cycle of readings in the Episcopal [Catholic-based] Church will equate to reading the whole Holy Bible [in 156 Sundays]. While that is not true, as some sections are skipped over, the reality is this: If you cut and pasted the printed readings for a full three years, you would have the equivalent of a free Episcopal [Catholic-based] Bible. Since I have a Holy Bible at home, I usually return the bulletin and let the church save on printing costs, as the same bulletin could be re-used every three years (with only a few exceptions); but the churches always print up new ones each Sunday.
My questions to you are these: Is the hand-out bulletin your only physical reading source for Scripture? Do you read them beforehand and then follow along during the service? Is a church bulletin something that you read only to keep up on church news? Do you keep bulletins for future reference? Do you return them or throw them away?
The word “lectionary” is defined as, “a list or book of portions of the Bible appointed to be read at a church service.” From my childhood experience, which was not focused on why I went to church, I remember the pastor telling people to race to keep up with all the directions he was going, jumping from one book to another, more than a few times. I have watched Sunday services broadcast on television, where the same jumping around is done. I do not know if that is by plan (as a lectionary known beforehand) or by free association. In the Episcopal [Catholic-based] Church there are appointed Biblical readings established well in advance, for every Sunday in several years. The specific choices to be read may change slightly over the decades, but basically it repeats after three years.
Because a lectionary is a fixed marker of readings, it becomes a good tool for getting a jump on what the readings to come are scheduled to be. If one reading struck a cord, from a past service; and, it sticks in your mind, but you’ve forgotten which verses it was (and you no longer have the bulletin), it is easy to look up the past readings that were scheduled. I use the Episcopal “Lectionary page,” as this lets me know what the readings for the upcoming Sunday are. If one is leading a church Bible Studies class that focuses on the upcoming Sunday readings, this is a way to get a head start. In today’s “stay in place” no church this Sunday world, emails come now with links to the Lectionary page, rather than having to reproduce that information in a paper bulletin. If one is in a Bible Studies class that is not tied to the lectionary schedule of readings, such as going through one specific book of the Holy Bible, the Church even has a Reverse Lectionary that allows one to see when certain books are normally scheduled to be read aloud in church.
My questions to you are these: Are you aware of your church having a lectionary schedule? Do you use the Lectionary schedule to prepare in advance of going to church?
Versions of translation
Whenever I do a search on the Internet for a Biblical reading, several links come up. Because I prefer the New International Version (the version many Episcopal churches read), it usually comes up first. The King James Version is close to the top of the first page as well. If one looks at a BibleGateway site presentation, one will notice at the top a white field filled in with whatever version one is presented, with down arrow to the right. Clicking the down arrow produces a list of multiple versions in multiple languages. There are fifty-nine versions in English (including one named the “Orthodox Jewish Bible” [OJB]). If one was to take the time to view the same reading in every version of English, the same basic things would be stated, in variations. This is good to know, because English, German, Spanish, or other European languages are not what the original texts of the Old and New Testaments were written in. This means everything shown by Bible Gateway equates to a paraphrase, which is how translations work. This means any English translation needs further investigation as to what was written, in order to have deeper truth come out. This ‘hidden meaning’ is, after all, why Scripture requires study to understand and sermons to explain.
My questions to you are these: Is there one version of translation that you prefer? Do you know what version is read aloud in your church? Did you know the characters of the Holy Bible did not speak in English, meaning what you have memorized or heard read aloud is a paraphrase?
By knowing that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek, it becomes important to go to the original language to get insight about the depth that gets ‘lost in translation’.
Since I only speak English fluently (and I am like many American Christians), I need a site that shows me the original text and then tells me what one word translates to in English. The site that I find most helpful in this regard is Bible Hub. They produce Scripture in an “Interlinear” presentation, which 1.) lists the root word that is linked to a Strong’s definition; 2.) lists the transliterated word [put in an alphabet you recognize] actually written; 3.) lists the actual language lettering; and, 4.) lists an English translation. They do this for every word written, by chapter or by verse.
This way of presentation works very well for my needs, because I have been trained to view each word as its own statement, which makes the want to destroy word order and punctuation of the original text because of syntactical expectations. I have learned from my work with the writings of Nostradamus [a divinely led series of revelations] to understand holy writings are not written in Hebrew or Greek, because Hebrew and Greek comes with the syntax of those languages. Translators know the syntaxes of those languages, as well as the syntaxes of the language translated into, and they aptly apply syntax to translations. However, I have learned that Holy Scripture does not follow normal human language syntax limitations, as it is all written in a divine syntax that (when one learns to ‘speak in tongues’) makes one fluent in God’s language.
By learning to use the Interlinear as a basic tool for Bible Studies, one can then explore the nuances of a foreign language (what we call language conjugation). I have found copying the Greek or Hebrew text in the natural lettering and pasting that to the search bar yields explanation about the languages that I do not know. This extra depth allows my mind to receive insights that are quite helpful in understanding the hidden intent of the words written.
My questions to you are these: Do you fear foreign languages because you are not fluent in them? Do you think you would be comfortable looking at the original text of Scripture and reading it in a less smooth way?
Books Explaining Scripture
I remember in one Bible study group at my wife’s church it was led by a vestry member who always came prepared to explain a Gospel reading by reading something he looked up online [or maybe the library?]. It always was the opinion of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I had never heard of him before, but this man loved the way Bonhoeffer explained Scripture. My wife, who was a prolific reader [she actually read everything I ever wrote while we were married and she was alive], loved to read the writings of N. T. Wright. My wife and I went to one church where the rector held a monthly class on theological philosophy, which meant buying and reading a thick textbook of writings by Christianity’s greatest minds.
I minored in philosophy when I earned my degree and I would love to enter some metaphysical space some day [like the land of Glubbdubdrib, from Gulliver’s Travels] and listen to Immanuel Kant explain his thoughts to me.
Still, for as much as I enjoyed reading philosophy, I find it best to keep the minds of others out of my head, because I have a difficult time remembering my thoughts, much less the thoughts of someone else. I remember listening to that man read something he printed out that stated Bonhoeffer’s opinion and it was as pleasurable to me as hearing chalk scratch across a blackboard. As for N. T. Wright, I watched a video of him speaking at my wife’s seminary (after we left) and that was a good presentation; but that is all I have even done as a follower of him. My wife, however, told me a few times, “I was reading N. T. Wright’s book about Paul [he might have ten books about Paul’s writings?] and he says the same thing you have said.” Great minds think alike, I guess, when both are led by the same Spirit.
I saw just recently some Internet thing that listed the twenty religious writers who have the greatest net worth, and N. T. Wright made that list. I guess there are a lot of Christians in is camp. Still, there are many, many, many writers of explanations of Scripture; and my mother used to keep Kenneth Copeland and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker wealthy, buying books and tapes and CDs. My wife left a library of books she used in seminary and bought after being ordained.
My questions to you are these: Do you enjoy reading the explanations of others? When you explain something to others, based on something you read, do you begin that by saying, “You know, ______ wrote this …”, as if dropping a name gives what you say more merit? Do you think reading many opinions of others expands your knowledge or makes you more confused?
I mentioned that my mother was an avid follower of televised Christianity. She was of an era that was raised listening to religion on the radio and Oral Roberts was her favorite back then. When my mother was suffering from congestive heart failure (dying, if not helped), she called the Oral Roberts prayer line and some person realized she needed immediate medical attention. So, rather than pray and solicit a donation, he or she kept my mother on the phone, asking her where she lived so he or she could call and report an emergency in my mother’s town. That saved her life; but, then so would have my mother calling 911 herself, cutting out the middleman.
So far, the Episcopal Church has not sponsored televangelists (that I know of), but with the advent of “stay in place Facebook Christianity” who can say what the future holds? Personally, every time I watch anyone preaching on a stage, not a standard pulpit placed by an altar, I automatically question why such a production is necessary. Even what I have heard from the mouths of televangelists and mega-church pastors, people I think are the most popular and well-received [to list a few: Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and Franklin Graham], including Rick Warren and Billy Graham, none strike me as Saints or true Apostles. They seem to be the richest religious leaders in the world, which means they are in a business that lucratively brings in the bucks. They excel in showmanship and crowd entertainment, which people love to pay to see. But, as far as giving deep explanation of Scripture and leading seekers to become what they are, they fail to impress God Almighty.
I will say that in my Internet searches of YouTube preachers I have found Jim Brown, of Grace & Truth Ministries in Hendersonville, TN a worthwhile source of good information. In his YouTube presentations (usually an hour and a half long), he shows you his well-used copy of Strong’s; and, he understands Greek and Hebrew well, plus he explains the context of Scripture very well. Still, his views cannot become my views, unless he (or someone else) shows me how to see it for myself, so I own that opinion. Therefore, there are people out there in the world that do have a true passion to spread knowledge of God’s truth.
My questions to you are these: Do you feel a strong obligation to support a ministry that you can only view or hear through some means like radio, television, or the computer? Do you like to ‘taste’ a broad scope of opinions before your belief turns to faith and ownership of the meaning of Scripture?
I have written several books [10 or 11 or so], with most of them explaining The Prophecies [Les Propheties] of Nostradamus, but my last four books have been more directly Christian themed. They are all print-on-demand (P.O.D.), which means they are available only through online booksellers. A place like Amazon says it sells my books (maybe even says, “only x-number left!” of one title or another), but all sales are taken and then passed on to the printer, who prints and mails the book. The printer has international locations, which means printing and postage is done around the world (U.S.-Canada; Great Britain-EU; and Australia-Asia). The prices are based so the bookseller, the printer, and the post office make the bulk of any money to be made; and, maybe there is a small pittance for me. I have never published any of my books to get rich, and I have lost money by publishing every book I have available. I plan more books in the future, also expected to cost me a lot more than they will bring it. So, this is not a sales pitch. I am simply letting you know I offer study tools designed to teach how to read Scripture.
Here is a link to what Amazon lists: Book list
One of my latest publications.
My question to you is this: Does a big publishing company, with huge advertising budgets, make a book with the writings of someone like Rick Warren make that book more trustworthy to you, as opposed to someone without that backing?
How much time do you put into being “Christian”?
My final statement about this Bible Study class is relative to time. Ponder how long forty years is. That was how long God had Moses keep the Israelites away from civilization, so they would not be distracted by all the lights, smells, bells and whistles of those who were only casual believers of gods. They spent seven days a week studying the Laws given to them by Moses and living as people separated from the world, day by day for forty years. After all that, forty years after they were in the Promised Land, they were being overrun by evil and crying out to God for help. When they stopped having the energy to do all that priestly work individually, they begged for a king to be responsible for telling them what they need to do. The human tendency is to sluff off the real work necessary and let someone else do it for you. The lesson of that lackadaisical attitude is found in Scripture, where it shows that not too long after David (considering the history told) the Israelites lost everything God had given them. Only the pockets of individuals continuing to obey the Covenant did something survive.
My question to you is this: How much time do you think is enough to satisfy the demands of God, in order to get a soul into Heaven?
As always, this program expects response or it will be forced to end. Until the next time.