Not for scholars

One thing that strikes me over and over again, is that not a single book of the Bible was written for scholars. I’ve just finished my final manuscript review (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT!) for my book on the life of Jacob, entitled “Torn: Jacob’s Story” due out from Pacific Press in October. At the same time, I’m preparing to present training sessions on the South Pacific Division’s new Revelation Seminar in Ohio this fall.

You might think that delving into Revelation’s densely encoded text would make me more sympathetic to the notion that real Bible study is for scholars. But exactly the opposite is the case. John addressed Revelation to “the seven churches in Asia.” These were not congregations filled with Rabbinic scholars.

In this respect, it reminds me of the early debate concerning the language of the New Testament. Early on, scholars recognized that the Greek of the New Testament was different than the classical Greek of Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, et al.  So the first conclusion was that it must be ‘Heavenly Greek.” After all the Word of God was written in that style of Greek.

Continued research, however, turned up increasing numbers of manuscripts written in the same Greek as the New Testament, what we call Koine Greek today. Much to the scholars’ surprise, it turned out that Koine Greek was the opposite of ‘Heavenly.’ I call it ‘Grubby Greek,’ because it was the language of the workplace, and the marketplace, the language used among family and friends. It was, in fact the language of the common people.

In Revelation 1:3, John says, “blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it,” clearly indicating that he expected the members of the churches to understand it– for no one can “take to heart” something they don’t understand.

And the key to understanding the symbolism of Revelation is remembering the stories of the Old Testament. That’s right, the stories. Because, above everything else, the Bible is a story– a story about how God acts in history for the salvation of those that love Him.

As a Christian, the Bible was written for you; it is your birthright. So read the stories and enjoy this great treasure.


Not for scholars — 2 Comments

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    • Actually, no. I’ve taught how to interpret Revelation to lay people from Australia to Hungary, from Sweden to Texas.

      The key is that Revelation was addressed to the seven churches, and John says, in Rev. 1:3,

      “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it. . .”

      You can’t “take to heart,” or “heed” (another translation) what you can’t understand. So John expected his audience to understand what he was writing.

      They weren’t scholars. Now, it takes a little work on our part to get back to understanding their world view, but it’s not outrageously difficult. And when we do, Revelation opens up.

      As my friend Jon Paulien says, 98% of the symbols are understandable in English.

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