How can Bible languages and scholarship help us understand Bible passages better?
Whether we are preaching, teaching children or a small group, or reading by ourselves, we all hit puzzles, incongruities or questions we can’t answer. At Tyndale House our aim is to serve the Church through Bible scholarship, and help Christians deal with situations just like this. My position here is a little unusual because I’m not a professional Bible scholar. I am a pastor — a preacher, with some appreciation of the value of good scholarship and, inevitably, a sense of the pointlessness or even poison of bad scholarship.
Perhaps you’re writing a talk for a youth group. You diligently print out the passage, highlight the tricky parts, and reach for a commentary. An hour, and four commentaries later, you find you’ve tied yourself up in knots. All the commentaries seem to say different things, and you’ve barely scratched the surface of some of the trickier issues. So how do we use scholarship well? How can we let it shape how we read the Bible, without getting overwhelmed?
Here is one example of how scholarship has given me a helping hand when preparing to preach or teach. In coming issues of ink I will be looking at more.
2 Timothy 1:1-2:13, the first main section of the letter from the apostle Paul to the pastor Timothy, is a sustained and personal appeal to be faithful and suffer for the apostolic gospel. Paul concludes each section with one of the “trustworthy sayings” that appear from time to time in the pastoral letters. This “trustworthy saying” has four parts. The first three are relatively straightforward:
“If we have died with [Christ], we will also live with him”. This is clearly positive, both in its condition (if we died with Christ, a good thing to do) and in its outcome (we will live with him).
“...if we endure, we will also reign with him”. This also is positive. We endure (a good and necessary thing) and as a result we reign with Christ.
“...if we deny him, he also will deny us”. This is negative, both in its condition (we deny him, a bad thing) and in its outcome (he will deny us).