Ladies. Gentlemen. Gather 'round. Today I'd like to share with you an encounter I had this past week. Me and the family got home early last Sunday and, as is our custom, we ate food and stared at each other. My wife had a brilliant idea however and suggested that we go to a block party the city was holding. Having nothing better to do at the time, we went.
So, we get to the block party and we're walking around and churches are coming at us left and right. This was actually pretty cool, for me at least. You see there were stalls set up to sell snacks and stuff but the churches were giving this stuff away for free. Yes ladies and gents, F-R-E-E. Some churches were giving out information on Vacation Bible School, others on the church itself. This seems like as good a point as any to bring up the Bible. I'm a Christian see, I believe Jesus died on a cross for my sins (yours too), and that by confessing my sin and asking Jesus to save me that He did. As such I believe the Bible isn't just
a book. It is the inerrant, inspired Word of God.
This, as it turns out, is an important point. It means that everything in the Bible is correct. It means that if I find a seeming contradiction between things in the Bible then I, in fact, am lacking an understanding of whatever God was trying to get across (and therefore need to try harder). An occurrence which happens far more often than I'd like, I should point out.
For instance, Matthew 27: 39-44 we see that people were abusive to Jesus and verbally mocking him, even the prisoners (plural) on the cross with him.
Matthew 27:44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
Matthew 27:44 In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
In Luke 23: 39-43 however we see a totally different account given, where on of the prisoners actually defends Jesus.
Luke 23:39: And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
Luke 23:40: But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
Luke 23:41: And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
Luke 23:39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
Luke 23:40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?
Luke 23:41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
So the contradiction, as I saw it was that in one account the prisoners were both hatin' on Jesus, while in the other only one was hatin' while the other was defending him. But since the Bible is right, all the time, there must be something I'm not getting. I think I asked my pastor about this eventually and got this answer: they're both right. At first the prisoners were railing against Jesus, but eventually one wised up and came to his senses. Works for me. Might not do it for you, but it does for me.
Some will undoubtedly have a problem with a book created by an all powerful God having different accounts by different authors. I, on the other hand think God makes us who we are for a reason. We focus on different things, have different interests etc, because of who we are as individuals. The fact that such individuality is present throughout the Bible, makes it all the more miraculous that the whole thing flows as a uniform story (really, read it for yourself and see). As long as I'm going on about it, you really do have to read the whole thing to begin understanding, and seeing the things God wants you to see. And then do it again. And again. Ad infinitum.
Just trying to read a few books or chapters for inspiration is all good and well, but the overarching story of sin and redemption really come into light while reading through the whole thing (regardless of how long that might take you to do). I think I got through the whole thing in just under a decade. Give or take a few years (I started over a lot).
BUT I DIGRESS.
So now you have an understanding of my beliefs, the way I think about things, etc (i.e. ignore anything which doesn't line up with my view of God's perfection until bothered enough to go and seek out an answer). Yes, this is me. That was just context for what comes next. Remember, this all started with a block party.
So I get to this particular church section and this super nice lady comes out and starts passing out the requisite flyers to me and the wife. During her speech she starts talking about the church and what they believe. She continues to say something I don't quite get. Apparently, the church is "rightly divided". I let her finish and then asked her what that meant. Cuz I've got no bloody clue. And it sounds weird. After coming home and googling it seems it's one of those religious words people use to mean "we're right about this". But she goes on to explain it in the context of them believing only in the KJV as "the one, TRUE translation" (I'm thinking in my head, "OK, fair enough"), and the separateness of the Trinity. Essentially, God is God, Jesus is God's son, but not God, and I stopped listening for what the Holy Spirit was, because at this point, I was intrigued.
You see I am one of those crazy folk who believe that:
a) God is God,
b) Jesus is the son of God, but also in a mind-bending turn of events, also God and
(wait for it)
c) The Holy Spirit is also God.
i.e. there is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost/Spirit.
Couldn't explain to you how that works or anything, but there it is. And the reason I believe that is because
(wait for it again!)
Bible says so. (you'll have to wait longer, but trust me, it's coming)
At this point I should point out that you should never, ever, EVER, believe anything anyone tells you is from the Bible without them, at the very least, showing it to you. Preferably they'd be able to both show and explain, but this ain't a perfect world so YMMV on that one.
Actually I lied a little up above, the reason I believe in the "Three in One" is because that's what was pounded in my head in Sunday school growing up. Being older, and hopefully wiser now, I am capable of checking these things out by going directly to the source now. The source being God and His word (the Bible is what I'm trying to say here folks).
But now this super nice lady, who's been at this church for a year, who is a new believer is telling me, in earnest, in all sincerity, that that is wrong. So surely, clearly, she must have a way of backing this up. And this backup must come from the only place that counts, the Bible.
So I ask rather bluntly, after she explains her rightly divided views, where in the Bible that belief comes from. Actually, that's not exactly how the story went. You see she was telling me that in the Bible it said that the three are separate, so I asked her to show me. Well, it was more me looking at her skeptically saying
Show me. But I wasn't mean. Promise. My wife keeps me in check nowadays.
Unfortunately, she had to admit eventually that she didn't know exactly where in the Bible it was, but if I were to come to the church on Wednesday night they have open questions at that time and anyone can just come in and ask whatever they like. This was a tempting thought actually, as I love a good argument, but something far more important than having a good theological discussion was at hand. This lady, well intentioned though she was, was in my view, wrong. Worse still, she thought she was right. I figured the simple solution was for her to find it in the Bible and convince both herself and me. As I explained above I believe that contradictions present in the Bible are not so much contradictions as they are gaps in understanding. If what she believed was from the Bible, and what I believed was from the Bible, and they contradicted perhaps we two could figure out something we weren't understanding that would reconcile the two. Or perhaps I was wrong, it's been known to happen on occasion. Alas, she could not provide biblical support for her statements when asked.
So she went for backup. She was after all a new believer, and calling for backup is nothing to be ashamed of. Backup was not whipping out her smartphone and googling for the pertinent verses, then pulling up her Bible app and getting on with things (as I would have done). She went for a friend "who knew more". Fair enough I suppose, (although I'm of the opinion that if you're saying that things are from the Bible you are beholden to actually find said things when called out)
Over comes friend giving me the same spiel.
It says so in the Bible she said.
Where in the Bible I said?
I don't remember exactly where she said, but if you come to our wednesday night...
"Oh for the love of ..." Well maybe I just thought that.
So I decide to be a bit more direct, "Doesn't it say in the Bible that Jesus and God are one?"
I might have also asked, "If you're saying things are in the Bible, shouldn't you be able to point out where in the Bible when asked?" Or maybe I just thought it. I don't remember anymore. I guess I'd been enough of a pain at this point and off backup went to the pastor. She came back with a Bible verse. The verse I was presented with as proof of God's separation from Jesus as a singular deity (with Jesus playing the role of "just the son"), was John 10:30.
I dutifully looked it up in front of her on my smartphone (love those things). The verse read
I and my Father are one.
That was the King James Version, just in case you were wondering. So then I looked at her, perhaps with my eyebrow raised, the way I do when I'm skeptical about something and said rather obviously "But it says they're the same here"
I forget what was said exactly afterward, but the pastor was consulted and I was informed that the "one" in that verse was translated from a greek word. And that greek word meant not "one" the singular unit, but was more accurately translated as
having one purpose. Or something like that.
At that point I didn't really have anything to say. It was a plausible explanation, so I said my thanks and bid them adieu.
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!
You didn't really think I'd just leave it at that did you? Nah. During my travels across the internet I happened upon the Sword Bible software and learned about the existence of something called Strong's numbers. Basically they cross reference the original (I assume) greek words with the translations in the Bible. So out came my Bible app (Eloquent née MacSword) and I grabbed a copy of Strong's Greek dictionary/lexicon whatever it is.
Before I looked up John 10:30 to see what Strong's Greek said
one was originally, I read my Bible: John chapter 1. I'd originally intended to read all the way up to chapter 10, but after taking an hour to make it to only chapter one I decided to call it a morning and went off to work. While reading, John 1:1 in particular seemed to give support to God and Jesus being one and the same, and yet somehow separate, but all the while still being fully God.
Now to me, given the topic of John's letter (the life of Jesus) and the opening statement that the "Word was with God", and the "Word was God" and the latter explanation in verse 14 that
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. that the "Word" here is Jesus. So if John is telling me in the beginning of his book that Jesus was with God in the beginning and that he, in fact, was God, what are the odds that later on in his book he himself contradicts that?
So I get back from work and I decide it's time to look up that verse and the corresponding Strong's Greek word. So here's John 10:30 from the KJV
I and my Father are one.
or with Strong's numbers included
I<1473> and<2532> my Father<3588><3962> are<2070> one<1520>.
So I go and check out #1520 to see if it says
one here is equivalent to
one purpose or something similar. It says (and I'll just copy and paste here)
1520 heis hice (including the neuter (etc.) hen); a primary numeral; one:--a(-n, -ny, certain), + abundantly, man, one (another), only, other, some. See also 1527, 3367, 3391, 3762. see GREEK for 1527 see GREEK for 3367 see GREEK for 3391 see GREEK for 3762
Now I don't know a lick of Greek, but I know my fair share of English, and I don't see anything in the preceding quote to suggest that
one in John 10:30 means anything other than one. uno. primary numeral.
Things are starting to seem Wrongly, rather than Rightly Divined. And in the absence of going to someone who speaks Greek and asking them what this means I decide to check w/ another source.
Well, biblestudytools.com via google. Specifically I went to http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/ and put in the Strong's number - 1520 - to see what it comes up with.
Now this is what we're talking about! Not only does it give a definition of the word, but it gives word usage info. In 229 instances that particular greek word was used to mean
one, in 9 instances
a and so on. At no point do I see anything close to
one purpose or anything similar.
So let's say for arguments sake that I get to Heaven, I still believe that Jesus is in fact God. If I'm wrong is God going to turn me back? By God's own admission, I need to believe in Jesus dying on the cross for my sins and repent of my sins - John 3:16-18, John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Acts 16:30-32, Rom 10:9, Luke 13:3.
Having met those two requirements, I think debates on the finer points of Jesus' divinity are moot. So why this exceptionally long story? Ever since this "incident", I've been bothered by the events that transpired. Why is it that we as christians suck at knowing the Bible? This goes for me as well (as without a computer assist I wouldn't be able to argue my way out of a paper bag). Then again, I'm not presenting something as genuine without any way to back that up when it's actually checked out. C'mon christians. We gotta do better.
And for the rest of you, don't believe everything you hear. Regardless of how earnest, sincere or educated ("well the original greek actually means ...") they may seem. This is doubly true if they say it's from the Bible. And if you ever do find yourself in that situation, by all means, call them out on it. You'll be doing both yourself and the other folks a favor.
Oh, and if anyone out there on the internets actually knows what these folks were talking about (greek meaning this, Jesus is only the Son, not God, Rightly Divided etc) HIT MEH UP IN DEH comments! After all, I could be wrong.
Thanks for stopping bye ;-)