Theme: Digging Deeper into God’s Word (Sunday 18 October, 2020)
Series: Reading the Bible for all It’s Worth
Bible Reading: 1 John 1:1-10, 2:15-17
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
This Service will be run in Hybrid mode, both in person at the church and LIVE on our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/turramurrauniting/live/
This Sermon series is affirming that the Bible is an awesome book which we believe God speaks to all people and all ages through … however, when we take a closer look and dig a bit deeper we can discover additional wisdom and insight buried within its pages. In part 2 of this series, Phil continues to share some tips and tools to get more out of the Bible and particularly focuses on original language tools and the use of technology to read the Bible for all it’s worth! Please join us either in person or online!
Last week I introduced you to the analogy of the blue picture. Do you remember that? I asked you to image a picture that was … blue … but when you zoomed in and took a closer look we could see that the picture was more than just being blue – the blue had different shades, and it had interesting brush strokes and there were flecks of other colours in there.
That was the challenge of last week … when we come to reading the Bible, how do we not only see the obvious message that God is speak to us through a passage (the blue) but how do we use tools such as Exegesis and Eisegesis to take a closer look at a passage and see other insights, revelations or perspectives. It doesn’t take away from the obvious message, but it can enhance what we get out of reading the Bible. If you are not sure what I mean by Exegesis and Eisegesis … last week’s sermon is online but I have a lot to get through so I am going to jump into it.
Today … I wish to show you a couple more tools but mainly focus on original language tools. You see, the Bible was not originally written in English. The Old Testament is mainly written in Hebrew (with Daniel and Ezra written in Aramaic) and the New Testament is written in Greek. Which means that we are never really reading the Bible firsthand, so to speak, but rather relying on the work of translators who take the original text and put it into English.
However, a Bible translator has two problems when translating the Bible into English or any other language …
Firstly, the sentence structure of Ancient Hebrew and Greek is quite different to English and so if you literally just translate the words of a Bible verse from Greek into English it becomes really hard to read. And so, a translator also needs to do some massaging of a text to make it readable.
And so when it comes to English translations we have of different versions that sort of fit on a scale of those who bias towards a more literal word for word translation but are clunky to read (such as the New American Standard)) on one end through to Bibles who paraphrase the concept into a more readable and engaging version on the other (such as the Good News Bible or the Message) on the other.
There is no “right” position on this graph. Here in worship at TUC we often use the NIV because it sits in the middle.
In practice, you might have noticed that different versions have different words and one way that we can take a closer look at a passage is to look it up in several different translations. And the easiest way to do that is using a website called BibleGateway.com
Bible Gateway is a free service which allows you to read the Bible in different translations and even sit them side by side.
Eg Psalm 51:10 … NIV, NLT, TPT … Also all English versions
Just reading the same passage in a few different version can give you a much greater perspective and insight on a passage.
But I said that translators had two problems. One is sentence structure and the other is that NT Greek to English is not a one-to-one language translation. Sometimes there might be several Greek words that all can be translated into one English word and in the same way, Greek word might be able to be translated into 6 English words. And sometimes when we look at bit closer at the original language it can give us a new insight or perspective. You have heard me do this in sermons. I have mentioned Greek words such as Zoe (life) and Teleos (fully mature). But I never quite explained how I find these details or insights.
When I was taught to do this, I spent a whole year learning NT Greek and using this massive translation book and a whole lot of time … to translate a verse from Greek to English. But now in 2020, it is so easy.
Let’s take an example and I will step you through this. Let’s use most well-known verse of the New Testament … John 3:16 … for God so loved the world. In the Original language, Greek, this is what that verse looks like: Outwv gar hgaphsen o qeov ton kosmon, wste ton uion ton monogenh edwken, ina pav o pisteuwn eiv auton mh apolhtai all’ exh zwhn aiwnion.
Come on, someone say it … it is all Greek to me! Most people, including me, can’t read a Greek bible when it is written like that, so someone invented a thing called an Interlinear Bible where they do the first step of translation for you.
This is what an Interlinear bible looks like:
You can see that it has the Greek words and the English words together. The first thing we notice is that the Greek words are not in the same order as what we would have in English. The Greek reads … For thus loved God the Word, that the son, the unique one, he Gave! This is what I was talking about before … that one of the jobs of a translator is to unjumble the order of the words and make it more readable.
But the main part of translation is working out what English word best fits to the Greek word in the verse. As I said, I used to have to do this with pen and paper … but lucky technology today allows us to do this on a computer. I actually do all my Greek on a simple website called www.studylight.org/isb/
Let me show you … In the search box we type in the verse … John 3:16 and it gives you the interlinear version of the verse. Here is the verse in Greek and in English and to find any definition of a Greek word, you just have to click on it. And this is where it gets interesting. I will do this on the screen but I have given you a handout so that you can follow along.
If we were just using the fits 5 words of John 3:16 … and if we sorted them into the right order for English we would have:
|Οὕτως γὰρ ὁ θεὸς||ἠγάπησεν||τὸν||κόσμον|
|· For||· God · A general name of deities or divinities · refers to the things of God his counsels, interests, things due to him||of persons · to welcome, · to entertain, · to be fond of, · to love dearly of things · to be well pleased, · to be contented with||· the||· government · the world · the universe · the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family · the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ · world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly|
And you can see how the translators have worked with this:
- NIV – For God so loved the world …
- KJV – For God so loved the world …
- CEV – God loved the people of this world so much…
- AMP – For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world
- MSG – This is how much God loved the world …
That seems to be the best way of translating the verse, but in the Greek, it would be just as plausible to translate it like:
- For God is so fond of the human family …
- Because God welcomes those who are alienated from him
As you can see, it has a similar meaning but it does give a slightly different slant on it. That is the whole point of using these sort of tools – it can help us see something that we might not immediately see, or give us a different perspective.
One more example, how might we use some of these tools to help us explore these 3 verses in the last part of our Bible reading for today … from 1 John 2:15-17 and how I might use it to give us greater insight … both Exegetically and eisegectically. I am going to use these tool to preach on these three verses and see what God wants to say to us. Ready for this?
It starts – Verse 15. Do not love the world, or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
John starts with this instant polarisation between the world and God. God should be loved and the world should not be loved. Who picked up the slight irony in this verse compared to John 3:16 which we just looked at? We are called not to love the world … but God loves the world.
So which is it? We are not supposed to love the world but God apparently loves the world so much that he sent his only son.
What is the word for love in the Greek – Agape. This Greek word for love has a fair bit of elasticity in it. John will often use it for the unconditional love of God but it can also be used to describe how you feel about a good meal. Maybe a more helpful to interpret the word Love as fond. Have a listen to how I have paraphrased it … Be careful how fond you become with the things of this world because it can make it tough to love God.
Do you get what it is saying? John is not saying that the world and everything in it is bad and that we should hate it, rather, he is saying that when we get too caught up in the things of this world we fall into the trap of not focusing our love on God.
Another way of thinking about this is the idea of “stickiness” … John says to not get so attached to the things of this world – but the reality is that things of this world can be so sticky … when we touch them they can be shared to shake and make it hard to love God completely. So the challenge is, how do we make sure that the sticky things that we get attached to are not the things of this world but rather eternal things – things that are helpful for our faith and life.
Let’s move onto verse 16 – For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.
An interesting word that jumps out in this verse is the Greek word for life. I’m not sure if you have heard me quote these before that there is a couple of Greek words for life. Zoe (which means life in all its fullness. Eternal life) and Psyche (which means our physical life between life and death). But this word is actually a third Greek word for life – Bios – which simply is our material stuff. The verse is talking about the “pride of how much stuff we own”. So, is having lots of material stuff bad? Is John saying that having material possessions is not of God? No.
When God made this world and God said that we are meant to enjoy the things of this world. Most worldly things are not bad – watching the footy, buying something new, a nice glass of red, buying the new Xbox when it comes out – yes, these things are worldly but they are not bad. I think that John is saying we need to be careful not to let things that feel good or things that look good or even our worldly possessions distract our focus on what is most important … our relationship with God and the work of God.
And lastly verse 17 – The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
Two interesting Greek words in this verse. Firstly the Greek word which is interpreted as the “will of God”. The Greek word is θέλημα – thélēma. When I say the will of God most of us will hear that as the sovereign, immutable plan that God will see happen – the will of God. But this particular Greek word is more what God desires for us, what God wants for us or is calling us to do … but because we have free will, we get to choose whether we do God’s will or not.
And if we choose to do God will … we live forever – which we think would be the phrase Zoe Aeon (eternal life) but in this verse it is actually Meno Aeon.
Meno is the Greek word for “remains” or as it is often interpreted in John’s writing “abide” (eg John 15). Abide has this idea of being completely surrounded, encased by God. Abiding is like a child resting in the arms of a parent.
So – a simple paraphrase of these two verses might be something like – The things of this world pass away, but God’s desire is that we learn the habit of resting in a place that doesn’t pass away.
In my preparation for this sermon, I was listening to a sermon by a bloke called Shane Hipps who used a great example of what it means to Meno Aeon – to remain in God. This illustration really summed up for me the point that John is making in these three verses.
Shane was saying how he took his 5 year old daughter to the local town carnival (like the Royal Easter Show). It was at night time, there was bright lights, loud music, rides, food and lots and lots of people. Now was this a good place or a bad place for his daughter? It was good – a carnival is meant to be enjoyed. It is a place of fun and entertainment and enjoyment.
So he was walking along with this daughter, hand in hand, and she is buzzing with excitement. After a while she let go of his hand and walked beside him. As they walked through the hustle and bustle, just for the briefest of moments, they were separated. Shane could still see his daughter, but she realised that she couldn’t see him. At that moment for his daughter, the carnival was not very fun anymore. It suddenly became a very frightening place to be. But just when this little girl was about to burst into tears, her dad came beside her and grabbed her hand again, and then everything was ok.
What changed? Did the festival change? No. But the little girl’s relationship with the festival changed depending on whether she was close to her father or not.
Can you see where this is going? This world can be a bit like the festival. It is meant to be enjoyed, it is meant to be good and fun and exciting. But every now and again if we get distracted by what is happening around us, our eyes are drawn away and quickly life can become a frightening and possibly dangerous place. We can’t change the things of this world … but we can change the way we relate to it. And that all depends on how close we are to Jesus … whether we are abiding in God or not.
So, was that helpful? As I said at the beginning, these tools are simply a way that we can take a close look at a passage and see what greater insight or revelations emerge.
The Bible can and does speak to us. And I hope that you have heard God’s message today through these three verses …
Worldly things are not bad but they are sticky and they can distract us and we can get caught up in them.
But Jesus has come to say to us that this does not have to be the case. When we abide in Jesus – our relationship with the world changes, we find ourselves enjoying the good things of this world without getting stuck in them, we find ourselves living the abundant life that Jesus came to offer us. May that be our experience. Amen