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Sabbath: Dealing with Difficult Passages — 4 Comments

  1. This week our lesson study is about how to approach difficult passages, but I was disappointed when I did a quick browse through the lesson that it was all about how to approach difficult passages and does not give any examples.

    So, I thought I would give a quick example of my own about how I think about a particular problem biblical expression. On a scale of 1-10 of difficulty, this one only rates as a 3, but it serves as an illustration.

    The King James Version of the Bible mentions Unicorns about 9 times and for those of us who have grown up in western cultures that word is immediately associated with images of a mythical prancing horse with a singly horn growing out of its head. I was aware of the problem long ago but in my recent study on the transmission and translation of the Bible, I came up against it again and did some research.

    The Hebrew of this word is "re'em" and the best translation of this word is "a strong wild animal". If you read the passages in the KJV where the word "unicorn" is used, most of the time it is used as a metaphor for strength and power. There is some conjecture as to what a re'em was. Some scholars have proposed that it referred to an Aurox, a wild ox, now extinct, and somewhat similar to the Asiatic water buffalo. I am familiar with water buffalo. They are feral throughout Northern Australia and are large, black and come with attitude; the perfect metaphor for wild strength.

    When the Septuagint was translated from the Hebrew into Greek, the translators translated Re'em as "monokeros" which means "one-horned". We are not sure why they did that. The Aurox was extinct by this time and one theory postulates that, recognising the metaphorical nature of the passage they used the rhinoceros, as the symbol for strength. The KJV took their lead from the "One-horned" notion and translated it as Unicorn - which is a bit unfortunate because most people associate the word with mythology.

    The "unicorn" word illustrates one of the difficulties in translating from an ancient language idiom into a modern language. I am not suggesting that the explanation I have given is the only one, but it is important in these circumstances to understand the big picture that the Bible is presenting and not get hung up on the detail of the language.

  2. Dealing with difficult passages can relate to text generating doubt because of not being able to interpret the spiritual aspect of a passage to ones own satisfaction, or just not having enough references to support ones understanding.

    At the time of the Apostels, the listeners/hearers were asked to believe/receive/accept a whole new Truth. The message to the Hebrews, though based on well established Truth, was hard to accept. Then, everyone seemed to experience difficulties, just as it is also today.

    Christians have now the whole Scripture plus unnumbered references to use as our tool to either dismiss a 'speck' or to dig deeper to find answers. Both responses will work fine, as it depends on the individual's preference. The Holy Spirit will guide.
    So, as long as the 'object of curiosity' does not cause me to doubt the over-all Message of Truth, I can leave it 'hang' to ripen. Maybe, in the future, it has ripend enough to find its right place among everything else.

    Today's references encourage patience in such times of possible doubt when full comprehension of the message as presented by the Apostels might still be lacking.

    The Scriptures speak to anything deemed important to help establish ones intellectual understanding, though ultimately being accepted/embraced through the use of Faith.

    Even the high priests in office at the time of Jesus were not exempt from experiencing lack of understanding. To them, the new Gospel was turning their world upside down and questioned their highly esteemed calling as teachers.

    In chapter five of Paul's letter to the Hebrews is a reference which always intrigued me. It stands out like a big, jagged rock on the smooth surface of a meadow. The matter seems to be of great importance and addresses the high priests directly. The context is Jesus' High Priesthood.

    Heb.5:6 - ...Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
    Heb.5:12 - ...ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God;
    An'order' is mentioned which Jesus, our High Priest, belongs to. We usually only hear about Melchisedec in reference to the paying of tithe, never in reference to this mysterious 'order'.

    Bible versions read differently. Since I am partial to the KJV, and it being a short Chapter, I would like to write it out.
    Heb.5:1 - For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.
    Heb.5:2 - Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
    Heb.5:3 - And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
    Heb.5:4 - And no man taketh his honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
    Heb.5:5 - So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, 'Though art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
    Heb.5:6 - As he saith also in another place, Though art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
    Heb.5:7 - Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
    Heb.5:8 - Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
    Heb.5:9 - And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
    Heb.5:10 - Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
    Heb.5:11 - Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
    Heb.5:12 - For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need to one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
    Heb.5:13 - For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
    Heb.5:14 - But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of (habitual)use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

    Heb.6:20 and Heb.7:1-28 give information about Melchisedec and Jesus, but do not necessarily explain the 'order' he and Jesus belong to. If 'order' can be understood as 'to be defined by', Heb.7:25-28 would give an answer.

    Melchisedec was - Heb.7:3 - Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

    This week's lession is about dealing with difficult passages. Is anyone else curious about these passages?

  3. Until we learn to rely on the Holy Spirit to "guide [us] into all truth", we will find many passages difficult. We are also promised that God Himself will "instruct you and teach you" as we yield ourselves to the knowledge and fulfillment of His will in our lives. The "secret" to understanding is the fear of the Lord, and acknowledging Him in all our ways. Jesus taught that any who do "His(God's) will...shall know the doctrine"(John 7:17), and Daniel rejoiced that God "giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:".

    So who are the wise, and who are those who know understanding? Perhaps a good subject to study, and yes, we are told who they are and that we might be numbered among them.

    Through the Wise man we are promised to "know the certainty of the words of Truth", if we are diligent to receive what He has written in those "excellent things in counsels and knowledge".

    If we follow the simple instructions given in God's word, the difficult passages will become clear to any who search with all their heart(Jer 29:13). God will make plain what He wants us to know, while "none of the wicked shall understand".

  4. Jesus is the way ,truth and life.Nobody comes to the father without passing to Jesus. As far as we want to understand God we must ask Jesus to be part and parcel of our life .Because when we read John Chapter one tell us that in the beginning there was word,which was God .The all bible talks about that word which is Jesus christ to him nothing is difficult .It might be difficult words,


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