Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Misunderstood Passages

Many things that are commonly believed are wrong.
There are also many things believed about the Bible that are not so.
In the following series of posts, I want to address some commonly misunderstood passages in the Bible.

In some cases there are passages that are misunderstood by people without a deep understanding of the Bible. (The misconceptions listed above would fall into this category.)

In other cases there are passages that are misunderstood by people who believe that they have an excellent grasp of the Bible and what it teaches. This latter group would take issue with my interpretation. But I intend to show how their interpretation is misguided.

Let’s start with one of these passages from
1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

This short passage has several misconceptions.

The first one is found in verse 18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

This has often been understood to be saying that a non-believer cannot understand the things of God and the gospel in particular. It is coupled with 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

But if one reads the passage carefully, it becomes clear that what Paul means is not that an unbeliever is unable mentally to process the statements about Jesus and the gospel. He is saying that
the unbeliever thinks they are silly.

This is made clear in verse 22-24, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

The Jews wanted some miraculous proof that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. (The irony is that he gave them plenty of proof, but they did not recognize it.) A Messiah who gets crucified is a blatant contradiction to a Jew of Paul’s day. That would be like saying the
Chicago Cubs are the world champions even though they are 20 games below .500.

In the Greek world, there was a group of itinerate philosophers (turned orators) known as
Sophists. They boasted that they could convince anyone of anything. To them it was all about the skill of the person presenting the argument.

But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:1, “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.” In verse 4 he continues, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words.”

Rather than denying their ability to understand what he was saying, Paul is claiming that he came with a simple message that was perfectly clear: “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (verse 2).

Paul is not saying that unbelievers cannot understand the gospel.
He is saying that they can understand it all too well and that they dismiss it as foolishness.

(To keep this post from getting too long, I’ll save the second misconception for later.)

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”


Anonymous said...

Don Johnson says

Here are some other misunderstandings of what the Bible actually does say.

1. What was the name that God gave the woman in the garden east of Eden as recorded in Genesis? (Adam, Eve, None of these)

2. Jewish rabbis wrote there were 10 curses given to the woman in the garden in Genesis. How many curses were given to her? (0-10)

3. Did Moses make it into the Holy Land? (Y/N)

4. Is there any time it is better to be deceived than not? (Y/N)

5. The Israelites were to give tithes, how much was that?
(5%, 10%, 20%, over 20%)

6. An Israelite could use some tithe money to buy alcoholic beverages for immediate personal consumption. (Y/N)

7. Who cut off Samson’s hair so he would become as weak as any man? (Tamar, Bathsheba, Delilah, a man)

8. When was Jesus born? (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, December 25, not possible to determine)

9. How many wise men visited Jesus as an infant and gave Him gold frankincense and myrrh? (1, at least 1, 2, at least 2, 3, 4)

10. In the future, the lamb will dwell with and feed with what animal, specifically? (Lion, Bear, Wolf, none of these)

Pastor Rod said...


Thanks for your contribution. That would make for a nice quiz.


Anonymous said...

Here are my answers:

1. Adam – Gen 5:1-2 (KJV) This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created
2. None – In Gen 3:14-19 God cursed the serpent because of what the serpent had done and the land because of what the man had done. No curses were associated with the woman.
3. Yes – The mount of transfiguration when Jesus met Moses and Elijah is in the Holy Land. Moses was forbidden to lead the Israelites into the Holy Land and he never did this.
4. Yes – As can be seen from Gen 3:14-19 when one sins; in that it is better to have sinned because one was deceived (like the woman) as opposed to sin deliberately (like the man).
5. Over 20% - There were 4 tithes, called the 1st to the Levites, the 2nd or festival tithe, 3rd or poor tithe every 3 years and the tithe of the tithe from the Levites to the chief priest.
6. Yes – Deu 14:22-27 Some of the festival tithe could be used.
7. A man – Judges 16:19 Delilah called a man to do it.
8. Fall – This can be derived from the priesthood rotation at the temple, but is a detailed calculation. December 25 was chosen for Christmas by Constantine to replace the pagan holiday of Saturnalia.
9. As magi is plural, there were at least 2 people, but as a magus could be a woman (like a Doctor), it is not clear how many men visited. Although legend says it was three (wise) men because of the 3 types of gifts, this cannot be determined from Matthew 2:1-12.
10. Wolf - Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25.

Anonymous said...

Another quiz question?
How do we know the Gospel of matthew was written by Matthew?