Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Has The Bible Been Tampered With?

Biblegems #295

Question: Jeremiah 8:8 says that the scribes who copied God’s Word sometimes falsified it. If this is true, how can the Bible be trusted at all if it can’t be trusted in part?

Here’s the text:
         Jer. 8:8  How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?

To understand this verse, two questions need to be addressed: (1) Who were these “scribes;” and (2) what is meant by the phrase, “the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely”?

The Scribes
The scribes of the Bible were typically chosen from the tribe of Levi.
         2Chr. 34:12b-13  The Levites—all who were skilled in playing musical instruments—had charge of the laborers and supervised all the workers from job to job. Some of the Levites were secretaries, scribes and gatekeepers.

Their task was to study, teach, and explain the meaning and application of “the Law of the Lord” —meaning the first five books of the Bible, plus all of the commands, teachings, rules and regulations found elsewhere in God’s Word. They were Bible scholars, the Bible experts who advised how to apply God’s “law” to everyday life. Ezra is a classic example of a good and godly scribe.

Another responsibility of the scribe was to provide accurate copies of God’s Word. In that capacity, they were the equivalent of today’s copy machines. They worked in teams, copying biblical text onto a new surface, such as vellum or papyri, checking and correcting each other’s work. This highly respected and trusted role in the community continued on into New Testament times and beyond.

The “Lying Pen”
God accused certain specific scribes of misinterpreting the law of the Lord in such a way that would make some unacceptable, sinful behaviors appear to be acceptable to God. God did not condemn the scribes as a whole, but specifically those who abused their responsibilities.

Were these irresponsible scribes actually changing the text of Scripture as they copied the old to new? Not likely. For one thing, others carefully edited each scribe’s work in order to ensure against copying errors—intentional or otherwise. Several sets of eyes helped to insure the incredible accuracy of the Scriptures.

“The lying pen” refers to the written interpretations of the Scriptures the scribes compiled to suit their own opinions. In the Gospel of Matthew (20:41-44), for example, Jesus challenges the teaching of the scribes on Psalm 101:1 as a misinterpretation. He then warns His disciples:
         Matt. 20:45-47a  “Beware of the teachers of the law [i.e., “scribes”]. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.”

If anything, Jeremiah 8:8 proves how trustworthy the Bible is, for God does not ignore those who seek to abuse it, change it, or misrepresent it. As Jesus concluded in Matthew 20:47b, “These men will be punished most severely.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

To Love God Or Fear Him

Biblegems #294

Question: The Bible says that we are to love God (Dt. 6:5), but also says in the very same chapter that we are to fear Him (Dt. 6:13), even though 1 John 4:18 claims there is no fear in love. I’m confused…

Let’s begin with the passage in First John:
         1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Context is everything. From the beginning of chapter four John encourages his readers to love one another with the same love God shows them through His Son, Jesus Christ. Such love demonstrates they truly belong to God and have nothing to fear on the Day of Judgment:
         1 John 4:17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: n this world we are like Jesus.

For those who truly know the love of God through Jesus Christ and treat others with that same love, there is no fear of punishment or condemnation from God.

Deuteronomy 6:5, 13, on the other hand, specifically teach that we are to both love God and fear Him:
         Deut. 6:5  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deut. 6:13  Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.

Love and fear are not mutually exclusive. In this context, both have little to do with emotions or feelings. You cannot make anyone feel love just by telling them to do so, nor can you make somebody feel afraid just by telling them to do so. Both love and fear are intended to convey actions in this case, not feelings.

To love God with the whole heart, soul and strength is to devote your entire being to God. To fear God, in this context, is connected with serving Him and acting as His representative when making promises and commitments. Our lives are to be spent acting as God’s emissaries, His ambassadors. We are not our own masters. Consequently, everything we do and say carries consequences beyond their own immediate impact. Every person will have to give an account to God as to how well we acted on His behalf in this life.
         Rom. 14:12  So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

The Bible teaches, therefore, that God is King as well as Creator, and that every human being is designed to be completely devoted to Him, exercising that devotion in how we live, love, work and play. To do otherwise is to rebel against God, His Kingdom and His design for our lives. Just as an earthly ambassador represents his own country in a foreign land by everything he or she says and does, so too are we ambassadors of the Kingdom of God to a world in rebellion against God. Our behavior reflects God’s character; and we who claim to be His followers are especially accountable.
         Heb. 12:28  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”