When it comes to word definitions time often muddies their meanings. Something called semantic shift is a real and complicated thing that can happen to our language. Just look at the word 'literal' which has got a lot of attention recently. And complicating things even further, meanings can be narrowed in definition or generalized; For example 'dog' used to stand for a specific breed of dog instead of every type of dog-as it is today.
Archaic or Misunderstood Words
In my early years of studying the kjv Bible I came across a few words that were quite confusing to me. One of them was 'unicorn'. I was told it meant a 'wild ox'-not a mythical animal. From further research I believe it was probably referring to an 'aroch' which is an extinct type of cattle now. Another word used in the kjv new testament 'husbandman' is translated 'farmer' in other translations. Also, the word 'publicans' is translated 'tax collectors' in the esv and other versions. Because of research I've done on some of them,
I prefer the kjv. Too many others have changed or omitted a lot of
verses. More on that later in this post.
Connotations and Denotations
Connotation-a meaning implied by a word; not the thing which it plainly describes.
Denotation-the direct or obvious meaning of a word.
'I know that's what it says (reads) but what does it mean?' This was a sentence I spoke in bible study at my church one time. Even today it sounds odd in my ears. Yet it does make sense. One reason is because words can be colored by social, cultural or personal experiences. There's often an underlying meaning given to certain words due to our own personal experiences. And sometimes a word's meaning may change depending on the time and place it was used. Connotations of words are often used in literature-the Bible included. This is where abstract ideas are compared to concrete ideas. Just look at the book of Revelations.
There's not a human alive-or who has ever lived- that wasn't prone to some type of cognitive bias. It is a preference or fixed mental attitude. Especially one that inhibits impartial judgment. Group-think (aka herd mentality or bandwagon effect) is one that has reared its ugly head often during these last two years of chaos in the world. This bias basically means that a group of people agree on an idea-no matter how irrational-in order to keep harmony or unity. Confirmation bias is looking for and accepting whatever information that will confirm your preconceived beliefs. This reminds me of people who search the bible for the purpose of finding something to try to confirm their false doctrines. For more info on cognitive biases go here.
When it comes to interpreting scripture correctly then I believe 'Context is Key'. Whether in conversation, writing, or bible study it matters a lot. If you've ever experienced someone taking your words and misinterpreting them by leaving out parts of conversation, then you know how this could happen with bible text. If you read a couple of verses, ignoring the ones before or after the passage, you may get an incomplete understanding of it. For a small example of this, read the verses below and look up the passage. Then read the pretext and the post text. You'll see how it can change the meaning entirely. (By the way here are other contexts to consider: historical and cultural).
18 Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shew thou unto us, seeing that thou do these things?
19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? John 2
Genre- category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content.
Literature-writings in prose or verse-especially: writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest (Merriam Webster)
It's an often ignored fact that the Bible is made up of many genres of literature. A few of them are 1) Historical-Judges, Samuel, Kings, and Ester.. 2) Poetical-Song of Solomon, Psalms.. 3) Prophetic-Isaiah, Jeremiah , Daniel. 4)Epistles-Romans, Corinthians, Galatians.. Many scholars call the 4 gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John-ancient biographies. Yet they aren't dry historical accounts of Jesus' life. Instead, they are proclamations of His life, death, burial, and resurrection. What's more, they are narratives filled with pure theology which encourages and teaches believers. Whatever book we read and study, it's important to consider the genre since it may influence how we interpret the passage.
Corrupted Bible Versions
Have you seen the charts that display the various omitted verses-or words- modern day versions have omitted from the Bible? That should be enough evidence to convince anyone that the enemy is using these perverted scripts to defile God's Word and so deceive people. Not to say that every version is the same. Some are definitely worse than others. If you want to learn more about omissions from a few versions then go here. And for a short history on two of the worst influencers of modern corrupt translations- Westcott and Hort- read this. It may really surprise or shock you if you haven't heard of them.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. II Peter 2:1,2
Throughout the Bible we've been told about false prophets or false teachers. Jesus plainly warned us in Matthew 24:11 they would deceive many. Peter contrasts a good shepherd of God's people with a false one in I Peter 5:1-3. The religious leaders of the Pharisees were called blind guides, serpents, and vipers. Why? Because they were greedy, prideful, and self-righteous. Doesn't that sound like a great number of preachers or teachers today? This is a very good reason for studying and knowing God's Word -so we won't be taken in by their heretical teachings or lifestyles. The best way to spot a fake is to be very familiar with the real.
Doubting the Author
Our relationship with Jesus Christ-the Word made flesh-is the most important part of our lives. But if trust is lost between us then it will become a barrier to communication. When troubles and trials come our way it's usually not long before we begin to talk like the Israelites did in the wilderness. Complaining will be our favorite subject-if we're not careful
to be thankful instead. That's why it's essential to talk with Jesus everyday. After all God is
always ready to listen to His children. And reading the Bible is one way our Father talks to us.
We can't afford to allow any barriers like bitterness, or doubt of God's goodness, to get in the way of the best relationship we'll ever know.
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4
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We may become resentful toward Him because prayers don't seem to be answered.
Why? Because they were greedy, prideful, and self-righteous. Doesn't that sound like a great number of preachers or teachers today? This is a very good reason for studying and knowing God's Word -so we won't be taken in by their heretical teachings or lifestyles. The best way to spot a fake is to be very familiar with the real.