Friday, January 05, 2007

Out With the Concordance

We’ve been looking at the idea that the Bible was written to be heard and that it wasn’t written originally in the book form that we have now.

As always, such comments deserve a resounding “So what?”. I see several implications, one of which is the need to trash our concordances. Well, OK, that may be a bit strong. But I’ve found that the misuse of the concordance can be a great hindrance to effective Bible study. We piece together verses and phrases from here and there, creating entirely new “biblical passages.”

Let me give you an example. When studying the subject of elders in the church, many take 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and create a list of “requirements for elders.” The problem is, the resulting list isn’t what is in Timothy nor what is in Titus. It is a new hybrid, one which the Holy Spirit didn’t create. It’s probable that Timothy didn’t have a copy of Titus and Titus didn’t have a copy of 1 Timothy. So, if the only way to have the full list of requirements is to combine the two passages, neither of them had the list. Or at best, one of them had an incomplete list. The truth of the matter is, if God had meant those passages to be used together, He would have given them to us that way! We need to learn to respect the integrity of the biblical books, and read each of them as the early readers would have read them.

Now in this example the lists are very similar. The one in Timothy contains “should not be a recent convert,” because the church in Ephesus had been established decades before. The one in Titus doesn’t have that requirement because Titus was working in more of a mission setting. The list in Titus contains a warning about love of money because that was a common problem in Crete, according to historians. The lists are different because the needs are different. If there had been one list for all congregations, Timothy and Titus would have received the same list, and we would have it as well. As is, when we cut and paste the two together, we create something which God did not! When it comes to Bible study, that’s a dangerous practice.

When we study a passage, we must seek to study it as the early listeners would have, not as modern readers who have 66 books rolled into one.

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