Help in reading old books

The Nugget:

Jos 1:8  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. (KJV)

Jos 1:8 This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful. (NET Bible)

Jos 1:8 Let this book of the law be ever on your lips and in your thoughts day and night, so that you may keep with care everything in it; then a blessing will be on all your way, and you will do well. (BBE, Bible in Basic English)

Jos 1:8 Never stop reading The Book of the Law he gave you. Day and night you must think about what it says. (Contemporary English Version)

My Comment:

Many who would read the Bible today need some help about how to understand it. Some people need to learn how to read old books! The Bible is a great work of literature. In that light, I share some quotations and thoughts about reading great literature and then apply these principles to the Bible itself.

I have shared these thoughts with students in my English classes:

“Literature is news that stays news.” Ezra Pound

“The Reader and His Taste”:

The goal is to adopt the adult attitude, “If I do not understand this or like it, there is something the matter with me and not the selection.” What do others find in this? What have others found in it? Why does it continue to be a favorite of discriminating people? It has often been said that Pilate did not judge Jesus but judged himself. So often this is true of us in relation to art. The selection is not on trial but we are. If we say we do not like a selection we indicate more of our own limitations than the limitations of the work of art. –Selected [From my English III lesson plan, Monday, Ninth Week, November 13, 1967, CTHS]

“What Makes a Classic”:

What makes a classic is not that it is praised by critics, expounded by professors, and studied in college classes, but that the great mass of readers, generation after generation, have found pleasure and spiritual profit in reading it. –Somerset Maugham [From my English III lesson plan, Tuesday, Ninth Week, November 13, 1967, CTHS]

New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge Note at 1 Corinthians 2:13

the words. This is a specific claim to verbal inspiration. Divine inspiration of Scripture is asserted also at 2Ti 3:16, as is the divine inspiration of the Scripture writers, 2Pe 1:21.

Failure to accept the Bible’s own testimony to itself has closed this Book to so-called “modern scholarship” (a misnomer if ever there was one!). Much modern scholarship is dishonest, for instead of explaining the Bible, it attempts to explain away the Bible, refusing to honestly come to grips with its claims and message.

In an effort to escape the Bible’s obvious message, dishonest scholarship has tried to deny its authenticity and authorship, ascribing, for example, the books of Moses to multiple late authorship;

denying the unity of Isaiah;

asserting that the gospels, particularly John, are of late origin, and do not reflect the so-called “historical Jesus.”

Some “modern scholarship” asserts the Gospels do not reflect true history but the views and traditions of the early Church of the third or fourth century—not explaining, of course,

(1) how books can be quoted or translated before they were written,

(2) or how such stupendous claims could be foisted upon a gullible public long after the possibility of disproof by eyewitnesses has passed.

The only way to get at the message of the Bible is to be completely open to its message.

To approach Scripture with humanistic and naturalistic (i.e. anti-theistic) presuppositions is to try to twist Scripture to fit a world view which it most emphatically will not support.

The only valid approach to Scripture is to be honest to its claims and message and grant its right to set forth a theistic, supernaturalistic world view.

To deny the possibility of miracle (as Hume and his modern counterparts) is to deny the possibility of history, for both are based upon the record of eye-witness testimony, and such denial is absurd.

There are more pathways to truth and knowledge than an arbitrarily narrowly defined so-called “scientific method.”

Like missing the right exit on a freeway, continued advance in the wrong direction is not progress; genuine progress will require a return to where we went wrong, and a fresh start in the right direction.

Much “scholarship” needs to recognize it has pursued a wrong path, and recognize that it needs to return to sound principles of former generations of reverent, truthful, believing scholarship.

It is neither truthful nor fair scholarship to approach a work of literature from a consistently unsympathetic and hostile world view in the attempt to legitimately understand its message.

Rather, in our attempt to understand a work of literature, we must let it speak for itself. The task of scholarship is to place the reader as close as possible in sympathetic relationship to the viewpoint of the original writer and recipients of the literary work, and not to attempt to explain it away in an effort to force it to agree with popular contemporary philosophical presuppositions. Mat 10:20, **Luk 8:15, **1Th 2:13, +*2Ti 3:16, 1Pe 1:10, 11, 2Pe 1:20, 21; 2Pe 3:1, 2.


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10 Responses to Help in reading old books

  1. Hi Jerry,

    Long time no talk to! I wish you and yours a very blessed new year. I’m a grandfather of two little girls now, and we live out in the country (Tecumseh).

    This is to inform you that I have thoroughly responded to your article: “Are baptism and the Eucharist necessary to salvation?” (4-20-14) with my new article:

    “Debate: Is Baptism Necessary to Salvation?”

    We can continue dialogue here or on my blog, as you wish.

  2. Jerry says:

    Dear Dave and family,

    It is a delight for me to hear from you again! I have been keeping you and your family in prayer regularly all these years. I pray that all of you are well during this current pandemic! We are thankful to be well here at my end.

    I look forward to continuing our discussions once again.

    Thank you for returning to my site and leaving comments.

    One would think that living in retirement would mean I have much more time to spend on the Internet. Well, I haven’t figured out yet “how to pull the plug out of the clock.” But be patient with me, I will try to get back to continue our discussions as soon as I can.

    I have been having quite an interchange with a whole group of atheists on a Facebook site someone joined me to. It has been very educational for me. They seem to be what are sometimes called “The New Atheists.” They challenge Christians with their site title, “Christians do you really KNOW your Bible.” I’ve had to suggest to them, “Atheists do you really KNOW the Bible.” So far I think I have been able to answer most of their Bible questions and challenges, but they are often very sharp. Some of them are not only former Christians, but former pastors and seminary trained individuals. They generally like the positions taken by Bart Ehrman. In my studies I find Professor Ehrman quite mistaken on many points, but he is famous and I am still an unknown author!

  3. Hi Jerry,

    Thanks so much for all those prayers. That’s very kind of you.

    Six out of eight of my family (not counting grandkids) did indeed get COVID right before Christmas and shortly after. We’re all better now, with only some residual effects (in some) of not being able to taste and smell, that I hear usually pass before too long. I have rarely been as sick. But it’s true that — at least this variant — is not much different from having a severe bout of the flu. We just took Vitamin C, zinc, and Vitamin D. No hospitals . . . A lot of missed work, though.

    It caused us to postpone our family Christmas all the way till yesterday. My son Matthew shocked and delighted me with the gift of a used Jet-Ski, which has been one of my “dreams” to have for many years!

    I’m happy to hear that you have had a lot of interaction with atheists. It’s mostly what I have been doing in the last year, too. In fact, I had so much debate with them on biblical archaeology issues, that I will be having a new book officially published on the topic this year. This book is simply a defense of the Bible and would be agreeable to Protestants, too (perhaps minus a few interpretations like a local Flood), since there is nothing specifically Catholic in it.

    I’m here writing this late at night because I couldn’t sleep. I’m probably still excited about the Jet-Ski. 🙂

  4. Jerry says:

    I am most thankful that your family has recovered. My son Tim (he came with us to your home years ago, you may recall) got seriously ill with the original disease. He was in the hospital. He lost some of his lung capacity, but when he was here briefly at Christmas he seems to have recovered quite well.

    Interesting that you should mention archaeology. I, too, have been presenting some of the evidence that backs the accuracy of the Bible from archaeology. The group I am discussing the Bible with has commended me for being the only Christian who has stayed on in the group and actually engaged in extended discussion. A resource I have found helpful is by K. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament. It is a rather scholarly volume, but I doubt its evidence can be refuted.

    Keep me updated on your new book about archaeology and the Bible. I am very interested in that subject.

  5. Yes, I just read that book from Kitchen, and utilized it heavily in my book. I’m very fond of him. James K. Hoffmeier is another excellent source. Kitchen is simply ignored by the “minimalists”. No one can refute him.

  6. Here on one page are all of my writings on archaeology and the Bible & science, generally speaking:

    Just yesterday I wrote the post, “Scientific Search for the Garden of Eden (The Remarkable Geological and Geographical Accuracy of Genesis 2)”:

  7. Jerry says:

    Interesting that we both have been reading the same helpful resource!

    As much as I admire K. Kitchen’s work, I have a bone to pick with him. He favors a late date for the Exodus from Egypt. That leads him to fudge what is said in 1 Kings 6:1’s reference to 480 years.

    I was just reading yesterday about another subject in a journal and came across a brief but scholarly defense of the literalness of this number. I don’t know anything about Hebrew except what I read others say. But it turns out that in Hebrew, if a number is to be taken literally and exactly, not figuratively or symbolically, the number is stated in ascending order: eighty years and four hundred years. If it is not meant to be taken exactly it is stated in descending order: four hundred and eighty years. I found this on page 486 of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Volume 48, No. 3. The whole article, while appreciative of Kitchen’s undeniable scholarship, specifically addresses the few flaws in Kitchen’s book, The Reliability of the Old Testament.

  8. Jerry says:

    Thank you, Dave, as always, for your helpful links!

    Interesting that you should mention archaeology and the Garden of Eden. I have listened to a number of programs which featured Stan Deyo. He has done extensive research about the location of the Garden of Eden. He has shown actual pictures of the site which he took himself on location, as I recall.

  9. I think Hebrew numbers is a complex topic. I don’t think Methusaleh et al literally lived 900 years. And perhaps the biggest problem with taking it literally is the purported number who left Egypt in the Exodus. Various arguments have been made that it was something like 20,000, not 2 million (600,000 men +).

    One of the arguments made is that it was a change from the old system that was based on 6 (60 minutes, 60 seconds, 360 degrees are remnants of that), to our present one based on ten.

    I showed in one of my papers how 20,000 is exactly the number of slaves that would have been expected to be in Pi-Ramesses: a city of about 300,000.

    If there were 2 million Hebrews there, then that would be almost seven times the entire population, as ascertained by scholars. It strains credulity.

  10. I strongly hold to the 13th century Exodus, because the archaeology, in my opinion, lines up with that much better, as well as the subsequent history of Joshua’s “conquest.”

    People can have honest disagreements on timelines. The above is my broad reasoning, in accord with maximalists like Kitchen.

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