Sunday, January 13, 2008

Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's Bible verse . . .

My favorite Bible verse is John 3:16. In fact, I believe it is the most beautiful piece of literature ever written. The crowning achievement of the English language.

Recently, I came across another bible verse: Jeremiah 29: 11:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Great verse, Right? The problem is - taken in context, this verse does not seem to apply to me. It is speaking to the nation of Israel while in captivity in Babylon. God is promising that after seventy years He will gather those in exile and bring them back to Jerusalem.

When is comes to the Bible - CONTEXT is everything.

Furthermore, the above verse was quoted from the New International Version. Here it is taken from the King James Version:

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Doesn't read exactly the same does it. My problem here is the word prosper. Now I'm not saying I'm anti-NIV. I have two of them. I also have a NLT and of course a King James Version.

But the NIV's choice of the word prosper and the fact that many do not consider context is the reason we have such things as prosperity preachers. Besides, what's wrong with "thoughts of peace, and not of evil"?


Nicole said...

Prosper is not a word that is limited to material wealth, need, etc. regardless of the desire to interpret it that way.

One could also say that, as with multiple other scriptures, there is a universal application of a basic truth because of the symbolism of Israel often representing "the church". Therefore many scriptures offer the duality or plurality of meaning in their applications.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Nicole, I certainly agree with what you've said, but duality doesn't apply to everything. In this particular verse, by reading the entire chapter, it is clear this is for the exiles at a specific time in history. That's not to say that God does not intend the same for all mankind and doesn't mind me claming it, but I'm hesitant to assume what God "meant to say".

In considering some other verses, it stll seems to me that many claim verses and therefore implied meanings without a clear understanding of context.

Despite the different applications of prosper. Peace and Prosper mean different things even if their scope may have some overlap. I, for one, want to know the original intent. That's why I have a parallel Bible. It has the King James on one side and the NLT on the other.

Janet Rubin said...

Hey Dayle,
I know what you mean about NIV. I'm not anti-NIV either. In fact I just bought my teenager and NIV study Bible for Christmas. It's a great bible, the same one I read for 5 years. But when mine fell apart and I got myself a New King James bible (one I also like a lot), I did find that some of the verses that had grown so special to me had entirely different meanings than I thought they did! Not major stuff. Anyway, our church bibles are NIV, which I think is good. Many attenders are brand new Christians or lost people, and NIV is easier to read and understand than some other versions.
I agree about context. I hear people claiming verses all the time that, like you said, were for a specific time/people/situation.

Nicole said...

I would agree that context is vital to understanding. However, and I'm not disagreeing with you, believe it or not, the Lord can give particular verses through the Spirit to individuals in prayer when they are in spiritual conflicts, deserts, wars, and afflictions which resemble these particular contextual situations. He refers to his Word as "alive", able to separate marrow from bone. His Word does mean exactly what it says in the context of what is present in the situation, but it does have much more far-reaching truth in it as well.

Nicole said...

P.S. The NIV is an accurate translation, actually more accurate for the most part--but not entirely--than the King James. The New American Standard is said to be one of the most accurate. Just don't give me a paraphrase.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Nicole, I agree with you on paraphrases, but we may have finally found something we disagree on. :)

I know the Lord works in wondrous ways, but I would hesitate to go out of context when it comes to scripture. I believe this concept is the incubator of cultism and splinter denominations.

I believe the "more far-reaching truth" you have described is only relevant if the context is similar in substance to the new situation.

Janet, the NIV and NLT have been invaluable to my personal missionary outreach. There are those who never read the Bible until I gave them one of those. Shakespearean English is beautiful but hard to read.

Nicole said...

Okay. Let me just say this one last thing, and I'll go quietly. :)

The Old Testament is not just an historical account. It’s filled with “types”, symbolism, metaphors, etc. Yes, many, perhaps most, of the text applies directly to the set of circumstances in the account. But to say this verse is limited to those specific people in Babylonian captivity is short-sighted. In the broader sense we are in captivity, aliens in a strange land, waiting to go home, held captive by our lusts and sinfulness which is exactly why the Israelites were in captivity in the first place.

While I would agree cults can be formed from taking verses out of context, to suggest that this particular verse is one where you cannot say God has plans to give you and me spiritual peace, spiritual prosperity, spiritual hope, and a wonderful spiritual future—as He did for the Hebrew people in the direct circumstances of that verse—is very limiting to the depth of His word. JMO.

Kay said...

I agree totally about context. I have heard entire doctrines built on single phrases taken out of context.
Also, I think one should always look to the entirety of Scripture as well as immediate context.
In this case, the concept is seen throughout scripture that God knows our future, that He has only good in mind for us. Now, how good is defined is a different matter. I think we get that wrong a lot of times. So, I believe He does have plans to prosper us, but what that means may look different that we expect it to. He's eternally minded and we tend not to be.

Just for you, I got out my Hebrew dictionary. Ok, I did it for me, you got me curious. But I'll share.
The word for Peace in the KJV is Shalom. Meaning Peace, Prosperity, and Good Health.

I have always hesitated to claim that verse for the very reason you said. But I think we have scriptural support in claiming the premises. We can find the same promises given elsewhere that do apply to us.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Great comments everyone.

Nicole, in light of what Kay has presented, you're probably correct on this verse. But I still wonder if applying this construct will find other verses claimed without merit. Or, maybe we would find that you're right and when God spoke to any 'people' of any 'time', it always works out that he's speaking to everyone. He can do it. After all He's God.

Thanks again, Kay. You're second sentence is the source of my apprehension also. I also agree with the rest of your comment. The Bible is self-defining or self-evident. Scripture should be interpreted in the light of scripture.

Kay said...

In reference to taking things out of context, I have heard the example, "Judas went out and hanged himself" "Go thou therefore and do likewise."

A person can prove almost anything with scripture. That's why I really emphasize the "Whole counsel of Scripture," and in order to do that a person must be familiar with it. We can't ever just take someone's word for it. Even if they back it up with chapter and verse.