5 Popular Bible Verses and Passages That We May Be Misinterpreting

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I’m of the opinion that at a certain age, all people (especially Christians) need to start questioning things and thinking for themselves. In particular, those like me who profess Jesus as Lord, need to wrestle with the Bible, think critically about it and even sometimes push back against things they are taught. I’m NOT advocating being a jerk about it or being unteachable or living with a jaded sense of cynicism. I’m simply saying that when necessary we need to check our presuppositions about the Bible, acknowledge that we bring biases to it, and very humbly challenge long-held interpretations of certain passages. We need to consider that there are times we may be wrong, even about things we have believed our whole lives. This is extremely hard for people to do and I am very indebted to my father for modeling this before me even into his 70’s.

When I say we “may be wrong,” that is exactly what I mean. I am not saying I am 100% sure that the traditional interpretations below are wrong, just that it is possible that some traditional interpretations have been held for so long by so many people that this has prevented us from thinking critically about them. At the very least I ask you to consider these alternative interpretations, if you have not already. All of them are held by people I esteem as orthodox in their faith and practice. They are not wild, crackpot ideas I came up with on my own. I owe everything I know about the Bible–with a couple of exceptions–to teachers. And if I am not teachable, then I am not a true disciple of Christ. When my favorite professor at Moody, Dr. Julius Wong Loi Sing, first presented the interpretation of Mark 12 in #1 below, I bristled at it and deemed him wrong immediately. But after months of wrestling with it, and reading it over and over in context in as many translations as possible, I came to the conclusion he was right. You may not change your mind on any of these. I only ask you to consider. Keep in mind that for Dr. Wong Loi Sing, and for me, the wheels are still turning on these and every passage in the Bible.

1. Mark 12:41-44

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.

Traditional Interpretation: The woman is being praised for giving everything she had, as a great sacrifice and not out of abundance. And we should give God all that we have, no matter how little we have or much it costs us.

Alternative Interpretation: Jesus was not complimenting the woman but instead condemning the Pharisees for obligating the woman to give all that she had through unmerciful taxation.

At times it is unfortunate that chapter and verse divisions–which are not original in any Bible text–keep us from seeing connections in passage contexts. And at times Bibles divide chapters with subheadings that make it even harder to see them. Many Bibles divide Mark 12:41-44 from the verses that precede it.1 But if you read the verses prior to Mark 12:41, you will see that Jesus is issuing a warning about the Pharisees and in vs. 40 accuses them of “devouring widows houses,” meaning that they were so wicked they did the opposite of the law in taking care of widows and took what they needed to live. “Devour” is a strong word here. These were heinous acts of injustice. And I don’t think the scene changes from Mark 12:40 to 12:41. Jesus certainly complimented people in his ministry but he also very often rebuked and warned against the Pharisees. I think that is what he is doing here. He is not complimenting the woman. She had no choice and was not being generous or sacrificial. She was a victim.

2. Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Traditional Interpretation: If you teach your children the ways of God, when they grow up they will keep following Him. Since Proverbs are principles and not promises, this does not mean it works every time. It explains why good Christian parents at times have rebellious children.

Alternative Interpretation: “The way he should go” is not talking about things like Bible teaching but about how a child “bends” in the sense of having inclination towards certain talents and abilities. The Amplified Version says it this way: “Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Please understand, I am not interpreting this verse based on modern psychology, but rather on what the Hebrew could actually mean. The ‘way he should go’ here can mean bend as the word literally is used in how a bow in a bow and arrow bends. So it may be teaching to encourage children according to their disposition in talents and abilities. In other words, If they are good at the piano, encourage them to play. If they are not, don’t force them to do it. If your child is good at sports, encourage them to play. If they aren’t, don’t. I’m not a parent and do not give unsolicited advice to parents. I am just trying to explain what the passage can mean. If you direct your child to their bends in talents, skills and ability, when they are adults they will continue to find purpose in those things. Even with this interpretation, there may still be the principle/not promise result.

Of the five verses and passages I’m dealing with here, this is probably the one I am least sure about as far as the suggested alternative being correct. I’ve read a lot of critique of the interpretation of “bend = ability.”

3. Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Traditional Interpretation: If you follow Christ and as a result live purely in avoiding sin (especially things like sexual sin), you will see God in Heaven one day.

Alternative Interpretation:  “Pure in heart” has to do with how you treat the people as far as showing mercy and justice to people in need and ‘see God’ means you see Jesus on earth. This would mean that Matthew 5:8 teaches the same basic thing taught in Matthew 25:31-46, that if you serve the least of these practically, you are encountering Jesus. This is another interpretation Dr. Wong Loi Sing helped me with while at Moody.

I believe that it is best to let passages and words in a Bible book interpret other passages and words in that book. In other words, if Paul talks about being “holy” in Romans, then I will understand its use better from other Romans passages than I would from how Peter speaks to holiness or how it’s described in Exodus.

With that in mind, in Matthew 23:23-26 Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”

Notice that I bolded the word “clean” in the quoted verses.  That is because it is the same word that you find for “pure” in Matthew 5:8. Nowhere in Matthew can I find Jesus or anyone else speaking of being “pure” or “clean” as avoiding sin. I can however find a place where being pure/clean means you do not neglect others and you value mercy and justice in how you treat others, especially the less fortunate (which was a huge part of mercy and justice in Israelite law). I think in Matthew we understand what James 4:17 says about purity: Purity is not just what I avoid doing. It’s also about the good that do.

And when Matthew says “see God,” that is exactly what Jesus taught in Matthew 25:34-40. If you serve the hungry and imprisoned and naked, you will ‘see’ Jesus2. At the beginning of Matthew it tells us that Jesus is “God with us.” At the end Jesus promises his disciples “I am with you always.” I think Jesus being God is clear in Matthew and so seeing God and seeing Jesus are the same thing.

4. Job 13:15

“Tho He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.”

Traditional Interpretation: Job is saying that no matter what–even if God kills him–that he will hope (or trust) in God. And we should have a similar fierceness of faith when our world crumbles as Job’s did.

Alternative Interpretation: This one is not an issue of interpretation since it really is what the Hebrew reading actually says. Due to manuscript differences, a word in this verse may be lo’ (“not”) or lo (“to Him.”)  You can see one tiny little mark makes the difference and it is a huge difference for translation.  The RSV reads: “Tho He slay me, I have no hope.” It basically gives the opposite meaning.  Most of the popular English Bible translations (ESV, NIV, NASB, NLT) have the traditional rendering above.

I am not a textual critic of either testament by any means, but the reason I believe the latter reading is correct is because of the entire book context of Job. When Job speaks of hope, or even trust, he almost never speaks of having it in a positive way. He says plainly he has no hope (6:11, 17:15).  He says his hope has been cut down like a tree (19:10). He says his days end without hope (7:6). He says he hopes for the grave as his house (17:13).

This does not mean he cannot in the midst of despair and desperation, give a cry of hope in God. That is probably what he is doing concerning the resurrection of Jesus in 19:25. But by sheer probability, if Job is speaking to hope in his book, he’s probably speaking negatively. This lack of hope is a recurring theme even, I would say, in Job.

5. Genesis 1:1-25.

Traditional interpretation: God created the heavens and the earth by the spoken word and out of nothing. He created the earth and all that is in it over a period of 6 days.

Alternative interpretation: In Genesis 1:1, God created the universe and everything in it. From Genesis 1:2 until the creation of humans in Genesis 1:26 God took 6 days and prepared the garden of Eden, which would also be the land later promised to Abraham and his descendants for many generations, for humans to inhabit.  In other words, all of creation (apart from humans) took place in Genesis 1:1. The rest of the chapter is about getting the garden (and eventually, the Promised Land) ready for the humans to dwell from Genesis 1:26 on.

For a more detailed explanation of these thoughts, please see Genesis Unbound by Dr. John Sailhamer, a book endorsed by people like Walt Kaiser and John Piper. So if this sounds like (as Sheldon Cooper would say) “hokum,” please understand that some conservative Christian scholarship backs this interpretation.

Basically, Dr. Sailhamer teaches that in Genesis 1:1, “heavens and the earth” is a Hebrew merism for “the universe.”3 Genesis 1:2 is referring to the ‘land,’ not the earth.4 It describes it as “uninhabitable” or like a wilderness rather than “formless and void.”  In Genesis 1:3, instead of God saying, “Let there be light,” it could be “Let the sun rise,” since the sun already existed from being created with everything else in 1:1. Genesis 1:4 should read “one day” instead of the “first day,” per the NASB.  And lastly, the word “created” from 1:7 and 1:16 could be translated “made,” which can mean to “arrange” or “put right” as in “make a bed.”

Taken together, these alternative–and very possible–translations support the belief that Genesis 1:1 is describing the creation of the universe. This includes the heavens, the earth and everything else. Everything from 1:2 on is talking about the formation of the Garden of Eden/Promised Land. One of the best points Sailhamer makes about this interpretation is that the Pentateuch has the Promised Land as one of its most preeminent motifs so having it begin with its formation makes sense.

Feedback, even in critique or argument form, is welcomed. But please understand that while I will debate in a respectful and gentle way, none of these verses contain doctrines that are worth getting intense about. We can disagree and still be in Christian community together.

  1. The same account in Luke 21:1-4 has an even more unfortunate division in that it breaks the story from the previous verses with a chapter break.
  2. Greek users may note that the word in Matt. 5:8 for ‘see’ is different than Matt. 25:34-40. But I’d argue they are synonyms.
  3. A merism is when you represent a single thing by several of its parts. In Psalm 139, David says God knows him when he sits and when he rises. In other words, he knows him completely.
  4. The word can be translated either way, much like ‘tierra’ in Spanish.

Gowdy Cannon

I am the pastor of the bilingual ministry of Northwest Community Church in Chicago. Our church is intentional in trying to bring English and Spanish speakers together in worship and community. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married three years. I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to adult immigrants in my community. I am, at times, a student at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chic-Fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

38 thoughts on “5 Popular Bible Verses and Passages That We May Be Misinterpreting

  • February 26, 2016 at 10:34 am
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    I just want to have a little fun before I die. Like Rockhound in Armageddon on the nuke.

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  • February 26, 2016 at 10:37 am
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    The Job passage really puts a different spin on things, doesn’t it? It seems to fit with the rest of the book better than the typical way of reading it. I would love to read what Dr. Garnett Reid would add to this.

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    • February 26, 2016 at 11:08 am
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      I would love to hear a textual variant explanation of the verse. I have read some about that but not enough to speak intelligently to it. Because so many of the popular translations use the traditional rendering, it makes me think the case for that reading is strong. But with any manuscript difference, I would have to think the book itself is part of the criteria for determining which is correct.

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    • February 26, 2016 at 9:33 pm
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      I’m most curious about this one. I must study it further.

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  • February 26, 2016 at 10:41 am
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    Allow me to protest #3. As for the interpretation of the first part, I can see the step to care and compassion as an application of this verse but not an interpretation. Based on my study of the passage, the best I found was that a pure heart represents a person of integrity. Pure heart. Pure motives. Pure living would need to be a part of that. It most assuredly affects how we treat our fellow humans as pure compassion would be a part of that. This I believe is the evident meaning of the word from the multiple places it is used in the New Testament in similar ways. 1 Timothy has several examples.
    As to seeing God, the interpretation seems to be a break from the overall tone of the sermon as a whole but I haven’t looked closely at that at this moment.
    A bigger concern for me is the misuse of Matthew 25 that is so common today. It has become the supporting document for benevolent ministry and “radical” Christianity because there are two words that are missed continually and ignored almost outright. There are plenty of passages to support the need for Gods people to be people of compassion and care. There are plenty of passages supporting giving to the poor without coopting this one. It is tweetable but I would add it to your list. Jesus is very clear about who the least of these are. And yet we fail time and again to include his clarification. “My brothers”. He seems to be talking about a particular group of the least of these. I believe this holds up when one sees the other places Jesus talks about who the brothers are. Perhaps one of the applications is in benevolence work and ministry to the poor but we are seemingly ignoring a critical part of this passage.
    Then again I have been wrong before.

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    • February 26, 2016 at 11:15 am
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      I would not disagree with your assessment of Matthew 25 as being “brothers” and that does not change my interpretation of Matthew 5:8. I didn’t really give a detailed explanation of Matthew 25 and only mention it because the wording of Matthew 5:8 corresponds to it. And since it’s the same author and the same speaker (Jesus), I can see the connection. Jesus made a strong connection with “clean”/”pure” and social justice and mercy in Matthew 23. So I can see that being his focus in Matthew 5 as well.

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      • February 26, 2016 at 3:49 pm
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        Granted. And there is a strong connection. But I think it to be a bit of stretch to tie it into the meaning of the word and thus to the meaning (interpretation) of the verse. It is an undeniable outgrowth of a pure heart. It is an obvious application. But it seems to push out other applications and life principles if that’s all it means

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  • February 26, 2016 at 11:51 am
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    So what does Jesus mean by “Brothers?” Is he not equating “the least of these,” those who are naked or hungry with “my brothers.” I would think that the use of the word “Brothers” is Jesus’ way to of saying that the poor are his brothers. I, of course, could be wrong.

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    • February 26, 2016 at 12:04 pm
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      This is why I handle the Bible with such humility – I have been to two excellent colleges for Bible study and read it every day and there are countless things I am not confident in. My first reacion is that Jesus seems unlikely to refer to non-followers and “brothers”. But I don’t really know. Not that long ago I’d have said it was unlikely Jesus wasn’t complimented the Mark 12 woman. And here we are.

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      • February 26, 2016 at 4:05 pm
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        And that is where I see the disconnect Gowdy. The setting of Matthew 25 is The Day. Jesus is separating the sheep and the goats, if you will. It would seem unlikely, indeed, that He would refer to those who are not followers as “brothers” in such a setting. It presents real problems for us to say “brothers” is a generalized group of poor, destitute and needy in that moment, in my opinion. This in no way takes away from what God has said elsewhere about giving and healing that the Gospel should bring. It is a theme throughout Scripture. It is pure and undefiled religion (which I think may be a better relation to Matthew 5:8). But this is one of the passages I would have added to the list because there seems to be an assumption about those two words at times.

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  • February 26, 2016 at 1:23 pm
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    I happen to disagree with both the “traditional” and the “alternative” you mention concerning Matthew 5:8.

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    • February 26, 2016 at 1:26 pm
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      Well I’m all ears!

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      • February 26, 2016 at 9:30 pm
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        First, I disagree with the “traditional” view as stated in your article. This view seems to indicate that “if I am pure, I earn a way to heaven.” Of course, this is contrary to the gospel, which is based on the fact that I can never be pure enough to “see God.” Even after the initial decision to accept the gospel, I still claim the righteousness of Christ in daily living. I will never be counted pure without it.

        Second, I disagree with your alternative. Although how we treat others can be a part of being “pure in heart”, looking at Matthew 23 and 25 is making this more complicated than necessary.

        Finally, I think the meaning is simpler than what you propose. However, before I get to that, it’s important to note that I do not think the Beatitudes are linear, cause-effect principles; I don’t think Jesus is giving commands to DO THIS then you will GET THIS. If so, you could say, “Sorry, you poor-in-spirit people. Yours is the kingdom of heaven, but you aren’t the pure-in-heart people, so this seeing God thing isn’t for you. Forget seeing God, all you meek ones. You will inherit the earth.” Jesus is teaching the listening crowds to be kingdom-minded thinkers. I feel like Jesus is telling me that when I am poor in spirit, and humble, and mourning, and pure in heart, things are not as they seem–because I am blessed to receive the kingdom of heaven, and I will be comforted, and I will see God. He goes on to tell them He is there to fulfill the Law, and He continues to challenge their thinking, even about how they interpreted law itself.

        So, specifically, Matthew 5:8 is simple to me. I think Jesus’s use of the word “pure” and connecting it to the word “see” is literary. (As a masterful teacher, He did this often. For example, the use of hyperbole in Matthew 5:29-30.) When my heart is pure, it is not clouded. When my motives and thoughts are unclouded, my vision will be clear to act. Purity or cleanness is masterfully connected to clear vision. Conversely, I may take a wrong path, even claiming it as “God’s will” because my heart has the wrong motive (impure/unclean), and my vision of the right way needs correcting.

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        • February 26, 2016 at 9:45 pm
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          That is interesting and I’ll think on it some. But I do see cause and effect in them, but only because a follower of Christ is all 8 of them. You cannot be a follower of Chris without being poor in spirit, hungering for righteousness, meek, pure in heart, etc. In my opinion, the first four deal with man’s relationship to God and the second four deal with man’s relationship to man, a la, the Ten Commandments and the two great commandments. That’s a pattern God used from Exodus to Jesus. So if you love God and love people, these are the things that will happen.

          And I use Matthew 23 because it is a clear place where “pure” is used by Jesus to make a strong teaching. He used the word 3 times in the same verse. Matthew rarely uses this word in his Gospel so that makes each use more significant to me.

          But I will think about what you have said. that is the point of the article ultimately. :) If I didn’t do that, I’d be a huge hypocrite.

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          • February 26, 2016 at 10:02 pm
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            By the way, I agree completely with the overall premise of studying the Bible and trying to understand it without the assumption that the way we’ve always heard it taught is correct. I think we should pray very specifically, asking the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to it as we read. And I think we should be willing to listen and consider those with whom we disagree, though with civility.

          • February 26, 2016 at 10:06 pm
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            I appreciate that. It’s crazy when I do This in sermons how quickly people feel the need to tell me I’m wrong about the illustration passages I use and totally miss the real point. I could be wrong about all of these.

          • February 26, 2016 at 11:04 pm
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            I am not convinced of the cause and effect relationship in these verses either. In Matthew 4, he is seen preaching, teaching and healing as he travels all over Galilee, all the while proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Then, he preaches this sermon. He is looking around and He sees people who are broken in spirit – nobodies. People who are mourning. People who are humble. These people are not blessed because they are these things. They are blessed because the Kingdom is for them. It is not just for the powerful and the rich and the strong. It is for the weak, the broken, the mourning and the broken. The people Jesus is speaking to at this point, are those that He has just healed. Those he just proclaimed the Good news of the Kingdom to. And to his ragtag group of disciples that were nobodies themselves.

            As Dallas Willard puts it in The Divine Conspiracy, “Those poor in spirit are called “blessed” by Jesus, not because they are in a meritorious condition, but because, precisely in spite and in the midst of their ever so deplorable condition, th rule of the heavens has moved redemptively upon and through them by the grace of Christ.”

            This may or may not have any real bearing on what you are talking about though…

        • February 27, 2016 at 8:44 am
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          I think “if you are humble, God will come to you” is the running cause and effect in the whole BIble. God is opposed to the proud and give grace to the humble. Later in Matthew 18 Jesus says if you humble yourself like a child you will receive the kingdom of heaven. Cause and effect. All of 3-6, in my opinion, (poor in spirit, mourning, meek and hungering for righteousness) are postures of humility. It’s notable that he didn’t say if you live righteously you are blessed, but that you have to ask for it (and based on the previous verses, you have to ask for it like a beggar would). That keeps people from finding pride in their effort. And all of the “you shall”s are God’s way of responding. Only God can comfort. Only God can fill. Only God can give the earth, which is where heaven will be one day.

          Vs. 7 is a clear cause and effect as seen in Matthew 18:21-35. I think 10 is clear cause and effect since Christ taught his followers would be persecuted and that the ones who endured to the end would be saved. If i”m right about vs. 8 it’s cause and effect. I could explain vs. 9 too but it’s less clear and I’m satisfied with Jesus often not making things clear.

          But I do think vs. 3-6 are how you interact with God. And 7, 9 and 10 are how you interact with man. Which makes me think vs. 8 has to have something to do with man, not God (primarily). Hence the opinion above

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          • February 27, 2016 at 10:27 am
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            I’m just not seeing how poor in spirit – which essentially means nothing to offer spiritually – and mourning are attributes to strive for or things to desire. Based on the context of when Jesus preaches this sermon, it sounds to me like he is talking to people around Him who are mourning and would be considered to be spiritual nothings, and He is saying, “the Kingdom of God is for you”.

          • February 27, 2016 at 11:29 am
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            Jesus obviously had a concern with dealing with the present suffering in society. Throughout his ministry he took time to aid certain individuals or groups. I am in the camp that believes that is what He is doing here. He’s saying to all the obviously hurting and impoverished people around him, “Be comforted because a better day is coming. This is not the end.”

  • February 26, 2016 at 4:04 pm
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    Good article. I wish we could sit in a coffee shop and talk through some of this. I think, for example, that on the issue of the widow you are not offering a contradictory view so much as adding another layer to what Mark is teaching us.

    I’m definitely going to check out Genesis Unbound.

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    • February 26, 2016 at 5:57 pm
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      Len Scott, I hope it doesn’t cause you to reconsider your view, but I thought the exact same thing about the widow. What Gowdy is proposing is another level to the text not necessarily contradictory.

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    • February 26, 2016 at 9:48 pm
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      I strongly encourage the reading of Genesis Unbound. It has caused me some problems because the author makes it clear that he doesn’t believe Genesis teaches you can age the earth and that opens a can of worms on that issue. But I try to look past that; it’s a book on Hebrew exegesis, not science, and I admire its arguments. Answers In Genesis ripped it pretty good.

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  • February 26, 2016 at 9:39 pm
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    I agree with the Proverb discussion in regard to the original language being more about “bending”, but I don’t fully agree with the application when it comes to connecting it to championing my kids in their talents such as football. I’ve had this conversation with several friends. Something I have to keep reading, studying, and considering as we raise our boys.

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    • February 26, 2016 at 9:55 pm
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      I’m not sold on it either. If we did 4 instead of 5 it would get cut.

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      • February 26, 2016 at 10:05 pm
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        I think it’s important to include, even if just on the basis of your principle vs. promise idea. I also think it’s important to include based on the original language of the first part of the verse. But the question is, “How do we apply it?”

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        • February 26, 2016 at 10:14 pm
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          That’s the good question. Why does “bend” mean talents?

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          • February 26, 2016 at 10:50 pm
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            So far, I’ve landed on the idea that it means I have to parent my kids based on how God “bent” them, or formed/created them. For example, I have to parent my sensitive kid keeping in mind that God formed him that way, as opposed to one of my other sons who doesn’t have that tendency. This requires me spending time with my kids to actually know them well enough to teach them in the way they would learn.

          • February 27, 2016 at 8:49 am
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            OK. That makes sense. Sorry I’m slow about this. You like everything but the specific application I give about sports and music. I can agree to that. “bend” could mean all sorts of things that are not “If you train them to follow God”. Talents and abilities were just one that I’d considered but may not be it at all. If I ever do this again, I’ll probably tweak that. I can see bend being things other than skills and whatnot and instead things like temperament and personality, etc.

            By the way, all of this (even the Beattitude discussion above) has me thinking a lot, which is good! Even at 7:30 on a Saturday morning.

  • February 27, 2016 at 8:44 pm
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    I want to thank everyone for the courteous and civil discussion. Even when people disagreed, everyone remained calm and reasonable. We need more of this kind of debate online.

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  • March 1, 2016 at 5:55 pm
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    I find your discussion of Genesis 1 of particular emphasis. I am curious, do you hold to the belief that there is some significant amount of time that could be between between 1:1 and 1:2?

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  • March 1, 2016 at 5:56 pm
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    That is not a loaded question, for me anyway. I tend to think that there probably is. I have long thought that we have hinged to much of are arguments for the creation account on a 6,000 year time table.

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  • March 1, 2016 at 6:36 pm
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    I don’t think in Sailhamer’s explanation, there is any time between 1:1 and 1:2. I have tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to get people to realize this is not repackaged gap theory. There are no gaps in this view. Gen. 1:2 picks up where 1:1 leaves off. Sailhamer does very gently push for older earth, but he does not do so based on his interpretation of Genesis. What he does determine is that you cannot tell from the Bible how old the earth is. Untouched above to avoid the controversy is his explanation of “In the beginning” as being an indeterminate period of time. The Hebrew word rarely means a point in time. It means a period of time that can range and is undisclosed. For example, Job 1 talks about the “in the beginning of Job’s life” and it was enough time for him to be born, grow old, get married and have grown children. It was at least several decades. Other uses of “In the beginning” (Hebrew ‘reshit’) cover several years. It’s possible – but by no means necessary – that Genesis 1:1 took a long time. Sailhamer says we just don’t know and sides with one side of science to promote older earth. I honestly don’t hold a hard opinion on earth age, but I will use Sailhamer with a skeptic who says that young earth is idiotic. I can reply, “I don’t think the BIble teaches the age of the earth, so let’s move from that to other evidences for why I believe in creation instead of evolution”.

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  • March 1, 2016 at 6:39 pm
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    There are several things I want to say clearly about Sailhamer, even though the need hasn’t arose in this conversation (because I never know who is reading): 1) What he teaches about Genesis doesn’t teach macroevolution AT ALL. 2) He does NOT teach that Genesis favors old earth. and 3) He hold to a literal 7 day (24 hour days) creation. It seems when I try to explain his book, people often get confused.

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  • March 1, 2016 at 6:39 pm
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    “hasn’t arisen” – Because Amy may read this. :)

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  • March 1, 2016 at 6:42 pm
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    I need to read the book. I am of the same opinion, I believe the age of the earth is irrelevant in discussing the creation account. I do believe they are clearly two different events. I have found no real evidence for the gap theory, I just wanted a little clarification. I will not delve any further, as I know the intent of this article was not to discuss the creation account, just how we study and apply scripture.

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  • March 1, 2016 at 6:57 pm
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    Yes, I don’t mind talking about creation but the greater point is that the book made think and reconsider. I was never raised to hold to an earth age like grim death, although I was raised believing it is 6,000 years old. But this is a volitile subject. To be fair, though, it can be that way moreso when kids are involved and I am indebted to my brother Ashley for teaching me, a non parent, that it’s easy to worry about your kids being exposed to lies too quickly and while none of this is a “lie,” it relates to a subject that is – evolution.

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