Timing and Audience Relevance and Interpreting the Bible
Yesterday I received a review copy of Eric J. Bargerhuff’s The Most Misused Verses in the Bible: Surprising Ways God’s Word is Misunderstood (2012) published by Bethany House. The author writes that common biblical phrases like “an eye for an eye” and “do not judge, or you will be judged” — “derived from the bestselling book of all time, the Bible — have often been misunderstood and misused” (13). I couldn’t agree more.
I often give a simple Bible quiz to people when I’m going to address a controversial biblical subject. I ask questions like the following to show that most Christians not only don’t have a handle on what the Bible says, but they often don’t have a handle on what a particular text means.
Did Noah’s Ark land on Mount Ararat? You would be wrong if you said yes (Gen. 8:4).
Who cut off Samson’s hair? It wasn’t Delilah (Judges 16:19)
Is it true that the lion and the lamb will lie down together? No it’s not (Isa. 11:6).
Does pride come before a fall? Not exactly (Prov. 16:18)
These are verses of fact, and many people get them wrong. When people find out that they believe things that are not found in the Bible, it makes my job easier in introducing a pet subject. There are verses of interpretation that people hear over and over again without ever doing their own study to see if the interpretation they’ve heard repeated so often is what the text actually says and means.
I received an email asking me if I could answer an objection. The emailer’s friend tried to claim that Matthew 23:39 is a prime indicator that the events of Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 have not been fulfilled. He, like so many other futurists, appeal to Matthew 23:39 as prima facie evidence that Jesus is predicting a future Great Tribulation when in the midst of it the nation of Israel as a whole (after two-thirds of the Jews living in Israel are slaughtered by the forces of antichrist: Zech. 13:8) will proclaim, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” While this makes for great prophetic theater, it’s not what the text says.