Category

Theology

I grew up in a protestant church. Then in my teens, I moved to a charismatic-pentecostal church. In my twenties, I moved again to a neo-charismatic church.

Category

The traditional interpretation of Genesis 1, 2, &3 gives a seemingly simple and straightforward narrative of the creation account up till the fall. It goes thus; God made all things in seven days. Then He made a male-human and placed him in the garden that He had previously planted, commanding him not to eat of a certain tree of the garden. After having been working alone for a while, God says that it is not good for the man to be alone, by himself, and He proceeds to make a companion for him. This companion that He wishes to make for the man, we are told, God calls a ‘help-meet’ and it is the female.

The woman is made out of a rib that God takes out of the man. The man sees her and calls her the ‘bone of his bone’ and the ‘flesh of his flesh’. God says that this is how a man and a woman will come together to become husband and wife.

In the beginning of the third chapter the serpent tempts the woman and asks her about the command that God had earlier given. She responds, notably giving a slightly, yet significantly, different account of the command that God gave to the man in an earlier account. The serpent convinces her to disobey God’s command and she also urges her husband to eat. The two eat and suddenly realise that they are naked. God comes to the garden and asks the man, and then the woman, about what had transpired earlier in the day. Each one explains his and her own side of the story and God judges them, reeling out the due punishments for each for their sins. Finally, He sends them both out of the garden.

GENDER ISSUES-RELATED DOCTRINES THAT SPIN OFF OF THIS NARRATIVE

  1. First born/creation order doctrine; In the beginning the human that God made first was definitely a male and because it was a male-human that was created first then that also means that as a divine design male is regarded as ontologically superior and of higher ranking than female.
  2. Help meet-doctrine: after God made the first human, a male, He said He wanted to make a suitable help for him and He made a woman. Thus, the female creation was an afterthought, not in the original plan and by divine design was made to serve, and be an associate to, the male. This applies within and without the confines of marriage. The male was made to excel the female in all things, and is to always strive to be just that, as conformity to the divinely ordained expression of his real manhood. Also, because God gave the work of the garden (a type of the earth) to the first human, who was supposedly a male, then it also means that God ‘handed over the garden/the earth’ to males, and only brought females into the mix as a secondary support for them.
  3. Male authority doctrine; because in the Beginning, it is the male that is written that God initially gave the command to eat or not eat, and he was also the one that was first asked about the command in chapter 3, then he must also have been a divinely elected leader of the relationship and the one whom God holds responsible for the marriage and family.
  4. The doctrine of the woman’s faulty testimony; Because there is only one clearly written recorded instance of God issuing a command to humanity (Gen. 2:8), it is commonly presumed that that indeed could and must have been the only time that God ever spoke of it and the woman’s reported version in Gen.3:2 is a misunderstanding of the initial and only command ever given by God. Based on these assumptions the following ideas are often held about women;
  5. In the beginning the woman, who was made after the male, could only have gotten to know of the commandment of God through the agency of the man. Therefore, the divine order is that God does not speak directly to women who are in marital relationship with men in a leadership capacity. If He ever does, it is ad hoc and/or as a damage control for an absentee or incompetent male. The male ought to always be in the lead in the marriage and home.
  6. From the beginning, women have been…well, spiritually dull and not so smart like men. They are overly talkative and given to exaggerations in their speech. Women are gullible and cannot be trusted with matters of serious discourse.

I find all these assumptions to be scripturally wanting. We will look at them one after the other

THE FIRST-BORN MYTH

First of all, the belief that the first human that God made was definitely a male is doubtful. Adam is a Hebrew word that means human. The Hebrew word, îš, that specifically means male is not in use in the creation story until after God does the ‘surgery’ in Gen. 2:22. I will come back to that later.

Second of all, if we are going to insist on using the logic that being created first translates to leadership and pre-eminence over what came after, then we ought to be consistent at it. According to Gen. 1 account of creation, the animals were made before mankind. But we have not made the same assumption about humans and animals in our theology. Why is that?  Because God categorically said that humans were to reign over animals. We discard the logic of creation order and regard God’s express commands as the basis upon which the purpose of so and so is. But with respect to woman and man we uphold the logic of creation/birth order written in Genesis 2, neglecting completely what God said about the purpose of male and female in Genesis 1:26-28.

But… even if the first human were male, even if the male was the ‘firstborn’, does the Bible actually teach that God has a preference for firstborns?

Abel was not a first born. Neither were Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Joseph, Perez, Ephraim, Moses, David, and Solomon. Judah was a fourth born, and Joseph was the eleventh-born amongst twelve children, yet these two were made ‘prince’, that is, the leader and most prominent, amongst their older brothers.

Samuel, Abraham, Samson, John, were biological firstborns. Guess, this can go either way.

Humans in Biblical times definitely had some of these biases, but God certainly did not. Ishmael, had he been around when Isaac was older, would have fought for his (human) rights as first born. Isaac wanted to bless Esau his biological firstborn; Joseph wanted his firstborn to automatically get the greater blessing.  There is, however, no record in the scriptures, particularly in the Hebrew Bible, of God Himself ordaining firstborns for leadership among their siblings based only on the criterion of being firstborn. The only instance God seems to have shown any preference and separation for prominence for a firstborn was as regards animals in the old covenant sacrifices. And He explained that it was because of the Egyptians whose firstborns He killed, so that the Israelites could be set free from slavery.

Clearly firstborns—or anything first at all—meant a lot to people at the time, both Israelites and Egyptians alike. One could safely surmise that ‘firstborn’ did connote ‘leader’ in the cultural parlance of ancient biblical times. Thus, in asking for their firstlings and ‘first things’ as items of sacrifice, God was appealing to the human bias to see if they would willingly give to Him what meant the most to them. It was not about God at all. Interestingly when it concerned people, God opted to ask for a third born to typify a firstborn—Levi. That is, even while appealing to human prejudices God still showed that it was not His own ideal.

It seems that God’s own ‘firstborns’ are made, they are not born (Psa. 89:27). That is to say, the one who becomes first in God’s books is the one who God chooses based on other criteria than their birth order. God made Levi, a biological third-born, to become ‘firstborn’ for the priesthood. God made King David, the last of his father’s children to be a ‘firstborn’ because of his contrite heart.

And… He also made Christ, the second Adam, who was also a type of King David (see Ps. 89), to be a ‘firstborn’ amongst many siblings because of His humility and self-sacrifice (Col. 1:15-22, Phil.2:1-11). That is, anyone can be firstborn, because the person who will be first does something to qualify for it. Ironically, that something to be done in other to become first is to become last.

CONCLUSION; The male having been formed first does not automatically imply his superiority or pre-eminence over the female who came after him. To make such an assertion we need more than an assumption of birth order and what it supposedly implies.

Art By Ascending Storm

 

 


Today we do a proper exegesis of the entire passage. Vs. 29 is the key verse, but the context begins from vs. 17. However, we will not discuss the scenario in vs. 17-21 because we covered the topic of female virginity yesterday.

DEUTERONOMY 22: 22-30

Scenario #1

Vs. 22 If a man be found lying (shakab) with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. 


Scenario #2

Vs. 23-24 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find (matsa) her in the city and lie (shakab) with her; then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you. 


Scenario #3

Vs. 25-27  But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force (chazaq) her, and lie (shakab) with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: but unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so, is this matter: for he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her. 


Scenario #4

Vs. 28-29  If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on (taphas) her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. 

Key Words in the narrative

Shakab; Strong’s H7901; to lie down, (connotes sexual intercourse)

Chazaq; Strong’s H2388; to fasten upon, to be strong (connotes grabbing with force/violence)

Taphas; Strong’s H8610; to manipulate, to seize, to capture (could connote an enticement or a luring)

Matsa; Strong’s H4672; to find; to come across, to happen upon

THE EXEGESIS 

Scenario 1 is about a random man and woman caught in the act of adultery. It is consensual, so both of them face the death penalty.

The death penalty for adulterers does not apply in the New Testament, but adultery is a sin regardless. This extreme measure applied because of the nature of the people in question. They were a stiff necked people with very hard hearts.

Scenario 2 is about a woman who is already engaged to be married caught having consensual sex with another man other than her betrothed. Again, the two of them face the death penalty.

There is no word in the narrative that suggests violence or force. We only have matsa and shakab, meaning ‘to find’ and ‘have sex with’, respectively. Also, the location of the incidence plays a role in the argument put forth to determine if she was consenting or not. It is likely that the cities at the time were so small that there was no way her protest against a potential rape, if indeed she had made any, would not have been overheard.

These two scenarios show that sex, even consensual sex, outside the confines of marriage, whether as fornication or adultery, was not condoned. It is still not condoned in the New Testament. Only that it is not punishable by societal laws in the manner that it was in the old days.

Scenario 3 is almost the same as above; a man has sex with a woman that is engaged to be married, but this time without her consent. How is her non-consent determined?

One; the act occurs in a secluded place that even if she cried for help, no one would be able to save her.

Two; there is force involved. There is a word in use here that differentiates this from previous scenarios;  Chazaq.  That is, unlike the cases of consensual sex above where the man is said to find and lie with her; here the narrative is, the man finds her, forces her and then lies with her.

This is rape.

For this reason, only the man faces the death penalty. She is not asked to marry him.

Scenario 4. This the one shrouded in of controversy, because the common assumption is that this also a case of rape like scenario 3 is.

But…here we also see a word that is absent in the previous three scenarios. That word is taphas.

Now, the thing is this; if the writer of this passage meant to communicate the exact same thing as the immediate previous scenario, then he would have used the exact same words. Truly, in language, there sometimes exists different words that mean the exact same things. But in the same passage about a specific subject where there is an obvious attempt to make a distinction between similar circumstances, it is not out of place to see it as unlikely that two different words in use would mean the exact same thing.

That is, it is very unlikely that taphas in scenario 4 means the exact same thing as chazaq in scenario 3. It is very unlikely that scenario 4 is a rape case like scenario 3. Moreover, why would a rapist be sentenced to death in scenario 3 and then be exonerated in scenario 4? Because one victim is engaged and the other is not?

No, I don’t think so. I strongly believe that the writer of this passage chose to use another word because he meant to communicate something entirely different.

Here, the man finds her, taphas her, and then lies with here. So, what then is this thing that happens in the middle?

Taphas (Strong’s 8610) does suggest a capture, a seize. But as taphas is not chazaq, which in this context is definitely connoting an act of  violence; it is safe to surmise that taphas, in this context, is not a ‘laying hold of’ that involves violence. It sounds more like a luring. In other words, he employs manipulation to get her to consent to his overtures.

So, the idea is this; the man finds a woman, entices her, she gives in and they have sex. But because he did it deceitfully, he might want to leave her afterwards. Thus, to protect the lady from the misfortune of death (22:21) or the prospect of being rejected by other men and desolate for the rest of her life, he who violated her must also marry her and never divorce her. And let us not forget that at the time, the woman would have favoured that judgement. It was a sad situation, but hey, that was the fall brought to mankind. And that is why we are grateful for Christ’s coming.

CONCLUSION

As we can clearly see, God loves women and He has their best interests at heart. Even under the old covenant, God never actually asked a raped woman to marry her rapist. Would the women themselves have minded? No.

God takes the subject of rape very, very seriously. To be raped is likened to being killed (vs.26b). And truly, rape victims are killed emotionally. Hence, the death penalty for the culprit.

Also, while the old methods of justice as seen in the scenarios above do not anymore apply, the principle behind it all remains; God loves His female creation and He wants to give her justice. Contrary to popular opinion, God and the Bible have nothing to do with Turkish bill.

In the old times, whatever justice meant to women, God made sure they had it (more on this later). Was there a better way? Definitely. But people cannot rise above the state of their minds. Even if you offered them the best way out of a dilemma, if their minds cannot handle it, they would not take it.

The best solution is to go back to the way it was in the Beginning. A time when the female was complete in herself, and she did not need a man to be fulfilled. This is what Christ came to restore us unto. To be complete in Him.

If we propagate this mental shift, women will not even need palliative measures of being saved from the ‘reproach’ of being unmarried, because being unmarried would not even be seen anymore as a reproach. Women will not suffer the constant fear of being shamed by society over right about any silly thing, because one only suffers shame for something that they themselves already nurse insecurities about.

Art By Zhuzhu

 

 

 

 

Vs. 28-29  If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. 

Would God really ask a woman who has been traumatized by a rape experience to marry the man who has caused her such trauma?

Anyone who has had first-hand knowledge of the trauma that comes with rape, either because they experienced it themselves, or they know someone who has experienced it, would find such a suggestion appalling.

For reasons like this one—questionable scriptural injunctions—many have concluded that both the Bible and the God revealed in it are unacceptable.

Some others believe that God is, but such a God should definitely not be associated with the Bible. They love God but doubt the Bible.

Then there are Christians who say, “All that is the Law and a New Testament Christian ought to discard the law.”

Well, I say…

There is a God and He is love. He does only good.

Also, this good God is one and the same as the God of the Bible. All of the Bible. It is an untrue assertion that New Testament believers ought to discard the Law. I explain why here.

What then is the problem here? Interpretation errors. On multiple levels.

One; Mis/translation of some key words from Hebrew to English.

Two;  There is a heavy disconnect between the spiritual, intellectual and physical planes of knowledge. (More on that here.)

Three; Context.

Four; an understanding of the The Beginning.

I will explain the last three levels first.

A person who has seen the trauma caused by rape knows on a practical and intellectual level that the surface interpretation of Deut.22:29 that the raped woman should marry her rapist cannot be acceptable. On the other hand, for people who love God but doubt the Bible, the disconnect is between their inner witness of whom they perceive God to be and who the letter of the Bible makes Him out to be. When in the interpretation of scriptures, the tripartite elements of humanity are in disconnect like this, it is evidence that there has been some error.

Understand this; Not everything written in the Bible is God’s doing or His perfect will. There are social constructs in the Bible (more on this later). Before the fall, God made the animals, told the first human to name them, and He (God) respected his decisions. That was a social construction, and the beginning of the expression of the Dominion Mandate. God has always expected humans to think and do things without His direct input.

However, social construction is only safe as long as humans do so by the inspiration of the image that is of God. After the fall, man retained his right to socially construct, but he could only do so out of a corrupt/cursed nature. By this, therefore, we must understand that God relating with people as we see in the Law was Him trying to make the best of the prevailing humanly constructed realities.

GOD HIMSELF DID NOT AUTHOR MANY OF THE CUSTOMS THAT CAME AFTER THE BEGINNING. What we see in the Law is God trying to express his own eternal principles in the light of the prevailing culture brought about by the fall of mankind. This is why believers ought not to discard the law, because if we did that, we would also be discarding God’s eternal principles embedded in there which exist nowhere else in the Bible. It was from these passages that the Apostles found the revelations that they wrote in their epistles. The solution is to learn how to separate that which is a principle from that which is a culture of the times. Separating the wheat from the chaff. That is what it means to use the law lawfully.

So, what was the culture at the time?

Patriarchy, amongst other things, was the culture. Men ruled and women desired men. The curse of Gen. 3:7 was in full operation. A woman’s value and use–and even her own greatest aspiration–often was marriage and childbearing.

Consider this scripture;

Psa 113:9  He maketh the barren woman to keep house and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.

Please note that this was David, and not God, talking. Remember study rules #8 and #12; derive the actual meaning of a reading first. Here, David’s choice of words shows that, at that time in history, a ‘blessed’ woman was one who was married and had children. This does not imply that Christians are to desist from praying this scripture. What it does mean is that that scripture does not establish that marriage and childbearing are not God’s greatest blessing for women. What God said in Gen. 1:26-28 is His greatest Blessing for her (and him).

It is the same way, in Nigeria today, a ‘blessed’ person is the one who has acquired the things that make him escape the demerits of the system. Having a big generator and an inverter are seen as a big deal and a sign of the ‘blessing’, not because they are actually so, but because of the failure of the system to provide basic things like electricity.

That is how it was in the post-Fall Bible days (and even till now). People were living under the curse, away from the ideal that was set in the Beginning. After the fall, things that are basic and should otherwise mean nothing began to assume importance for the female. Whereas the fact that a woman is a human, made in the image of God, was supposed to be sufficient for her to be honored, she now had to have a man in other to be honoured socially.

Having laid that background, we can now bring the point further home.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was already bad enough that in those days, a woman’s only value was for marriage and childbearing. But a woman who was found to not be a virgin would not even have the chance at marriage. So, imagine that a woman is violated by rape.

Her only ‘blessing’ is gone. Her chance of being valued (at the time) is gone.

Examples; Dinah and Tamar.

Dinah was willing to marry a man who raped her and apologized to her thereafter. It was because she was willing that Shechem could go ahead to ask her hand in marriage from her family.

Tamar acknowledged being raped by her cousin as evil. But being discarded afterwards, in her estimation, was worse (2 Sam.13:16). That is to say, though hurt by the rape, she still would have preferred to marry her rapist. Notice that she herself said this. This means the prospect of being unmarried was a very, very scary and traumatizing one for women. Even more traumatizing than being raped. Women feared the idea of being unmarried and/or childless so much that they were willing to put up with anything to remove such a reproach. It is the same way many women tolerate domestic abuse today just to marry or remain married.

God had nothing to do with this social custom. On the other hand, because the curse of Gen. 3:7 (brought about by willful sin) was in full operation, the easiest mindset for a woman to have was that she desperately needed a man to survive. Of course, a number of women stood out, but the dependent woman was the norm.

Now, this is where I am going. The mind is a powerful tool; in fact, the most powerful aspect of mankind. It is the mind that determines what the body can handle. What we, in our minds, see as unacceptable today (because of more light which came about by the coming of Christ to break the Gen.3:7 curse) is different from that time. To us today, the trauma is both the rape and any form of association with the rapist.  But to these women of old, being discarded after a rape was the real trauma.

And in many ways, God met them at the level of that sentiment. Because that was what they could handle.

Also, there was only so much God could do for mankind before the redemptive work of Christ’s death and resurrection. So, it is safe to surmise that what he offered them were ad-hoc measures precipitated by His eternal principle of love.

But what were these ad-hoc measures? Are they what we assume they are? Next post we look at Deuteronomy 22 in more detail.

Art By Arteet

 

Rule #7 LEAN ON EXTRA-BIBLICAL [STUDY] RESOURCES WITH CAUTION; Not with suspicion, just caution. Never let it be lost on you that Bible dictionaries, concordances, commentaries, though invaluable, are not God’s word. The Holy Spirit is the believer’s most reliable resource for accurate interpretation of scripture. A few notes on this;

Rule #7 LEAN ON EXTRA-BIBLICAL [STUDY] RESOURCES WITH CAUTION; Not with suspicion, just caution. Never let it be lost on you that Bible dictionaries, concordances, commentaries, though invaluable, are not God’s word. The Holy Spirit is the believer’s most reliable resource for accurate interpretation of scripture. A few notes on this;

  • While we are grateful for Bible commentaries and lexicons, they are not the final authorities on the subjects that they attempt to explain. I urge the Bible student to lean on concordances and the lexical meanings of the words only as much as such meanings agree with the context of the entire biblical passage in which the word was used, while also crosschecking with other passages with similar word usage.
  • The connotation that the dictionary meaning of a word gives to the entire subject at hand must be in agreement with other scriptural understandings of the same subject.
  • All scripture must be in harmony. At best, the Bible student should do a transliteration of the word(s), examine it closely and make their own conclusions on the connotation of the word for the subject matter at hand, as the passage context requires, and as the Spirit guides.

Rule #8 INTERPRET THE BIBLE ON ITS OWN TERMS;
The Biblical texts were written in Hebrew and Koine Greek. The different book of the Hebrew Bible were written and compiled all the way from centuries before Christ up until the first century. The Greek Bible was written and compiled in the first century after Christ. These simple, yet profound factors, must be acknowledged in interpretation of scriptures. The actual intent of the text at the time of writing must first be derived, after which we may proceed to give it an application that is relevant to our own times.
I go into more detail on this in the Context Rule.

Rule #9 INTERPRET SCRIPTURES WITH SCRIPTURES; More often than not, if not all of the time, the Bible is a sufficient guide to interpret itself. Plus, this would also prove the scriptures to one harmonious volume of writings.

Rule #10 CONFIRM ANY GIVEN INTERPRETATION WITH AT LEAST TWO WITNESSES; By the mouth of two or more witnesses, every word is proven to be indeed true (Deut. 17:6, 2 Cor. 13:1). Look out for scriptural harmony.The scriptures speak of and reveal God, who is essentially one Person that is not in conflict with Himself. The Bible reveals many principles about God, but all the different principles fit together to reveal one Person. No single ideology/revelation of scriptures can fully explain the entire wisdom of God; no one revelation can tell the whole truth; many truths must come together and harmonise to form one Parent Truth. For this reason, no interpretation of one principle for a phenomenon in scriptures should negate another principle for the same thing or even another phenomenon. All principles must agree. All must tell one single, harmonious story. If in interpretation we are not seeing oneness, then we ought to already know that we have gotten something wrong.

Rule #11 UNDERSTAND THE TRIPARTITE NATURE OF HUMANITY

1Jn 5:7-8  For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

Just as God is a spirit, humans are spirits that have souls and occupy the container of a physical vessel. Therefore, whatever knowledge is truth indeed must cut across all three planes of the spiritual, intellectual and practical planes of the human experience. That is to say, any given interpretation of scriptures, for it to be right indeed, must be in agreement with the internal witness of the recreated human spirit, the perceptions of the soul, and that which is practically real in our lives; both in the short run and in the long run.

For example; it becomes increasingly difficult to assert the accuracy of the supposed scriptural injunction that it is God’s will that women should not occupy leadership positions, when again and again, women emerge bearing natural leadership talents that they could not have made up by themselves. The obvious question is; why would people be naturally endowed (by God) with gifts, callings and anointings that they are not meant to utilize? When we find discrepancies like this in our body of beliefs, we should be forced to admit an error in scriptural interpretation and admit that we have not yet found truth.

Rule #12 ALWAYS CONSIDER THE CONTEXT; Words and phrases rarely stand on their own independent of a context. A context could be likened to a habitat environment, and words to the creatures that live in such a habitat. Attempting to interpret a word while ignoring the context of usage is like taking an animal out of its habitat and expecting it to perform at optimal level. Doctrinal errors arise when inaccurate connotations of words and phrases are postulated in biblical readings. Never attempt to interpret a biblical reading out of context.

  • Cultural and Historical context; The scriptures were written for us all, but they were not written to us directly. A study of the history and culture, (or historical culture) depicted in the passage makes a lot of difference, bringing to the fore useful insight about the actual scenario, that would in turn lead to a more accurate understanding of what was being said, and how to apply in present day, whether as a principle or as a social construct. That is, if the context is not the same as your present state, glean out the principle and apply as it is fit in your own unique circumstance. Do not form the habit of directly lifting methods/applications from the pages of scriptures. it is not good at all!
  • Passage context; Often time as christians we quote verses (or even lines) of scripture out of the context in which they are written. Does this mean such usage of scripture should never be done or could never be relevant? Not necessarily. There is such a thing as Rhema and revelational teaching. For this, words or lines independent of the context of the passage may be used, as the Lord leads, to pass a prophetic message across. But this is not the same as doctrinal teaching. Attempting to establish a doctrine this way– and this is all too common in church teachings today–is bad scholarship. It propagates errors in doctrine.
  • Grammatical context; parsing of words to know their correct usage and implications are extremely important in interpretation. A single change in the tense of a word, or the case, could give a reading of scripture a whole different meaning from what the original writer intended.

Rule #13 AVOID OVERSTRETCHING ANALOGIES AND SYMBOLISMS; Because the Holy Spirit is at some point in the scriptures introduced to us as a dove, does not mean that He is a dove indeed, OR that He is entirely, as a Person,  harmless (as the symbolism of a dove implies). There are limits to the connotations given to analogies and symbolisms used to describe subjects or persons. These limits should be determined by the context of the passage of usage and also crosschecked with other passages where the same subject matter is typified, in other to confirm if there is less/more to the matter.

Rule #14 INTERPRET THE UNCLEAR BY THE CLEAR, THE OBSCURE BY THE BIG PICTURE
An obscure/unclear passage should not be at odds with the clear thrust of Scripture. The contrived interpretation of a passage that is not well understood should not be given preference over other clearly and consistently depicted thrusts of christian doctrine.

Rule #15 ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT THE LAW IS MADE FOR MAN
The law is to serve the purpose of mankind and not the other way around. No interpretation of scripture should jeopardize the allowance or ability of a person to fulfill his/her God-given destiny.

Rule #16.USE A WHOLISTIC APPROACH TO VIEW SUBJECTS OF DISCOURSE; The subjects in the Bible should more often than not ought to be considered or meditated upon in 360-degree fashion in other to grasp their full meanings, as opposed to a unidirectional approach that tells only half of the story. The Bible is just one book, and there is only so much space to put down all that the Author means to communicate to the readers. It is the responsibility of the reader, therefore, to fill in the gaps where some details are not given. However, such gap filling may only be done based on what is written. Assumptions should not be made based on preconceived notions; the Bible student must in this case be guided strictly by already provided details in other portions of scriptures.

 

 

*This is not an exhaustive list*

Rule #1 BE INQUISITIVE;

Mat 5:6  Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Every believer should be inquisitive. Have a very strong desire to know.

Rule #2 LAY UTMOST PREMIUM ON FELLOWSHIP WITH THE PERSON OF THE HOLY SPIRIT;

John 16:13  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

The Spirit of God is the Spirit of truth, and fellowship with Him is greater, and more important, than any written volume of scriptures. While we do not undermine the Bible, we must, however, understand that a physical representation of God’s word could also become a hindrance to that which is most important to the hearing from God; the fellowship of recreated the human spirit with the Spirit of God.  Without any written scriptures, the ancients—Abraham, Isaac—walked with God. People without any education that cannot read or write can have a living relationship with God, because God is Spirit; He is not the letter. God is the Spirit behind the letters of scriptures, and the more you know His Person through spiritual fellowship, the better He can show you what the letters of scriptures truly mean and how they should be properly applied per time.

Rule #3 TRUST IN THE LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS OF GOD;

Deut. 29:29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Acts 14:16-17 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.  Nevertheless He left not Himself without witness, in that he did good…

Settle it in your heart that God is faithful and just and He is never the author confusion. He will never leave us in the dark or with dim, ambiguous answers to questions that obviously require direct and succinct answers in other for there to be peace. God always leaves Himself a witness concerning every matter of great controversy. He must have preserved somewhere in the scriptures the truth that will foster peace; we just have not have found it. Putting this belief in your mind and heart will influence the way you search the scriptures; it will drive your mode of searching for clues to find truth. It will make you not give up  easily in enquiry, because you know that the truth is in there somewhere. That is, some things may not have been written expressly, but you will rest assured knowing that God must have left some clues by which we can ascertain what really happened, or at the very least ascertain what did not happen.

Rule #4 BE VERY PATIENT AND METICULOUS

Deut. 13:14 Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;

Discard these faulty notions: “If it is not simple it cannot be God”,  “The gospel is simple, if something is taking so long to explain, then it cannot be God”.

God is a Person of order (1 Cor. 14:40). The word of God is organized, laying precept upon precept, until the full picture is seen. To hear God accurately in scriptures, therefore, the scholar must be a respecter of order. The path to hearing God accurately, particularly for doctrine, is usually a long conversation. If you cannot respect the order, if you quickly get tired of the many details, if you are too impatient to follow through on the pattern of the conversation—and there is always a pattern if you are observant enough to notice it—you will never really find Him. Yes, you will quickly come away with a ‘revelation’, but it will not be accurate truth.

This next two rules are very important

Rule #5 LOOK VERY CLOSELY INTO THE ACCOUNT OF THE BEGINNING;

Mat 19:3  The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
Mat 19:4  And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
Mat 19:5  And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Mat 19:6  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Mat 19:7  They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
Mat 19:8  He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

  • There are two portions of the Bible that bear perfection. By perfection, I mean the absence of sin and death. These passages are Genesis 1, 2, 3:1-5 and Revelation 21 &22. Both portions are Beginnings/Creations of new heaven(s) and earth(s). The former reveals the beginnings in the past of perfect mankind, while the other reveals the beginnings in the eternal future of perfected mankind. By philosophical thinking we understand that a thing or phenomenon can be best understood when examined in terms of its original purpose.
  • Jesus in Matthew 19 taught the past beginnings—that is, Genesis 1& 2—as a reference point of how things were originally meant to be, and therefore, a means to make sense of everything else that came after, i.e. the laws given through Moses (Matthew 19:4, Luke 24:27). This shows that the principles of the past beginnings are eternal and a trustworthy guide to judge other Laws (Old and New Testament) that came after the fall of mankind.

Rule #6 DO NOT NEGLECT THE HEBREW BIBLE (THE OLD TESTAMENT);

Mat 5:17-19  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

I think, as New Testament Believers, we deny ourselves a lot when we neglect the Hebrew Bible. I like to refer to what we presently call the Old Testament as The Hebrew Bible, because I believe that the ‘oldness’ or ‘newness’ of it is only in the eyes of the beholder. It all depends on the eyes of the reader, whether they are the eyes of the flesh or of the spirit (Lk. 11:34-36). I think that today christians unconsciously work with the assumption that the early church, and even the Apostles themselves, read the Epistles.  Let the following thoughts be imprinted on your mind.

The apostles did not know (or ask) that their writings would be made as scriptures

It was the Hebrew Bible that the Lord Jesus, the Apostles, and the early church had and read.

It was Genesis, the Books of Moses and the Prophets that Paul and Peter read and in it they saw the revelation of the New Covenant. 

They used the Law. But they used it lawfully.

The old covenant and the Law are two different things. Christ did not abolish the law. He abolished the old covenant.

The old covenant—-not the law—-ended with John the Baptist, because until the time of John the contents of the Law foretold the coming and the redemptive work of Christ (Matt. 11:13). Christ began the fulfilment of all that is written in the Law and the Prophets, and the church will complete it (John 14:12). For these reasons the Law, the Hebrew Bible, will always be relevant to us (Matt. 5:17-19). When, before the redemptive work of Christ the Messiah, the Law was read without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God, all the Jews could see in it and be ministered to by it was death (2 Cor. 3:1-18). But when they began looking in by the help of the Holy Spirit they began to see life and they received life indeed.
After the death of Jesus, the disciples could, by the leading of God’s spirit which they had now received, rightly divide the Law into what was still relevant, what was to be used verbatim and what was only to be used only in principle and not in method.

The Law was not (and still is not) the problem (Rom.7:12, 1 Tim.1:18). The readers of it were. And it was because they did not have the Spirit of God in them. The Spirit guides us into all truth; the Spirit ministers life.

Whilst I checked for the origin of the Bible, I also checked online to see what had been written by other christians on the subject of Gender Equality. I read many, many articles, journals, and academic essays written by theologians etc. I saw that this conversation had been ongoing in Christian circles—the academia, that is—for years. I also noticed that in all these articles and essays, the arguments for or against Egalitarianism took reference, not from the vernacular versions of the Bible which most christians carry around (i.e English, French, Spanish etc), but from the Biblical text in the original languages.

I saw that when scholars argued about the correct interpretations of  scriptures, they did not focus on the interpretation/revelation of some English word. Instead they talked about how the original text may (or may not) have been properly translated. Things like, is the translation of the Hebrew phrase ʻê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw’ to the English phrase ‘help meet’ accurate? Is the translation of the Greek word ‘ecclesia’ to the English word ‘church’ accurate? Should ‘ecclesia’ have been left as ‘gathering’?

I also noticed that in other to translate a word or sentence, scholars did not just look up the meaning of one isolated word as we Pentecostal christians/pastors are wont to do when ‘referencing’ the Greek or Hebrew. They do not do that thing that Pentecostals are known for, whereby all the use they have for Biblical languages is to throw around some Greek or Hebrew words in random conversations as show off of so called spirituality or superior Bible knowledge. Instead, in employing original languages in Bible study, scholars would check such things as the tense, the mood, the voice, the context of usage…before determining the possible meaning of the word.

Why do they want to know if one translation is accurate or not? Because it is these translations that churches eventually build doctrine upon.

For example, the English translation of the Hebrew phrase ‘ê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw’ to ‘help meet’ has a lot of connotations that has impacted upon the way generations of people have lived life.  Religion has formed the culture of most, if not all, the nations of the world; what proceeds from the pulpit often translates to what obtains in culture and society. Therefore, if peradventure, the guys who translated the original copies of the Biblical text to vernacular made any mistakes, we would all have believed a lie.

Theologians understand that even though the Bible is a divine book, humans have handled it from when it was first written and there is likelihood that some mistakes occurred in its transmission. That is, they see it that the Hebrew and Greek texts are, in actual fact, what is written, while the translated versions are not, a hundred percent, what is written. Maybe ninety-nine percent correct, but the remaining one percent might cause us untold damage if not looked into.

The underlying principle in all this is simple. A serious student must always confirm. That is what the Berean Christians did, they always confirmed. It is not rebellion to confirm; it’s nobility, it’s diligence. That is why, every other year, revised versions of the Bible are published.

I thought to myself, so this has been happening since?

I immediately went to Google Play store and downloaded the Hebrew/Greek Interlinear Bible app. I wanted to look up some words myself. I began by checking 1 Corinthians 11. I noticed that where two different Greek words with two different connotations were in use in the original text, the translators put in the translated English version just one word that has only one connotation. In the Greek text, 1 Corinthians 11 contains two different words–aner and andros– which both denote ‘man’, but have two different connotations. That is, ‘aner’ usually connotes man as in a male, while andros is often used as a collective noun to mean a group of people that consist both male and female. But in the English Bible, translators put ‘man’,  as in male,  in both places and that gives the passage a very different meaning from what the original writer (Paul) actually wrote.

I checked some other scriptures; same thing.

I began to wonder what I had been doing all this while as a Bible teacher reading only the English Bible, thinking myself to to be someone who was knowledgeable. I started to panic, thinking, “what if many of the words I had built revelation on had been wrong?” I began to see the futility of many so-called revelations that Pentecostals derive from mis/translated words.

And then I thought, “But when I taught, people were getting blessed? How could an erroneous teaching have been blessing people?”

Answer; “Yes, people were being blessed. There is an explanation for that.”

One; Not everything in the English Bible is inaccurate translation. For the most part the vernacular Bibles are accurate in the readings.
Two; When the preacher/teacher is sincere, even though ignorant and unskilled,  the hearers will be blessedApollos was blessing people, even though his theology was not quite accurate. That is the power of love.

But….

Sincerity and zeal can only take you so far without the required knowledge. There is a limit to which love, without adequate skill and knowledge, can go in solving problems. For example, no matter how well meaning I am and no matter the level of my concern, I cannot perform a surgery on a sick person. Only a doctor can do that. I do not have that knowledge. That is why Paul could understand more of the Law and articulate it as the New Testament in his epistles. He could write more epistles than the others because he understood more of the mysteries hidden in the Law. Peter and the other disciples could not do this, even though they were anointed and sincere. They were illiterate men, Paul was educated.

Something vital that Pentecostal christians need to understand–particularly those of the grace and word of faith movement– is that knowledge is good,  and intellectualism is priceless.  Why? God is an intelligent being. Intellectualism does not impede divine revelation; it facilitates it. Yes, it does! When you engage both your mind and your spirit in the enquiry of knowledge, it opens you up to a whole new level of communication with your world and with the Lord. That is why Apollos needed to be taught more by Aquilla and Priscilla. And thank God he re-calibrated. Thank God, he did not say because he was already blessing people it also meant that his teaching was completely right. Notice that in later years, his name was mentioned alongside Paul’s.

Humility is good. To unlearn and relearn is good.

So, having seen all that, I put aside everything I had known and started over. I got resources online and started to learn Hebrew and Greek Grammar, how to parse (words and sentences) and then translate from the Hebrew and the Greek to English. I also learnt new guidelines on how to study the Bible. I learnt how to deconstruct a text; split it into all its elements and see all the possible ways it could be understood.

Then finally, in the light of what prompted this reawakening to begin with (the quest to dis/prove Gender Equality from scriptures), starting from Genesis and working my way all through the Law, the Prophets and the Epistles, I re-translated all the readings (not isolated verses, but whole chapters) that reference the status of the female, and I deconstructed all of them, searching for answers.

It took me about two years, but I did it. You also can…as I share my  journey with you.

Art  by Lain

In my enquiry of the origin of the Bible I made two major observations that changed the game for me.
One; The Bible is a social construct. The book is man-made. It was people that said, “let us compile many books into one  Book that will be common law(s) for christians”. After this, it was people also that christened it ‘Bible’.

I did not find this fact funny at all.

It knocked the wind out of my sails, leading to a flood of questions on my mind. If the book is man-made, how could it also be divine like I had always thought? Now, this is a valid questions to have and ask. Except, of course, you want to be in denial. It is a question on the mind of many religious skeptics and agnostics. I have to say, I walked in the shoes of agnosticism, if only for a moment. I got to know firsthand why some people who used to be believers ended up being non-believers. They encountered valid questions that they could find no sufficient answers for. This made me less judgmental and more understanding of skeptics, because I realized that I was  no different from them when I found out  the history of my religion. I only came back into faith because  God showed me kindness and gave me understanding. I did not realize the truths that got me back into faith by my own search. No. God just showed me mercy and gave me answers; I cannot take credit for any of it.

For this singular reason I want to help as many who face doubt in their faith, because I know that God took me through that process and helped me so that I could help others.

These were the simple, but profound answers that God gave me;
1.God has to use people to reach people. Something does not have to have dropped straight out of the heavenlies for it to be divine. For divinity to be revealed on earth, it will have to be contained in a human vessel. That is, divinity has to coexist with humanity; the two have to be in partnership.
2.The Book will only be as divine as the user believes it to be; the just has to live by faith. The letter kills, but the spirit gives life. The potency of the Bible is subjective. To a non-adherent of the christian faith, it is a book of historical tales. Some may see it as credible history, while others may see it as fictitious. To them it is all letter and no life. To a christian, however, because s/he believes in the book, it is life.

Now here is the twist; a christian who has not experienced the life in the letter, if they come in contact with such credible facts as these that the Bible is a man-made idea, will most likely be thrown off balance in their faith, because The Book will become no different from any other random book. And rightly so.

And that leads to something else that set me back on my feet, and a very important one. I remembered that I had in times past experienced the life of the Bible. I had seen miracles. Thanks to Pentecostalism. So my reasoning was, “Even if some things do not add up in the letter of this Book, I will not despise it. Instead I will see how I can get to the bottom of all the controversy.” That is, I decided to acknowledge the controversy, but I also did not allow my acknowledgement of it rob me of my faith. I got back into faith but not back into it the same way that I used to believe. I stopped being in denial. I stopped being naive.

This is key, because that is where it all gets interesting—and gravely so, because by this phenomenon of acknowledging or not acknowledging controversies in Christian canon, we have two extremes of imbalance;

One extreme; christians turned agnostics and/atheist; they used to believe the Bible as a strictly divine book. One day, however, they came in contact with the (seeming) inconsistencies in the letter of the Bible and because they could find no answers to, they denied its corresponding divinity altogether. They could not continue believing. The logic they follow is that once it is imperfect, it cannot also be good and/reliable. They do not see how perfect divinity and imperfect humanity can coexist in one phenomenon and still maintain authenticity.

On the other extreme we have christians who are very naive, because they seek only signs, but no wisdom. Miracles and breakthrough, but not knowledge. Christians who forget that Christ is both the power and the wisdom of God. By ‘wisdom’ I mean spirited debates/arguments of truth like Paul did in his day (Acts 17:17, 19:8-10). Many christians, today, are in denial. We ignore controversies on the pages of the Bible, even when our attention is called to them, because, “as long as I have my miracle, I am fine.”

No, we are not fine. All is not well. There is a war brewing, and it is a warfare of knowledge. It is already at our doorsteps. ‘Gay Jesus’ was merely an appetizer of the darkness to come. The enemy wants to confuse many.  Oftentimes, when christians avoid controversy/questions, it is because they themselves do not know, so they try to cover up their ignorance with the ‘this is rebellion’ chant. This attitude is more common in Pentecostal settings. The orthodox, old timers usually know why they do what they are doing. Ask orthodox folk who believe women should cover their heads in prayer and they will at least show you a scripture; they will present some defense. But ask a Pentecostal about controversial doctrinal stuff that they practise and they have nothing. Ask why women put on trousers, no answer. Or ask why women preach, despite the fact that the Bible forbids it, in not one, but two scriptural verses; nothing.

The habit of ignoring due process is rife; I guess, because of the teaching of Grace and Faith. It has brought upon us the spirit of ‘anyhowness’; quick fix, quick revelations. Because the assumption is that if it is God, it must be fast and easy. If it is taking long and is not immediate, then faith and/or anointing is not working. Pentecostals do this in all aspects of life, but more alarmingly, in the study of the Bible. There is also a lot of proof texting, cherry picking, and double standards.
On the one hand everything written in some parts of the Bible is taken in in its raw form like one would crude oil taken straight from the depths of the ground without any refinement prior to use; on the other hand, some parts are ignored completely and we do as we like. And then we come out and say, “The Bible is very clear.”

No, the Bible is NOT clear just like that.

There are many complexities involved in gaining accurate understanding and interpretation of the scriptures. Theologians try to acknowledge these nuances, but Pentecostals say they are being academic with something that should be strictly spiritual; we say all one needs to understand the Bible is the anointing. Well, the Bible is a piece of literature, and its study should be academic before it is spiritual. Call it spiritual literature if you will, but it is still a piece of literature and it deserves to be handled as such. That is what it means to be diligent as a learner. Understanding the Book requires more than anointing. It is information that has first been accurately derived that one could hope to draw any corresponding accurate revelation from.

It is because of this omission that many grossly inaccurate revelations fly around in Pentecostal settings. We apply the Book without any separation of wheat from chaff, separation of methods from principles, of temporary/adhoc measures from universal standards. We often do not consider context (historical context especially), language, grammar, syntax etc. in the formulation of doctrine. This explains the mystery of how a person will work miracles and yet be exhibiting character flaws that even irreligious people won’t. The anointing causes the miracles, but the lack of accurate knowledge cannot be hidden. It is why some people who have been devout believers for so long still fall away. They never learnt how to use the law lawfully. The law is a two-edged sword which on the one hand when used lawfully would make alive, but on the other hand when used naïvely, OR with the cloak of youthful exuberance, would destroy.

I’m afraid many christians are being destroyed today as they read their Bibles. What should minister life is ministering condemnation (for the naïve) and destruction (for the exuberant youth), because the users are not applying it as they should. This was what happened to me in the narratives I shared here, here and here. The way to eternal life is indeed narrow. It takes painstaking study to understand the Bible and rightly divide its truths. The freedom we seek usually lies in the truth we have been too lazy to search out.

And that brings me to the second observation I made while studying the origin of the Bible; THE BIBLE WAS NOT WRITTEN IN ENGLISH. The letter of the Book came not in English, but in Hebrew and Greek. I cannot overstate the significance of this detail. I’ll use this analogy: just as any serious muslim scholar, irrespective of the availability of vernacular translations of the Quran, realizes the need to acquire a working knowledge of the Arabic language, so also any christian who hopes to be a diligent scholar should have the same level of commitment to the Biblical languages.

And truly, it was after I started to study the Biblical text in its original languages that I found clarity and the answers to all my questions, not only about Gender Equality, but many other doctrinal matters.

That was when my theology changed.