Webster: A Tool for Bible Study, NOT!

I’m in SoCal for a conference. While visiting my mother-in-law with my wife, I was listening to a DVD that was running kinda in the background. It was someone preaching and what he was saying hooked my attention for a moment. He was dealing with interpreting a “verse” by defining the words. He had come across a verse that began with the word “gather” but after reading it he said God spoke to him and told him that the word there wasn’t “gather” but “assemble.” So he was off to discover how that could be. He told his listeners that he checked out Strong’s concordance and other word studies tool only to find that the original word in the passage could be translated by “gather” or “assemble.” But, as he exclaimed to his congregation, “I heard God say it means ‘assemble.'” He searched and searched to discover what God had told him. Then he found Webster’s Dictionary 1828 where he found that gather meant one thing while assemble meant something else and because Webster’s Dictionary 1828, according to him, had been created based on the Bible, meaning on the KJV, he had found a way to confirm what he had heard God say.

It is this form of exegesis, or in my opinion, non-exegesis, that causes such anemic followers of Jesus. Think about it. The original language did not inform his conclusion, but an English Dictionary based on and English translation, which was translated in 1611. I used to tell folks “bad theology makes a cruel taskmaster.” Later, to be clearer I changed the saying to “bad theology makes you stupid,” or “bad interpretation makes you stupid,” in this case. I know that is “in your face,” language and surely not “politically correct,” but there it is.

What always amazes me, it looks like I would get over this after a while, is that the folks listening to the speaker interpreting Scripture from an ancient English Dictionary were all cheering at his ability to confirm what God had told him. Suggesting that God has said something that he has not said doesn’t seem to bother these teachers. Keeping people ignorant of what God has said often gives them “authority to rule” over their listeners. The picture that comes to mind when I hear this kind of stuff is God sticking his finger down his throat. I surely wouldn’t want to be in God’s faced when this event happens. I’m sure that I may have caused the same “picture” on some things I have said. Well there are just a few thoughts from a moment of watching a DVD and having a renewal moment to help folks get out of the “stupid” moments that comes with reading and interpreting Scripture.

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