Bible Misuse v4ed

Original post title 'A bit Here; a bit There'
A personal disclaimer: In spite of all the evidence I am giving to the contrary, I am not really fond of taking a thought, or line, from one place, and putting it with a sentence from another, and then making a case of it. Care and caution is needed.
Surely it is really very important to see the Bible's thoughts and sentences in the context of the source document. So a line from Peter's letter is best understood in the chapter of Peter's letter and in the book as a whole. (My compensatory practice to address this issue is to usually take larger 'slabs' of text.)
What about seeing the documents against their original settings, as far as this is possible? Thus some of the stuff I have written - for example, under 'persecutions', the 40 CE extra-Biblical illustration of the Roman Emperor Gaius. Seems to me that is a telling example of the situation typically faced by the early followers of Jesus, Messiah and Saviour, Lord of all.

The 'world-view' of the writers may also be relevant, at least to some extent. We can look for reflections of the 'popular' expectation(s). The nations, including Judaea, had endured Greek domination and were then under Rome. Prior to that was the experience of Babylonian exile. Now, about 30 CE, what lay ahead? What were the hopes? How did Jesus fit? (I may reurn to this area. Books address it under 'Messianism' or 'Apocalyptic', with special interest in the documents from the Qumran caves.)

Just the same, I have to admit that many pages of the NT include brief extracts from the OT. There are even OT quotes which are not labelled and many unidentified allusions. This use by the Bible writers is contrary to the point I am making! However, those authors were comfortable and familiar with the OT as a whole, and so were many of the original recipients. (In time the NT documents would reach people with little or no OT exposure. They did have the messengers who brought the news. Today we have the assistance of references in the margin, but it may be distracting to follow up on them.) I have to also acknowledge some 'odd' uses made of OT text in the NT, for example the two animals in Matthew 21 (see in 'Parallel Puzzle').

Consider also the circumstances and labour-intensive methods of writing those laborious rolls or codices. I presume that it was a fairly costly undertaking to use up that much papyrus or skin. I have seen reports of parchment and even papyrus being reused (cleaned off and used again). That early version of recycling would have been for reasons of economy. Clearly the numerous surviving papyrus fragments point to the value placed on the original documents. (Scrap heaps in Egypt's dry sands have given up a treasure from the earlier days.)

It is possible and useful to do justice to an extract from the Bible and to bring together relevant passages. The trick is to ensure the actual meaning is not lost by ignoring something. It is not enough to simply quote or even give multiple quotes. Here is a misuse example from Luke 4 (also in Matthew):
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; 10 for it is written,
‘He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,' 11 and
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
The quotes from the OT Bible give no encouragement to the proposed action, and there is more to consider! (See the rest of the episode.)

I have addressed elsewhere the issue of different translations ('versions') and of different source text ('variations'). These raise issues, but nothing insurmountable. Nothing insurmountable, unless of course a person wants everything totally fixed, to modern standards. (It would have to be, as it were, chiseled in stone and in formal English, to meet that expectation!)

The issue of Bible misuse is bigger, and everyday. Not so many years ago a person said to me, quite earnestly, in a conversation about something in the news, that 'everything that is ever going to happen is written in the Bible'. The speaker was asserting that if only we could interpret the things in the Bible we would know all. This misguided thinking surprised me then. I know of no reason to believe such a thing, and it is inconsistent with the message of the NT, or the Bible as a whole.

By the way, to whom is the Bible addressed? It is clearly God's voice to any who will hear it. Does that give anyone the task in our day to (seek to) impose its (good) advice on others? The situation in ancient Israel was another matter.  As recipients of his goodness and mercy the Hebrews were commited to be the people of the LORD and keep to his rules and follow his guidance. (It did get complicated!)

Is it proper use of the Bible to simply assert: 'That (whatever) is against the Bible'? And how about to quote a line or sentence as evidence of what is right? (The concern here is connected to the previous paragraph.) Is it not also uncomfortably close to the camouflaged erroneous 'quotation argument' from Luke 4 (above)? Doing justice to the Bible requires more. Moreover, everyone is capable to distinguishing right from wrong, even if God is not acknowledged. (That gives grounds for prayer.) I am saying God's Word is to direct me about myself rather than others. (Not in any way to minimise the open invitation to all, which is a given.)

Another form of misguided thinking is use of the printed text as a kind of divine or magic 'oracle'. In this approach the 'sacred' book is allowed to fall open and the eye fall on something. The read words are taken as an 'answer'. (I think another way is to jab a pin into whatever page opens.) These magical activities have no basis in the Bible, even though they use a Bible. Are they not superstition, similar to ancient paganism? The Bible is God's message to humankind, and, if 'heard', imparts God's truth.  

Perhaps the misguided thinking ties up with the notion of Bible 'secret', or 'hidden' meanings. I reject that notion, whilst retaining the parameters above. The Bible does repay careful study. The text is illuminated by use of different translations and by understanding the setting from which it came.
More than that, the text is illuminated by the whole. Essentially, to the open 'heart' the text is 'revealed' by God. This is the work of his Holy Spirit. Below is a line from Jesus which bears on this and primarily relates to my being confident that the early followers (apostles, etc) got it right. (I think you will find the context supports the weight I am placing on these words and that I am not coming under the following 2 Peter 3:16 warning: ignorant and unstable people explain falsely, as they do with other passages of the Scriptures.)

26 The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you (John 14).

The important caveat there is 'all that I have told you'. Has Jesus told you? He will reward your serious attention to the records.

Although the following quote has John telling you how and why he wrote his Gospel, in effect the same now applies to the whole Bible. The purpose and use of sacred Scripture has changed (!) over long ages; now here we are and it is for us:

In his disciples' presence Jesus performed many other miracles which are not written down in this book. 31 But these have been written in order that you may believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through your faith in him you may have life. (John 20:30f)

Scripture quotations are taken from the Good News Translation in Today’s English Version- Second Edition Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.