Sunday, 19 October 2008

Applying Scripture from its original context

Practical Theology for Women has an interesting post on Accurately Using Scripture.

Thanks to Nicole for pointing it out on her blog.

So here's my pet hate:

I always hate to see Isaiah 28:10 quoted out of context. In the KJV, which is the one people always quote with this for some reason, it reads, "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:"

It is used widely in Christian education circles and especially by homeschoolers to support the idea that we must teach a little bit at a time and build up larger ideas from smaller parts. I have seen it used to commend the Saxon Maths program quite often, for example.

Consider the context of the verse:
Isaiah 28:13 "But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken."

And the passage in the NIV is even clearer:
"10 For it is:
Do and do, do and do,
rule on rule, rule on rule;
a little here, a little there."

11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues
God will speak to this people,

12 to whom he said,
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest";
and, "This is the place of repose"—
but they would not listen.

13 So then, the word of the LORD to them will become:
Do and do, do and do,
rule on rule, rule on rule;
a little here, a little there—
so that they will go and fall backward,
be injured and snared and captured."

What this verse is actually saying is that because the people had been spoon-fed their religion, it had become a snare to them! According to the Trinity@Night course I did last year on Isaiah, in the Hebrew, the repetitive words also are vocalised with something remeniscent of our present day "yada yada yada". Some of this comes through in the NIV translation.

Considering this, "a little here, a little there" is not something Christian educators should ever want to follow as an educational models, I think!


dov said...

Oooh I like this. Someone who actually takes a context into account! Could not the point of the Scripture be also that the Law became dead religion to them instead of the living Word of God? It just became a dead set of rules with no love in the following of it. The Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4–9, was made null and void. Jesus himself said that on the two great commandments, to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves, hang all the law and the prophets. Without these two, there is no obedience to God.

P.S. Love ur blog.

argsmommy said...

Great post! I would love to take a course on Isaiah someday.


Sharon said...

Thanks for your visit and compliment, dov. You are probably quite right in your additions to my comment; this is highlighted when the NIV uses the words "rule on rule...".

Kellie, I loved studying Isaiah - although we did move through very quickly, sixty-plus chapters in 6 weeks of lectures. It gave me a framework for understanding how Isaiah fits into the Biblical narrative of God's redemption of sinners. I learnt so much about God's wrath and mercy during those six weeks that I was truly blessed. It also gave me the confidence to tackle other OT prophetic books on my own, or only with a (carefully chosen) commentary. Which should be one aim of all corporate Bible study, IMO.

mom24 said...

So true and so often done. It's not so easy to make verses "fit" your need if we actually look at them in context, huh? This is what happens when we are trying to use the Word to serve OUR needs.

Sharon said...

You're right Andrea. Remember our conversation about exegesis versus eisegesis earlier in the year? This is a classic example of the dangers of eisegesis.

~ Sharon