Deliberate obfuscation in scripture

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by npetreley, Apr 11, 2007.

  1. npetreley

    npetreley
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    I was intrigued by the originals thread and I was tempted to bring it up there, but I think this is actually another topic: Do you think that, by way of "edits" or even faithfulness to direct inspiration that God deliberately inspired some scripture to be obtuse? Is it no accident that we quarrel over topics like election/free-will and both sides believe they have scriptural support?

    I'm hoping others will chime in, but my answer would be "yes".

    I suspect someone will quote 1 Corinthians 14:33, For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.. However, "the author of" is interpreted into the text. It really says God is not a God of confusion but a God of peace. The rest of the verse may mean "as should be reflected in all the churches of the saints" (oops, where does that fit with all the disputes about election or the rapture, etc?).

    In contrast, we have the parables, which deliberately masked the message to a portion of the audience. And we have the example where Jesus deliberately offended some of His audience about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. I think it's obvious He meant to offend some people by making it sound literal.

    But does that extend to disputable matters of today (and I guess all of church history)? In other words, are many of our disputes grounded in the fact that, for whatever reason we may not understand, God intended these topics of debate to be obtuse, and directed the inspiration of scripture accordingly?
     
  2. Hope of Glory

    Hope of Glory
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    I think (opinion only) that difficult passages are difficult so we will stop and look at them a little more closely.
     
  3. Keith M

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    I believe that in the original autographs the Scriptures were very plain. I think it is the copying/translation process that has caused some issues to become somewhat muddled and therefore debatable. If Paul or any other writers of Scripture were here today we might be surprised at some of the things they could tell us about what was originally meant in certain passages.
     
  4. franklinmonroe

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    Certainly, that contributes. I think the predominate difficulty undermining our comprehension are unrecognized gaps of the socio-political climate and ethnic cultures of the writers and subjects within their respective eras. Of course, this is could be the basis for much misunderstanding and miscommunication even between contemporary groups of any period. Which means that it is not deliberate, to answer the OP.

    God has disclosed what He wants us to know, and its probably not everything we wish we could know, but its everything we NEED to know. That is not to say that He necessarily provided it in a manner that requires no study and discernment on our part; and much of one's perspective depends upon how one 'fills in' the voids not revealed.
     
    #4 franklinmonroe, Apr 12, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 12, 2007
  5. Hope of Glory

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    I do think that most issues would go away in the circumstances you are describing, but not completely.

    I think that if more people taught from the original languages, or at least used them to support their teachings, that there would be far, far fewer deniminations.

    I don't think denominations would go away completely, but diminish greatly, and perhaps not be so widely divided.
     
  6. av1611jim

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    I am one who DOES think Goc meant for some passages to be "hard to be understood" for even Peter said as much concerning certain of Paul's writings. If Peter had trouble "getting it" then I see no reason why it would be a marvel that we have trouble "getting it". And YES! I DO understand the context of what Peter was talking about. But the fact is that Peter struggled in his understanding of certain writings of Paul. No marvel then that WE should struggle lo these 2000 years later.

    In His service;
    Jim
     
  7. Keith M

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    Good point, Jim. Where is the passage found where Peter shows he was having a hard time "getting it?"
     
  8. franklinmonroe

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    Let's look at the entire verse in context. Here is 2 Peter 3:15-17 (KJV) --
    And account [that] the longsuffering of our Lord [is] salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
    As also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as [they do] also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
    Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know [these things] before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.​

    Notice that Peter says these people are "unlearned and unstable". This communicates that they are ignorant and ill-established. They "wrest" with Paul's writings and "other scriptures" resulting in "their own destruction". One key to understanding this passage is the meaning of "wrest". By looking at the spelling, a 21st-century reader might take it to mean 'wrestle' or 'struggle with'. As defined by Webster's 1828 Dictionary --

    WREST, v.t. [G., to wrest, to snatch or pull, to burst, to tear.]

    1. To twist or extort by violence; to pull or force from by violent wringing or twisting; as, to wrest an instrument from anothers hands.
    2. To take or force from by violence. The enemy made a great effort, and wrested the victory from our hands.
    But fate has wrested the confession from me.
    3. To distort; to turn from truth or twist from its natural meaning by violence; to pervert.
    Wrest once the law to your authority.
    Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of the poor. Exodus 23.
    Which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 2 Peter 3.​

    Our verse here is even listed as an example under "to distort". The NIV and NASB have "distort" in their rendering of this verse; the ESV uses "twist" to convey the meaning to contemporary readers. Peter is saying that these unlearned people are misinterpreting, misrepresenting, or misapplying scripture (perhaps intentionally to support some false doctrine). I don't think he was including himself in this heretical group, do you? Peter wasn't saying he had trouble "getting it", and it doesn't even require a lexicon to prove it.

    "These things" that Paul speaks about in his epistles are probably end-time events, which is consistent with what Peter was writing about in this chapter ("last days scoffers", "day of the Lord", "his coming", "new heavens and new earth"). Peter says in verse 14 to "look for such things". Eschatology is not easy subject matter; however this passage is not teaching that it cannot be understood, and (as the OP asks) it certainly isn't claiming that scripture is deliberately obscure.
     
    #8 franklinmonroe, Apr 13, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2007
  9. Pipedude

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    I am also of the opinion that the obfuscation was deliberate, and I've thought so for a long time. I theorize that it is a continuation of the Babel strategy when God broke mankind up into groups.

    There are smart, educated, and sincere interpreters who disagree with your tradition. The average observer believes that they are knaves, fools, or both. After all, it is as plain as a cockroach on a countertop that the Bible teaches [insert your tradition here].

    Now, if I were God and I wanted everyone to agree, I would have added a line or two in the Bible to close off certain interpretations. For instance: Verily, verily I say unto you, first will come the secret rapture, followed by the seven-year tribulation, and the last half of it will be the great tribulation... etc. Or, how about Baptism may only be by immersion in water once backwards? Or maybe A man shall not wear women's clothing and a woman shall not wear man's clothing...oh wait, forget I even typed that. My bad.

    Even though papyrus was expensive, it wouldn't have cost much to add a few lines like that. Shoot, those real estate records at the end of Joshua could have been shortened to make room, if need be.

    Prophecy, baptism, OSAS, booze, each could have been cleared up with one good well-worded statement that no sincere interpreter would dispute.
     
  10. franklinmonroe

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    After reading you post, I came away with the understanding that you think you could have done a better job of writing the Bible than God did, that is, God was inadequate in His revelation. Do you actuall think you're smarter than God? Are you saying that God failed? You do realize that Satan had the same thought, "if I were God..."? Quite possibly the most blasphemous post I have ever read here. I wish I could use stronger words to express my disgust! Your comments make Imus' outrageously ignorant racial slurs seem like intelligent discourse by contrast!

    This not an attack at a Bible version, it is an attack at God!
     
    #10 franklinmonroe, Apr 13, 2007
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  11. Pipedude

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    Try rereading it.
     
  12. franklinmonroe

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    Per your request I did read your post again (although I had read it through several times already). Yes, it still exposes your prideful attitude and lack of respect for God. Yes, it is still apparent that you have little if any spiritual discernment for His Word.

    In the above excerpt, you accuse of God of being too cheap to write a clearer message to you; and you imply that some passages of the Bible are unworthy of the space God gave to them. If that is what you believe, you have nothing of value to contribute here.

    Now I have a suggestion for you: deeply read and genuinely study the Bible until God's teachings aren't so vague in your mind.
     
    #12 franklinmonroe, Apr 13, 2007
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  13. Pipedude

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    Well, since you did your best and still missed it, I'll go ahead and point out the important part: I used the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive indicates a condition contrary to fact.

    If I wanted (there goes that subjunctive again) to rewrite the Bible, or have a Bible other than the one God wrote, your fulmination would be (that's also a subjunctive) justified.
     
  14. npetreley

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    For what it's worth, I understand what you were getting at, and I agree.
     
  15. franklinmonroe

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    Here are two things to consider about any communication: 1) writers typically intend to communicate, not to confuse; and 2) complex messages are almost always misunderstood to some degree.

    Authors rarely deliberately write something in an obtuse manner; only occasionally for special effect (this what Jesus did). Writer's have a message and they want the reader to receive it. It is completely illogical to communicate if the message is not intended to be understood (the same purpose could be accomplished by being silent).

    Communication occurs when a 'Transmitter' (author, painter, etc.) encodes a message onto media (book, music, etc.) and a 'Receiver' (reader, audience, etc.) decodes the data. If you are familiar with computer hardware, it is analogous. We speak here on the board about scribes taking part in the transmission of scripture.

    Proper 'encoding' formats the message into a frame of reference that should be specifically designed for the highest likelihood of successful 'decoding'. For example, that is why you 'talk down' to children's level; if music is recorded beyond the range of human audio perception, then people will not have opportunity to decode it because they never received to begin with; we could say that Greek is not a good format for English-only receivers. (BTW - translation is not the same as decoding.) As humans we don't always package our message as well as we should for our intended audience. However, God does not err (so it would have to be intentional).

    If some data is not received due to media failure the message may be incomplete. For example, when radio waves are blocked by an object or geographic feature the media has been interfered with before it reached the receiver. A role Satan must surely play is in the destruction of scripture's media (ancient manuscripts); but God has preserved many.

    Decoding is how an individual give meaning to the data they have received. The receiver may give different meaning to the data than the transmitter did. When all the data is successfully received but some data is decoded with an unmatched meaning there is some miscommunication. Every nuance of meaning from the sender is rarely decoded by the receiver, but the audience may still get enough of the message to be satisfactory.

    Did you ever tell a joke, and the audience didn't get it? Was it because you didn't tell it correctly? (No, you transmitted every word properly.) Was it because they could hear you? (No, your voice was sufficiently loud and they weren't physically deaf.) Was it because they didn't have a frame of reference that matched yours? (That's it!) The receivers didn't match enough data to form a satisfactory message (humor).

    It is much more likely that we don't "get it" because our frame of reference is not in synchronization with God, than that God intentionally was a defective encoder.
     
    #15 franklinmonroe, Apr 13, 2007
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  16. franklinmonroe

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    Well then, it is your obfuscation that was deliberate. :laugh:
     
  17. Pipedude

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    For native speakers of English, my writing was plain. If you're unwilling to apologize for your unkindness, you'd do well to remain silent.
     
  18. Gold Dragon

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    I don't believe scripture was written to be easily understood by man, but it is part of God's reaching out to man.

    As others have mentioned, the distance of cultural context between the human writers and modern readers gives us some major hurdles to jump in understanding the text. Some of that context we can attempt to understand based on what has been preserved of the ancient cultures. But other parts of those cultures are lost forever through the ravages of time.

    Reading comprehension is also not equal for all readers. Much of our confusion of the meaning of scripture comes from poor reading comprehension skills.

    But npetreley was talking more about whether God intended parts of the bible to be difficult to understand.

    1 Corinthians 2 talks about wisdom that he has from the Spirit and that is a wisdom that "natural man" considers foolish because they do not have the Spirit. In that way, parts of scripture could be obfuscated from those without the Spirit.

    But would God obfuscate the meaning of scripture to those with the Spirit assuming that we can bridge the cultural gap inherent in the text and comprehend the words before us?

    I don't know if scripture has an answer to that. Examples in scripture of God giving answers human questions often involved obfuscation. God speaking to man through confusing dreams and visions. Jesus responding to questions with other questions or parables.

    I don't think God is in the business of Q&A. But he is in the business of revealing himself to man. God is a difficult to understand. It isn't surprising that his scripture to man is also difficult to understand. But nobody ever needed complete understanding of God and scripture to have faith and a relationship in him.
     
  19. Mexdeaf

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    I think this is where 2 Timothy 2:15 and 1 Corinthians 2:13 come into play. The 'obfusication' is not God's fault.
     

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